One of the most rewarding aspects of writing for Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine is the feedback I get from readers. Some folks write to comment on articles they have read and others send questions about fly tying, angling strategy, or kayaking. I value this correspondence because it provides a clearer picture of readers' interests and how topics can be expanded or improved each month. Best of all, visiting with fellow anglers gives me an opportunity to teach and to learn. This month's article focuses on a handful of questions I have been frequently asked over the past few years.

Where is a good place to buy fly tying materials?
There are essentially 3 places you can buy fly tying materials: 1) Fly Shop, 2) Online merchant, 3) Craft/department store. If you are new to fly tying I recommend you buy your materials at a fly shop. Why? You can take a firsthand look at the materials and select exactly the right size and color for the flies you want to tie. Also, the staff at a fly shop can help answer your fly tying questions and guide you to the right products.

If you don't live near a fly shop or if you are looking for a very specific material that is not locally available, the best choice is to shop online. Online merchants often lack the one-on-one support offered by brick and mortar businesses, but they make up for it in selection. Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Feathercraft, and are reputable online dealers with extensive inventories of quality tying materials. Once you establish a degree of confidence in fly tying, check out a craft or department store for unique or promising new materials. Most of the stuff you'll buy there, honestly, will not work out like you hoped. But experiments are educational, and every now and then you'll discover a real gem.

What is a good fly line for the surf?
Oh, the surfNo other place can deliver such generous helpings of both joy and agony. I learned through (bad) experience the importance of choosing the right fly line for the surf. Years ago, I dodged waves and whacked away with a floating line. My reasoning was that since the guts in the surf were not more than about six feet deep I didn't need a sinking line to get my flies down. That was true, but I soon learned the exaggerated wave action of the surf creates slack in a floating fly line. This slack compromises the fly's action and it also makes it tougher to detect strikes or set the hook. So, I switched to an intermediate sinking line. It was a big improvement. An intermediate line slips below the waves and stays reasonably straight in the surf. This means better contact with the fly and more consistent hooksets. Currently, my favorite all-around line for the surf (for standard 8-wt. tackle) is Scientific Anglers Clear Intermediate Bonefish line. This line sinks about 1-2 inches per second, has a nice flat taper, and casts well in the wind.

What's the best kayak for fly fishing?
This is a tough question to answer because so many variables go into selecting a kayak, and when you're prepared to lay down $1000 you need to be sure you're choosing the right boat. If you are shopping for a kayak for fly fishing, ask yourself these questions- Where will I be fishing most? How will I be transporting the boat? How much gear do I plan to haul with me? Is primary stability or speed more important? Once you answer these questions, you can more easily narrow down your choices. I believe there are three boats with features that address nearly any kayak fly fisherman's needs. They are the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160, and the Native Watercraft's Ultimate 14.5.

The Tarpon 120 is a 12-foot boat that's perfect for exploring marshes and semi-protected bay front areas. It is light and easy to maneuver, paddles and handles smoothly, and tracks well. In spite of its modest length, the Tarpon 120 offers plenty of storage space above and below deck. It is easy to transport and is equally at home in the bays or on inland lakes and rivers. The Tarpon 120 is currently my favorite kayak for fly fishing.

The Tarpon 160 is a sleek and fast 16-foot boat designed to make long runs over open water. It rides over chop with ease and has a solid, seaworthy feel. If you plan to cover large expanses of water on day-long excursions, look hard at the Tarpon 160. The 160's length makes it tougher to maneuver than short boats and it's a pain to transport. But this boat, like a high-strung pointer, was meant for wide-open country not confined spaces.

The Native Watercraft's Ultimate 14.5 is a hybrid boat. Part kayak, part pirogue/canoe, the Ultimate 14.5 offers plenty of interior comfort, a dry elevated seat, and unmatched stability. You can stand and pole/paddle or cast a fly rod from the Ultimate 14.5, which is pretty cool. The Ultimate is a bit more cumbersome to paddle than sleeker boats, but it's a great boat for angler/photographers and those who want plenty of room to move.

Can you recommend a fly rod for the Texas Coast?
This is perhaps the hardest question of all to answer because there are so many great fly rods out there these days. Sage, G-Loomis, and Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) all manufacture great fly rods in a variety of actions and price ranges. For general use on the Texas Coast, I recommend you select an 8-wt rod. The 8-wt offers a good combination of power and finesse. It can handle both large and small flies and it has the strength to whip powerful fish and overcome unpleasant winds in the bay or the surf. An 8-wt rod can do a lot of things really well. If you plan to fish only protected inshore waters or if you also want to use the rod on inland lakes and rivers, I cautiously suggest you consider a 6-wt. Although a 6-wt loses steam pretty quick against a stout Gulf breeze, it can handle most of fish you typically encounter on the flats and it's a great rod for medium freshwater use.

One of the most important aspects of selecting a fly rod is to cast as many rods as you can before your buy one. Correctly fitting the action of the rod to your casting stroke is important. Beginners often make the mistake of impulse buying a high-end fast action rod because of the "cool factor" associated with it. When the newness wears off, they often realize a rod with a more forgiving action would have been a better choice. Remember- no matter how much it costs or how powerful it is, a fly rod alone will not make you a better caster. Casting skills are the product of practice, not pocketbooks.