Seventeen teams of expert salt water fly rod anglers were brought together from the U.S. and Canada on January 7 and 8th during The Ninth Annual Islamorada Sailfly Championship for two days of intense flyfishing for Atlantic Sailfish in the Florida Keys. Eight hook ups were reported and three fish were caught during a lull of what has otherwise been a red hot sailfish season. None the less, the spirit, camaraderie and enthusiasm of the anglers, captains and mates continue to make this a sought after and coveted title.
Bob Lodge of Tavernier and Al McLeod of Islamorada won Grand Champion honors fishing Captain Charlie Scoble aboard the Yo Ho Ho. The team scored a 10 point quick release on Wednesday. With only one hour until lines out they landed and removed the fly from a fish at 3:03 pm on Thursday for a 150 points and a come from behind win. Over the nine years of the tournaments existence, Captain Scoble has developed an astonishing record having won the tournament three times and placed second twice.
Second place with one fish billed went to Islamorada’s Jon Milchman and Gordon Winfree of Naples, Florida fishing aboard the Relentless with Captain Paul Ross. Third Place finishers were Captains Tim Klein and Ted Christie of Islamorada aboard Captain Mel Walker’s Gotcha.
A 37 ½ inch dolphin won “Best Other Fish” and was landed by Aaron Kimsey with team mate Bill Anderson, both from Key West. They were fishing with Captain Rob Fordyce aboard Voodoo Daddy.
Tournament Director Sandy Moret said, “Atlantic Sailfish are rarely fished for with fly rod in the US. Our event attracts some very devoted and hard core fly fishers with a tremendous amount of talent. In its first year, 14 teams competed catching no fish and a 14 way tie for first place was declared. The event has gained in popularity ever since. I believe this may be the most difficult fishing tournament in the Florida Keys. Because of the blue water/backcountry cross over mix of anglers captains, we are a Qualifying Event for the 2010 Florida Keys Outfitters/IGFA Inshore World Championship.”
The tournament is an all release team event using 8 kg tippet supplied by the tournament. Each team is allowed two anglers who may cast, hook and fight the fish and anyone on board can tease the fish with live or dead hookless teasers making the “bait and switch.” A release is accomplished when the connection of fly line to leader is brought into the tip top of the fly rod. If that occurs in less than 60 seconds 10 points are earned. If the fish is more difficult and takes more than 60 seconds then 50 points are earned. If the fish is billed and the fly retrieved the catch then counts for 150 points.
The event is sponsored by Florida Keys Outfitters, Rich Products Corporation, The Green Turtle Inn, Craig Reagor of Riverwood Art Farms, Kaiyo’s, Columbia Sportswear, and Pasta Pantaleo of the Keys to Life Gallery.