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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Gentlemen,

Wow. So a guide/friend of mine just invited me on a sailfish trip to Mexico. It went something like this:

Buddy: "any interest in going to Mexico to fly fish for sailfish in February?"

Me: "Uhh...yes, I'm interested."

Without knowing any details, I committed to the trip. Literally I don't know what part of Mexico, what lodge we'd be staying at, the cost, or anything. Just seemed like a good idea at the time and immediately jumped on the opportunity.

I've admittedly have zero experience sailfishing. Closest thing I have would be my days-of-old, commercial Bluefin tuna fishing with live-lined bluefish and trolling squid rigs - but that was never with a fly rod.

Anyone have any sailfishing experience? Literally starting with virtually zero knowledge here, so I apologize in advance.

- what weight fly rod? (the heaviest I've got is an 11 wt Hardy zephrus w/ Tibor signature)
- standard "bring a spare rod" along with you?
- what type of line/leader?
- what can I expect for the day of fishing?
- any other weird gear you need? (i.e. waist belt, etc, or is that considered too 'millennial'?)

I realize this post is absent some key details, like "what part of Mexico," "what lodge," etc, but I'll add that stuff once I get it. Just looking for general tips/advice for the time being.

Thank you guys in advance.
 

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I only watched people do this in Costa Rica a while back as I wasn't as addicted as I am now.

Those guys used 15 wt rods and Tibor Pacifics with shitpots of small diameter backing.

I wish I would've paid more attention, but the Pacifics and the half a chicken poppers are all I remember about it.

Funny thing, but I just told a buddy a few weeks ago I wanted to go do this at Isla Mujeres.
 

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Lowcountry Degen
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I will say that the sailfish in Costa Rica (Pacific Sailfish) can be significantly larger than the Atlantic Sailfish. I've never targeted any sails on the fly, so I can't speak much to the type of gear you might use, but I would expect to do some bait and switch type stuff.

I know down south you guys like to live bait for sails, but I think when you fly fish you troll skirted/naked ballyhoo or maybe just some little lures/skirts (all hookless), and do a little bait and switch. I don't think the cast is as critical, maybe just a little roll cast out to get it pretty inline with the fish, then maybe drop it back to put it where the teaser used to be, if needed.

^^I've done this exactly zero times, this is just what I've heard. Would be interesting to hear from others that have done it.
 

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Panhandler
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bryson gave an accurate description. Yes, it's bait and switch with teasers, dredges and skirted ballyhoo without hooks. Lure the fish into the spread, the mates get 'em fired up and the angler drops the fly into the mix. Definitely not the finesse style of 80-foot casts to cruising tarpon on the flats.

Atlantic sails are half the size/weight of their Pacific cousins, so you can get by with tarpon gear. If possible, upgrade or borrow a 12-weight outfit with 20-pound tippet and 60-fluoro leader. Take the 11-wt along as a backup. There's always the chance of a white or small blue showing up, but hey, it'll be fun while it lasts. Hint: Take extra backing, lines and leader.

Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Cozumel and Puerto Aventuras are the prime spots. On a normal day you should have plenty of shots at sails from 40 to 60 pounds.

Pack the usual fishing gear like polarized sunglasses with gray lenses, sunscreen, hat with dark brim, etc. A small gut bucket is a bonus, but if the rod has a normal fighting butt it's probably not necessary. Most of the fights are not too long and the boats will back down aggressively to regain line.

Good luck and have fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Guys, thanks for the responses and the good info....I finally got a few more details:

We will be somewhere about 1.5 hours south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. I had to look it up...

...that is on the WEST coast of Mexico, news to me, haha, but now I'm intimidated!

Looks like we will be fishing out of small single engine outboards, basically a big Panga, rather than your big ass sport fisher -- which I'm actually super psyched about. 12+ weight gear I was told.

Why is a certain Hemingway novel coming to mind right now...
 

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@tgjohnso - I'll definitely post a follow up with my experience and tips. To get you started, look no further than Cam Sigler:

http://www.camsigler.com/flies.aspx

These are the flies that pioneered sails on the fly. Cam was an amazing guy - I was fortunate enough to talk with him a few times and get his insight. Last I heard, his son was carrying forward with his flies after Cam Sr passed away in 2013.

He also has an Offshore Fly Tying kit - you'll need to search around for it. I picked one up and tied my own tube flies and tandem hooks. The tandem rig can be seen at the bottom of the site I posted above.

Here's a link to a shop that has the kit: http://www.mudhole.com/Cams-Offshore-Tying-Kit

You may want to reach out on Cam's site and see if they have any available. If you tie, I highly recommend it. It has more than enough for a trip and is extremely low cost compared to buying the pre-tied files.

For gear, I'd go a minimum of 12 wt, but recommend 14 wt. The rod is there for lifting power and nothing more. That 14 gives you a broom stick as leverage. These fish sound quickly after their run is over. A 12 just won't have enough on bigger fish.

On reels, this is where it gets expensive, but is the most important part of the game. Sails and marlin run extremely fast and you need stopping power. The ideal reel is the Tibor Pacific. I've seen a Ross Big Game crater to its knees and nearly start crying on a 150lb+ marlin. Just not enough stopping power.

I'll follow up with line recommendations. There are arguments on line setups - different than tarpon rigs, that's for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Bad ass info, @coconutgroves ...very much appreciated.

I'm pretty stoked to learn a whole new fly fishing game.

It's hard to justify getting a 13 or 14 wt, just cause I wouldn't use it enough, but I've been wanting to add a 12 wt to my arsenal since I only have up to an 11 right now. Was thinking a used/leftover Hardy Proaxis or another Zephrus in a 12 cause those things seem bulletproof, and then a Hatch 12+

You're probably saying..."man, I already told this guy a 14 weight and he's pushing the 12 wt issue..."

I guess this is how I feel: obviously a 12 wt being much more versatile than a 14, I feel better about making a 12 wt purchase if I can "get by" with it...

But then again, maybe I'm getting into a different ballgame here, and if in sail fishing "getting by" = "doomed for failure" then I guess I have to nut up or shut up and get a legitimate stick.

Thanks again, coconutgroves.
 

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Panhandler
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You're definitely in a different league with Pacific sails. Agree 12-weight is a minimum as these fish will push 130 to 150 pounds. Strong fighters and they do go deep so a gut bucket now is more a necessity. I've landed a couple in Guatemala on a 12 (approx. 140 pounds), but both the fish and angler were wore out. Fished another time in Golfito, CR and used the boat's 13 or 14. Better lifting power but overkill if you get shots at dorado.

An intermediate sink or shooting head is a good choice on line. Since you're fishing in a panga, you'll be able to chase the fish down when you transition to the bow. Agree the Tibor Pacific is a great reel choice. If you can find one, a Penn International fly reel (#4 if I recall, the largest model) is another option. They are discontinued but still around used.

I'd check with buddies to see if anyone has a big-game outfit to borrow before you commit a bunch of money for something you may not use often. Another option would be shop for used on eBay or maybe the bearsden.com used affiliate site (can't remember name). The upgrade to a 12 would work as a fallback option.
 

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@tgjohnso - A great book for overall tactics and gear is Try Combs Bluewater Flyfishing:

https://www.amazon.com/Bluewater-Fly-Fishing-Trey-Combs/dp/1592284507/

I'd go with his recommended rigging for line and leaders. I followed it.

Here is a good site that shows rigging tandem hooks. Note, I don't shrink wrap the entire rig like him, but at least do the shanks where the wire is at:

http://www.lyndenhuggins.com/fishing/flytying/tandemhookrig/tandemhookrig.htm

While I agree that a 13 or 14 can be overkill for dorado, I can tell you that this one worked my 12 wt to its limits:


We aren't looking at the camera because dolphin were jumping right off the side of the boat. That fish hit my rig like a freight train, made some great runs and jumps, and then sounded. It was exhausting, but we fed the village with that fish!
 

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Fly Fishing Shaman
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The Zephyrus 12wt has a lot of ass to the butt section of the rod without compromising the ability to load easy and quick, as in a broomstick of a rod. Most sails are not bigger than tarpon, but the water depth is where you need the lifting power and a 12wt Zephyrus can manage it, as long as you are lifting with both hands on the handle and not grabbing the rod up beyond the handle. So rod pointing at the fish and just lifting with the butt section of the rod. If you are high sticking the rod when fighting it, then you will lose every time.

The other thing you can do is over-line the rod to a 13wt to throw those larger flies and quick load the rod. In this case, I'd consider looking into a shooting head system, like a Rio Leviathan, where you can change out heads from 12wt to 13wt floating, intermediate or full sink lines, since sometime they will not eat on top and you have to submarine the fly.

You can also use large streamer baitfish patterns and then bring some large popper bodies (painted up) and tied up on a tube. So you put the bite leader thru the tube and then tie in the baitfish fly in with a loop knot. Works the same way, except you and cut the same fly off, remove the tube popper body, re-tie the fly and then you are back in business with a sub surface fly, in case they are not eating up top as easily.

This way, you have a 12wt you can keep when tarpon fishing with an clear intermediate line and have the 11wt with your floating line, to quickly cover all your bases.

On the flip side, 13-14 wts usually go cheap for a good used one. You have plenty of time to look around on this site or ebay for one within your budget, as well as the reel. Buy it, take it there, fish it and then sell it when you get back. Don't fall in love with it and get attached since it will get the least amount of use of any rod you own.

Ted Haas
 
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