the Spanish Fly
It was a bright, sunny morning with a light onshore breeze. It was going to be warmer today. A cold front had passed through, dropping the water temperature and chasing most of the fish off the flats. Today we were going to prowl the edge of the reef in search of potluck. We were on a mission, to test some new circle hooks and a new fly hook. Arriving on a nice patch reef, where a sailboat had run aground and sunk the evening before, we set out the chum bag and the wait for bait began.
Capt. Jose Wejebe
While waiting for the ballyhoo to show up for breakfast, I began fan-casting a Yo-Zuri Mag-Popper around the boat. No doubt about it, this was 'cuda' country. It wasn't long before what appeared to be a submarine was hot on the tail of my lure. Upon further review the offering was refused and the large, dark shadow disappeared from sight.
A few casts later two more nice barracuda streaked
up from the depths to admire my offering. Once again, however,
the fish refused to strike at the lure. Capt. Jose grabbed a rod
to show me how it was done. 2 casts later, Jose was tight into
a nice 'cuda' of about 35 inches. Jose turned to me with a big
smile, "You see that Bro, that's how it's done." It wasn't long
before I was dialed in, and drew several vicious strikes.
is a much-underrated game fish, and they are one of my favorites
on light tackle. They have very bad attitudes and voracious appetites.
These two characteristics combined makes fishing for these toothy
chaps very exciting on light tackle and with fly rods. Why are
barracuda so much fun to catch? Explosive strikes, which may launch
them 6 or more feet above the water, reel smoking runs and arial
shows that would put the Blue Angels to shame. Combining the voracious
appetite of a great white shark, the reel screaming runs of a bonefish,
the acrobatics of a tarpon and then throw in the fact that this
fish can grow as long as you are tall, and you have the Great Barracuda.
After catching a few real nice 'cudas' over 36 inches,
the ballyhoo had arrived. Jose threw the cast net a couple times
and with a livewell full of fresh bait, we were in business. A
short run took us to a spot that had been fishing real well over
the past few days for big Cero Mackerel and some King Mackerel.
The chum bag was placed in the water and we occasionally
threw in several live shrimp to sweeten the buffet. We rigged up
a couple live ballyhoo on a typical kingfish rig consisting of
a Mustad 9174 live bait hook wired up with a 3599C treble
hook as a trailer. I baited a Mustad 39952BL light wire
Demon Circle hook with a jumbo shrimp and drifted back into
the chum slick. As soon as the ballyhoo were in the water, they
were both hit hard. In no time we were both into real good Cero
mackerel. Hooking a large Cero Mackerel on light tackle is kind
of like snagging an Amtrak train as it passes at 60 MPH. They take
a lot of line in a big hurry. The Shimano Stellas performed flawlessly
and both fish came to the boat and were released.
Jose was re-rigging the rods I went back to fishing the shrimp.
As the offering got about 40 feet back in the slick it got hit
hard. Feeding some line out, I raised the rod tip, closed the bail
and bowed to the fish. The line came tight almost instantly and
I proudly announced "Fish On!" A five-minute fight ended with a
beautiful 35" Cero boatside. The circle hook was firmly set in
the corner of the jaw. Quickly baiting up again, the circle hook
was back in the water with another offering. Not 20 seconds later
another Cero was peeling line off my reel. This went on for a couple
hours, and the circle hooks performed flawlessly. Every single
fish was hooked in the corner of the mouth and not a single fish
Then a fish hit my shrimp and it was instantly evident
that this was no mackerel. Again, I was feeding a shrimp back behind
the boat and my bait was hit real hard. Feeding the fish some line,
I dropped the tip of the rod and waited for the line to tighten
up. I began reeling and the rod loaded up, but this was different.
When the line came tight the reel screamed for more than 30 seconds.
Line was coming off my reel like I had never seen before. No steelhead,
salmon or bonefish ever took line this fast before, I thought.
Twenty minutes and several blistering runs later a beautiful Little
Tunny (False Albacore) was swimming in circles alongside the boat.
What an awesome fish, and so beautiful in the morning sunshine.
I had read about these fish, but this was my first "Albert" on
rod and reel. After releasing the little powerhouse of about 8
pounds I immediately grabbed my 9WT fly rod. After stripping out
about 50 feet of line, I tied on a small baitfish pattern. Tied
on my new prototype fly hook I was eager to give it some action.
I jumped up on the motor covers and laid out a cast to the boiling
fish and got bit nearly instantly. "Fish on" I yelled as the fly
line and backing began to rapidly disappear from my fly reel. "Way
to go brother," Jose commented as the backing continued to disappear.
As the reel screamed, a couple neighboring boats let out a cheer.
The battle was on, and at this point in the match it was advantage
Albert. 275 yards of backing later, the fish slowed down. Finally
I was able to begin gaining some line, but progress was slow at
best. Over 30 minutes into the fight, the fish as well as the angler,
were tiring. At last I could see him, circling 30 feet below the
boat. A few minutes later Jose had him firmly in his grasp. My
first "Albert" on a fly weighing about 12 pounds. After snapping
a few quick photos, the fish was released and I immediately began
was in luck; the fish were still there. Within seconds I hooked
up again and this time it was a much bigger fish. I had loaded
my Penn 2.5 fly reel up with nearly 400 yards of 30 pound Spiderwire
for backing. This fish was taking line and showed no signs of ever
stopping. It appeared as though this fish was heading to Cuba,
with or without me. Sixty seconds after hooking up, this fish was
still taking line and I didn't have much line left to give. Jose
went up to the front of the boat and was ready to detach from the
anchor line to chase the fish. Finally, the fish made a big sweeping
turn and coming back at us. When I began cranking the backing back
in, most of the bottom of my Penn 2.5 was showing. That fish took
about 375 yards of line on its initial run, I was in awe. In no
time my fly line went zipping past the boat, followed by a couple
hundred yards of backing. I reeled until I thought my hand was
going to fall off and nearly an hour later the fly line was coming
back onto the reel. I put as much pressure as my 12lb tippet would
allow and finally the big Albert was boatside and I grabbed him
by the tail. He was huge, the biggest False Albacore I had ever
seen, even in pictures in magazines. The fish was just over 20
pounds and I was pretty sure that I was in heaven. We took a few
photos and then I placed him back in the water where he promptly
took off like a shot.
By this time the rest of the school had vanished,
which was a good thing because a couple more like that would have
most certainly killed me. After a short rest and some lunch it
was back to fishing. The Cero Mackerel were still around and there
was quite a group of Yellowtail Snapper behind the boat as well.
A few large Bar Jacks also kept things interesting.
Over the next couple of hours we picked away at
the fish, catching a few more nice Ceros, some Yellowtails, two
nice Bar Jacks and a beautiful Black Grouper. By the end of the
day Jose was quite impressed with the light wire, offset circle
hooks and said that he was now a believer. "I never would have
guessed that these circle hooks would work so well on these Mackerel",
he said. Just then I hooked into another "big Mack" and the line
was again peeling off my reel. Jose turned to the guys in the boat
next to us, " check out Mr. Mustad here with his new circle
hooks. Look at the big smile on his face. He's kicking butt
with these things and he's loving every minute of it." "Is that
what you guys are fishing with, them circle hooks I keep hearing
about," the neighboring angler asked. "That's them," Jose said, "and
he hasn't lost a single fish yet today with them, I'm really turned
on to these things now man." Over the course of the day we had
caught 30+ fish on the 39952BL in
a size 8/0. Every single fish was hooked in the corner of the mouth,
including the ones I let eat the bait for more than a minute. The
hooks were easily removed and all but a couple we kept for dinner
were released unharmed. It had been a grand day aboard the SPANISH
FLY with Capt. Jose Wejebe. As the 32ft Sea Craft rocketed back
to port, I gazed out at the beautiful blue water with a big smile
on my face. It day I will remember fondly the rest of my life.
No doubt catching a lot of nice fish makes for a great day, but
spending that day with one of the nicest people you would ever
want to meet is the icing on the cake.
Stay tuned for more adventures with TEAM MUSTAD
and in the mean time, tight lines and best fishes.
Jeff Pierce is the North American
Sales Coordinator for
O. Mustad & Son (U.S.A.) Inc. and Partridge.
He is the Captain of TEAM MUSTAD and is
a diehard angler and fly tier.