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Home / Fishing / Articles



Fly Fishing for Pacific Sailfish

  by The Great Sailfishing Company

My flyfishing trip to Guatemala for sailfish was excellent! From the moment my wife and I arrived, Carols and Les met us and took care of every detail about the trip. Not only did they provide us excellent transportation throughout our visit but also went way out of their way to make our trip enjoyable and even gave us an insightful guided sightseeing trip to Antigua. The entire trip was perfect.

Here is a breakdown on how the fishing went:

FRIDAY - 2/8/03

Although this was my first effort to catch sailfish on a fly, I had read a number of articles and watched a couple of videos explaining the process. Jose, the deckhand, also offered some pointers. But there still is somewhat of a learning curve.

The first day I hooked 8 fish and landed 3. Two were lost due to equipment malfunction. On my 12 weight rod I was using a Rio flyline

with a clear "wet tip". Twice the connection between the wet tip and leader broke due to the wet tip pealing away from the core line. I don't know if I simply had a defective line or if the line manufacturers are still working to develop products capable of taking the stress involved in sailfishing.

There were three fish of note during the day. One was hooked in the dorsel fin next to the back, a fact not learned until after a struggle which went for at least an hour. That particular fish also provided some unusual entertainment as upon hooking the fish it went left from the stern. Within just seconds I saw a fish greyhounding behind the boat going directly to the right. I could see the pink fly sliding the leader so I knew that the fish had been hooked by someone. But I didn't initially grasp that that someone was me. My line was in the water going left and the fish was now paralleling the port side of the boat rapidly passing the boat still greyhounding. I had a lot of line catching up to do, and although we avoided a break off due to excessive bally, the reward was only a long term battle with that dorsel-hooked fish.

The largest fish of the day, and of the trip, was estimated at 100 lbs. It too took a substantial amount of time to bring to the boat. The deckhands did an excellent job in handling the fish after grasping leader.

The third fish of note took off at least 300 yards of backing. Jose, deckhand with 5 years experience, never caught a sailfish on a flyrod. I told him he was free to give it a shot if another fish was available after I had one hooked up. That happened, of course his fish went right and mine went left. The captain could not chase either one and we had to fight them from the stationary boat.

The second deckhand was constantly monitoring my backing and reporting the status to the captain. My Spanish is virtually non-existent, but I know that something involving "un piquito" in reference to my line means that the deckhand was in agreement that we were running short on line. Fortunately, before we had to make a decision, my line went slack as for the second time the Rio wet tip failed. Also fortunately the deckhand reeled in my 300 yards of spectra backing saving me a real tired wrist.

I still came away from the day a little worn. I had a growing blister on an index finger from reeling. Next time I will be sure that I have reels which have alternate left and right wind, so that you can give yourself a break. The lengthy battles during the day also left my arms fatigued. My wife who doesn't view fishing with much enthusiasm, had nonetheless chosen to ride with me one day. Since the seas were flat she came on the first trip. She was amazed to see sailfish swim by with their dorsal fins out of water. She also said she watched one sailfish free jumping while Jose and I were battling our two fish. She couldn't believe the number of fish present and the constant action.

SATURDAY - 2/8/03

The seas were up and I was asked whether I still wished to go. I am sure that it could be too rough to go, but it would have to be a lot rougher than it was to forego another shot at so many sailfish.

The captain said we "raised" 30 fish. For some reason it was hard to get them to accept bait and switch. We only hooked 7 but we landed 4. I lost one to a broken tippit when the fish, against a slack line, simply broke the tippit based upon the weight of the flyline. On another occasion my cast resulted in a line wrapped around the butt of the rod. One doesn't have the opportunity to fix such a mistake in the time given. While the tippit should have broke first, in fact the new flyline parted at the end of the shooting head. Again, I don't believe line makers are producing products up to the need. The flyline was a Scientific Angler Big Game 12 weight.

On the way in we lost an engine. So having fished two days on the Black Fin I was scheduled on the third day on a Bertram.

Other than the lost engine, the day was superb. Not as many fish took the fly as one would have liked, but the action was constant.

SUNDAY 2/9/03

The third day started out great. I was four for four before things got a little sloppy. I wrapped a flyline around the butt once again on a cast. You don't get a chance to fix that mistake. This time the tippit parted. I also began experiencing problems with hook-ups. I wasn't getting the break of the fish taking the fly and rapidly leaving the boat in one direction or another. When they swim out slowly, or barely swim off at all, it is hard to get a good hook set. I went through a number of takes with the hooks coming out quickly.

But the action was unbelievable. We ultimately hooked 15 fish and brought 8 to the boat. The largest estimated at 85 lbs, I think a fairly accurate estimate. My wife wanted to go to Antigua so we stopped fishing early with only about 4 and a half hours of actual fishing done. It is hard to believe that you can get that many takes and land so many fish within that period of time.


One exciting moment shall live with me forever. I hooked the sailfish which went about 75 yards straight astern of the boat and then began a half-in, half-out, of the water sideways, counter-clockwise circle. When the fish got back to about 9:00, where his circle initially started, he came directly at the stern of the boat. I have sailfished before and have also read a number of articles about it. So I knew that one should be aware that sailfish can come into the boat. But, it is hard to believe how quick things happen.

The information I have seen claimed sailfish capable of attaining 50 to 70 miles per hour, depending on whose numbers you use. This fish was half out of the water so undoubtedly its speed was much less. Still he was going fast. With only about 75 yards to cover until he got to the stern of the boat he made the distance very quickly. The deckhand grabbed me and pulled me to the side, and the captain hit the throttle. Nonetheless, the fish made it to the boat's stern. I felt a slight brush as the flat of his bill hit the top of my thigh. Of course, after his "boat accident" he was a fairly docile fish to bring in from that point on.


Our visit to Antigua was very nice. I was surprised to see as many other tourists as there were. Prior to this point we had only run into Spanish-speaking vacationers. Carlo gave us an excellent walking tour of Antigua which included coffee and desert and ultimately dinner, at which time Les joined us. The hotel we stayed in was also very quaint and memorable.


Thanks a lot for putting together such a good trip. The fishing is so good that it makes it hard to even consider fishing anywhere else for any other type of fish. It is hard to believe that in just three days I hooked 30 sailfish and landed 15. Had I been using conventional tackle I have little doubt that I could have caught and landed all the fish I would have been physically capable of reeling in. The numbers I got on a flyrod are better than what conventional tackle would yield at virtually any other sailfish destination. Oh by the way, we also saw marlin but had a sailfish on at the time and didn't get the chance to pursue them.

It was an excellent trip, I can't thank you enough. Looking forward to doing it again with The Great Sailfishing Company out of Puert Iztapa, Guatemala.

Terry Schraeder

For more information or to book a trip, contact The Great Sailfishing Company at or visit their Web site.


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