Tuna on Fly (Part 1)
  |  First Published: March 2007

Northern bluefin and mack tuna will be around in numbers in March so why not have a bit of fun and chase them on a fly rod?


A quality fly outfit will help you land tuna and the best tackle to use is 9 or 10 weight. Buy the best rod that you can afford as higher quality ones cast further, feel better and are a pleasure to use for extended periods. An arbor style reel that has at least 300m of backing and properly working drag is also required. The reel’s backing is important whilst 50lb braid seems to be the popular choice these days, Dacron will still work fine. Use 1.5m of 50lb mono or fluoro leader with 50cm of 20lb as a tippet for beginners. Experienced fishers should use 15lb or less.


If you can’t cast a long line from a moving boat then tuna will remain out of reach. Practice casting in your backyard or at a near by park. When fishing, the angler must have a clear area from to work from or their fly line will end up tangled. If there is anything more frustrating than fouling a cast when you have the opportunity to land a feeding pelagics, I have yet to discover it.

Casting decks up are great for chasing tuna but if your boat does not have one simply cover anything that could stop the fly line from laying flat. Some anglers use large plastic drums or buckets that have a little water in them to store the line in before casting.

If you are going to keep the fly line on the floor, strip it back in big coils and watch where your feet are at all times.


Direct injection 2-strokes and 4-stroke motors are brilliant for sneaking in on tuna or other pelagics. The E-Tec 90 on my boat is so good that I remove the electric motor when chasing tuna and simply idle straight up to a school. Once I am close enough for a shot I leave the engine running as turning it off can spook fish.

If the boat is not set up with one of the engines I’ve mentioned it is certainly no bar to success. The clue is to sit off a little and watch the fish to see which way they are heading. Once the school’s travel direction and distance has been established try to intercept the fish. All it takes for a hook up is a couple of casts. Sometimes you will have to cast several times before success brightens up the day.


The next tough bit is getting tuna to accept your fly. There are lots excellent baitfish profile flies on the market. If you want to tie your own buy a couple from the store and copy them as closely as possible. Small surf candies, glass minnows, tiny Deceivers in life like colours will all entice tuna. Smaller flies often produce the best results but fish will only follow the fly and won’t try to eat it unless there is enough life in the retrieve.

The faster the retrieve the better. Once you have mastered the technique, the trick is to get the fly out as far as you can and then use a hand over hand straight pull to make the fly move really quickly. The take will be a solid thump and the idea is to then let the fish take all the coiled line at your feet.

Once the fish has taken the line off the reel the immediate pressure is off. Then it comes down to playing the fish.

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