I never had the privilege of fishing with the late Paul Weingartz. When preparing for our first Farquhar trip – seems so far back now – I picked Paul’s brain about hooking, and more importantly, stopping these bruisers. He is, after all, one of the elite few to have landed GTs of over 100cm in the South African surf. A task a little more demanding than taking these fish on the flats.
And I’m taking NOTHING away from those who catch them on the flats of tropical islands. They are a challenge in any environment.
Anyway, Paul was very generous with advice. I think that it is a worth sharing his email, unedited, with all those planning on chasing any fish that hits hard and fights like the furies of hell. It gives one a rare sight into the meticulous mind of a legend.
Following are my thoughts and methods on trying to stop big fish ! Please don’t be offended if I repeat stuff you know.
I am off course referring to hooking and landing 90cm plus Gt’s from the shore or flats. Fishing GTs from a boat is way too easy and i don’t rate a GT landed this way cause it is so much easier to follow it around till it is tired. Each to his own and sometimes this is the only way some guys get to fish for them.
You can pull so much harder standing on the shore with a 12 wt, where as on the boat you are trying to to lift so your tackle really has to be up to the task of handling this heavy pressure on a big GT. Generally in areas of reef or bommies the idea is to stop or slow the fish as soon as possible or not even allow it to get going–more on this later.
I’ll run through the gear . Reels, I like good quality reels with drags you can screw up tight but you can get away with cheaper reels if you don’t turn up the drag too much but palm the reel hard enough when required( All the time on a GT !!) Same for rods if you fight the fish off the butt, up between 10 and 20 degrees from horizontal then most rods will manage.
Backing is very important, guys love gelspun as you can put a lot on the reel but I hate it and prefer 50 lb Dacron. 50 lb GSP cuts thru braided loops on flylines, fingers and pops on knots, even biminis under heavy pressure. Because good dacron is getting harder to find I do use some braids and less waxy GSP. I go up to 80 lb which seems to avoid some of the above problems. I like Jigman braid ( expensive) and both Arno and I have had good results with a Yellow Sufix GSP in 80 lb.
Backing to reel, many flyshops and guys say to me by the time you get down to the reel it is too late–rubbish. Make a loooong bimini and with 3 turns on the spool tie that arbor knot( also 3 turns) on the double bimini and you have a 100% knot that you can pull 50 lbs on ! Backing to flyline must be a long bimini loop so you can change flylines easily. . On the long loop part of the bimini I always lock it with a 3 turn overhand knot.
Let me say I extensively test all my knots before putting them into use, especially the GSP ones. I test knots and braided loops ( when fitting to a different type of flyline eg) against a 25 kg scale and if i can get it up to 20 kgs I am normally happy. If i have strained a knot by testing like this i redo it before using.
Flylines to stop a GT need to be higher strength, most lines are only around 35 lb which is OK if you have space to let a fish run. Many fish get landed this way but more ( especially on our coast here get away because you don’t hold them) The 35 lb lines don’t have enough reserve for close in shock loading and can break too easily. Here for intermediate we are using Rio Leviathan ( 50 and 70 lb). Ufudu line at 42 lb is just enough. That Airflo GT Floating Ridge line at 50 lb is strong enough.( If you don’t mind casting a heavy line then the Airflo is not a bad option as it is strong and fairly cheap ) When I use a floater in Sey i used a Monic Bluewater line with a GSP core ( 90 lb) absolute bitch to cast but was trying to get some 1.4m GTs. ( Never got the hook ups !) Don’t recommend that line !Seems like overkill but it allows for wear and tear , age of lines and shock loads etc. I replace all factory loops with 50 lb braid, I have never yet had a loop break or slip off ! A factory loop will let you down sooner or later in a hard tussle.
Leaders, I feel that guys use a heavy leader for the wrong reason. My thought is that if you are pulling hard on a fish and it touches reef or bommie 40 lb or 100lb is going to get cut either way. Or what is the point of having 120 leader for (chafing against reef) when you have a softer flyline that will cut as easy as anything.
I believe that the heavy leaders developed ( And I learnt this on my first Sey trip to Cosmoledo with Flycastaway in their early days) because GTs of 100cm and up have sizeable teeth. Altough they are not incisors a prolonged fight dragging a leader across these teeth as the fish turns wears down the leader. Sometimes a broken tooth can cut the line. I have also had happen once and seen several times a huge GT bite 100lb straight off on the take !! Therefore i feel that the heavier leader just gives you more leeway. The 124cm I landed on the flats in Farquar had worn down my 100 lb leader to 20% left !
The downside to a heavy leader is that skittish fish may be put off because of the fly not swimming as well as it may on a lighter leader.
On the leader up to 21kg I always use a bimini to loop it to the flyline other wise I use a 3 turn surgeon’s loop on the bigger stuff. A 2 turn surgeon’s loop is more common but gives about 75% strength where as a 3 turn brings it up to 85 %. Some guys like perfection loops, not for me. generally to the fly I use a Kreh Loop ( slight variation Lefty’s non slip loop ) or an improved homer rhode loop.
Lastly to hold fish hard you need strong hooks. There are some really heavy gauge hooks in the livebait style which we used to use all the time but as they are so heavy they compromised the casting. Now we use mainly owner circle hooks preferably 8/0 or 9/0 but the 6/0 is pretty strong enough, also like the Tiemco SP 600 as a J Hook. Trey Coombs Gamakatsu SL12s are fairly strong but I have seen a mangled one on a 108 cm Ben landed , so i don’t use them for GTs except on my poppers.
As I said before a lot of the above seems overkill but as i am after big GTs and they are so few and far between ( especially here) I want to limit equipment as much as possible so as not to blow that one chance. The spring tide a fortnight later I got that 108 cm in Dec 2010, I hooked another bus and after forcing the fish away from the reef I was settling in to the fight when the 100 lb leader parted. I can only think it was on a tooth as the it did not appear to be at the knot and no reef was involved. This is still haunting me !! Instead of Sufix leader I am now using Double X Fluoro which is harder but not a rigid fluoro. I was also using a J Hook and i felt that it may have been swallowed as opposed to the circle which normally hooks up nicely in the scissors of the jaw.
Over the years i have done much experimentation and playing with my rods. With a mate ( both wearing gloves and safety glasses ) we hook the rod against a scale and wotk out optimal pulling angles and just how hard one can pull. I can pull 12 kg against a scale before i feel I am starining stuff, this is at a short flyline distance of about 8 m. As you go further out you are still pulling the same on the rod but actual force on the fish end is well down. With about 50m of backing out you only get about 2 kg pull on the fish which is nothing. granted as you get more line out there is some line drag but i believe that this can be minimal depending on the fish’s position and less drag if you are using GSP. Try this pulling against a scale, it is good to know just how hard you can actually pull !
When a GT takes in reefy area my reaction is to hold it immediately if I can, I always wear stripping gloves.. This is where two handed stripping helps you to grip the flyline. Then as and when i can I try and get the extra line on the reel. It is very difficult to stop a fish dead and just straight sticking is likely to break something so when you do give line it is a metre at a time. Sometimes in Sey I felt I needed to do a long fast single handed strip to get the GT interested. The fault a lot of guys make due to being freshwater or smaller fish orientated is to strip the line through only one finger, either index or middle finger, when the fish takes and you put tensinon on it the line comes out of that finger and you have lost control. If stripping this way you need to strip thru 2 or preferably 3 fingers this way you can clamp down on the line to stop the fish and retrieve line with the stripping hand.
Holding fish hard it seems to me if they do reach reef they seem to try to brush against the reef and I have normally found if they do cut you off it is against the leader. I have only had one flyline cut in the Maldives where i was caught by surprise, where as I have seen many guys lose flylines by letting fish run. Of course this detrimental to the fish’s survival too if it gets off with a line in it’s jaw. The convenient excuse is that it will rust away in a week. Not so, modern hooks take a while to rust away and only if the barb is crushed are they likely to fall out.
My first 2 GTs in SA over 100 cm were 102 and 105 cm they were both hooked in reefy areas and neither got any line off me . I knew if they ran they would cut me off so I fought them each on 25m of flyline ! basically instead of running they went from left to right until they were tired out ! I know there is a huge difference between a 105 and a 125 but the point is still to try and get some control while the fish is still close in. Once it is running the fish has control.
So lots of info here, some theory, some tested, best to know what you can do with your gear before you go out there. You have hooked some good fish, but I find guys that have not, cannot comprehend how hard they can pull !
Hope this is of some use Fred, any other info i can give let me know,