Sailfish on Fly
About Photographer Pat Ford
I caught my very first sailfish in 1971 in Key West on 212-pound spinning tackle. Actually, it was the first one I’d ever really seen up close and personal.
Several years later, I decided that fly-fishing for billfish was just about the ultimate experience anyone could have on the water. Guys like Billy Pate and Stu Apte were making history with catches once thought impossible just years before.
My first attempt at teasing up sails was off the Cozumel coast with Capt. Wes Puller. The problem back then was that nobody knew the proper techniques to do it. We had tiny FIN-NOR or Seamaster reels and full-length floating line.
The first sail I actually hooked on fly got Wes so excited that he backed down too fast and sucked the fly line into the props. The next problem was that drag from a full 12-weight line was just about enough to break a 12-pound tippet on its own.
I think I was the first to try a 30-foot high-density shooting head, followed by 100 feet of orange Stren mono (or so the captain said). That worked out pretty well, and I went on to set some IGFA and Florida sailfish and white marlin records.
Over the years, I’ve never lost my love for watching a billfish tease up and whack a fly 30 feet behind the boat. But today I’m much more interested in getting the best photos of these magnificent creatures instead of setting records.
My camera does the catching now, and I’m happy to ride along on anyone’s trip, just to take pictures. For me, it doesn’t get any better than watching a billfish dance in front of my lens. I believe sharing the photos I take of these fish is my way of giving back to a sport that’s brought me half a century of pleasure.
Tight lines everyone.