Longtail tuna on fly (Part 1)
  |  First Published: December 2005

One of the most deadly methods of taking tuna for the table, if you can’t afford $28 per kilo for the iced product at a seafood outlet, is flyfishing. Tuna will take a fly in preference to a metal slug most times, but you still need to have the right tackle and technique when it comes to approaching, hooking up, and landing the fish.

It’s tuna season right now, and this will continue for at least another four months. To give you the best possible start, I have written a two-part series on what’s required.


Most of the tuna taken in Moreton Bay are between 6-12kg. There are some larger fish to 15kg, but mercifully these fish are in the minority. You will understand why I say ‘mercifully’ after you have hooked and landed your first tuna!

Longtail (northern bluefin) tuna are seriously strong. Your tackle needs to be strong enough to hold these powerful and stubborn fish for prolonged periods and yet be quite capable of casting the fly for long distances, and fairly often at that.


Most serious fly anglers opt for 10wt tackle for longtails and I share their view. My choice is the same G.Loomis 10wt GLX Cross Current rod that I use for barra and mackerel, and it has accounted for some quality tuna up to 16.1kg.

But the best advice I can give is to just go for the best quality rod you can afford in a 10wt, and you will have the tool for the job.

Fly lines

Fly lines are easy. Scientific Anglers Striped Bass is the short priced favourite and their intermediate sink rate line (weight forward, clear) Tropicore line in 10wt is the line of choice for most tuna chasers. For the beginner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to use the old favourite fast sink 8wt bass line, or an 8/9 floating line. However, the Striped Bass 10 with its intermediate sink rate casts like a rocket, won’t cast a shadow that could spook the fish (spook just one tuna in a school and the whole lot bolt) and has a core that’s strong enough to take on a big stubborn fish that has no intention of coming near the boat if it can help it.


The reel and backing that you choose are equally as important as your choice of rod. A tuna reel needs to be able to hold at least 300m of backing which, these days, will be one of the quality braids. Reel choice depends on your budget, but a large arbor job is a must; the 10wt line and big serving of braid must be there.

It’s common for a quality tuna reel to cost as much as a good rod but remember, with just a bit of TLC that same reel will be giving faithful service in eight or 10 years. And you can use it for mackerel, barra and many other hard-fighting species with ease.

Backing is vital. I’ve used 50lb Bionic Braid without the slightest problem other than the dye running out to colour the last section of the fly line, which matters not one bit. The stuff is fine, as strong as steel and makes a lovely snickering, screaming sound as it whips out through the guides when a tuna is on the first run.

At the reel end of the tackle the braid backing and fly line should be joined via a bimini twist on the braid’s end and a Gudebrod sleeve properly set up on the fly line. At the fly end of the Scientific Anglers Striped Bass another Gudebrod sleeve will be set up and the leader tied onto the small loop formed in the sleeve.

My leaders are constructed from a 2m length of 20kg Jinkai or Penn 10X joined to 1m of 12kg Siglon Sinking with a final tippet of 0.5m of 7kg Siglon or other fluorocarbon material. Fluorocarbon is important because tuna have sharp eyesight and will shy away from leaders.

Tie a small baitfish-style fly such as a Glass Minnow, Surf Candy, Clouser, Bendback or Deceiver on a loop (Lefty’s loop is fine) to allow it to move correctly. The best fly colours and sizes should depend upon what you suspect the fish are eating. However, as a rough rule of thumb, a size 1/0 fly in silver or pearl, with a trace of light brown or green along the back upper section, should be given first swim.

Next month: tuna techniques.


1) Keen fly angler Richard Harvey with a fat Moreton Bay longtail tuna.

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