Big Game Fly Gear
To fly-fish for tarpon, sailfish or marlin, all it takes is the right rod, reel and line (plus lots of skill and luck).
By Gibbs Milliken
The ultimate thrill in sport fishing just might be attempting to catch the largest and most powerful saltwater species, often weighing hundreds of pounds, not with heavy-duty trolling rods and reels, but with lightweight, willow-thin fly gear. The rod, reel, line and terminal attachments must be specifically built to meet this challenge.
The ideal choice of many big game fly fishers is a custom rod and reel with the positive grip and feel that matches their style of presentation. One of the best to date is the classic Sage Xi2 rod by Dennis Freeman. It features the highest quality graphite four-section blank, a two-handed fleur/burl cork handle, and the REC Channel-Lock gold anodized reel seat with matching guides and wraps. Serious anglers will appreciate the outstanding rod performance and careful construction by this premier Texas rod-maker. ($540, Dennis Freeman Sage Xi2. 9’, 12 wt. 4-piece rod, Rodmakers, (210) 479-3477, <www.rod-makers.com>) (REC Rod Comp-onents, (877) 339-7894, <www.rec.com>)
The Islander LX 4.8 reel matching this custom rod has a huge drag system and frame that is built and polished to an impeccable quality. The wide ergonomic rim-control and oversize drag knob offer fast and easy pressure adjustments on light leaders. It is spooled with 80-pound Monic Tarpon GSP line backed by Stren Hi-Vis Gold Super Braid of the same strength. By any standard, this is a superior combination for big game fishing. ($765, LX4.8 Reel, Islander Reels, (800) 475-7335, <www.islander.com>) ($54.95, Monic Tarpon GSP, Flow-Tek Inc., <www.monic.com>) ($39.99, 300 yds. Stren Super Braid, Pure Fishing, (877) 777-3850, <www.purefishing.com>)
The four-piece G. Loomis Cross Current GLX rod is fitted with special titanium REC recoil guides that, if accidentally bent, will pop back into correct alignment. The rod also features a unique ergonomic handle with a forward palm swell and one of the fastest actions, to load and deliver heavy lines for great distances. Completing this 11-weight outfit is a beautifully made large disc drag G. Loomis Synchrotech reel that can carry an 11 to 13-weight line plus 300 yards of 80-pound Super Braid backing. ($715, 9’, 11 wt. Cross Current GLX Fly Rod, # FR10811-4CCGLX) ($525, Synchrotech Reel, Model: #51067-01, G. Loomis, (800) 456-6647, <www.gloomis .com>)
Fishing the open ocean with large flies and roll casting to billfish brought close to the boat using surface teasers requires a sturdy fast-action rod. This two-handed 12-weight Gold Cup rod features a cork foregrip for leverage and a wide, soft butt-cap for fighting comfort. Matched with the Gold Cup IV reel and Rio Leviathan 600-grain fly line, this is a reasonably priced combination of good quality. ($169.99, Gold Cup Rod, 12 wt. 9’, 3pc. $199, Gold Cup IV Reel, World Wide Sportsman, (800) 227-7776, <www.basspro.com>) ($109.95, 600 grain Leviathan Line, Rio Products, (208) 524-7760, <www.rioproducts.com>)
New this year is the Temple Fork Bluewater Heavy Duty rod, 14 to 16 wt. , 8 1/2’, three-piece rod ideal for use with 100-650 grain fast sinking fly lines such as the Jim Teeny Professional spooled on a Tibor Gulfstream reel. This combination is among the “biggest guns” of fly-fishing. Under the signature of legendary fly fisher Lefty Kreh, it is a mega-rod intended for fighting fish like sharks, marlin and tuna. The solid construction and fleur-grade, triple cork handles give the angler a sure grip to stop and leverage huge fish to the surface. ($249, Bluewater Rod, TFO Outfitters, (800) 638-9052, <www.templeforkflyrods.com>) ($665, Gulfstream Reel, Tibor Reels, (561) 272-0770, <www.tiborreel.com>) ($55, Pro 650 grain Billy Pate Bill Fish Line, Jim Teeny, (800) 501-6602, <www.jimteeny.com>)
Big-game fly fishing is considered by some anglers to be the ultimate fishing thrill. Being connected to a huge tarpon, sailfish or marlin is more than a matter of endurance. It is a matter of skill. In the end, a documented fair catch of a trophy-size fish could possibly bring the reward of setting a new state or world record.