Anglers describe North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a world where the days are dictated more by the tide than the time. According to the locals, whenever stripers hit the water, everyone stops whatever they’re doing and goes fishing. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) lists 92 world records for fish caught in Outer Banks waters, though some of those are now retired. While many anglers chose to fish with spinning gear or bait rods, the area has seen an increase in the number of flyrodders joining the ranks of die-hard anglers, who have become addicted to Carolina coastal fly-fishing.
Flyfishers can cast their lines year round in Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound for bluefish and schoolie stripers. The big stripers (a.k.a. rockfish) arrive by the end of November and usually stay through mid-March with the big bluefish showing up around this time as well. May brings gray trout and by June everything starts to come into both the ocean and the sound. While cobia and amberjack tend to be receptive initially to a fly, as the season progresses, they needed to be teased with a spinning rod and poppers.
While the infamous redfish tend not to arrive in the sound until July, some days in June and July you can have schools of 200 redfish weighing 20 to 40-lb. that can be caught on with a fly rod. However, no one can predict when these mystery fish will emerge around the mouth of the Oregon Inlet. So, it’s feast or famine when it comes to targeting reds in this region.
In July and August, some anglers fishing the Oregon Inlet stalk the Hound Fish (also called needlefish or the poor man’s tarpon). August and September brings flounder into the sound, while in September and October, the tricky Spanish mackerel and false albacore make their appearance in the ocean.
Other species that have been caught in the Outer Banks on a fly include: black tip shark, red drum, bluefin tuna, king mackerel, yellow fin tuna, speckled trout, spade fish, puppy drum, black drum, and jack cravalle. Freshwater enthusiasts can try their hand for largemouth bass and sunfish in Currituck Sound.
While a select number of flyrodders target offshore species, most flyfishers cast their lines into the brackish waters in Albemarle Sound, Currituck Sound Roanoke Sound and Pamlico Sound. Some anglers like to set out at sunrise or sunset, preferably on an incoming tide. However, David prefers to fish the full tide as it’s starting to fall, noting that each day is spot dependent. Brian DeHardt chimes in stating that some days the fish are there and other days, they’re nowhere to be found. Having said that, Brian has been fishing these waters for as long as he can remember and he can count on one hand the number of times he’s been skunked. Anglers should be able to cast 40 feet in order to increase their odds of having a successful fly-fishing day, however, rockfish can be caught on a beginner’s cast.
When fly-fishing the flats either by boat or wading, check out the grassy weed beds, the, deep channels with current flow, submerged grass beds, and marsh canals. David loves to kill his motor and left his boat drift over the flats. As the wind pushes him along, he’ll cast to the grassy weeds.
For many anglers, the rivers, banks, and bays of Albemarle Sound represent a fly-fisherman’s dream. These 350 miles of navigatable brackish water are fed by nine freshwater rivers and then diluted by the saltwater flowing from the Oregon Inlet. The high banks and bluff, marshes and swamp forest act as buffers against local storms. Also, flyrodders stalk their prey in the marshes around Duck Island and the town of Wanchese, home to Ricky Scarborough Boat Builders, Spencer Boat Works and other custom boat builders. In addition, check out Mann’s harbor in the spring and fall for schoolies, as these fish are more receptive to taking a fly when the water is cooler.
David Rohde recommends checking out the half mile of flats along the Oregon Inlet Bridge, an area that provides opportunities for boating and wade fishing. After arriving in the parking lot, walk up to the propeller display commemorating the Liberty Ship. Then walk way down to the portion of the Oregon Inlet that is parallel to the bridge. Here anglers can find ample opportunities to land a schoolie. When the tide ebbs, flyfishers can try to land reds, flounder and speckled trout near the bridge. Also check out the south side of the inlet, which is 100 yards from the parking lot. Anglers can wade all around bridge on the east side, then cut across the highway and walk the bank up about 75 yards and cast their line into Green Island Slew flats.
Another hot spot for waders is Bodie Lighthouse, where anglers can target speckled trout and redfish in late May or early June through September. Flyfishers should stay close to shore because while the wading in this area may start off knee deep but after taking about five steps, there tends to be a sudden drop off. By walking north from the lighthouse, anglers will come to breaks where one can land flounder and reds. Also, in the spring and fall, anglers try the structure around the east end of the Currituck Bridge. Here the water tends to be knee to waist deep.
For most inshore fishing, an 8-wt. fly rod with a 15-12 lb. Flourcarbon tippet connected to a two-piece 20 to 30-lb. leader with 40-lb. butt should suffice. For targeting fish in deeper waters, try a 150-170 grain sink tip. Suggested flies include a good selection of deceivers, clousers, and crystal buggers. A stripping basket is recommended to keep the fly line from getting tangled. Most fly anglers prefer an 18-22 ft. bay style boat, though some adventurous flyfishers have started experimenting with fly-fishing from a kayak.
While there are no fly shops in the Outer Bank regions, TW’s Bait and Tackle Shop with locations in Corolla, Kitty Hawk and Nags Head offers a limited supply of fly rods, fly lines, leaders and flies. Also, call David Rohde to order some specialty flies. For anglers fishing by boat, check out the GMCO maps for a list of comprehensive waterproof maps that focus on specific areas of the Outer Banks (www.gmcomaps.com).
Effective January 1, 2007 a saltwater fishing license will be required for fishing the Outer Banks. Contact the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries at www.ncdms.net for information on fishing licenses and regulations for fishing these waters.
For complete information about planning an outdoors sporting vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina log on to www.outerbanks.org.