So Paul said he would build a 12 wt for me to try(Hot Torpedo 12 #1). It came with a prototype fibre glass butt section. Incredible lifting power. Break it he said Paul!. So I tried.
I started fishing Kuala Rompin in Malaysia. There are thousands of sailfish that congregate at Rompinto feed on anchovy. Most people fish for them on livebait. They can be also caught on fly by switchbaiting, ie trolling hookless lures with a bellyflapsewn in to give taste to the teaser. When the sailfish hits the teaser, the teaser is wound in which keeps the fish aggressive. When the fish is behind the boat, the boat is put into neutral, the teaser is pulled quickly from the water and the angler casts the fly behind the fish. However, because there is so much bait at Rompin, the bite is usually very soft.
Initially I was told to use a 12wt Leviathan fast sink line. The idea was to get the fly down to the fish. The problem was with the soft bite, you could not see the fish to read what it was doing. In frustration, I swapped to a floating line on the basis that the fish was chasing the teaser on the surface. This meant that I could still see the fly, and read the fish. I fitted a Cam Seigler popper head. Land the fly behind the fish, bloop it once and stop so the sailfish does no keep trying to kill it. Sailfish have amazing hearing, and usually will turn and swoop on the fly.
As only a short length of flyline has been cast, the fish comes onto the reel quickly. Because the fish is swimming away, it will hook itself in the corner of the mouth. That’s the theory. Great in theory, but the fish did not read this, and so everything else happens. They miss the fly, they get foul hooked, they fall off. With the right bite, they fish stays hooked and the contest begins.
In Rompin, because there is so much bait, the fish do not stay “hot” for long and the bite is not aggressive. Conversion rats are poor on fly ..for every 100 fish raised less that 10% have their photos taken.
I have also fished for sailfish in Exmouth in Western Australia and Weipa in Far North QueenslandAustralia. These sailfish fisheries are quite different. There are not big bait schools and the fish are much more aggressive. These fish weigh 10 -30kg . The sails are usually fished with swimming baits, liviesand hard body lures. Some like me fish for them with a fly rod. During my last trip to Weipa, we hit a purple patch, tagging 6 from 9 shots on day 1 and 3 from 5 shots on day 2. A fly rod with 6 capture flags from one day…unique and exhilarating. An amazing experience…the sails come in hot on the teaser and are every aggressive when the teaser disappears. They invariably turn and swoop on the fly. The trick is to read the fish, and if it misses, put the fly back where they can see it. Set the drag and leave it. How to set the drag ion a fly reel for big fish is another topic in itself.
I fish with 100lb leader. Why? Out of respect for the fish. There are plenty of big bull sharks that turn up within minutes. There is nothing so upsetting as seeing a wonderful sailfish demolished on the surface by a shark because you take too long to catch and release it unharmed. Using IGFA 20lb tippet is great to do to prove you can do it, but it just takes longer, and the leader man has to take more care. And sadlyyou lose more to sharks.
I have also used the HT12 for Tarpon in Florida, Holbox and Costa Rica. I have also used the HT12 for marlin up to 250lb at the Gold Coast, Australia. These larger marlin take some handling on a fly rod and so I made a standup shoulder harness for the fly rod to enabled me to land them quicker…is this fly fishing, who cares…I don’t because I can land the fish a lot quicker and let it swim away.
The HT 12 is a great rod.