The majority of people typically don’t think of fly fishing as an activity that can be enjoyed in saltwater. There have been countless times when I walked the beach looking for cruising fish or a rip current to toss a fly in and received some funny looks. Truth is there really are not too many fish you can’t target with a fly rod.
The Emerald Coast offers plenty of opportunities to toss a fly. The Choctawhatchee Bay is popular with local fly fisherman who like to target Red Fish and Trout. These are most often caught in one of the many bayous or in shallow areas with grass beds. The beach is another area that is frequented. The clear water makes it easy to spot fish and the beach allows a lot of room to cast. If you have access to a boat, the jetties in Destin or just off the beach can be pretty exciting. My favorite area to fly fish is offshore in search of a sargassum patch in hopes some Mahi will be lurking around.
The common fly fishing equipment for the Destin area are 8wt’s for the bay or beach and anything from a 9wt to a 12wt for nearshore and offshore. Most people use a tropical floating line but at times a sinking line will work well. During the winter months it is a good idea to trade in that tropical line for a more temperate one, temperatures can get into the 40’s this time of year. I have found that a stripping basket when wade or surf fishing helps out tremendously with line management. The common flies to use are baitfish patterns that resemble pinfish or finger mullet, shrimp, crabs and sand fleas. I usually use a 9 foot 16lb fluorocarbon leader for the beach, bay and Destin Pass but then go a little heavier when I fish nearshore and offshore.
This is a general guide, there are a few caveats to each particular situation. If you are new to fly fishing in saltwater, just moved to Destin or visiting from out of town this will get you started. I have always found it helpful when exploring new areas to find a local fly shop to gather some information and buy a few flies based on their recommendations. The two fly shops we have in our area are Orvis and Old Florida Outfitters. Orvis is located at Grand Boulevard in San Destin and Old Florida Outfitters is along 30A in Watercolor. You can purchase everything you would need to spend a day fly fishing at either location and also gather some local intel. If you are a resident or plan on staying in the area for any length of time I would also recommend checking out the “Panhandle Flyfishers”. This is a great organization that regularly meets in Destin to tie fly’s, hold fly fishing discussions and coordinate fishing events. You can find links to each of the fly shops and Panhandle Flyfishers below.