The Seychelles will test the limits of your gear. Every aspect of your tackle, from the type of backing you use, the knots you tie and even the gloves you wear, chasing big fish in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean is hard core.
On a recent trip to the coral head laden waters of Farquhar Atoll our group had a chance to learn about what gear really stood the serious test.
Factory Line Loops
Factory GT lines and other saltwater lines have strong cores that max out at around 60lbs. For most fisheries this core strength is fine. When anglers employ leaders formulated for IGFA standards factory loops hold up almost every time. In the Seychelles the guides don’t care about IGFA leaders, they want you fishing 80-130lbs, about 8ft long. They want to land that trophy GT and when he runs for the outer edge of the atoll or the closest coral head. They want you to turn your drag to max pressure and hold the fish. When you impose this kind of pressure on a fish with 100lbs test, factory fly line loops often fail. Add a bit of razor sharp coral and they almost always fail. Through trial and error Seychelles guides who deal with some of the toughest fish that swim have developed a DIY remedy that will give your fly line the strength it needs to hold giant grouper, wrasse and GT’s.
Step 1: as much as it pains you to cut the loops off of your $130 fly line do it.
Step 2: Using Cortland 50lbs Braided Mono insert the fly line 3-4inches. The more DIY loops you do the more you can dial in a shorter amount of line but giving yourself some space to start will make things easier. Additionally you can leave extra “braid only” and use this as a transition if you want to make a smoother transition. That said, this new DIY loop is not designed to be in and out of the guides and when landing a big strong fish I don’t suggest brining this loop into the guides ever.
Step 3: Roll the line covered in braid over and tie your first of three nail knots to secure the loop, and create the loop size. Use 65-80lbs braided backing for all your nail knots. I use Cortland 80lbs Master Braid for this step and for all the backing on reels I take to the Seychelles.
Step 4: Tie 2 more nail knots for a total of 3, you can do 4 on the rear fly line loop and leave some braid so that the last nail knot covers one side with fly line and one side with just braid so you have taper. To cinch each nail knot down I use a pair of pliers ( or two ) and really crank on the knots to seat them. When cutting the braided mono, fly line, and master braid don’t use your prized fly tying scissors or even nipper. Use a tool designed to cut braid like the Loon Boat Scissors or the Hareline Cautery Tool.
Step 5: Tidy up the excess braid, mono and fly line. Cover this with a couple of layers of UV Knot Sense, cure and you have an indistructable fly line loop ready for the toughest fish that swim.
Saltwater Fly Reels
When you get a group of 10 together, all packing three 9-12wt outfits you’re bound to have some variety when it comes to reels. We had Nautilus, Sage, Galvan, Abel, and Shilton Reels in the mix of our group. While all of these reels worked on the whole, one reel shone bright in terms of performance/value. The new Sage Enforcer Reel blew me away with its drag, solid build and smooth retrieve. I used the 11/12 Enforcer on an 11wt IMX Pro V2 Saltwater 11wt ( more on that rod later). I had 250 yards of Cortland Master Braid 80lbs (more on that later as well) and a RIO GT line. There is a lot to like about the Sage Enforcer fly reel. First off, its only $575 well under all of the aforementioned reels. Additionally the Enforcer has a numbered, 20 detent drag knob that you can dial in with one full turn. This feature is critical when traveling from flat to flat in search of GT’s and other species. You want your drag locked down when you are fishing but you don’t want to have to pull the line out with the drag maxed each time you come to a new spot. The ability to turn the drag off and on so easily was really useful. When I first looked at the Enforcer Reel our Sage sales rep and legendary angler/hunter George Cook brought the reel to the shop and had us fondle it in store. Then we took the reel outside to cast some rods and test the strength of the drag. I immediately felt the smooth and consistent outgoing drag and the smooth and balance retrieve that the reel had. Then we tested the drag, dialing it up 4 or five detents until we got to max of #20. At the 20 setting I couldn’t not pull the line off the reel, yet with line through he guides and George 30 feet from me pulling hard, the line left the large arbor super smoothly with stopping power. Transfer to the flats of Farquhar, GT is hooked on 100lbs tippet and guide is yelling lock the drag! Lock the drag. He doesn’t want the fish to go off the coral edge or into a coral head. So I lock the drag to the #20 setting and the GT runs a bit more but no question this setting takes its toll and the fish is subdued. The Enforcer Reel just felt solid start to finish and performed perfectly the entire week.
Rods for the Seychelles
I had a chance to fish two new rod models on this trip. The Sage R8 Salt in a 9ft 11wt was a fantastic all around stick in the Seychelles. I had a RIO GT line on it for the entire trip and it cast everything from 2/0 baitfish to 8/0 Beast Flies with ease. The R8 has an unending amount of power. Power that is utilized when making a long cast with a large fly as well as fighting a fish in close quarters. As I mentioned before anglers are using 80-130lbs tippet and when you pull on big fish headed to the coral the tippet simply isn’t going to break. You need to give in by letting the line go with resistance through your hands, or off the reel with the drag maxed. You can’t use to much rod or it’s going to break before the 100lbs does. If the fish makes it to the coral, it’s likely game over. A combination of pressure tactics must come together in order to get a clean tight line on the reel and bent rod for battle ahead. Once the line is on the reel with maxed drag you really get to see what rod is capable of managing a big fish. The R8 Salt did the job numerous times with GT’s, Groupers and Wrasse. I felt I had plenty of “fish fighting” power at distance and close to the boat. You are pulling harder than you ever thought you could in the Seychelles and the R8 Salt stands the test.
The IMX PRO V2 (version 2) Saltwater rod is way too good for the $645 sticker price. I used a 9ft 12wt on our trip and it was shockingly good. Casting big poppers, 8/0 GT flies and big game sinking lines put this rod to the test during my week at Farquhar. The IMX Pro V2 Saltwater passed the test with flying colors. It has the power to make super long casts without the rod “folding” up at any stage in the cast. You felt in contact with line and rod throughout casts of any distance. In terms of fighting fish the rod stood the tough test of keeping fish out of the coral and even fishing in deepwater with sinking lines where lifting fish up off the bottom was required. Bottom line is this rod is a phenomenal value in a saltwater rod.
My 16 and 18 year old children fished together most of the week at Farquhar. Let’s call them the Scott Rod/Nautilus Reel team. They had Scott Sector 9wt and 12wts with Nautilus reels. Patsy caught the biggest GT of the trip with the Scott Sector 12wt. The Sector has been on several trips with us and we continue to love it. The 9ft 12wt is an easy loading, long casting rod that has tons of game for a super light feeling rod. The “Ceracoil” guides are super light and keep the line flying through the guides. The rod is gutsy in terms of battling fish. It’s not so stiff that you lose feel yet it has the strength to wear a big fish down. The Scott Sector is the easiest casting saltwater rod on the market.
On a previous trip I made the mistake of using my old standard 30lbs braided backing. While it’s plenty strong for most applications you just don’t chance anything in the Seychelles. When I was trying to lift a fish off the bottom and out of the rocks…, fly line straight down in the blue water and pop! Line GONE! The Fix? Use Cortland Master Braid 80lbs braided backing and don’t ever worry about failure. You are into the backing on most of the fish you catch in the Seychelles so why chance failure. Cortland Master Braid is not the smallest in terms of diameter but it is the very strongest I have used.