Longtail tuna on the fly ­ Part 2.
  |  First Published: February 2006

The tuna season should be in full swing this month, so let’s look at some tactics to help you land some of these tasty critters.


It’s best to be on the water early as schools of tuna target baitfish just after daylight. These schools can be very tired by 9am and won’t show much interest in the fly. The tuna at this time of morning are simply too full after their early morning feeding frenzy to really compete for a fly when there are hundreds of small fish in a bait school they have rounded up. Set the alarm early enough to be on the water just after daylight for your best shot.


It’s time now to find the fish – and they could be anywhere! I’ve seen tuna 400m from the Raby Bay boat ramp, in the leads at Wellington Point just out past the jetty but at other times we’ve had to run well up, or across, the bay to find them. The Moreton banks north of the Harry Atkinson artificial and the Rainbow Channel towards Amity are also prime spots.

If the tuna are out in numbers, the terns will be as well. These birds are our eyes in the sky and it pays to follow their lead. When travelling about in search of fish that are a bit scarce a few terns might be seen flying very rapidly in a set direction. These birds have obviously noticed something we haven’t and it’s best to head in the direction in which the birds were last seen. It doesn’t take long to notice a cloud of birds above the boiling sea as a school of tuna rip into some hapless bait.


It’s easy to spook the tuna if the wrong approach is made. For years I’ve tried drifting down on the fish with the wind or current but this won’t work on Moreton Bay tuna. The fish are too wary. A more direct approach is necessary and the clue is to either motor in very slowly without causing any hull slap, and that is very important, or use the electric motor to sneak in close for a shot with the fly.

Once within range, the trick is to keep calm despite the promise of 20lb fish only 15m away. Cast into them and try to land the fly in the middle of the action. This can be a bit tricky as each fish comes up, grabs a mouthful and sounds before resurfacing a few metres away. The clue is to work out where the fish are coming up most often and casting there.

When the fly is out with the leader straight you have two options. The first is to do nothing and let the fly sink to see if a fish under the school nails it. Or you can just watch a tuna chasing the fly down. I like to see the tuna chase and grab the fly before trying go back to feeding with its mates, before it senses that something isn’t right and streaks away. If the fly line is caught on anything a break off, or broken gear, will occur. A 10kg tuna won’t be stopped in those first few seconds and if the line can’t run it will end badly.

Fight tactics

Tuna tend to stop between 150-250m away and kick furiously on the end of the line. The fish will be worried, and tired of pulling the bulky fly line along. It will often turn and run straight back so always leave the motor running while casting.

After a bit of fighting back and forth the tuna will try sounding under the boat and slow circling. This looks like fun but it isn’t. It will be gaining strength bit by bit if allowed to do this, so it’s best to motor off slowly but steadily with the drag on the reel reduced a bit to allow for it. Motor up current and make the tuna fight the current if there is some. Before long the tuna will show on the surface ready for the taking. If you want to eat it make sure the fish is bled very well (gills and tail slashes) and then put on ice.

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