TackleTackle Tips


Billfish On A Fly Made Simple

“Some Tips”


Here are some basics to help explain how to be successful when catching billfish on a fly.


Boat set up:

Typically, the teaser spread is set up similarly to conventional fishing, with the exception of one outrigger. If the angler is a right-handed caster, the right outrigger will typically be in the upright position out of the way of the cast. For a left-handed caster, just reverse the spread.

Set up of flyrod and prep:

Your cast will not need to be far – usually 35-40 feet will be sufficient. For your hook set, the drag on your fly reel will normally be set at 5-6 lbs. This range is optimal for Sailfish, but if you do hook a Marlin, immediately back your drag off to 1-2 lbs. This is just enough so you don’t have the spool overrun and birds nest the backing. Depending on the marlin’s action, you can apply more drag over time in the fight.

Your job:

Check the drag on your reel or have a mate do it, wet your fly, and let back enough line for your cast. This may be a little more than what you will actually have out of the rod during your cast. Strip the fly line in (having a stripping bucket really helps here) and set your rod at the ready with the tip laying above the transom of the boat. Having a wet rag on deck to set your reel on will keep it from sliding around during this process. With the leader out of the rod tip, lay your fly on the gunnels and place the tip of one hook into the rod holder. You can also just set the point of the back hook into your grip. Keep your eye on this throughout the time you are up, as wind and water over the boat can throw a loop over a bucket handle or push a leader knot through the tip top. Even minor issues such as these can cause a lost opportunity at a raised fish. You may only get a few shots in a day, or even a trip, so precision is key.

Fish Scenario:

When a fish is raised into the baits, a mate will start teasing the fish in to the opposite side of from when the angler will make their cast. The mate may even move the fish from one teaser to the other depending on where best to hook the fish. Once the fish is raised, the angler should immediately get to his rod and drop the fly into the water. Throw the fly out to the side of the boat a few feet, as if just pitched over the transom - the fly at times will just ride in the wash and not move back, which is needed . Let your fly take line straight out the back until you reach the distance of line you want to cast. At this point, your line should be tight to your reel.

Get ready - concentrate on these actions and not where the fish is. It is your job to be ready to cast when asked to.

The mate will keep teasing the fish in, and when they have the fish right near the transom, the captain will pull the boat out of gear and simultaneously the mate will pull the teaser into the boat. Someone will command “Cast”, and you will then use the tension of the fly in the water to load the rod and cast. Cast hard and throw towards the fish. You want the leader to turn over and the fly to hit farthest away. The cast you make should be placed over the center wash of the boat, to the opposite side of it behind the fish . It should then land straight back behind the fish. When the fly lands on the water, you are tight to the reel and lean towards the fly with your arms extended . It’s recommended that you hit the fish off of the reel and not try and strip strike to increase the odds of a good hook up . One reason for this is, if you are tight to the reel, there is less chance of the fly line wrapping the rod tip or rod butt. Another reason to do this is that you can have the tip just above or in the water and get a direct pull against the hooks. Yet another reason to stay tight to the reel to set the hook, is when you strip strike, many people naturally tend to lift the rod, and most people will not set the hooks hard enough to penetrate hard mouthed fish such as Sailfish or Marlin.

When you cast, you should be stationed with your thighs against the gunnels in the corner of the transom. As the fly lands, lean over the transom with your arms extended back towards the fly. When the line is tight, pop your fly once, then extend you arms again. One pop of your fly is usually all that is needed, but if you need to pop again, someone on board will direct you to do so. At this point, the fish is now still near the transom or possibly even under the boat. The fish has lost the bait and when you pop the fly , they will find it by sound, but also find it visually. The fish may appear to eat the fly ,but actually just push it down. Wait until you feel pressure before you strike

When the fish decides to take the popper, you want it to be headed away or across from left to right. You can accomplish the hook set by pulling straight back hard, or striking with a slightly bent rod in the opposite direction with tip on or in the water, enough to pull drag. When the fish starts pulling drag once it’s hooked, keep your rod pointed towards where the line is going into the water until it clears water and or is headed straight towards the fish. The main goal during the hook set is to get as much of an angle as possible on the fish going away or across, in order to sufficiently hook the fish.

Problems that may occur:

A fish spins and eats from the other side: When the fly disappears, strike straight back as before, or the opposite direction of the fishes movement.

When the fish eats from behind: This decreases your hook up rate to much less on a marlin and to about 20% on a sailfish. When the fish eats from behind and you strike, the fly most often pulls right out of its mouth. To rectify this problem, when you strike and the fly comes out, strip in to try to tease the fish back to you. Once the fish is close again, cast back over its head to behind it and repeat the lean, pop, set scenario. The mate may also end up re-teasing the fish and you will again need to cast and present the fly with a dead boat.

Fish fighting notes:

When the fish turns towards you and the line is slack, keep you rod tip in the water and reel. Doing this keeps the line from wrapping, and just that extra tension of the line drag in the water will keep the fly in until you come tight again to the fly. Always keep some bend in the rod as this keeps you tight, but also allows some give. Keep your rod below head height always, until you are backing up in the transom for the mate to acquire the leader, never get the rod tip above your head during the fight. The higher the rod, the less pressure you are putting on the fish. If the fish sounds, pump the fish up in short quick strokes, grabbing a couple of wraps on the reel at a time. Big, high stick rod lifts are much less effective and will allow the fish to rest and put little pressure on them. When the fish is close and near the surface, keep your rod low and pull against it one way and then the other – this keeps the fish off balanced and will end the fight much sooner. When your mate grabs the leader, back off of the drag (the hooks are big and sharp and when loose will stick into anything) but keep the line snug from rod tip to mate. If needed, he will let go and you can start over to get the fish back to hand.

One last thing to always remember; When the fish eats, strike and strike again to be sure they are fully hooked. Even a sailfish can grab the fly hard enough to pull off drag and not be hooked. I often see anglers forget to strike, believing they are hooked up as line is going out, and then the fish releases the fly. Always, always, remember to strike.

When offshore fishing on the troll, things happen quick once a fish has been raised. Luckily it does not happen as fast as you think, and will slow down considerably the more you do it. Remember that billfish fishing with a fly (or bait and switch) is a team effort in order to be successful. Concentrate on your job in getting the fly back and ready quickly, and making the correct cast and hook set. The captains and mates are professionals and will do their part and of course, Murphy’s law is always present. You can stack the odds in you favor if everyone concentrates on their job. You will then immediately reap the rewards for a high percentage of fish that eat, and equal as many fish released.

Tight Lines,

Cam Sigler Jr.


Cam Sigler Rig for Billfish

Here is a system to set up for Billfish.

We use Suffix Key Lime for the mono and cut back Rio Leviathan flylines. Other brands will work we have used these brands over much time with great success and just happen to like them.

We also prefer sinking lines or heads for the reason that you can easily load big rods without having much more than the head or sinking portion out of the rod to make a quick and easy cast, and their diameter is smaller than floating lines and thus creates less drag in the water.

You will note that we use bright backing and use mono in between the backing and the flyline. This length of mono allows some stretch in the system and avoids breaking your flyline off at the juncture to backing and also takes some stress off of the class tippet.

We use bright mono so that the Capt can always see the line, and also use this mono for the butt section off of the end of the flyline that you can loop a bimini leader or other leader into to easily and quickly change flies and by looping the mono to the backing. This allows you to change the mono and flyline out quickly if it gets broken or abraided.

We also use this system when setting up for other big pelagic fish like tuna, however we would leave the flyline full length in case you need to cast some distance and would change the butt section of the leader to fluorocarbon as non billfish species can be leader shy.


4 Strand Double Overhand Loop Knot

We use this knot to attach backing to Mono or flylines with loops when using spectra type or small diameter backings. The only trick is to make all of the loops the same exact length. With the 4 strands, this displaces the pressure across all strands and does not allow the backing to cut through mono or flyline cores. This knot, with a little practice, even with all the strands, is easy to tie.

Start by creating one loop over your index finger and pinch the tag end with opposite hand over main line (about 7” Loop). Using your finger with the loop over it, go back in a hand over hand motion looping around your finger and pinching the main line again until you have 4 loops.

You will now have a tag end and 3 tag loops pinched onto the main line and 4 loops over your finger. Now simply tie a double overhand Surgeons knot. Be careful to pull evenly when tightening and keep the loops over one finger so they stay the same length.

Dab some type of pliable glue over the knot when done to keep it from slipping back out, but allowing it to tighten more if necessary.