Flyfishing for whiting

Never trust anyone who tells you catching a whiting on fly is easy. You’ll know every other fishing story they spin is a complete fabrication, or monumental exaggeration at best.

Whiting are a tough fish to catch – particularly on surface flies. The proverbial fish of a thousand casts. I’m addicted to it because of the challenge, just like so many other anglers who pursue fish that want nothing to do with them. Perhaps the fish that treat us the meanest keep us the keenest.

Having said all of that, I am improving as a whiting flyfisher so all is not lost. That’s why I want to share some of my hard earned knowledge with you.

Lure fishing techniques for whiting that apply to fly fishing

I spent a decade chasing whiting with spinning rods and surface lures and the two biggest lessons I learned also apply to fly fishing:

  1. Whiting like a moving target and will rarely hit a stationary lure or fly like bream do.
  2. Lures that throw a splash of water forward on the retrieve best represent a fleeing prawn and catch more whiting.

These two truths pose serious challenges for the flyfisher. A constant retrieve to gain (and keep) the attention of whiting requires long casts with a fly rod, which is something you need to practise. If you can wade the flats in search of whiting this makes casting easier. It’s a little harder from a boat and harder still from a canoe for suckers like me – but not impossible.

Here’s video proof…

Surface flies that work on whiting

As I covered in a previous article, my favourite whiting lures are pencil poppers that throw spray forward on the retrieve. Trying to replicate this with a surface fly was a challenge until I stumbled upon a design called a Disco Shrimp. Google it and you’ll find countless varieties and video tutorials – they’re simple to tie and have a small cup sequin at the front which does a reasonable job of popping water forward. You can buy these sequins from craft stores. They come in different sizes – the ones I’m using are 5mm.

The version of Disco Shrimp I like best is based on a design by Brett Winn from BWC flies. His YouTube channel is worth a look for instructional videos.

I’ve come to trust this surface fly like no other over the flats – for both whiting and bream.

My advice is to tie a selection of Disco Shrimps in different colours to suit conditions on the day – use blacks and dark greens when the water is murky, tans and whites when clear.

As you’ll see from the pic below, I tie a stinger hook on Disco Shrimps using 50 pound braid. To prevent it from tangling around the main hook, I run it through a short section of clear plastic tubing. The stinger works really well on both whiting and bream when they nip at the fly.

Tips for catching whiting on fly

So here are my 5 tips to catch more whiting on surface flies:

  1. Master long casts over sand flats
  2. Use constant retrieves at a decent speed
  3. Use flies that throw spurts of water forward
  4. Use a 6 weight rod and a short and heavy leader to stop line twists (I use a 6 foot leader with a 10 pound tippet)
  5. Fish when the sun is low – my preference is dawn over dusk

I hope those tips are helpful and I wish you every success with your whiting fishing.



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