Mackerel on the Fly

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This feisty mackerel couldn't resist the draw of a fly-cast streamer.

I admit I’m no fly fishing sharpie, and though I’ve tried fly fishing many times I always quickly gravitate back to my spinning gear. That’s mostly because I’ve never found it necessary to make it harder to catch fish – and when I try fly fishing, that’s generally what seems to happen. Recently, however, I took a friend out on the bay who was a diehard fly caster. His mission: to catch a Spanish mackerel on the fly. Not only did it happen, it happened again, and again. And I learned a lot by watching, including these tips for catching mackerel on the fly.

spanish mackerel fly fishing

This feisty mackerel couldn’t resist the draw of a fly-cast streamer.

  • These fish are sometimes up and down fast, making for brief but frantic feeding frenzies. In this situation don’t try to reel all your fly line back onto the reel when you need to move the boat a few hundred feet to get back in the action. Reeling it in and then re-casting the line back out takes up valuable time. Instead, the fly angler can remain on the bowdeck with the line out, extend the rod off to one side, and let the line trail the boat until you’re back within casting distance of the fish. The captain can lend a hand by turning the boat sideways before stopping, so the angler doesn’t have to worry about flinging their line across the boat after stopping.
  • After casting to maximum range but before stripping the streamer back, allow several seconds of sink-time. Using a sinking line or at least a sink-tip is a good idea, too.
  • When you’re ready to start stripping line, tuck the rod under your right arm and use both hands to pull back your offering. Spanish mackerel like a very fast retrieve, and it’s impossible to get up enough speed stripping one-handed. In fact, keep in mind that even using two hands it is literally impossible to retrieve a streamer too quickly for a mackerel to shoot up and grab it.
  • When a strike occurs set the hook with your hand, not the rod. You’ll be stripping, so you already have a hand on the line at all times. Hesitate to shift the rod into your hand and lift the tip, and your hook-set will almost always come a beat too late.

Or… grab a spinning rod, instead!



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