Troubleshooting Tips for Offshore Fly Fishing

For new players, there are plenty of ways not to catch a billfish on fly. While many of them involve a bad connection between the fly rod and the boat deck, many more are simply unavoidable. It is not an easy sport.
We've made our share of mistakes over the years, and these days we try our damnedest to avoid the circumstances that can commonly lead to foul-ups and failure. The following six tips will help lessen the chances of losing a fish before he eats.

Tip 1: Teaser baits must be securely stitched from head to tail and connected to the leader. If the billfish steals the first bait, he may be gone for good. If he does take or destroy the first bait, have additional teasers rigged and quickly feed one back to him to keep him interested.

Tip 2: Never run more teasers than you have hands on board with which to clear them quickly. It is difficult to get a fish to take a fly when there's anything left in the water.

Tip 3: Don't leave cleared teasers hanging over the water. A retrieved teaser dangling from a rod tip can often distract a fish to the point that he will never see the fly. Likewise, bridge teasers operated by the skipper are counterproductive if they're left hanging from the rigger. Even at this distance from the water they can grab a fish's attention at the critical moment of the switch.

Tip 4: For best results, use rods that have been specifically designed to tease fish. Light rods have no firepower when you need to wrench a bait or lure from a fish's mouth, and heavy chair rods do not allow the mobility you often need. Neither will allow you to rapidly snatch the bait from the water to make the switch.

Tip 5: If a fish does take hold of the bait, use a jerking pressure rather than a steady pull to encourage him to release it. If the bait is jerked and jiggled, the billfish tends to momentarily let go to get a better hold. Without correct teasing rods, this maneuver is nearly impossible to perform.

Tip 6: Try to keep the final play at least 20 feet from the back of the boat. When the fish surges on the bait, signaling the switch, you don't want him up in the prop wash. While it may not spook him entirely, the wash can confuse him in the critical seconds. He may swim under the boat, away from the fly, and the teased-up momentum is lessened or lost. The longer the fly is in the water after the switch, the less chance the fish will eat it.