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LOOP Saltwater Fly Festival Fishing Report - September 29, 2016

Date of trip: September 29, 2016
Posted September 29, 2016 by FishTrack Member
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I recently posted a note about my trip to Exmouth and my participation in the LOOP Saltwater Fly Festival. It was a really memorable event, thanks most of all to Allan Donald for having the vision and then actually pulling it all together. Well done, mate!

When Allan first contacted me about his plans, we discussed how he might set up the rules for the fly fishing tournament, which in turn got me going on my standard rant about how important I believe it is to fish IGFA legal tippets when fly fishing in saltwater. My advice was to forget the GFAA 15kg tippet nonsense; just fish IGFA legal and use the festival to highlight why this is so important.
The LOOP event was a perfect vehicle for demystifying big game fly fishing, and showcasing how it should be done properly. To Allan’s credit, that’s the way he set everything up, and based on all the feedback I got from the event, these goals were certainly achieved.

Results for the inaugural festival show that anglers Aaron Rampling, fishing with myself, Eddy Lawler and Wes Jones from Peak Sportfishing, and Jeremy Paterson and his team, fishing with Josh Jae Bruynzeel from On Strike Charters - Exmouth, succeeded in catching marlin and sailfish on IGFA legal tackle. Exmouth offers the best chance for small boat anglers to catch marlin and sailfish on the fly, and as the festival grows and evolves, I know that many more keen flyrodders will experience the sense of exhilaration and achievement that comes with mastering what’s regarded as the pinnacle of serious saltwater fly fishing. True mastery can only come with the understanding that the process needs to be done to IGFA standard.

It was a blast to catch up with Eddy and I was really impressed at how he has developed his Peak Sportfishing operation. He’s certainly made every post a winner since 2010, when he was part of our crew for 23 days’ fly fishing for World Records off Exmouth with angler Tom Evans, Dan O’Sullivan and Steve Tedesco. Although that trip never produced a World Record, it did deliver a few very close shots and overall sensational fly fishing, with Tom catching 28 billfish (a dozen sails, 15 blacks and a striped marlin), all taken on IGFA legal 10 kg and 8 kg tackle.

Eddy is a really fine fisherman with all types of tackle, and it’s no surprise to me that he’s fishing so many days with clients that keep coming back to him. What did surprise me on this last trip to Exmouth, though, was that there were charter operators taking clients out in this world class fishery and “fly fishing” straight through 100 pound leaders and often trolling the fly to get a bite.They were passing this off as fly fishing, and unfortunately the customers didn’t know any better.

Knowing this was going on really geed me up to expand awareness of the importance of the real deal, and although I don’t have a great handle on using the social media soap box, I want to give it a go for the preservation of the sport I’ve been lucky enough to make a career out of for the past 30 years.
I could write thousands of words about the history of saltwater fly fishing, the tradition and the reasons that there are rules to follow. This is a sport that you can get passionate about, but you should understand and respect its correct techniques, and not approach it like a mug.
Saltwater fly fishing for billfish within the rules of the IGFA means making sure the boat is out of gear before you cast (IE YOU ARE NOT TROLLING) -- and you must use IGFA legal fly fishing tippets to catch species such as marlin and sailfish. If you are not doing these things, you are not actually fly fishing.
Simple as that.

I am not trying to preach to the converted, but am hoping to open the eyes of those who don’t know that there are procedures and techniques that should be observed. If you are trolling flies to catch billfish, you are not fly fishing. If you are using straight through 80/100 leader from flyline to fly, you are not fly fishing.
The excuse I most often hear for not fishing IGFA is because it’s “too hard”. “How will we catch anything without fishing straight through leaders?” And: “Trolling the fly gets way more bites because it’s tricky to tease the fish and get a good switch to the fly...” Well, just like you don’t play golf by driving around in a cart and dropping the ball in the holes, you’ve got to do things right. Saltwater fly was never meant to be easy, but practice a while and you’ll realise that it’s not that hard, and you’ll get a hell of lot of satisfaction and excitement along the way when you do it right.

All sports have rules, and if you want to get into saltwater fly, I encourage you to visit the IGFA website and read their rules, look at the records and see what’s been achieved on legal fly fishing tackle. Think about the golfing analogy and realise that this sport is a never ending learning experience - from understanding your equipment and honing your casting skills to fine-tuning untold facets of each encounter from before you get a fish on the end of your line, through the challenges of the fight, to ultimately having it boatside for release.
Basically, if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. My aim here is to raise awareness of IGFA legal saltwater fly and I ask interested anglers to spread the word and generate the understanding this topic deserves. No doubt there’ll be plenty who disagree, because that’s the way it always goes in these forums. I invite comment and discussion from all -- bring it on, I say!
In closing, thought I’d share some pics from the 2010 Exmouth trip, showing sails and marlin all caught on IGFA legal fishing tackle.

- Dean Butler
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