Pro Tips: 3 Ways to Deal with Bad Weather on a Saltwater Trip

Storms are inevitable, but you can mitigate the worst of their downsides with a bit of planning.
Photo by John Hohl

Bad weather can put a damper on any fishing trip, but saltwater destinations are especially sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, wind, and cloud cover. Even a slight shift in barometric pressure can send saltwater flats fish scrambling for the depths or skulking into cover, leaving fly anglers with few options. Unlike relatively-consistent trout fishing, there will be days when even the most skilled saltwater angler can’t buy a fish, because there are simply none around to catch due to unfavorable conditions. If you fish saltwater often enough, you’ll inevitably run into some days like this, but just because you can’t control the weather doesn’t mean you can’t mitigate its ill effects with some planning and foresight. Here are a few effective ways I’ve found to deal with bad weather:

1. Book Multiple Days

The best way to avoid having your trip ruined by bad weather is to book as many days as possible. The disrupting effect of storms doesn’t typically last longer than three days, so if you can stay longer than that, you’re less likely to get shut out by an unexpected storm. You don’t have to go fishing every single day of the trip, so long as your schedule stays flexible enough that you could go on any given day if/when conditions are right. At the very least, try not to invest all your hopes and resources into one single day, since that really increases the risk of being sabotaged by bad weather.

I’m always looking for places with pool tables in case a storm hits and I can’t get out fishing. Keep an eye out for whatever floats your boat.
Photo by Barrett Mattison

2. Have a Backup Plan

When faced with meteorological adversity, toughing it out might seem like the admirable thing to do, but at a certain point, even the most hardcore angler should know when to throw in the towel and do something else. It’s never easy to quit, but it’s easier if you’ve already got a backup plan in mind. When I was in the Bahamas during a record-setting cold snap back in 2017, we went two whole days without seeing a single bonefish on a dozen different flats, so on the third day, I played in a local pool tournament instead. An unseasonable May cold front on Grand Cayman a couple years later led me to explore the caverns below the island instead of the flats above, which ended up being a more memorable experience than catching bonefish would’ve been anyway. I learned about both of those opportunities by asking taxi drivers to recommend fun local activities, a strategy that has served me well over the years, and one I suggest trying if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Releasing a baby tarpon caught from the underwater dock light in the background, while the insert at left shows how many fish were lurking around it before the cast.
Photo by Evan Jones

3. Fish at Night

This won’t be an option everywhere, but fishing dock lights has saved a few of my Florida trips that were interrupted by bad weather. Not only does the wind tend to settle down a bit after dark, but many dock lights are located along residential canals that are much more sheltered than the wide-open flats or beaches. Plus, it seems that dock lights actually draw more fish during cold snaps, perhaps because they’re seeking shelter in the warmer backwaters, or because they’re following the baitfish into those areas, or maybe both. Dock lights are also a  good option if heavy rains have dirtied up the water to the point that sight-fishing on the flats or beaches during the day becomes impossible.

Evan Jones is the assistant editor of the Orvis Fly Fishing blog. He spent a decade living on the Florida coast and now lives in Colorado.

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