Tuna, The Ultimate Fly Rod Challenge

Carter Andrews discusses the toughest customer on fly: the tuna.

Tuna fly main

Tuna fly main

A question I often hear from saltwater fly-fishermen concerns the ultimate challenge on a fly rod. Nothing that swims in the ocean, or in an angler’s dreams, compares with monster tuna on fly. Pound for pound, no fly-caught fish matches the power of a tuna, and certainly nothing puts more strain on the angler or the tackle.

One of the best places in the states to target yellowfin tuna on the fly is Venice, Louisiana. The fall shrimping season presents the best opportunity for a -fly-rodder to tangle with yellowfins up to 200 pounds. Casting a fly into the chum line created by a shrimper bycatch becomes not a question of “if” but “when.”

Though 200-pound brutes can be taken on the fly, my ideal target-size tuna are from 40 to 80 pounds. These fish test any angler and his tackle to the limit, and there remains a plausible chance of success. Though I hate to admit it, the brilliant, slab-sided brawlers win more often than not.

In Panama, where I spend the bulk of my year, we are fortunate to witness a special phenomenon that aids in our success: Yellowfins and porpoises work in tandem to hunt in large packs as they cruise the ocean. Typically the tuna travel in front of and below the porpoise, but in an instant, they can surface to launch incredible attacks on baitfish schools. Sometimes, when I’m putting clients onto a feeding school of yellowfins, the fish are so large that I’m actually afraid for them to cast.

Send your questions on casting, fish-fighting, rods, reels, lines, and all things fly-fishing to Carter Andrews via askcarter@saltwatersportsman.com.