365 DAYS FIELDTESTED
Here’s the deal: Tropical saltwater fly fishing is deeply rooted in our DNA here at Fly Fishing Nation. As a matter of fact, we do spend more time on the flats and inshore water around the planet than wearing waders in temperate environments. Especially the last 5 years have been extremely packed with salty fisheries and this year will be no exception. Fun fact, if one considers that our headquarter is based in central Europe with no tropical inshore fishery close by. Why you should listen to us then? Because the lack of readily available testing grounds in close proximity demands meticolous preparation prior to a journey. We do spend a lot of time researching. Kudos to our network of dedicated guides and anglers around the globe that never let us down. On location, we have seen it all: The good, the bad, the ugly… The reason why we focus so much on it? Let’s forget about all that sweet talk about how addicitve it is for a second (it really is though) since in the past, we spent most of our time working in waders (Argentina & back home) and the flats are a stark contrast to exactly that. Also, and this comes handy, we have been involved in various saltwater explorations from West Papua, over New Caledonia all the way into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea lately. Over the course of the last 420 days to this exact date, we have fished the inshore waters of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Cuba (multiple times), Los Roques and the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea with the guys rom Solid Adventures. Sometimes for weeks. In addition to that, we have fished about just as many freshwater places that will back up what we have got to say here.
After a crazy but yet gear-demanding roundtrip that brought us from Nicaragua, over Costa Rica, Colombia to Venezuela/Los Roques and ultimately to a 2 1/2 week hosted trip on Cuba (San Lazaro and St. Maria), eye-opening AHA-moments were just as plentiful as heroshots on our cameras. Not to mention that our stock of saltwater consumables (Lines/Leader/Flies) was pretty damn low. Although we replenished our fly-stocks along the way, we were pretty much drained… Back home again, time was sparse. So, just before our annual Argentina trip was due, Solid Adventures wanted us to check out a spot on New Caledonia and another one in New Zealand we really had to resupply. New Caledonia is a fly fisherman’s wet dream and I mean it. It is home to some of the largest bonefish in the world. The beauty of this piece of land in the pacific ocean is beyond comparison. In some places, the average fish is about a double digit pound fish. All in all, this is the mother lode that claims the current IGFA 20lb tippet fly worldrecord!
We contacted the downright amazing crew of Manic Tackle Project in Auckland/NZ to help us out. Rene Vaz, Managing Director of Manic and crazed fishing addict, replied in a blink of an eye. We met for a beer in Auckland the night before catching the flight to Noumea and the main island of New Caledonia. Along with some other nice goodies, he brought some spools of much needed tippet material and leaders from Hatch Outdoors. Yeap, that is the same crew that stands behind the iconic Finatic Fly Reel. This is Finatic’s predecessor flagship reel, which as the monsoon, rolled up the reel market from behind and paved the way for the companies ongoing success. Especially saltwater anglers appreciate the sturdy and yet radical design with a ton of braking power. Also, they got all the right curves parts at the right places, which is why they are so sexy! Despite all technical mumble-jumble, it is a damn fine looking piece of aluminum. Instead of flooding the market with all-new reels every year, they rely on their flagship reel and focus on useful add-ons to it: Backing, lines, leaders/tippet, pliers, nippers… Pretty damn long intro for a spool of tippet, huh? Bottomline is: If these guys mean it, it is worth trying. It is not like the bonefish of our lifetimes might depend on it, oh wait… it does!
To make a long story short. On day no.1 on the island in New Caledonia, we managed to drag a 12lb 8oz. bonefish out of some coralheads on the 16lb Hatch Professional Saltwater tippet. Smaller GTs on bonefish setups as well as spangled emperors, jobfish, plenty more bonefish and others completed the array of species on that particular trip. Full moon week, the fishing was tough but yet, very rewarding! Due to an approaching tropical strom that later on devestated the Island of Vanuatu, we had to skip the last days fishing and moved over to New Zealand where our helicopter/camping trip was cancelled for the very same reason. A little sailboat trip around Auckland should sooth the pain. In fact, we found kahawai and yellow tail kingfish roaming the the area. Again, the leader material was put through its paces and held up.
Seatrout and dorado fishing in Argentina, also – no problem. The stiffness is just about right to deliver some heavier load. They have been scratching the bottom and structure of both the Gallegos (Seatrout) and the Rio Juramento repeatedly and for weeks to tell you that the material is abrasion-resistant enough to last you for a very long time fishing. Dorado fishing obviously requires a steel-trace.
Time for some critters that really put some pressure on the leader/tippet material. We had enough confidence in the material to try it on tarpon, giant trevally and triggerfish – so it was time to stock a pile of both leaders and tippets. At least in Europe, they are not super easy to come by. Even Hatch dealers might not have them in stock and only stock them on request. Good material is absolutely crucial and especially on tarpon, leader material is subject to endless discussions. A tarpon will wear trough exactly everything if you give it enough time. The silver king combines strenght and endurance. The ultimate shock tippet test. Triggerfish have crunchers that will cripple even the strongest saltwater hooks with one bite – these supercharged pieces of art are feeding on coral and crabs. Talking about coral, that’s the first thing they are trying to reach when hooked – the sprint into holes in the coral just to break you off and never to be seen again. They are also very picky. Long and relatively thin leaders are a must to entice them to take a fly. GT, yet another fish that requires the use of a shock tippet (unless you fish 100-120lb Mono/Fluro straight). They hit the flies with raw brute force and the kinetic energy of a high speed train. A relatively short fight compared to a tarpon, but it’s short and very dirty. They peel a lot of backing of your reels and require some serious down and dirty fighting to subdue them in the shortest amount of time possible.
We brought a range of Hatch Professional Saltwater Shock Tippets in 60lb and 80lb to Solid Adventures jungle tarpon destination in Costa Rica and to the Indiann Ocean exploration (GT). Also a bunch of tapered fluorocarbon leaders/tippets (triggers etc.)
Costa Rica – Tarpon / Indian Ocean – GT
Because of the average and upper end size of the tarpon in the area, we resort to heaviest of shockers Hatch has to offer. The jungle tarpon game is a close quarters one with a ton of snags and really really big fish. After some devastating results in Nicaragua/Rio Indio with some other shock material and a good dozen of fish that broke the 100lb material on several ocasions, we simply didn’t want to take any chances. (hookup, 10minutes fight, etc, ) We were told to use 100lb min. so 80lb felt a bit undergunned in the beginning. To shorten it here: We lost some fish to snags, breaking the class tippet (that is what you fish it for: to break it if you need to) and of course we jumped some. The 10 fish up to 110lb that we managed to bring to the boat didn’t do any harm to the shocker. The material held up better than expected. It’s soft enough to tie knots with ease. It’s very easy to stretch out with a low memory. A spool of 50 meters will last you a week of constantly changing flies without a problem. This baby is fieldapproved! Ultimately we tested it on the notorious GTs : Same result. Straight 80lb mono – close the drag and palm it for good measure, back up and reel in running towards the fish, repeat! On these prime game fish, you take no chance. Change the leader after every good fish. Go and get some!
Indian Ocean – triggers etc.
The professional series fluorocarbon tapered leader and tippet from Hatch come in various breaking strengths from 8-20lb (tippet up to 25lb) in 9ft. Personally, I do prefer longer leaders. Already out of the box they are pretty slick, but I like em better when 1-2ft. of tippet material are added (sounds basic, but believe me, i have seen all types of weird rigs) 12ft 14lb is pretty much my standart permit leader. Except for low tide when the fish were extremely finicky, you would get away with 9ft. setup anyways. However, the 9ft. 20lb leader with 2ft. of 16lb was pretty much rigged on all 9 weight on our last trip. Very good performance turning over heavy crabs on RIO’s permit line. A bunch of trigger fish really put it to the test – nothing to complain, as stated by Hatch, the material had do endure some serious reef action. Very good presentation. They come pretied with a perfection loop. If you have a thing for fluorocarbon or your fishing demands for it, you might want to consider these. The tippet material is downright awesome, defintely worth a try!.