The noun fly-fishing has one definition: implementing the art of fly casting with an artificial fly to catch game fish.
A unique and ancient angling technique originally devised principally for trout and salmon, fly fishing is presently a popular method of angling for countless freshwater and saltwater game fish. The catching of a game fish with an artificial fly represents the supreme angling achievement which has significantly challenged anglers abilities for hundreds of years. It is the oldest and most artistic form of recreational fishing . Fly fishing differs from all other forms of angling in that the weight of the line is propelled through the air rather than the weight of the lure.
To cast properly the imitation fly must be nearly weightless yet of sturdy construction as it is the critical connection between the angler and his quarry. Stealth is characteristically fundamental in fly fishing as the angler must present the fly in a natural manner to artfully seduce the fish.
The designing and constructing of a fly (fly tying) presents the angler with a stimulating opportunity to create the illusion of a prey species or other edible entity from inanimate materials. The actual finished fly and the anglers skill of presentation converge to deceive game fish into attacking the fly because of the certainty that it is a living thing. The angler’s expertise contested against Mother Nature and the natural cunning of the game fish gives fly fishing its singular fascination.
There are basically two main groups of artificial flies, deceivers and attractors. Deceivers are designed to trick fish into believing that they are some sort of natural prey. The angler intent on the imitative method is obliged to achieve a wide-ranging understanding of the particular game fishs likely prey. Attractors don nott usually emulate any usual prey but are typically garish, extravagant creations calculated to aggravate the fish’s predatory drive and induce a hostile reaction. In-depth knowledge and familiarity concerning certain game fish reactions to prey affords crucial insights as to the way a fish will respond to the fly.
Fly Fishing Quarry - Peacock Bass (Cichla Monoculus), Tropical bluegill (Vieja maculicauda, Vieja tuyrensis), Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), Jaguar Guapote (Parachromis managuensis, Cichlasoma managuense) , Machaca or Sabalo Pipon (Brycon guatemalensis, Bryconamericus bayano, Brycon chagrensis, Brycon panamensis, Brycon behreae)
Suggested Fly Fishing Equipment - 5 to 8 weight fly rod with a floating weight forward line and an auxiliary intermediate line. 6 to 20 pound class tippet recommended. Best flies are poppers, clousers, small streamers, sea duecers, whistlers, shrimp patterns, insect imitations and baitfish deceivers on 1/0 or smaller hooks. Top producing colors are red/white, blue/white, red/gold, black/yellow, all with silver or gold flash.
Fly Fishing Charter Boat - 24-foot custom center console super panga powered by a 50 hp Yamaha four stroke outboard, cruises at 25 mph. This particular Custom Panga was deliberately fashioned to appreciate fly fishing Panama. Ample uncluttered deck area both fore and aft allow two anglers simultaneous fly fishing.
Tropical Freshwater Fly Fishing Charter - One day, 8 hour tropical fly fishing charter with a veteran Panama Fly fishing guide. Bottled water, sodas, ice and sandwiches are provided. Boat landing is about a 40 minute drive from any Panama City hotel or residence. Ground transportation is easily arranged. Peacock Bass fly fishing charters starting at $450 a day for 2 anglers. Freshwater fly fishing charter is realized on a large clear tropical rain forest lake with numerous virgin jungle islets and islands. Approximately 200 square miles of unspoiled natural tropical rain forest area, Gatun Lake has been protected in its natural state for over 100 years. Various extraordinary tropical plants, trees, insects and animals are found here in their characteristic ambiance. Many elusive reptile, bird and mammal species can be observed along the countless shores and amid the tropical rain forest during a typical fly fishing day on the water. Rare toucans, aquatic bird species, assorted parrot varieties, herons and egrets, hawks and snail kites will fascinate bird enthusiasts. Unusually encountered jungle creatures are frequently discovered interacting naturally in their pristine habitat. White faced and howler monkeys, saddleback anteaters and three toed sloths are just some of the rain forest animals you might notice while you are industriously fly casting.
Since the worldwide availability of this class of extraordinary environment is extremely remote and rare, many notable scientific organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution have determined it a vital area to conduct many critical ground-breaking scientific studies throughout the years. The Smithsonian Institution in fact operates one of the largest, most complete tropical research facilities on earth at Barro Colorado, the largest island in Gatun Lake.
Scientists from all over the world come to Panama to perform technical research regarding the flora and fauna throughout the Gatun Lake region. In the meantime you are fly fishing!
Peacock Bass are not really a bass but a South American Cichlid species very similar to Perch. While they are ambush predators they are also sight feeders and will chase prey down from quite a distance especially in the clear waters of Gatun Lake. They are naturally aggressive and display a mean spirited disposition toward attractor type flies which they heartily attack. An accomplished fly fisher with a veteran fly fishing guide can quite handily catch thirty to forty average sized Peacock Bass at Lake Gatun on a typical day. Early morning and late afternoon seem to be the best times to fool big bass. These larger, over-developed Peacock Bass are instinctively suspicious and clever. They are correspondingly more difficult to deceive and proportionally far stronger once hooked than their younger brethren, consequently more skill and shrewdness is required on the part of the angler to catch them. Since Peacock Bass don not feed at night they are terribly hungry at first light and again as darkness approaches they become frantic for food. Because of the low light conditions and looming hunger pangs they are more apt to be deceived with a well presented fly at these times. The clear water of Lake Gatun magnifies the fly therefore offerings should be smaller and precisely tied to induce the spectacular strikes of the 5 to 10 pound trophy behemoths. Dexterous and practiced rod handling techniques are essential to catching one of these tough elusive whoppers as Gatun Lake is fraught with submerged line snagging structure and the enterprising jumbo bass will cut you off if given the slightest chance. An experienced Panama fly fishing guide will advise that lifelike baitfish imitations and precise shrimp patterns as well as gaudy surface attractors are essential weapons for combat with these tropical freshwater apex predators.
While fly fishing Panama there are several other wonderful tropical game fish likely to be encountered in Gatun Lake. Jaguar Guapote, a beautiful aquarium species transplanted into Gatun Lake from the Atlantic mountain slopes of Nicaragua, are often caught while fly casting for Peacock Bass. Not as colorful as the Peacock Bass they are somewhat similar in shape and manner. Reaching a maximum size of about five pounds Jaguar Guapote are an excellent game fish that will readily take the same flies as the Peacock Bass. Scrappy and determined fighters these gourmet delicacies are much sought after by deep fried afflicted anglers. Caution is advised when removing the fly from freshly caught specimens as they possess an impressive set of choppers. Additionally there are two interesting tropical Pan Fish varieties of game fish abundant in Gatun Lake. These include the famous Oscar, a stunning aquarium prize released in the Lake over 10 years ago. Also a South American Cichlid species they have proliferated along with their cousins the Peacock Bass and on occasion are found by unsuspecting fly fishermen in hostile hordes. A Fly fishing guide favorite, Oscars are pound for pound probably one of the strongest freshwater game fish a fly fisher will battle in the tropics. Averaging about one to two pounds they are strictly ambush predators and are even more difficult than the larger Peacock Bass to seduce with a fly. Imitative patterns of natural prey are vital and presentation of the fly must be near perfect to induce a strike.
The only other more formidable game fish in Gatun Lake would be the Tropical Bluegill or Vieja as they are known locally. These indigenous game fish are perhaps trickier to land on a fly than an 8 pound brown trout on a small fast running Montana mountain stream. They represent a true milestone for the dedicated tropical freshwater fly fisher. Possibly more cherished by Panama fly fishing guides than a trophy Peacock Bass, the Vieja is unbelievably troublesome to deceive with fly or even live bait. In fact, well tied and expertly presented flies probably account for far more sport caught Viejas than any other method. Once hooked these bulldog gamesters are the devil to get in the boat! Viejas are super strong and grow to about 8 pounds hence they are invulnerable to all but the most accomplished master fly rodders!
From May to December is the rainy season and Gatun Lake is mostly flat calm with occasional afternoon squalls. January to April in which it rarely rains at all is the dry season with typical afternoon breezes from the north creating a 1 to 3 foot chop in open water passes. However there are plenty of areas for tropical fly fishing in the backwater creeks of the lake and on the lee side of the many islands and points. Resultant weather and lake conditions are optimal for Panama fly fishing trips all year long. Panama fly fishing guide, bottled water, sodas, sandwiches and ice are provided. The boat landing is about a 40 minute drive from any Panama City hotel or residence and ground transportation is easily arranged. Panama Fly Fishing charters at Gatun Lake for Peacock Bass start at $450 a day for 1 to 2 anglers.
Fly Fishing Quarry - Tarpon (Megalops Atlanticus), White Snook (Centropomus Viridis), Black Snook (Centropomus Nigrescens)
Collateral Fly Fishing Quarry - Blackfin Snook, Yellowfin Snook, Union Snook, Fat Snook, Pacific Mangrove Snappers, juvenile Cubera Snappers, Corvina, various Jack species and Machaca.
Recommended Fly Fishing Equipment - 8 to 12 weight fly rod with a well made fly reel that has a first-rate drag mechanism. (Ross, Tibor, Abel, Nautilus, Orvis Vortex, Bauer, Charlton, Henschel). Both intermediate and floating weight forward lines are used throughout the day depending on the tide, current and wind. 12 to 20 pound class tippet and 50 to 150 pound hard mono shock tippet are suggested by Panama fly fishing guides. Best flies have proven to be clousers, whistlers, shrimp patterns, lifelike baitfish imitations and lethargic poppers on 1/0 to 3/0 sharp hooks. Brighter more vivid colors with some gold or silver flash seem to be assaulted more often than subdued shades.
Fly Fishing Charter Boat - 24-foot custom center console super panga powered by a 50 hp Yamaha four stroke outboard that cruises at 25 mph. This Custom Panga was specifically designed to accommodate fly fishing Panama. Abundant unimpeded deck sectors both fore and aft allows two anglers concurrent fly fishing.
Jungle River Fly Fishing Charter - 8 hour tarpon and snook Fly Fishing charter with experienced snook and tarpon fly fishing guide. Maximum of 2 anglers, bottled water, ice and sandwiches are provided. Boat landing is about an hour drive from any Panama City hotel or residence, ground transportation is easily arranged. Fly fishing trip for Snook and Tarpon starting at $490 a day.
Panama fly fishing charters for tarpon and snook are accomplished on a remote and comparatively large Central American tidal river system with numerous tributaries and creeks. Since the 1975 construction of the Bayano Dam hydroelectric project which created an approximately 200 square mile inland reservoir known as the Bayano Lake, the Bayano Rivers meandering length is now roughly 30 miles before emptying into the Gulf of Panama where it is approximately a mile wide. One of Panamas largest rivers, the Bayano River or Rio Chepo is possibly the most comprehensive tropical Pacific estuary zone portrayed in Panama. Due to the substantial Pacific Ocean tides in this part of Central America the vast Bayano River exhibits strong currents and the water level fluctuates from 12 to 20 feet with each tide contingent on the moon phase.
These mangrove forests are diverse, corresponding with the tremendous deviation of tropical climatic conditions. Two major zones are illustrated: external and internal. The external areas are directly exposed to estuarine waters; the internal are isolated from them but are seasonally inundated by the tides. Red mangroves (Rhizopora mangle and R. brevistyla), which reach up to 40 meters in height dominate the brackish areas. Black mangroves (Avicennia germinans and A. bicolor), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), mora (Mora oleifera) and castaño (Montrichardia arborescens, mangle piñuelo (Pelliciera rhizophorae) and Avicennia tonduzii a rare mangrove species only found along the coasts of Costa Rica and Panama are prevalent in some vicinities.
The role of mangrove ecosystems as nurseries for fish, invertebrates and crustaceans leads to higher levels of diversity especially in water associated species of birds. These immature species including at least 30 fish species found in their juvenile stages are part of the basis for this ecoregion’s food chain. Fish and crustacean species dominant for the ecoregion are Serranidae (sea basses), Gerreidae (ray-finned fishes), Mugilidae (mullets) and of course tarpon and various snook species. Crabs play an important role in the pathways of leaf decomposition and through selective predation on the mangrove types that are established in this region. Several species of tropical freshwater grass shrimp and three major species of ocean shrimp are particularly abundant. The ocean shrimp species spawn offshore but live in the mangroves as juveniles for 4-5 months where they grow from 12 mm to as long as 80 mm before migrating back to the ocean.
Bright yellow warblers dart among the mangroves, the northern tamandua a small anteater uses its long, sticky tongue to probe for insects in the cracks of rotting logs while white-tailed deer are observed feeding on mangrove leaves. Monstrous olive-gray American crocodiles are occasionally seen sunning along the banks at low tide, rare marsh bird species, herons and egrets and elusive estuarine mammals are witnessed plying their trade. Sea Hawks attacking coveys of blue winged teal and fish with equal enthusiasm, troops of white faced monkeys feasting on marshland fruits and rare raccoon varieties are detected rooting in the mud at low tide. Because of the seasonal climate, salinity concentrations increase towards the internal side of the forest. Further from the tidal channels the diminishing intensity of inundation and salt accumulated in the soil through evapotranspiration creates salt pans. During the rainy season freshwater input is so high that it is impossible for much salt to accumulate further upriver and transition zones are formed where mangrove forests mix with freshwater wetland vegetation such as palms and swamp jungle.
Rare birds encountered along the Bayano River mangrove woodland include roseate spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), gray-necked wood rail (Aramides cajanea), rufous-necked wood rail (A. axillaris), mangrove black-hawk (Buteogallus subtilis), yellow-billed cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae), green kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana), Amazon kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) lesser nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis) and rufous-browed peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis). Contributing to the vast wildlife diversity are the many types of mammals that thrive in this ecoregion. The Mexican anteater (Tamandua mexicana), pygmy anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), mantled howler monkey (Allouatta palliata), white-throated capuchin (Cebus capucinus), swamp raccoon (Procyoon lotor), crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Among the reptiles often seen are the Boa constrictor, Anaconda, Iguanas (Iguana iguana), and the Ctenosaur (Cthenosaura similis).
There are ample small to medium sized tarpon and snook along the Bayano River throughout the year that a good fly fishing guide can find. Giant specimens are prevalent at certain times due to many factors such as breeding circumstances, abundance of prey and water temperature. However the incidence of bountiful numbers of snook and tarpon in the river coupled with concerted tropical fly fishing efforts does not inevitably translate into generous fly catching of these game fish.
The Bayano River besides being remote is relatively long and wide so finding active tarpon or snook is not always an uncomplicated affair. There are occasions wherein these aquatic predators are only active on particular river stretches and then only during distinctive tide phases, issues that make establishing their whereabouts intrinsically intricate. Time is a prime consideration especially if you happen to be at the wrong place at the right time! The window of opportunity should be exploited resourcefully if successful fly fishing and catching is to be realized. This suggests that not only should the fly leader, fly line, fly rod and fly reel be up to the task but the fly rodder also must be sufficiently capable at casting, hooking and fighting these remarkable game fish to achieve some measure of success. After the key element of surprise at finding feeding tarpon or snook is achieved the next serious hurdle to surmount is discovering which fly works. Fly patterns, color and actions vary not only seasonally but frequently from day to day, involving a precious measure of experience and perseverance to determine. Subsequent obstacles to overcome include successful hooking of the tarpon or snook and then the actual aerial and submarine combat that ensues. Howling wind, strong river currents and innumerable obstructions both floating and submerged sometimes conspire to thwart the best tropical fly fishing endeavors. In this case, just buying a more expensive fly rod and fly reel will not make you a better fly fisherman. A fly angler hooking a giant tarpon or snook on appropriate fly fishing equipment has been compared to a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. In either event endurance, skill, persistence and luck are notable attributes that will be called upon especially in acquiring a quality on the water photograph of a well proportioned fly caught tarpon or snook.
From May to December water clarity varies dependent on tidal flow and rain although the Bayano River maintains a fast pace and its surface is calm. Late December to early May (dry season in Central America) there is no rain and water clarity is at its best for Panama fly fishing charters. Due to the prevailing north wind in dry season a 1 - 2 foot chop develops in the afternoons along some sections of the Bayano River. However there are always areas shielded from the wind that yield outstanding tropical fly fishing opportunities for feeding snook and tarpon. The boat landing is about a 60 minute drive from any Panama City hotel or residence and ground transportation is easily arranged. Panama fly fishing guide, bottled water, sodas, sandwiches and ice are provided. Panama fly fishing charters for Tarpon and Snook on the Bayano River start at $490 a day for 1 to 2 anglers.
Fly Fishing Quarry - Pacific Amberjack, Dorado, Pacific Sailfish, Sierra Mackerel, Wahoo, Pacific Jack Crevalle, Cubera Snapper, Mullet Snapper, Pacific Red Snapper, Colorado Snapper, Yellow Snapper, Roosterfish, Tripletail, Yellowfin Tuna
Collateral Fly Fishing Quarry - Skipjack, Bonito, Houndfish, various Jack species, Pufferfish, Blowfish, sharks, small grouper species and diverse trash fish.
Recommended Fly Fishing Equipment - 10 to 12 weight fly rod with a well made fly reel that has a very good drag. (Ross, Tibor, Abel, Nautilus, Orvis Vortex, Bauer, Charlton, Henschel). Both intermediate and floating weight forward lines are employed Bluewater Flyfishing throughout the day. Type of line is dependent on the type of game fish, proximity to structure and tidal flow. 12 to 20 pound class tippet and 50 to 150 pound hard mono shock tippet or light wire is essential. Best flies proven by Panama fly fishing guides are shrimp patterns, flashy baitfish imitations and loud poppers on 1/0 to 3/0 sharp hooks.
Fly Fishing Charter Boat - 30-foot custom center console super panga powered by twin 70 hp Suzuki 4-stroke outboards that cruises at 30mph. Designed by Panama fly fishing guides for Bluewater Flyfishing, this larger seaworthy super panga is the preferred fly fishing craft for plying the Las Perlas Archipelago and the Gulf of Panama waters. Bountiful unhampered deck space both fore and aft allows two anglers to fly fishing in unison. Boat landing is about a 20 minute drive from any Panama City hotel or residence, ground transportation is easily arranged. Saltwater fly fishing trip at the Perlas Islands Archipelago starting at $800 a day.
Saltwater Fly Fishing Charter - There exists only two Archipelagos on the Pacific coast of the western hemisphere - the Galapagos Islands and the Perlas Islands. The Galapagos Islands lie about 600 miles offshore west of
Ecuador and the Perlas Islands are found in the Gulf Of Panama and range from 30 to 70 miles offshore of Panama City. The Pearl Islands were discovered in 1513 by Vasco Núñez de Balboa after crossing the Isthmus of Panama from the Atlantic Ocean side and stumbling upon the Pacific Ocean. He named them Las Islas Perlas because of the wealth of pearls found in the surrounding waters. These volcanic jungle islands soon became a sanctuary for pirates fascinated by the pearls, the practical proximity to rich Spanish settlements and easy plundering of passing Spanish ships. The Las Perlas Archipelago comprising about 180 islands and islets which have a unique history and a remarkable beauty are essentially deserted except for the 2,750 native habitants of a few small scattered fishing villages on some of the islands. Generally unexplored, the islands are distinguished by innumerable white sand beaches, drinkable water and unscathed tropical rain forests with lush foliage and abundant wildlife. The Perlas Islands myriad marine ecosystems form an essential part of the Marine Biological Corridor of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. The Archipelago of Las Perlas is an important destination for many whale species, particularly the Humpback whale that migrates from the south to mate and breed in this safe haven. Las Perlas Archipelago principal islands are Contadora, Saboga, Isla Pacheca, Chapera, Mogo Mogo, Casaya, Bayoneta, Viveros, Pedro Gonzalez, Isla del Rey and San Jose island. The bizarre volcanic rock formations networked throughout the Islands contribute to form an affluence of underwater marine structure which attracts vast shoals of game fish. These islands further provide a varied shoreline of countless beaches, rocky points, steep drop offs, sea mounts, hundreds of small coves, river mouths and waterfalls that serve as sea life habitats and a saltwater fly fishing paradise. The colossal tropical rain forest area of these islands coupled with the incalculable marine natural resources and plentiful wildlife distinguish the
Las Perlas Archipelago as a unique saltwater fly fishing destination with infinite opportunities to fly fish for throngs of assorted saltwater game fish species!
The diversity and profusion of saltwater game fish encountered tropical fly fishing at the Perlas Islands seems baffling to all but a few veterans and Panama fly fishing guides with ample experience angling in and around the Archipelago. An angler with some local knowledge can generally determine seasonally which game fish types might be active in a broad area of the Gulf of Panama. However since the Gulf of Panama hosts such a dynamic and fluid influx of migrating and transient marine life, even scientists, Bluewater fly fishing guides and commercial fishermen have fruitlessly puzzled over which fish will be where and when. The Gulf of Panama is known as the Nursery of the Eastern Pacific due to the plethora of fundamental sea life produced annually because of changing weather patterns, its location and geography which influence a legendary marine growth phenomenon. A thorough explanation of this phenomenon can be found in the Gulf of Panama section of this website. The result of this occurrence from an angling standpoint is an irregular and fluctuating incidence of myriad tropical saltwater game fish factions moving in and out of the Gulf of Panama and the Perlas Islands all of the time.
The attendance of these migrating and roaming fish stocks are subject to a number of circumstances including forage species abundance, reproduction, water temperature, ocean currents and human intervention. The motivated Bluewater fly fisher must be prepared with a wide variety of fly patterns of different sizes, colors, types and actions. Each species of saltwater game fish seems to have a preferred fly pattern on any given day and to accurately predict which quarry will be encountered can be abstruse. A saltwater fly fishing enthusiast from anywhere but the Gulf of Panama might imagine that the angling at the Las Perlas Archipelago could be neatly divided into Nearshore and Offshore Bluewater fly fishing. Nearshore defined as fly casting along the beach spangled shores and rocky points of these many Islands for shelf demersal gamesters such as Snapper or Grouper with an 8 to 10 weight rod and Offshore to be teasing up Billfish, Dorado and other migrating pelagic game fish armed with a 12 weight. He might be distressed when a 140 pound freebooting sailfish inhales his fly 30 feet from a rocky point in 60 feet of water or while trolling hookless teasers into an acre wide snapper boil far offshore while trying to raise billfish. Bluewater Fly fishing Panama with a capable Panama fly fishing guide at the Perlas Islands may chance upon roundups of Roosterfish, jamborees of Jacks, swarms of Sailfish, detachments of Dorado, Wahoo wrap ups, Snapper symposiums, aggregations of Amberjack, mobs of Mackerel or troops of Tunas.
An enterprising saltwater fly fisher should plan for any and all eventualities and equip accordingly. Over gearing is a grave error committed by most fly fishing aficionados visiting the Perlas Islands, especially concerning the boat. Any boat will spook saltwater game fish to some extent but the bigger the boat the fewer game fish you will encounter even with a competent Panama fly fishing guide. Even large aggressive pelagic fish will not usually hang close to a boat for very long. Stealth is an important consideration which can help in finding and catching the various gamefish species available fly fishing Panama and these tropical Islands. With a lower profile guide boat many more Bluewater fly fishing opportunities present themselves for assorted types of fish at closer casting range. However seaworthiness and safety are important so a typical flats boat won’t fit the bill either. The solution is a reasonably sized custom fiberglass Panga designed for Bluewater fly fishing Panama that can navigate the open ocean and stably handle the rough shallow waters of rocky points and the pounding surf of some beaches while affording the desired stealth characteristics so essential. With this type of Panama fly fishing guide craft a fly angler is afforded shorter casts and many more strikes on the retrieve nearer the boat.
At the Perlas Islands Archipelago fly fishing along the beach dappled shores, amid the numerous sea mounts and close to the roiling rocky points of these many volcanic islands can be spectacular. Lodging is comfortable and practical at a few resorts now established there. For example, Contadora Island which has reasonable hotel lodging and is only 30 miles from Panama City is accessible by daily light aircraft service with a flight time of 20 minutes or by boat in about an hour.
I offer two to three day guided fly fishing charters from a 30 foot custom Super Panga with twin 70 hp four stroke Suzuki outboards designed for fly fishing Panama. These 2-3 day saltwater fly fishing charters start at $800 a day. Using Contadora Island as a base most of the neighboring islands can be explored and enjoyed. Furthermore Nearshore and Offshore Bluewater fly fishing can be productively accomplished from chic surroundings.
Panama fishing is noted for its steeped history of saltwater fly fishing; particularly fly fishing in the Gulf of Panama -
“Numerous offshore fish, including an occasional sailfish, have been taken over the years by anglers trolling with fly tackle. But not until 1962, when the late Dr. Webster Robinson of Key West landed a 74½- pound Pacific sailfish aboard Capt. Louis Schmidt's Caiman at Pinas Bay, Panama, was the first billfish officially registered to fly casting.” - Vic Dunaway; February-March 1973 issue of Florida Sportsman
Read the complete article Flyfishing for Billfish online at the Florida Sportsman Magazine website.
I agreed to write something about the ethics of fly-fishing because I hadn't thought much about it at the time,
and it's always pleasant to be able to impose, or try to, your own ideas and ideals on other people, especially from a stance that makes back-talk difficult.
But now, faced with a blank sheet of paper and forced to think about it, it seems to me that all the problems of living and dying and of work and play are ethical problems, and to attempt to separate out the ethics of fly fishing is akin to prescribing a special inflection of voice to be used when addressing bishops or billionaires or Internal Revenue agents. And perhaps it isn't really ethics that we have in mind, but rather attitudes, a code of behavior, a concern for tradition and a hope for conservation of both fish and values. Perhaps, too, in my own case I tend to confuse ethics with aesthetics (and perhaps ethics is the aesthetics of behavior.)
Since such an approach is highly subjective I can hardly do better than to set down some of my own beliefs about fly fishing; and "ethical" attitudes I have would grow out of these:
1. The essence of sport is skill, and the voluntary imposition or acceptance of arbitrary conditions demanding skills. There is nothing immoral about shooting sitting ducks, but the sportsman shoots them flying, and may decline shots that require little skill.
2. Fly-fishing generally requires more skills than fishing with lures or natural baits; fly-casting generally requires more skill than spin-casting or bait-casting; fly-fishing encourages development of collateral skills, in insect identification and imitation, in streamcraft and in fly-tying. It is therefore a more sporting way of taking those fish which sometimes feed on insects on or below the surface of the water they inhabit or on small fish imitable by streamer flies. (The fact that skilled fly-fishers may be able under certain conditions to take more fish than the bait or lure fisherman is irrelevant; the honest man is often able to accumulate more wealth than the thief, but this is a shoddy argument for honesty.)
3. Fly-fishing, or any other sport fishing, is an end in itself and not a game or competition among fishermen; the great figures in the historic tradition of angling are not those men who caught the greatest number of fish or the biggest fish but those who, like Ronalds and Francis and Halford and Skues and Gordon and Wulff and Schwiebert, made lasting contributions of thought and knowledge, of fly patterns and philosophy, of good writing and good sportsmanship. There have always been men who could accumulate a larger number of dead fish than other men, because it was important to them; but no one remembers who they were, or should.
4. One of the greatest privileges of the fly-fisher is to release his catch, not out of sentimental avoidance of the act of killing but out of awareness that in most waters of this continent, capable of sustaining a fish population from season to season, a game fish is far more valuable as sport or the promise of sport than as food for belly or vanity.
5. There can be no fly-fishing without pure waters in which game fish can live; there can be no such waters without proper management of watershed forests and farmlands, or without control of pollution through erosion or industrial or human waste. Therefore, the fly-fisherman should be deeply concerned with measures to conserve or restore pure waters, and will involve himself when possible in efforts to promote such measures, recognizing that they are inseparable from the conservation of all renewable natural resources. He will bear in mind the legend of the African chief who said, "This land belongs to my people. Some of them are living, some of them are dead, but most of them have not yet been born." ~ Ed Zern, - Random Casts, 1966