The reef is a place where a human being is just a wrongly placed intruder. Humans were not born to go there! So the ideal condition for a funny day fishing out there :).
It was my very first experience to fish land based on the reef. I heard much about it and I have seen tons of Youtube Videos doing it but all I have seen looked totally different than what I have seen there. And this is not an exaggeration. Everything on the reef can kill you if you make a mistake.
This starts already with the way through the reef to the edge. You have to understand that the reef is not just a small strip of rocks. The reef starts already a hundred meters before the reef edge. This is the inner reef with all its expansion area which is flooded wind and tidal based. The inner reef is the place for the bigger fish to hunt in high tides. On high tides the reef is impossible to fish except maybe by boat and even this is crazy. A safe fishing, if you can call it somehow safe, is only possible at low tide and with a small swell. Everything else is just suicide. You walk on the cutting edge. Corals are sharp as hell and everything is coral on the reef. Without a certain kind of respect its better not to go on the reef.
You are never alone out there. The reef is shark territory and not those little funny black-tip sharks you can dive with in the inner lagoon. Out there you have gray reef-, white tip- and tiger sharks. For all of those guys you can become part of the food chain within a blink of a second. Normally not but imagine a wounded and bleeding fish on the hook or even worse you hurt yourself on a coral. Its all about the blood. I would be very careful with blood in the water. The sharks regularly patrol on the reef edge and they also come onto the reef if they can with a bigger wave. It is majestic and scare in once when a shark becomes swashed onto the reef to hunt in the swell.
This is now the story of a scared fly fisherman and his first catch on the reef. A fish that kicked my ass like a pro. This is the story of an epic fight.
It all started that we went on the reef to escape the bad weather in the lagoon. Anyway the reef was on the list to fish we walked out on the reef, a wind sheltered section just maybe 500 meters long. The way out on the reef wasn’t a walk in the park. I tried to follow Rafael trough the inner reef as good as I can but this wasn’t very easy. Everything is extremely sharp so you have to check every step before you do it. It was my first walk on a reef and I was worried how to manage a fishing out there. Alex and Rafael helped me as good as possible and soon I was standing on the edge of the reef, ready for the first cast. Still I wasn’t very comfortable standing there having the deep blue pacific in front of me and the harsh and sharp reef behind me. This was at the beginning way outside of my comfort zone. At least at the beginning.
Everything turned in my head. Are the waves small enough. When will the first one come to swash me away? What todo when now really a fish takes the fly? All those questions turned around in my head but not for long… It all went too fast for my brain. The fish I suspected that took my fly was in the end a different fish. This is normal, Alex told me. When one fish starts to pursuit on the fly there is another fish that decided to steel the potential prey. I actually thought a red bass took the fly but a GT was faster. Far too fast for my perception.
What a fight!!! I still don’t believe how hard it was to fight this GT. From the take to the moment the fish was on the reel maybe a hundreds of a second passed. The drag was set to maximum with no effect on the run. I tried to block the reel with my hand which didn’t work well for my thumb but at least stopped the fish for a moment.! The rod pointed to the fish every time I blocked the reel. I couldn’t lift the rod up anymore. Anyway the 12 weight rod was a knife in a gunfight. The fly line sounded like it will break soon. I was sure it will break each moment so I opened the drag every time the tension increased. Every time I did this the reel knob hammered against my hand like a machine gun. Drrrrrrrrrrrrr! I was not thinking at all. I was just reacting with all my body strength. The only thing I can remember was the moment the fish stopped pulling and I was able to win back line onto the reel. It was a feeling of hope, maybe to land my first land based GT. I started to pull in the fish as fast as possible. The 12 weight Sage Salt did an excellent job not breaking by pulling the fish in. I don’t know how long this wrangling lasted with the GT but now it seemed that the GT became tired. The fish went now sideways in front of me. His power was gone to do another long run. That was my chance. With support of the next bigger wave I lifted the GT over the reef edge where Alex grabbed to leader to secure him. LANDED!! With a fork length of 96cm surely a decent GT. Look at the bump on its head! What a brute of a fish.
By far my hardest fight and luckily not the last one for the day. Later in the afternoon a pack of 3 GTs chased my fly and one took the fly right in front of me. There was a totally black GT in the pack. Black like the back side of the moon. But that was not the fish at the end of my line. Another epic fight begun although it was not as hard as the previous one. The GT was a bit smaller having 82cm. You see I’m looking already a little bit crazy… It is an exhausting fishery to cast with a 12 weight half of the day. An interesting fact maybe for those of you who want to try this out. You don’t need to cast far. Casting 10-15m is more than sufficient. The party is somewhere at the reef edge.
This day was one of my most memorable. Two land based GTs landed on fly. Can it be better? Hardly!
I know only one fish that could have topped this. A giant Napoleon Wrasse. I have seen one of this greenish-blue brutes observing my fly but hesitating to take it. They are massive and even more dirty fighters. Much harder to land because their habitat are the reef cracks where hardly a fly line survives. That fish is still on my bucket list.
But one more fish is worth to mention on the reef and they are not less furious than the GTs. Red Bass!! These (bass)holes are real bastards. As ambush predators they attack out of the reef cracks and are strong like a red bullet train. I lost my newly built 12 weight rod on a real big one, I was not able to lift over the reef edge. I had him already so close and then rod and the 130lbs leader broke on the edge. That I lost the fish hurts much more than the broken rod. Some days are not as good as others. Those memories also stay in mind forever.
I also tried to hook a shark. I love sharks and you can catch them from time to time. We prepared for this a 14 weight rod with a 130lbs leader plus 100lbs wire trace. On the first occasion a roughly 6 feet gray reef shark took the fly. Needless to say that he didn’t like the hook in his mouth and went crazy. I lost him after maybe 3 seconds because of a broken leader. Damn!!!
I learned now many things:
1) Don’t let the fish run into Backing. If he gets you into the backing you will loose the battle. For sure!! I still had fly line on my reel on the first run with the GT. Stop the fish however possible for!
2) Don’t get pulled into the water. A normal fly reel does not have enough drag for this but in case the fly line wraps around the reel or your feet it goes quicker than expected. If nobody can help you the safest ways you can do is just to sit down. The line will cut immediately at the reef edge.
3) Walk carefully, don’t step on coral and look for cracks in the reef. The cracks are classical hot spots but also the most dangerous places on the reef.
4) A fly lines is more durable than I expected. My newly bought Rio GT was an excellent companion for both GTs and can be still used.
Tackle for the reef, doesn’t matter what fish:
|Rod:||minimum 12 weight rod (better 14 weight)|
|Reel:||Big arbor reed such as the Nautilus Monster. Super sturdy drag. Some backing but you won't need it if you do it right|
|Line:||RIO GT 550 grain or similar line|
|Leader:||6-7 feet of 130-200 lbs fluorocarbon.|
This was my first experience, my impression and is my endless love for this kind of fishing.
It looks calm but it isn’t
Can it be better?
The main price..
The student and his teacher..
Look at the eye!!!