Blue shark are becoming the top sport fish to catch on the fly in Ireland. Most fly anglers would jump at the chance to be connected to one of these powerful fighting sharks on a fly rod and some anglers would think it would be impossible to land one. With the increasing amount of fly anglers looking for a new thrill on the fly, rod building and fly reel making companies are designing more and more powerful fly rods and reels to cater for the largest of fish. A lot of these rods and reels are expensive and to most anglers are not worth investing in for the chance of using them perhaps once or twice a year; but I am telling you now, it is worth the money! If you ever get the pleasure of striking a fly rod as the shark takes your fly you would agree. Your rod buckling and reel being emptied of line is a top buzz.
My first shark on the fly
Over the years I have talked to anglers that have traveled to different parts of the world, spending thousands of euros looking for hard fighting fish on the fly, and every time I heard these story’s it made me want to give it a go myself. A few time last year when I was shark fishing I could not believe how many sharks were coming to the boat, taking anything that looked like food. As the sharks were swimming around the boat on those day I threw in small pieces of mackerel and fish guts and they were taking them as fast as I was putting them in. With every piece of fish they took I was thinking about the lads story’s about bone fish, king salmon and different types of sharks that they had on the fly. It was then I knew if a shark came to the boat and if I had a fly that looked like piece of fish or fish guts they would have a go at it. The following day I searched the net for a fly reel that would do the job without breaking the bank. The reel I bought was an ALVEY Saltwater 425b fly reel it had all the specifications I needed. My only worry was my fly rod was only a 12 weight Shimano Bio craft Ev that I use for pike – I didn’t know if it would stand up to the weight of the shark as it dove to the depths of the sea.
My 12 weight fly rod and my salt water fly reel with my home made shark fly I was hoping it would do the trick for me
As the weather was starting to look good and settled for shark fishing, I got my fly reel out of is box (almost ten months later from when I bought it). I loaded it with 60lb braid and attached 25ft of 250lb mono that will act as a fly line and a rubbing leader. All that was left was to make the fly and attach it to 3ft of 250lb steel wire, which I did. On the day I was joined by my three friends from Dublin Damo, Glenn and Kilian. They had always wanted to go shark fishing but never got the chance until now. With a three hour drive down for the lads they were on the boat and we were on our way. As we passed Roche’s point light house we could see that the sea was quit flat and it looked promising for a good day’s shark fishing. But before we went any further we had to catch some mackerel to add to the pre-made chum bag and for the lad’s shark rods.
As we arrived at our destination I first put in the chum bag to get a trail going as the lads set up there 30 to 50 class rods. I set up my fly rod hoping for the chance that a shark would pass the lads baits and make it way to the boat so I could cast the fly and try to entice the shark in take it. But to be expected the first shark caught was on Glenn’s Mackerel and every time the shark dove you could see that Glenn was under presser. He could not believe the power of the shark, it took a lot of line of the reel in its first run and every time it got close to the boat it dove again. When we got the shark on board he was excited and relieved. We put the shark in the sling and it weight in at 64lb.
Glenn first blue shark that weight 64lb
The next shark fell to his twin brother Kilian, it was fighting a little bit harder and like his brother every time it dove it was like he was going to be pulled overboard. When the shark was on the scales it weighed just over 70lb
Kilian with a 73lb blue shark the largest of the day
As Kilian’s shark was on the boat I saw another shark swimming around the chum bag and as I was getting the fly rod ready it went deep and within a few seconds Damo’s reel started to scream off. I started to believe it was not going to happen for me until another shark appeared from the depths. It started swimming alongside the boat as Damo was fighting his shark. I started to cut up some mackerel to see could I keep it near the boat like I did with the other sharks last year. As Damo’s shark was being landed it made the shark I wanted to dive out of sight; I truly was disgusted that I did not cast the fly when I had the chance. Sometimes you only get that one chance. With Damo’s 35lb shark on the boat I said to the lads that would be a lovely shark to catch on the fly…
With all three shark rods out in a nice chum trail I was trying to believe it would happen for me. Then Glenn shouted “f****** shark under the boat! And with that I grabbed my fly rod and got the fly wet for the first time.
As the fly started to sink I looked at my reel and I could see that my line was caught up on it and as I was freeing the line I could see the shark heading for the fly. With a level head I got the line free just as the shark passed it. I immediately started to twitch the fly, the action of the fly moving turned the shark toward it again and with another few twitches the shark came hard at it. As the shark was so close to the boat you could see as it opened its mouth, with the fly disappearing in behind its teeth. As it closed it mouth I lifted the rod sharply. With the shark hooked it rolled on the surface and then dove and dove. It was burning line off my reel and my fly rod was bending like a pretzel.
With the shark down at least a hundred and fifty feet it was time to see would the rod stand up to the stress of getting it back up. With the rod under pressure the shark finally slowed and as it stopped I steadily lifted the rod to see could I get back some of the line it stripped off my reel. My fly rod was doing a job that a 30lb class rod would have to do the only difference was my rod was nearly at its max. With a tug of war going on over 15 minutes I knew when the shark got close to the surface it would dive; it was at that time I would have to be careful not to break the rod. With every run I had a little more faith in what my fishing gear could handle.
With belief in my fishing gear I tightened the clutch on the reel a small bit more, it put that little bit of extra pressure that I needed to get the shark to the boat so that Damo could grab the rubbing trace. With the line in his gloves he was able to take control of the shark while I made sure that the line did not get wrapped around anything.
As the shark was at the side of the boat you could see my fly in the corner of it mouth, and with the fishing gear cleared off the deck Glenn and Damo lifted it on board. With the fly out of it mouth and the shark weighed at 47lb, it was time to put it back. What an end to a day’s shark fishing.
My very first fly caught blue shark that weight 47lb what a crack and well worth the money I spent on the fly reel
If you look at Blue shark on the fly video you will see how under-gunned a 12 weight fly rod is for sharks! After seeing the video myself I went searching for a fly rod that would be suitable for the job but found that the prices were scandalous. I then rang my friend Terry Jackson and asked him did he know any good rod builders. He gave me the number for Richard in Village Tackle, Belfast who is one of Ireland’s top fly big game fish hunter, he has caught marlin on the fly. He had to be the man to talk to about shark fly rods. After a few minutes chatting about my shark and his big fish he told me that he has a lad who builds top quality fly rods for sharks and any other big sea dwelling fish at an affordable price. You can guess I have him building one for me for less than half price of the ones I was looking at, I am so looking forward to trying it out.
Rod, reel and gear
1) Recommended weight Fly rod is between a 16 to 18 weight
2) A salt water fly reel that has plenty of drag and can hold plenty of backing
3) At least 25 feet of 250lb to 400lb mono instead of fly line
4) At least three foot of 150lb to 250lb steal trace
5) Fly’s that look like a fish, fish guts or strips of fish tied on a size 6/0 or 8/0 hook