Ever consider what the ultimate challenge is on a fly rod? I am sure this will change for each individual, depending on their location. However for saltwater anglers here in the Northeast, the challenge of hooking into a one hundred pound locomotion built of pure muscle is one that must be on everyone’s list.
It can swim at speeds of forty miles per hour, pick a bucktail hair out of place on your favorite fly with its insanely acute eye sight, and literally break your back with its awesome power and thrust. Enter the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
For the past ten years I have been chasing these powerful creatures on fly tackle. With fish hooked and landed up to one hundred and sixty pounds, one thing I have learned is that there is no room for error. To start with, ensure that all of your knots and leaders and in perfect condition. Limit the amount of connections between the fly line and the leader. If you are not fishing IGFA, go with a six to eight foot straight shot of thirty or forty pound monofilament tied from the tip of the fly line to the fly. If I have guests that request to fish IGFA standards, I use RIO’s Tarpon leaders. These come in three packs and are hand tied with twenty two pound class tippet and can be ordered with shock tippets from forty to one hundred pound.
For the connection to the fly line, I will employ a loop on the tip of the fly line by using a triple nail knot. The leader is then connected via loop to loop by putting a Bimini twist into the tip of the monofilament leader.
RIO’s Leviathan Fly lines. These come with breaking core strength of over seventy pounds and are built specially for big game fish as they load quickly and easily. For Bluefin here in the northeast, the 500 grain sink tip and the 500 grain intermediate tip seem to work best when matched with fourteen and sixteen weight rods.
Bluefin are best sought after in the northeast from Massachusetts to North Carolina twelve months out of the year depending on the time of the migrations. In my home waters of New Jersey, Bluefin fishing is best from July through November. A big misconception I hear a lot when targeting Bluefin is that flies need to be big. This is not the case as the majority of baits small to medium Bluefin target are smaller in nature. Sand eels, sardines, small squid, bay anchovies, and tinker mackerel are all popular baits in the four to six inch range that are generally on the menu. Flies should “match the hatch” and always be tied on extra strong hooks. Popular patterns include SKOK Mega Mushy, regular Mushmouth and White Bait Mushy, Popovics Jiggy, Shady Lady Squid and Lefty Deceiver’s.
The most important thing about fly fishing for big game is conditioning. Pace yourself and do not let your muscles tighten up. Use your core and your legs to fight the fish, rather than your back or your arms. Drink lots of fluids especially if you are in the hot sun, and as mom would always say, eat your Wheaties….your gonna need the strength! Good fishin’…