Trolling with flies

Hi all,

I am heading to Baha for the Christmas break to kayak and fly fish. I was going to troll or "Bucktail" while I am paddling around in hopes of happening upon a Yellowtail, Sierra or Dorado. I have not trolled with a fly for any significant period of time so I am unsure about what to expect. Should I be concerned about line twisting? Should I think about adding a swivel? I am trying to limit the amount of gear I take so I do not want to bring my regular trolling gear.


Make sure the hook eye is lined up with the hook point 100% or you will get some bad twisting from the fly spinning like a spinner. When those two are not lined up your hook will spin in the water like you would not believe and you line tippet will pay the price. Bucktailing from what I have learned is not a place for off set hooks. I have tried a swivel to be able to spin the fly on purpose this way but the leader material still was in poor shape with in a short period of time.
Since I learning to bucktailed flies in the early 80's for Coho we have learned to make sure to use very straight shanked hooks and the material very equal on both sides of the fly though top and bottom amount of material does not to seem to make much of a diffrence. If you are using tube flies the back hook also needs to be a straight shanked hook as well, from our experince to keep the line from twisting. A swivel will help but its even more important the fly tracks straight in the first place.
As I said this has just been my experice and most of the time only with 10-15 LBS leader material & never any thing heavier.


AKA Beadhead
Kayak trolling can be fun- I have done it for trout in lakes and for SRCs around here. Easiest way is to troll backwards, this allows you to see the take and set the hook. If you want to troll while you travel you will need some kind of rod holder. I have not had a problem with line twist even when trolling behind a skiff with a 75hp engine doing 10 knots or so. This was in Mexico off the Pacific coast. Bonito and jacks would come up and smack our flies on the surface at this speed, and then dive for the depths, ripping out well into the backing.

Be careful- those fish can be powerful! a 5lb bonito fights like a 20lb king i'm not kidding. I've never hooked a dorado but I can only imagine what it would be like to tie into one while sitting in a kayak. I had bonito snap my 15 lb tippet and I then went up to 20 to 25lb with no problems.

You might be tempted to use a light tippet to avoid getting tied to a monster that could flip you and your yak- A wise thought I think, but sierra have sharp teeth and some guys use metal leaders for them. I guess you could have a heavy shock tippet and a lighter tippet further up the line so that you could break one off if you needed to for safety.

Sierra and rooster fish can be caught in the surf too so don't over look that.

Tropical saltwater fishing is a whole different game I can't wait until I get to try it again. Fishing licenses can be hard to come by in small towns especially if your espanol isn't up to par- many just don't bother to get a license. If you want to be safe, it would be smart to research where to buy a license in advance or at least the moment you arrive, you may not get another chance before you hit the water.

IMG_0275.jpg My 8/9 wt with tip in the drink, palming the reel

IMG_0285.jpg Ceviche any one? (note the mangled fighting butt on my cheap travel rod- a battle casualty)


Another Fly Fisher
When I'm bucktailing out in the salt to find silvers, I use a mini bead chain swivel ahead of my larger tube flies. I think it helps prevent line twist and it doesn't add that much weight - certainly not a large perturbation compared to the large fly. When I find fish, I don't find it significantly more difficult to cast than if the swivel were not there, but in fairness I generally have a couple casting rigs at the ready that I switch to if I find the fish.

Heed the above suggestion of NOT using offset hooks when bucktailing and I also suggest using heavy stiff leader.

Use Stinger Hooks.

Keep your line in the prop wash.

Keep your fly free of salad. A good water haul and roll cast usually gets rid of salad and occasionally it will rip off eel grass.

HIT THE POINTS from the same direction as the tide.

Let the fish take and hook itself. IF you pull you will either put the fish down or you will rip it away from the fish.
When trolling in Baja:
Use a swivel near the butt end of your leader. This will eliminate line twist but will still cast easily.
At times you have to put out quite a bit of line. Be sure you have plenty of backing because a dorado, black skipjack, yellowtail, roosterfish and the like will clean a reel that is too small in a heartbeat; so fast you simply won't believe what is happening. These fish can hit speeds of 45 mph and sustain it for 300 yards or more; sometimes much more. By comparison a chum salmon, our fastest salmon tops out at about 25 mph and run out of gas at about 100 yards.
Be sure that you have your rod solidly secured or it could be taken right along with your fly -- and the Sea of Cortez is deep.
Use nothing lighter than a 10-weight for your fishing. It won't be too much even for smaller skippies, roosters and the like.
This information is based on twenty years of fishing Baja.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson


Active Member
i do exactly as searun. i use a small black anodized ball bearing swivel (#6) in the loop between the line and the leader. shorten up your leader as well to maybe 6-7' max. these fish are not shy and if want to make a grab, they certainly will. good saltwater reel with a substantial drag is a requirement for this sort of thing. i prefer to go to the 10wt when i am doing this sort of thing as you never know what is going to latch on to your fly.

you might tie up some streakers for your trolling. i would also make up some herring using the deceiver pattern. white tail of 4 matched hackles, white under with silver flashabou topped by mouse grey with a few peacock strands over that. i use red thread and add stick on silver and black eyes of appropriate size. fly should come out about 4-5" overall on a 2/0 hook.