So…can you catch flounder on a fly rod? This question came up recently with a customer getting started in saltwater fly fishing. This gentleman had a hard time picturing a bottom-dwelling fish chasing after a fly, and he thought of fly fishing as taking place in the top of the water column. These are fairly common (and perfectly understandable) assumptions about fly fishing…but, yes, you can catch flounder on a fly rod.
If you fished for flounder before, then you probably know of their ambush tactics. A flounder lying in wait doesn’t have to be hit on the head with a fly to be hooked. They are willing to go a surprising distance to catch prey. I once managed to catch a flounder while ripping a fly through a pod of false albacore. While this wasn’t the result I hoped for, it demonstrates that a flounder can aggressively chase down a fast-moving fly. Most flounder would prefer not to race an albacore for a meal, however, so other tactics are necessary to catch them on a regular basis.
The main obstacle when fly fishing for flounder is getting the fly close to the fish (which for the most part means on or near the bottom). This can be accomplished by using weighted flies, sinking lines, or both. Fly selection doesn’t have to be complicated. Flounder feed mostly on baitfish, so patterns that mimic baitfish will almost always catch flounder. Clouser’s Minnows in various colors, Randy Hamilton’s Copperheads, or Lefty’s Deceivers are all good patterns. Hook sizes can be anywhere from size 6 to 2/0 depending on the size of baitfish in the area. If you tie your own flies, another option is to make patterns with rabbit strip (particularly in white). These types of flies provide a lot of motion, even when you retrieve them slowly. An erratic retrieve, with short strips will give most other patterns a more appealing action.
A weighted fly may get down as far as 4-6 feet, depending on the length of your leader and the speed of the tide, even on floating fly line. But if you plan on targeting flounder frequently, other fly lines work better. An intermediate sinking fly line is the most versatile choice. It sinks slowly, allowing you to fish in shallow water if you begin the retrieve immediately, or deeper (up to 8-10 feet) if you wait for it to sink further. For fishing water over 10 feet deep, a sink-tip or full-sinking fly line is necessary. Without going into too much detail here, keep in mind that the deeper the water you plan to fish, the faster the line needs to sink. Using the proper line will keep the fly near the bottom longer.
If you’re shopping for an outfit, an 8 weight rod is ideal for flounder. It will handle most windy days, and cast larger flies well. Reels don’t need a high-tech drag system, as flounder typically don’t make speedy runs.
Flounder may be caught in many types of water. Deeper channels, creek mouths, ledges and deeper holes are all likely spots to search for fish. If you lack a boat, try working around the inlets, or exploring the surf. On your next trip, you could come home with a great dinner, and new respect for the flounder as a challenging target for the fly rod.