We are in the middle of another fantastic season at Andros South. When people come to fish the Bahamas, Bonefish are what’s on their mind. The attitude around the island is the Bahamas have the world’s best bonefishing and that South Andros has the best bonefishing in the Bahamas. Needless to say, guests that book with us have a specific target species in mind. With that being said, we encourage every guest to bring an additional rod on the boat with them to target our second favorite species, the Barracuda. They are the perfect fish to complement the resident Bonefish. They are predators out there and will voraciously attack fast moving flies before leaping out of the water. Their aggressive nature should not be confused with them being easy to catch. They can be easily spooked and will reject flies that are not retrieved properly. We wanted to take a moment and give the often overlooked Barracuda the attention they deserve. Here is a roundup of some of our favorite Barracuda Posts.
Last week we went over my Barracuda Rig for targeting the toothy flats predator. Today we are going to go over the second half of the battle which is the approach and getting them to eat. When I am searching for Barracuda on the flats, I look for them to be sitting still. Bonefish are almost always moving where I find ‘Cuda to be more stationary on the flats and not moving unless they are spooked. They will also be higher in the water column than a bonefish. Once you have a target spotted, you don’t need to rush. If the ‘Cuda is already spooked and taking off across the flats, let him go and look for a different one. When you find a ‘Cuda that is stationary, you will be able to take your time. Get the boat in a position that gives you a comfortable casting angle. When casting at the fish, do not land your fly too close. Barracuda have incredible eye sight and the water on the flats is clear so you want to lead the fish by at least 10 feet. They are very spooky and can be easily startled if your fly splashes too near the fish. I have had fish eat by almost instinctively hitting a fly that lands right in front of them but more often than not, I find this scares the fish. If you land the fly further away, they will still see it and you can gauge the reaction of the fish which will influence your next step.
Most things you read about Barracuda on the flats will tell you to start stripping the fly as fast as possible. This is not how I like to do it. I have seen people do this approach and start stripping so fast that it actually spooks the fish. I prefer to gauge the reaction of the fish and let it tell me how fast to retrieve my fly. I start stripping slow and steady, this movement usually gets the attention of the fish. If it swims over to check out the fly, I slowly increase my retrieval speed. As the fish increases his speed, I will also increase my speed. A predator species like a Barracuda wants to see its prey swimming away from them. As the fish follows, continue to increase your strips. It is this increase in speed that causes the fish to attack as they see their prey trying to get away. If you start off stripping as fast as you can, when the fish follows, you wont be able to strip any faster and trigger the strike. That is why I like to start with a slow retrieval and as the fish speeds up, you speed up as well. This approach has drastically increased my hook up percentage. Getting a follow from a Barracuda is fun, but what is more fun than a follow? An eat! Most important thing to take away here, don’t just start stripping as fast as possible. Gauge the fish’s response to your fly and slowly increase your retrieval speed.
More on Barracuda:
I must admit, I have a slight obsession with Barracuda. The Bonefish will always be the flagship species of the Bahamas but no trip to South Andros is complete to me without at least targeting a couple toothy predators. Barracuda have a weird reputation in the fly fishing world. This might be because of how easily spin fishermen can get them trolling offshore or the potentially deadly disease (ciguatera) they can be contaminated with. Allow me to address both of these points. The first is that these flats dwelling Barracuda are anything but easy to catch on the fly. They can be incredibly spooky and very difficult to convince to eat as opposed to just follow. And regarding the ciguatera, just don’t eat them. Plenty of locals will eat them and they are even considered a delicacy in some parts of the country. The rough rule of thumb is offshore/reef dwelling ‘cuda can become contaminated with the food borne illness. Most flats Barracuda are clean of the toxin. Regardless of them being edible or not, they are one of the most underrated fish to target on the flats. They can also be very difficult to feed and once you finally hook one, can be very difficult to land. That is why I wanted to share with you my personal Barracuda set up. I have fished for ‘Cuda from Christmas Island, to Ascension Bay to the Bahamas which means I have had my fair share of heartbreaks thanks to them. Like most things in fly fishing, not catching fish is a great way to learn how to get it done and where to make changes. I have a lot of confidence in this set up and on my last trip, it led to my personal best fly caught ‘Cuda.
Some parts of a ‘Cuda rig are very important while others really don’t matter all that much. Like the rod and fly line. Any rod from an 8-10 weight will be fine. Same with line, just get a floating fly line that pairs up with the rod you are using. I will then use a butt section from any leader. Again, these parts are not super important (in my opinion). It doesn’t need a bimini or anything special up top. Just a leader tapered down to something like 30 pound (Or you could just run 6 to 8 feet of straight 30 pound as well.) The fish isn’t going to break off up here and I like 30 or even 20 pound as it allows for easier knot tying. Here is when stuff gets important. ‘Cuda obviously have teeth, big ones. It can be very heartbreaking to finally hook into one just to lose it because it bit through your line so we want to attach some wire off of the leader. I used to use 30 pound wire but I have had fish bite through that so I now stick with 40 pound and (knock on wood) have yet to have one bite through that. I have no allegiance to a particular type of wire. I hear people complain about wire being hard to tie with or claim that a certain type of wire is easier to use but my response is that those people are not using the right type of knots. I agree in that some wire might be more flexible or easier to wrap but the knots I use are simple and work with all types of wire.
Off of my leader, I tie an albright knot from the mono to my 40 pound wire. The alrbight knot is easy to tie and works great with wire. A diagram of how to tie the knot can be viewed here. Just remember to use the wire for the starting loop, you want to be wrapping the mono. I want to make sure I have at least 12 inches of wire before tying on the fly. I often use even longer (up to 18 inches) as I don’t find it has any negative effects on my cast. Very important to not use under 12 inches as there is a chance the ‘Cuda could inhale your fly and you want plenty of room between his teeth and your mono! Then to attach my fly to the wire I use the Jam knot. Click the link and learn this simple knot. You will never need a different knot to attach a fly to wire. My favorite fly to target the ‘Cuda with is the Cutthroat Cuda Tube but in my opinion, presentation is far more important than fly selection so don’t overthink this step.
That is my personal Barracuda rig. Like I said, some parts aren’t that important and don’t need to differentiate from your normal bonefishing set up. The key to everything is the wire and the two different knots, the albright and the jam knot. Also remember to make sure you use enough wire to not risk having the fish’s teeth touch the mono above it. Next week we will have a follow up post going over how to feed the barracuda and the different retrievals.
More on Barracuda:
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We hope you had a nice Valentines Day yesterday. 9 months from now you can either be on a fishing trip or buying diapers, regardless you know that we will be here to help fulfill your fishing fix. It is a Friday which means we are back with another edition of Fly Tying Friday. Turn the volume up on this video as Jack goes over how to attach the tailer hook on barracuda flies.
“I received a number of requests following the Cutthroat Cuda Tube tutorial for information on how to set up the wire rigging for tandem, or trailing hook, Barracuda flies. The technique is fairly simple, using a basic jam knot and doubled anchoring, but I can’t understate the importance of attention to detail. However, it’s important to remember that for every problem there are at least five viable solutions. There are countless methods for tying up these rigs. Choose one that suits your tying style and fishing needs. Above all, the technique you chose should give you confidence that your fly won’t fall apart after you’ve hooked into the ‘cuda of a lifetime. For those of you who asked – this is my ‘confidence setup.’”
Important note. If traveling to Andros South or targeting large ‘Cuda, definitely consider using at least 40 pound wire to the back hook. Barracuda are almost always hooked on just the trailer hook and I learned the hard way what can happen when 30 pound wire settles into the wrong part of the fish’s mouth.
More Fly Tying:
We have been getting some requests for a current fishing report from our lodge Andros South. What perfect timing as just a few days ago myself and Deneki’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Bryan Burke, returned from a trip to our favorite flats fishing destination. It was an incredible week where like most trips to Andros South, it was filled with bent rods, good food and plenty of laughter.
We arrived into the Congo Town Airport on January 16th where we were welcomed with cold Kalik’s and clear skies that luckily stuck around for the week. The weather in South Andros this time of year is typically dry with an average high temperature of 77 degrees. This is considered “early” in our season on the island but is one of our favorite times to visit. We had pretty much perfect weather for 5 of our 6 days of fishing. And the only day that wasn’t considered “perfect” still had great light and visibility, just was a little windy. Our spring season on the island fills up the quickest but the months from October to January are a very underrated time to visit. This time of year actually produces a slightly larger average size of fish and more opportunities at the big single and double cruisers as some of the smaller schoolies are off in the deeper water.
The best producing flies for the week were relatively large and had plenty of orange tied in. Andros is not a location where you need sparsely tied bonefish flies on a size 10 hook. My favorite hook for the large bonefish of Andros is #6 800S from Umpqua. Traditional patterns like the Gotcha always produce here but I find it fun to twist up some different variations for the fish (examples soon to come in future Fly Tying Friday posts!) The best flies were large and bushy. I was tying in 2 inch segments of craft fur over an orange body with orange rubber legs. As with all my bonefish flies, I tie them with two different amounts of weight. I had a dozen with lead eyes and a dozen with bead chain eyes. I would vary up which one I fished based on how deep of a flat we were fishing and how spooky the fish were. A shallow flat with calm wind calls for the bead chain eyes as they land softer on the water. For the deeper flats, especially those on the West Side of the island, I liked the lead eyes and would just cast a little further in front of the fish so that the fly didn’t splash right on their head. My best fly for the week was a variation on Bruce Chard’s White Tiger. Learn how to tie this fly from one of the world’s best saltwater guides HERE!
The almost perfect weather led to some incredible fishing for the week. Most days saw us head to the West Side of the island where we regularly encountered both schools of bonefish and shots at singles and doubles as well. The schools we came across weren’t just made up of small fish either. On average the single or doubles of cruising fish were larger but most of the schools we saw still were made up of fish in the 3-5 pound range! As those of you who have fished for Bones know, these fish are incredibly strong fighters. Every single day of the trip I got to see my backing, and most of the time that initial burst was follow by a blistering run directly back at me. We had a couple shots at bones in the double digit class as well but these trophies were able to elude us this trip. Still multiple fish in the 7-8 pound range were landed and rumor has it a guest recently landed a 12 pounder!! Photo soon to come!
To add some diversity to the trip, we always had both a spin and fly rod rigged up for the Barracuda that roam the flats. The photo below is my personal best ‘Cuda landed on the Cutthroat Cuda Tube. These are such an underrated fish to targer. They are spooky, tough to feed, fly out of the water when hooked, fight like hell, and can even bite through 30 pound wire! If you have never targeted these water wolfs on the flats, you are missing out! Our season at Andros South really picks up over the next few weeks. We will keep you posted on what is happening down in the Bahamas so continue checking back! Don’t overlook the early season opportunities that exist on Andros. Have any questions? Drop us a note!
More from Andros South:
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Jack Reis still has Barracuda on the mind which selfishly I am pretty happy about. Cannot wait to get this fly wet the day after tomorrow!
“If I could use only one Barracuda fly for the rest of time, it would be some variation of this pattern. Barracuda have a tendency to zero in on the back half of their target. This subsurface needlefish features a tandem hook setup, with the trailing hook almost at the rear of the fly to capitalize on that behavior. I’ve found the combo of flashy chartreuse and red really grabs the attention of these fish, but feel free to experiment with other types of materials for the collar. Just remember, the wire connection here has to be absolutely bomb proof, or you’ll find yourself missing the back half your fly in a hurry!” -Jack Reis
- Hook: Gamakatsu SL12S sz. 2 (rear), Owner Aki 5170 – sz. 2/0 (front)
- Thread: UTC 140 – Fl. Chartreuse
- Wire: Tandem Wire
- Body: Hareline EZ Body Tubing – Pearl, Sharpie – Green, Red
- Collar: EP Sparkle Brush – Chartreuse, 3D Black/Red
- Eyes: EP Gamechange Eyes – White
Previous Fly Tying Friday’s:
Try not to hate me but I am counting down the days until I will be at Andros South. 18 more sun rises to be exact. All my fishing and guiding the past couple months has involved a puffy jacket and ski cap. Needless to say, those will not be packed, instead they will be replaced with sun shirts, flip flops, and plenty of SPF 50. It is commonly said that the Bahamas has the world’s best bonefishing and that Andros has the best bonefishing in the Bahamas. So yes, the target species will undoubtedly be the Bonefish. Unfinished business with a 10 pounder tops a life’s bucket list for me, but the thing I find myself thinking about the most is not the Ghost of the Flats but instead the toothy Barracuda.
A voracious predator, this fish does not get the respect it deserves. This might be because flat goers commonly see them around. This should not be mistaken with thinking they are easy to catch on a fly. Barracuda don’t have very many predators so they do not always spook when seeing a flats boat. A matter of fact, some have grown to associate a flats boat with food as they will prey on exhausted bonefish after they are released. Regardless of their reputation, the Barracuda is a fierce predator that often ambushes its prey before exhibiting line burning runs and impressive ariel displays. Sounds like the perfect fly rod target to us!
With Barracuda not getting the attention that the Bonefish get at Andros South, approaches and techniques on getting the fish to eat are not as set in stone as some other species. Typically retrieving the fly as fast as possible is key to getting the ‘Cuda to feed. Like with most predatory fish, Barracuda want their prey to be fleeing away from them. More often than not, the best way to get a Barracuda to eat is to increase your retrieval speed once the fish starts to follow and continue to increase the speed until you are stripping your fly as fast as possible. This method can be exhausting, but it is what “prey” does when being chased by a “predator”. For some reason that I cannot explain, I have also however found some fish to eat on the pause between strips. I learned this by accident, I was trying to strip my fly as fast as possible and I lost control of the line so that the fly simply sat in the water. Much to my surprised, the Barracuda that all day had been following our flies but not eating, weirdly inhaled in the stopped fly.
After seeing this, I started mixing up my retrieval pattern when targeting Barracuda. Stripping your fly, and stripping it fast but with an increasing speed, was the way to get the most eats but occasionally, completely stopping the fly was the ticket. It would get powerful eats, some of the time with the ‘Cuda coming from below the fly and shooting up through the water.
Mixing it up on the water is always a good thing to do. It can be very easy to get stuck in your ways because lets be honest, they probably work. But every once in a while doing something different can lead to success and ideas for future technique changes. Keep it fresh out there!
More on Barracuda Fishing:
Those of you lucky ones who have been to Andros South know how spectacular the Barracuda fishing can be. Bonefish are always the target species but some of the time it can be fun to mix it up and chase a toothy critter. One of of favorite ways to catch Barracuda is on the surface. Few things are as visual and exciting as a ‘Cuda top water eat. Want to get in on the fun? Tie up a few of the following from our good friend, Jack Reis.
“Barracuda have a well earned reputation for speed and destruction. Under many conditions, they eat willingly and with reckless abandon. However, it is not uncommon to come across a ‘cuda that behaves a little lethargically. It’s times like these that call for something a bit…louder. So, the next time you come across a fish that is tougher to move, try the sweet, sweet pop of the Barracuda Boy Band.”
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Tying The Barracuda Boy Band
- Hook: Owner Aki 5170 – sz. 3/0-7/0
- Thread: UTC 140 – Fl. Chartreuse
- Tail: Bucktail – Chartreuse/White, Hareline Lateral Scale – Opal Mirage
- Collar: Hareline Polar Chenille – Chartreuse, Red UV
- Head: Rainy’s Saltwater Poppers, Wapsi Holographic Tape – Chartreuse, Hareline Adhesive Eyes
More Barracuda Loving: