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March 18, 2013

Marlin on Fly

It's Not As Easy As Some People Think
marlin on fly

What ever possesses a marlin to jump on and eat a pile of chicken feathers is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that it’s sure fun to watch them do it!

It’s no secret that we fly-fish a lot more on Stalker than most boats ever do. Although some anglers and crews think that fly-fishing is all that we do, that’s really not the case. We switch back and forth between conventional and fly gear on a regular basis. However, this past season in St. Thomas, we decided to fly-fish exclusively for the entire summer season.

If you want to catch a blue marlin on a fly, the North Drop is arguably one of the best places in the world to get it done. The full moon brings in a lot of aggressive marlin ready to eat whatever you want to throw at them!
Even though my angler’s goal was just to have fun, my personal goal was to catch at least 50 blues on fly for the season. A few years earlier, we’d caught 89 during a four-month season, with 23 of them on the fly rod. I figured that if we fly-fished exclusively for the summer, catching 50 could be possible.


How to Do It

fly rod fish fighting

Unlike most fly rods, the ones used for billfishing are designed more for lifting power than for the actual casting of a fly line. A quick “flop cast” does the trick. (George Sawley)

If you read through the IGFA’s fly-fishing rules (, you should get a good idea how to set up the tackle, but there are many nuances of the game that some people aren’t familiar with, which is understandable. Recently, I read an article in the IGFA’s 2012 World Record Yearbook that could confuse the reader about the proper way to present a fly. It gave the rules and regulations about the presentation of the fly, and then had a caption stating that the fly should be cast from a dead boat. That is not really the case. The rules clearly state that “the craft must be completely out of gear at the time the fly is presented to the fish and during the retrieve.” That doesn’t mean that the boat is stopped dead in the water. After pulling a 60-foot sport-fisher out of gear at trolling speed, the boat will travel at least 100 feet before coming to a full stop — even in a head sea. A fly angler can cast the fly anytime after the boat is out of gear. Consequently, I try to keep the boat going ahead as long as possible by leaving one engine in gear until the very last second before my angler casts, so that there’s still a fair bit of momentum on the bite. This helps the angler get a solid hook set. From another boat, or in video footage, it might look like we are trolling the fly, but, as the rules state, we are out of gear before the angler makes the cast and presents the fly.