A passion for Blue Water fly fishing
By Mark Anderson, Orvis Endorsed Guide
Republished by kind permission of Orvis UK
A common natural progression for a fly angler is to start in a river or a lake and…
1st - To catch your first fish on a fly.
2nd - To catch the most fish.
3rd - To catch the biggest fish.
4th - To catch the most species.
5th - To catch the wildest, strongest most challenging fish you can find…
As if fly fishing isn't challenging enough, we continually strive to push ourselves and our equipment further to achieve our dreams. The search for more extreme fly fishing experiences always seems to lead us to the sea…
Saltwater Fly Fishing - The next step.
With the constant quest to push ourselves further - "getting the bug!" as we call it - the natural progression has been for fly fishermen to fish in saltwater. Since the 1930s the likes of the late Joe Brooks, with an ever growing array of anglers, have chased species in the salt, opening up new and exotic destinations and popularising the sport through the 70s, 80s and 90s as the cost of air travel has come down. The main allure of the saltwater frontier is as follows: First, saltwater species are inherently much stronger, faster and bigger due to the size and array of food sources to be found in the oceans. Second, typically the destinations and locations one travels too tend to be some of the most beautiful idyllic corners of the earth. Third, conditions in the salt can be a lot more challenging, what with weather, tides, rocks, currents, sand and other predators that want your fish almost more than you do! It's no wonder we call it 'X-Stream' fly fishing.
Blue Water Fly Fishing - The final frontier.
The term "blue water" fly fishing draws a distinction between inshore and offshore fishing, with the pinnacle of saltwater challenges being offshore Billfish and other large pelagic species on a fly rod resulting in the most exciting, tough and rewarding challenges for the serious adrenaline addict! That being said, there are also numerous other species that can be taken from Trevally to Tope, Kingfish to Kawa Kawa Tuna, Mahi Mahi to Marlin in a range of sizes, shapes, colours and quantities that will set the pulse and backing racing. Nothing can match the excitement of a saltwater fish, be it a Sea Bass on an 8-weight or a "lit up" Sailfish on a 12-weight, chasing and crashing a popper on the surface!
Billfish on a Fly Rod
In my opinion, bringing different species of billfish to the fly is at the top end of the sport. Billfish not only occur in many different areas worldwide, they also occur in numbers and varying sizes which makes them more accessible than you might first think. Some of the best known blue water fly anglers - the likes of Billy Pate, Cam Sigler and Trey Coombes - have not only pursued countless world records on fly, but have also been responsible for numerous tackle developments over the years and for popularising this branch of our fantastic sport.
Of the top pelagic species to target, Sailfish are perhaps one of the best. Whilst Marlin and Tuna present even more of a challenge, Sailfish as an introduction to Billfish on the fly are ideal for several reasons: First, their worldwide distribution, numbers at certain times of the year and variety of size mean that they are more accessible than most fly anglers realise. Second, unlike Marlin and Tuna, they do not fight deep in the water column and can spend as much time out of the water making spectacular leaps as they do in it. This treats the angler to one of the most visual aerobatic displays possible on a fly rod, and indeed helps to tire the fish quicker as it pulls against the drag of the fly line. Tagging and releasing these fish as quickly as possible will allow the angler to get ready for the next one! The sight of a "Sailie" all "lit up" in neon blue, being raised, teased and switched to taking a fly is breathtaking...and then disappearing with 250 yards of fly-line and backing, jumping as it goes, is extreme fly fishing at its best.
I have been fortunate enough over the last 5 seasons to guide and tease sailfish for experienced and inexperienced fly anglers alike, while learning and sharing knowledge all the time. My passion for these fish and this type of fly fishing has grown and grown the more I have learnt. Here is a quote from Peter Gurd - a very experienced blue water angler with 240 marlin under his belt - "I can only say that our week in Dubai at sea was probably one of the best I have ever had. It was the first occasion I have caught five sailfish on a fly - on the first day! That was an achievement only made possible by Mark Anderson's skill in teasing the fish and the expert tuition he gave me in casting the fly in the appropriate place, not to strike, or to lose a toe to my line! (Having hooked, played and lost a king mackerel at the side of the boat of between 28-30kgs on a 12wt that scared the Tanzanian skipper!)."
Fly Tackle for Billfish
Rods - Owing to the rigors of blue water fishing, be it in the cockpit getting knocked about or with the surging lunges of a "Sailie" going aerial, rods need to be tough. Very tough. Orvis have produced a stroke of genius in developing thermoplastic resins. This technology is just what's required to make the lightest and toughest rods in the world - the new Zero Gs. The new 11-weight and 12-weight Zero G fly rods have all the strength and lifting power we need at this extreme end of our sport.
Reels - My Vortex reel not only provides more capacity than I require for the purpose, but the drag system, from silky smooth to raw stopping-power, has in the last 5 years caused no downtime. After all, as a guide having raised and teased a fish for a client, I need to have the utmost confidence in the reliability of my equipment until "the tag is in the fish" and it is released successfully!
Flies - Flies by Fulling Mill and Raineys form the bulk of my rigs along with some custom patterns by Greg Wos and Anton Marais.
Lines - Depth charge and shooting head systems are most favoured.
Clothes - Avoid the effects of tropical sun with a good hat and sun gloves.
Mark Anderson, Orvis Endorsed Guide
Contact Mark at the Orvis London Store, Dover Street, W1
79665167 ZERO G 910-4 TIP ROD £519.00
79935167 ZERO G 912-4 TIP ROD £529.00
77LG6100 VORTEX VO2 V DIRECT DRIVE REEL GOLD £499.00
77LH6100 VORTEX VO2 VI DIRECT DRIVE REEL GOLD £549.00
All the above items and everything else you need to fish and have fun in the outdoors can be found at the Orvis online store.
Articles by the same author
- Essential Skills - Dry Fly and Mayfly with Oliver Edwards
- New Canadian Beaver report spells doom for Scottish salmon
- Fly Fishing for Atlantic Bass - new book reviewed
- The Streamside Guide - Road Trips
- Wet Fly Fishing on Rivers - Essential Skills with Oliver Edwards
- Venezuelan smorgasbord at Los Roques
- Pope of the Madison
- The principles of layering - the base layer
- Game Fishing by Bob Church
- The Streamside Guide - Planning the Trip