• Fly Fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama
  • Post author
    Jess Westbrook
  • fly fishingfly fishing tipsfly fishing travelsaltwaterstreamer fishing

Fly Fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama

fly fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama smithfly paddleboard

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

Most of Us Will Not Get the Chance To Chase Bonefish on the Flats of Belize, but With a Little Preparation We Can Still Get the Same Rush a Little Closer to Home

As a staunch streamer junkie, there's nothing greater to me than having a big brown trout absolutely hammer a streamer.

But after fishing Gulf Shores, Alabama, I realized I've been missing out – the salt is a streamer junkie’s dream. 

Saltwater fish hit a fly like they have had a lifelong vendetta against that poor little Clouser (seriously, I had a ladyfish almost take the fly rod out of my hand).

Some People Refer to Themselves as either a “Beach Person” or a “Mountain Person”

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

My wife and I need a front license plate that displays our constant rivalry when it comes to planning our vacations. 

The epic battle normally happens sometime around February when the IRS tax refund hits the bank (fingers crossed).

“So babe, where do you want to go on vacation this year?” Laura asked at the dinner table this year.

I was thinking Montana, Wyoming, or somewhere else out West, but I knew she was thinking beach all the way.

Being the reigning champion for the last two years, I conceded and said, “Sure, babe. The beach sounds great.”

Laura decided on visiting Gulf Shores, so I immediately did what every fly fisherman would do – spent the next several weeks at work Googling information on fly fishing in and around Gulf Shores.

Then came every fly fisherman’s nightmare.

  1. There are no fly shops.
  2. There's almost no information on the internet about fly fishing in Gulf Shores; I could only find two articles that barely touched on the subject.
  3. On the forums, one of the nicest comments I received was, “I wish you all of the luck in the world, I think you will need it.”

Gulf Shores hosts an estimated 5 million visitors a year and, according to AFFTA market research from 2012, about 1 in every 10 visitors claim to fly fish.

So according to my math there are approximately 500,000 self-proclaimed fly fishermen visiting Gulf Shores every year with virtually no resources to help them get plugged into the local fishery. 

Even if this number is inflated, there are undoubtedly a great number of fly fishermen visiting on a yearly basis.

I wanted to share the basic information I gathered over the last few months in preparation for my trip, and what I learned while I was there.

Gulf Shores Fly Gear Guide

Shrimp fly tied with the new Fish-Skull Shrimp & Cray Tail.

  • 6 - 8 weight fast action rod.
  • Weight-forward floating line – for lagoons and bays.
  • Weight-forward intermediate sinking line – for fishing surf.
  • Rio Redfish/Seatrout Leader 9ft.12 lb test – for redfish, seatrout, lady fish, pompano.
  • Rio Toothy Critter Leader 7.5ft. 30lb test – for mackerel, bluefish.
  • Flies – Clousers, Gummy Minnows, Crazy Charlies, and similar in sizes 4 - 8. Gummy Minnows are great because they can hold up against the gnarly teeth of the mackerel and bluefish. If you tie clousers for the trip be sure to coat the thread wraps generously with epoxy to increase the life of the fly.
  • A paddleboard or kayak can increase the amount of water you can access.

Where to Fly Fish in Gulf Shores


Photo by Krystina Bullard.

Fishing between the breakers and first sand bar can be very productive for ladyfish, pompano, seatrout and bluefish.

Little Lagoon Pass

The Little Lagoon Pass is a local favorite. The first morning I ventured out, there were 10 kayaks and/or boats fishing a 300 yard wide section.

Generally, most people fish where the pass opens up into the lagoon; there is a distinct drop off that tends to hold fish.

You can certainly wade out to this drop off; however, the paddleboard made it a lot easier getting my gear out there.

Orange Beach Canoe Trails

There are 10 designated kayak trails that wind through different bays and bayous.

After dark can be very productive throwing baitfish patterns under lighted docks.

P.S. I saw an alligator in some water next to one of the canoe trails – definitely caught me off guard.

Perdido Pass

This water was a little big for me to conquer with yellow and red flags every day of our stay, but there are two jetties that extend out into the gulf and have deep water nearby.

Perdido Pass will be on my list next time I visit Gulf Shores if there are calmer seas. 

Tips for Fly Fishing Gulf Shores

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

You’ve most likely learned how to be successful on your home water – watching for hatches, matching the hatch, varying retrieves, etc.

Even though you may not be in the comfort zone of your home water, use the same assessments you use for freshwater streams and tweak them to be successful in the bay, lagoon or surf.

5 Tips for Your First DIY Bonefish Trip

For example, when sitting on the balcony of your condominium or hotel, look for birds, bait balls, and fish breaking; this is similar to watching for hatches on the stream. You are still “matching the hatch,” but instead of mayflies you are focusing on baitfish (glass minnows, anchovies, etc).

Varying the retrieves of your flies to figure out what triggers a bite is no different than when you strip streamers for big browns. Take the fish-finding knowledge that you have and apply it to your new ecosystem for success.

  • Rinse your reels, rod guides, reel seats, nippers, hemostats, etc. after every outing.
  • Take an anchor for your paddleboard or kayak. Preferably a bigger one than the 1.5 lb. anchor I took – lesson learned.
  • Rinse your flies and let them dry before you place them back in your box.
  • Sunscreen and sun shirts are a must. Preferably grow a massive beard to prevent sunburn.
  • Wind is your friend. If the wind is blowing into the shore all day, by that evening the surf will most likely be full of baitfish and the gamefish will be right behind them.
  • Remember to strip set instead of the traditional hook set.

Photo by Krystina Bullard.

If you haven't done it already, fly fishing in the salt is something that HAS to be added to your bucket list.

Next February, instead of putting on my boxing gloves and getting ready for the annual “vacation featherweight title fight,” I'll be in my wife Laura’s corner voting for the beach.

If you're headed down to the Gulf Shores this summer, do yourself a favor – grab your rod, a few leaders, a box of Clousers, and turn your family vacation into one awesome fishing vacation!

Always Giving. Always Fishing.

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About Jess Westbrook:

Jess Westbrook was exposed to fly fishing at a young age. He spent weeks every summer chasing stocker rainbows in Roaring River, Missouri. During his college years he cut his teeth guiding for Rainbow Bay Resort in Pedro Bay, Alaska. Guiding gives Jess the opportunity to combine his two passions: fishing and teaching. Today he owns Arkansas-based guide service Black Dun Fly Fishing and is the general manager for Nushagak Paradise Lodge which is located on the Nushagak River outside of Dillingham, Alaska. In 2015 Jess and his wife Laura founded The Mayfly Project, a non-profit organization that mentors foster children through fly fishing.

  • Post author
    Jess Westbrook
  • fly fishingfly fishing tipsfly fishing travelsaltwaterstreamer fishing

Comments on this post (37)

  • Nov 22, 2023

    I am going to be in Orange beach first week in January can you tell me if it is good time to get fish on the fly and is there a guide you would reccomend?

    — Joel Kessler

  • May 24, 2023

    I love fly fishing the beaches in Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan – been fishing there on vacation for 30+ years. Fly fishing there is hit and miss, but I usually stumble into some fish at least 2 or 3 times during our trips while waling the beaches – usually when surf is minimal. I have a whole fly box of different flies, but catch 90% of my fish on either Olive/White or Chartreus/White Clouser minnow in size 2/0… Heading there next week and can’t wait!

    — Joe Klaesner

  • Oct 19, 2022

    I enjoy fly fishing in the surf>

    — Greg Pelfrey

  • Oct 02, 2022

    Interested in a trip, arrive oct 5th, be there thru the 14th

    — Jim barnhart

  • Jul 18, 2022

    gonna be fly fishin gulf shores surf in september…..Tips ???? first time,

    — Jerry Latiolais

  • Feb 24, 2022

    First time fishing the Bama Coast. Any tips?

    — Gus Galdo

  • Dec 09, 2021

    visit orange beach a few times a year never fly fished there hope to try this winter can i get locations to fish with my kayak

    — mike st.cyre

  • Sep 29, 2021

    Awesome article brother. I brought my new Scientific Anglers rod and Redington saltwater reel hoping to get my first salty hook up. After reading the info in your article I can’t wait. It was very helpful. Thanks Jess!
    Stay Fly, Darryl Speakman

    — Darryl Speakman

  • Feb 12, 2021

    Great blog post.

    — Chris Hollingsworth

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Visiting Orange Beach end of January until med February. Love to Bonefish in Exuma. This will be our first visit to OB. Researching. Glad to read your article.

    — Steve McCulley

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Thanks for sharing this. Gonna take my flyrod down with me on family vacation next month. Very helpful!

    — Dave Clements

  • Dec 03, 2020

    great information thank you so much for posting this

    — Freddie Thronson

  • Dec 03, 2020

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    — PeterTak

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Thanks for the info – coming to Gulf Shores this Feb.

    — Keith yarger

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Who made your paddle board? Looks wide and stable…thanks!

    — Steve sands

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Any recommendations on colors of the flies? Headed to Dauphin Island over Thanksgiving!

    — Libby Schultz

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Nicely done, man. I’m a native to Gulf Shores, originally from McDonald Co. MO (moved down here when I was about 12 yrs old.) I still take winter C&R trips to Roaring River every year or so and stop by Tim’s Fly Shop. Shoot me an email next time you visit and I can give you some local spots and techniques. Shoot, we can even go out on the boat if there’s time! October is an absolute blast with bull reds on the fly down here.

    — Kirk

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Please add me to your mailing list. Thank you.

    — Joe Hogan

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Good information. I have been fly fishing the beaches near the cut thru in Gulf Shores for 20 years. It took about 3 trips to figure it out. Now it is my favorite place to fly fish! Dragging a clouser minnow along the shore is really cool! I’m a self-taught fly fisherman from the Missouri Ozarks…

    — Joe Klaesner

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Thanks for the great blog! Love your energy and the info for us excited about hitting the Gulf!
    Surely by now you have discovered “The Church Mouse” in Fairhope? You’ll find everything you need to know and buy for South Alabama waters at the Fly Fishing shoplette in the back of the store.
    I was just working on my casting with the owner – standing in the street in front of the store. They are the best folks and he knows everyone in the FF community and where to find what and when to find them!

    — Lizzy

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Any suggestions for November fishing at little lagoon? I don’t mean where, but which patterns, line and leaders to use etc. I got the fever when I was in Santa Rosa 3 weeks ago, I got broken off by a nice red! Didn’t catch any more, but that made me want to land a red on my 8 wt! I was using a red and silver Orvis spoon that particular day.

    — Dan

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Definitely hard to find info about fly fishing anywhere from Destin west to Orange beach. I will be going to gulf shores staying on the little lagoon. Hoping to hook up some reds and trout…. maybe flounder. Got a while to research flies etc..

    — Dan

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Definitely hard to find info about fly fishing anywhere from Destin west to Orange beach. I will be going to gulf shores staying on the little lagoon. Hoping to hook up some reds and trout…. maybe flounder. Got a while to research flies etc..

    — Dan

  • Dec 03, 2020

    If you want to get some local information, check out the Eastern Shore flyfishers page on FB. They fish the Mobile bay area and peninsula of Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores.

    Also, I’ve done well out of a kayak on the gulf side out past the second sand bar with crab patterns. Flouder can be had by fishing a clouser slowly on the bottom.

    A rental kayak makes for a better day out there for sure if you can get out past the breakers.

    There is an Orvis endorsed guide up around Fairhope, AL. A few others down around Orange Beach.

    Tight Lines!

    — Lance I.

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Thank so much for this!

    — Phil

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