Capefish Outfitters & Fly Shop

By Captain Matt Kelleher

Lots of folks come into the shop and ask about getting into saltwater fly fishing. That makes us very happy indeed! For a few tips this month, we would like to address some of the questions anglers may have, in respect to buying that first fly rod for saltwater species here in the Northeast.

If you have fly fished for trout before, you know that the fly rods you typically use around New England are 4-weights or 5-weights.  For the newbies, the numbered weight of a fly rod corresponds to the species it is designed to target and presentation type.  For example: a 4-weight would target species such as brook trout and smaller fish, whereas say a 12-weight would target the big stuff like tuna, tarpon, etc.

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A standard fly rod for stripers is nine feet in length, and has different “actions” or flexibility.

For most saltwater applications around coastal New England, when targeting striped bass, bluefish, bonito and false albacore, we recommend your first rod be an 8-weight or a 9-weight fly rod, with the 9-weight being the “standard.” I like to fish the 8-weight early in the season for smaller “schoolie” bass, and then move up to the 9-weight when the bigger fish start to move in.  It helps to land and release the fish a bit quicker. We strongly recommend at least a 9-weight for the albies and bonito, or even a 10-weight later in the season on the Cape and Islands.

Fly rods for stripers are standard at nine feet in length.  A four-piece rod is usually the choice for most anglers. Some of the new 1-piece rods are super as well, but make sure you can store and travel with it.

Fly rods come with different “actions” or feel associated with them.  Terms you may see are “fast, medium, slow.” What this relates to is how the rod flexes, the stiffness at the tip section of the rod, and how quickly the rod loads and unloads the line. Faster rods tend to be more powerful, generate quicker line speed, cast longer distances and provide better casting into the wind.  They do require good timing and practice however.  Make sure you are on your game when using these rods.

Medium and slow action rods are great as well for different reasons. Medium action rods tend to be a little more forgiving in the casting department, are great for a wide variety of both freshwater and saltwater applications, and also great for beginner or intermediate casters. There is plenty to talk about on the action of a fly rod. Your best bet is to talk to a knowledgeable person at your local fly shop and “feel” the fly rod and even try casting it before buying one.

High performance saltwater fly rods from manufacturers like R.L. Winston, Scott and Sage can run you anywhere from $300.00 to $900.00. All saltwater 8- and 9-weights from these brands will do the job beautifully. For the most, part it just comes down to feel.  Whatever you’re comfortable with, go with it.


FORECAST BY: Captain Matt Kelleher is a certified fly fishing guide with Fat Tuna Guide Service. A native of Beverly, Massachusetts he fishes the waters on the North Shore. Matt is the owner of Capefish Clothing Co. located in Hamilton, MA. The store offers premium fly tackle equipment as well as lifestyle apparel such as Patagonia, Simms, and Mountain Khakis. Visit