Billfish on fly tackle rigging interview of Jake Jordan by Matt Harris:
Questions as follows in yellow answers in red February 2012
What advances have been made in Flyfishing tackle and techniques that now allow anglers like yourself to regularly land huge pelagics like striped and even blue marlin on fly?
( feel free to give Mako a plug here ):
I first realized that the fly fishing tackle that we were using for Tarpon was not the proper tools to catch billfish during 1992 while working in Costa Rica. During a six month period I hooked 213 billfish on fly and landed 12 during that period. I broke hooks, knots, leaders, fly lines, fly rods, and fly reels, the largest reel then was a 4 inch fly reel and the 12 weight Tarpon rods with snake guides were cutting through the fly lines.
I worked with fly rod companies to develop heavier fly rods for lifting, while doing away with snake guides on heavy fly rods. IGFA clarified their rules which now allows a fighting butt which is 6 inches long from the center of the foot on the fly reel to the end of the butt, which moves the fly reel further away from the anglers body. These new big game fly rods also have increased the fore grip from 7 inches to 16 inches so the angler can fight the big fish with a straight relaxed arm. In my opinion the perfect example of this Big Game Fly Rod is the TFO Bluewater Heavy Duty fly rod.
We needed a fly reel with a smooth breaking system which has the ability to apply at least 10 pounds of smooth pressure for long periods of time without failing. It is also necessary to know exactly what the drag pressure is at all times before, during, and after the battle with the big fish. So far the only fly reel available on the market today is the Mako Fly Reel by the late Jack Charlton.
Another thing which helped increase the ability of anglers to catch bigger fish on fly is the ability to have GSP backing, it is much smaller in diameter and much stronger than the former Dacron backing which we used in the past. I use 50 to 65 pound test GSP Backing.
The newer hooks which are chemically hardened and sharpened work much better than the older hooks which were softer and required sharpening with a file, Gamakatsu Octopus 6/0 and 5/0 hooks seem to work best on all billfish with tube flies.
Cam Sigler ties tube flies (Flies tied on a hardened plastic tube) which are made with feathers, not hair, these flies with the hooks connected to a 100 pound bite tippet which slides up through the fly and through Cam's unique soft foam popper head which slides onto the top of the tube, before connecting the bite tippet to the class tippet with a huffnagel knot.
I worked with the scientist at RIO to develop a small diameter fly line with a hard vinyl coating which had a breaking strength of at least 50 pounds. The result is a RIO Leviathan thirty foot long, 550 grain fly line, these lines last along time and never fail.
One other part of the gear is important, suffix supreme mono filament 50 pound test line, cut into an 80 foot length, makes the perfect running line. This a very important piece to the puzzle.
Give me a basic rundown of how you rig for sailfish & marlin ( dacron, shock absorber running line Flies etc - as much detail as you like)?
First from the beginning, tie 50# or 65# GSP backing to the arbor of a Mako Fly Reel wraping 3 times around the arbor and then tying a improved arbor knot. Wind on 500 to 700 yards of backing and then tie a 50 turn Bimini twist knot 4 foot in length, and then double that knot so there is a double GSP loop in the end of your backing.
Next take a 80 foot long piece of Suffix Superior fifty pound test Mono filament line, install 80 pound Dacron loops on each end using the Chinese finger torture method, and secure with one inch serve using waxed rigging floss. Connect one end of this running line to the backing using loop to loop connection,and wind onto Mako fly reel.
Now take the 30 foot 550 grain RIO Leviathan fly line and install the same 12 to 18 inch 80 pound test Dacron loops on each end of the fly line (as on running line), connect to the running line using the loop to loop method, and wind onto Mako fly reel.
Next build a butt section leader of 9 foot using 80 pound test clear Mono filament line, install an 80 pound test 12 to 18 inch long Dacron loop as described above on the fly line end, and make a 4 inch long loop in the other end using a small aluminum crimp on the other end. Connect the butt section to the fly line by using the two 80 pound Dacron loops with loop to loop connections.
You are now ready to install your fly reel onto the reel seat of your TFO Bluewater HD Fly Rod. String up the fly rod and connect the Butt Section of the leader using loop to loop connection with the doubled 20 pound mason Hard on the end of the class tippet. You are now ready to cast to a Billfish, nothing but the class tippet (20 pound or lighter) will ever fail.
Building a leader below the Butt section. Mason Hard 20 pound test or lighter for smaller tippet class is the best class tippet material available. It has the best aberration resistance, and is the most consistent regarding breaking strength. Tie a twenty turn Bimini twist knot in each end of a piece of 20 pound Mason Hard, make the knots exactly 16 inches apart, then twist one end until the loop looks braided, then double that end with the improved Bimini loop knot, and let unwind so that the doubled loop looks like a 4 strand braid.
Snell the Gamakatsu 6/0 hooks onto a piece of 100 pound clear Mono bite tippet, (I use Ande), Next slide the Cam Sigler (Pink and White tube fly into the bite tippet, next slide the popper head on top of the fly, now measure 11 inches from the hook eye closest to the fly and bend a hard angle into the bite tippet.
Now tie a huffnagle knot to connect the Bimini twist loop from the class tippet to the 11 inch bite tippet. Next connect the class tippet to the butt section of the leaser using a loop to loop knot, and you are ready to fish.
Where do most anglers go wrong when playing these fish on fly gear?
Most anglers use the rod by bending it to apply pressure, this has been proven to be the opposite of correct, I try to never bend the rod until it is time to land the fish. When the big fish has it's tail closer to the angler than the fishes head then the angler should point the rod at the fish and let the drag on the reel do its job. When the fish has its head closer to the angler then the fishes tail, then the angler should put the tip of the rod under water and wind as fast as possible. When the fish takes off then let it pull the rod tip up out of the water and point directly at the fish. Always keep the arm holding the rod extended straight, do not ever bend your elbow, Fight the fish with the butt of the rod up in your solar Plax and when the fish runs reach out and point the rod directly at the fish.
Talk me through how you would best present your fly to a sailfish?
We always try to tease the billfishusing bait which has been rigged without a hook so the fish can get a taste before bringing the fish close to the boat. I believe that all billfish can be raised (Trolled to the surface to chase bait), and teased into the fly casting range. We use no more than 25 foot of fly line and leader when presenting the fly to the fish. Assuming that the angler is right handed, we run 3 or 4 teasers on the aft starboard corner of the vessel, the angler posses the aft port corner of the vessel. When the fish comes up to a teaser, the teaser man drops the bait into the mouth of the fish, the other mate pulls other teases from the water and the angler drops the fly off into the water on the port side and lets it out 25 foot from the rod tip.
Next the teaser man pulls the bait (Teaser) from the fishes mouth and brings it quickly toward the boat. When the fish is 50 foot from the boat swimming fast, the Captain pulls the boat out of gear (No Longer underway) and tells the angler to "CAST". The angler water loads the fly rod and makes a back cast, (Never touching the fly line) and then makes a forward cast just to the starboard side of the center of the boat wake. The fly lands behind the tail of the billfish, which the teaser man brings up to within 10 foot from the transom of the boat before swinging the bait toward the port side and the fish follows. Now the Billfish is 10 foot from the transom, behind the angler, the fly is 15 foot further out, the angler now pops that fly and the fish attacks it on the surface while swimming away from the boat.
The angler has the rod stretched out pointing at the fly, in the case of a Sailfish, white marlin or striped marlin the drag is set at 4 to 6 pounds of pressure (6 for sailfish), for Blue and Black Marlin the drag setting is about one pound. When the fish eats the fly, the angler pulls straight back until feeling the weight of the fish, and then a straight line pull of 12 inches sets the hook perfectly, do not bend the rod!
What differences are there between hooking & playing a sailfish & a marlin?
From the bite of a Sailfish i use the full 6 pounds of drag until the battle is over, With a big Marlin it is necessary to use one pound or less drag from the bite until the fish has run and jumped, for a period of time determined by the fish and the angler. On most big Marlin this at least 20 minutes before increasing to two pounds, by the time that the fish starts to tire (usually up to an hour) I am still under 4 pounds of pressure. after we get onto the fly line for the second or third time I bump it up to 6 pounds and the fish usually is finished soon after that.
Tell me about the number of marlin you hooked on fly gear before you actually boated one?
I hooked my first Blue Marlinon fly while trolling teasers on "Woods Wall" off of Marathon in the Florida Keys in 1974, it was a 200 pounder which lasted about 5 seconds, I hooked more than 100 before catching my first Blue Marlin on fly in Venezuela in 1987, a 90 pounder. Since that time I have released 17 more with my largest Blue Marlin on fly being caught aboard Intensity in Guatemala during January 2011, this fish was estimated to weigh over 500 pounds.
My first of 89 striped Marlin was a 120 pounder in 1988 in Mag Bay Mexico, I have released several striped marlin on fly in the Galapagos Islands which were over 250 pounds. All of my Black Marlin on fly were caught in Australia except the 180 pounder I caught in Panama in 1993.
What is your current ratio on these fish is? Why the huge increase in success?
During the last 5 years I have caught the last 15 out of 16 Blue Marlin bites which I had on fly. The fish fighting technique, the quality of the Captains and Mates which I fish with in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic, and the advancements in rigging and tackle, Especially the Mako Fly Reels and TFO Bluewater fly rods, and Rio Leviathan fly lines, made the difference. When we raise a Blue Marlin under 400 pounds, everyone on the boat expects us to catch that fish if it eats the fly! Confidence is an amazing tool!
Why do you host your school at Casa Vieja?
The best Boats and crews in the world with better equipment and more experience than any place else. The five star setting and world class food and service makes the Casa Vieja Lodge the best place to operate my Billfish on Fly Schools.
How does flyfishing for large pelagics compare with other fly-fihing disciplines?
Completely different, however many of the techniques, rigging improvements,and fish fighting styles can be carried over to other types of salt and fresh water fly fishing.
Are sailfish stocks in good shape - maybe talk about Gautemala preserving the fish stocks by no-kill policy etc?
It is againstthe law to kill Billfish in Guatemala, which means this awesome fishery should last for many years unlike many other counties where the Billfish are slaughtered for food by commercial harvesters.
Anything else you want to add?
I love my job, 70 years of age, over 1900 Billfish on Fly, and still catching and teaching, most of the improvements have been during the last five years.
Contact: Captain Jake Jordan Jake Jordan's Fishing Adventures P O Box 309 Havelock, NC 28532 252-444-3308 or 305-872-6060