If you think you’re ready to chase the hardest fighting fish on the planet, you need to read this article first.
I just got back from chasing (and catching) Giant Trevally in Indonesia. Specifically, we were fishing the Komodo National Park, which is home to some of the meanest, and hardest fighting GTs in the world. I realized when I got home that nothing I read before I left prepared me for what I was going to experience, so while I’m still fighting jet lag I’m going to write down what I think would be the 5 things every angler must know before chasing Giant Trevally in Indonesia.
This was the most incredible adventure of my life. We chose this area for three reasons. The first is that we saw the same episode of Blue Planet that most of the rest of the free world saw and decided we had to chase bird-eating, high flying fish on topwater. It just seemed like the ultimate adrenaline rush, and it is. Nothing I’ve ever done remotely compares.
The second reason why we chose Indonesia is that this area is known to have the hardest fighting GTs in the world. This is caused by a number of factors but the most significant would be the incredible amount of current that these fish live in. It’s something that you literally have to see to believe.
The last reason is the landscape, culture and allure of fishing on and around Komodo Island, where you will see the fiercest reptiles on the planet, in an area that is only accessible to the outside world by one guide, on one boat. It is without a doubt the most beautiful and simultaneously the most dangerous place I have ever been. Numerous creators above the water and below can kill you within minutes of being attacked.
And I can’t wait to go back!
1. YOU’RE NOT READY
Funny, right? Reading an article that is supposed to prepare you and the first point I make is that you’re not ready. That’s because you’re not. You’re not ready for the physical demand on your body that you’re going to have to endure to be successful. I’m not just talking about fighting the fish, though that alone is more than some people can handle. The heat is incredible. We went in November, which is peak season for GTs. I read that you could expect to get 10-20 bites per day, and that would be a good number.
The problem with that is they don’t tell you how physically taxing it is on your body to fish for GTs. Of the 5 things every angler must know before chasing giant trevally, the biggest is probably how hard it’s going to be for you to get one. The popping baits you use on the surface create a strike bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, but you’re making hundreds if not thousands of casts per day. The sun takes no prisoners and offers no reprieve. By noon you’ll be broken and exhausted. So you see, it’s really not possible for any guide to tell you how many bites you’ll get in a day.
Marcelo said it best when I asked him that question and replied “How long can you fish?” Day 3 we got 25 bites in 15 minutes and it happened at the end of the day. After three long, hard, hot, and painful days. That was the most exciting 15 minutes of fishing of my life. I can’t wait for people to see it when it airs!
When the heat and physical demands wear you down you get mentally tired, angry, frustrated, and that’s when mistakes happen. You need to wear high quality sun gear (lotion won’t be enough) and cover as much of your body as possible. Thankfully Fishermans Central hooked me up with AFTCO hooded sunshirts and shorts, and I wore buffs and gloves from BlackStrap (FYI some of our gear the sun burned through it, so get high quality stuff). Stay focused, keep a positive mind – it’s GOING to happen, drink a TON of water, take breaks, and trust your guides. The locals have been catching GTs for thousands of years.
Spend the money on good boots if you’re going to fish the reefs with fly or light spinning gear. I paid over $200 for mine (Simms) but it was really worth it and they felt amazing. Other guys didn’t get them and they ended up with cuts on their feet. You definitely want to fish the reefs. They are LOADED with fish big and small, and it’s honestly one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever fish. Tanner and I both said we’ve swam in pools that weren’t as clean as the water in Flores.
2. These fish are NO joke
No amount of youtube videos or blog posts can explain to you how hard these fish fight. Even the smallest of them, the 7-8 kilo giant trevally, will try to rip your arms off. After 4 days you know when you hook a giant. And if you do, you need to be ready. You are NOT in control and you are not going to land that fish in 20 minutes. They’ll break 5/0 hooks and shatter 100lb fluoro. Everything has to go right to land the true giant GTs.
Photo by JB
I wish I could describe it to you. Even writing that puts a smile on my face I can’t describe without using bad language. When they hit your topwater bait it will change you, as an angler, forever. You’ll see them in your sleep, both the ones you landed and the ones that got away. You need a fighting belt, and good gloves, and do NOT grab the line if they’re on the other end.
Looking back at it now one of the best pieces of advice I got was from Brooks Robinson at Cortland Line. Brooks told me “You have about 30 seconds to break that GT’s spirit. If you can’t, if it thinks it can get away, you’ll never land it.” The first 30 seconds of every bite I had was the wildest bullride of my life. With hooksets that were so violent that I could never have imagined it until I did it.
3. You need current
I can’t stress enough how important this is. You see that cove all nice and calm that looks perfect? You don’t want that. There could be some fish there, but I’m telling you that in 4 days the best action we saw was in current so strong that at times it looked like the Mississippi river. If you haven’t ripped a topwater bait in 2 foot swells, it’s definitely something you need to get used to, but the first time you see your bait destroyed in that swell it’ll help motivate you to keep doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, we did catch some decent fish in slow moving water, but it was adjacent to water that would drown even really strong swimmers if they fell in. My biggest bite of the trip was like that, just on the edge. And when the fish hit it looked like a Toyota pickup truck exploded from under the water and swallowed my bait. Took that fish all of like 4 minutes to run me into coral and break me off.
4. It’s KNOT complicated
We did a lot of research about what knot to tie, especially to connect 100 or 130lb fluoro to our fly line and we found nothing. No youtube videos, nada. What we found by process of elimination was that the FG knot was the best. It’s a pain in the ass to tie, no doubt and there’s no other way to say it but you have to do it that way. It’s the only knot that will get tighter as you pull on it, and the only one that never failed in 4 days. Lines broke. Hooks broke. Not one single knot failed.
The trick is that tying fluoro that heavy to fly line requires a special knot. And you should super glue the knot when you’re done and give it plenty of time to dry before you reel it back up. The further you can cast, the more likely you are to get bit. So if you’re bringing your own stuff you can’t skimp on the line. Honestly if you’re going to do this trip you shouldn’t be looking to cut costs anywhere. Especially not on the line.
On the fly?
When it comes to fly I will admit I’m far from an expert, but I did enough research to know it was all reel and I needed to make long casts. I learned I could that better all day with a 12wt rod, so I took the Douglas Sky rod and paired it with the Nautilus Monster and Silver King. Both reels were amazing and handled the smaller giant trevally we caught with ease.
The rod was easy to throw and I had no complaints other than the tide wasn’t right and we didn’t get more time on the beaches while we were there. Cortland makes a special line designed specifically for giant trivally, and it’s super easy to cast. I feel confident that if I take the same gear when I go back that I will have no problem getting my fly in front of those bigger fish.
5. You need time to adjust
The time change is brutal. From NY it’s 31 hours total travel time from my house to my first cast. That doesn’t include delays in between. You need to give yourself at least 3 days when you arrive to try to get on their schedule before you start fishing. Trying to just run out there because you’re jacked up will only cause you problems down the road. You spent the time and money to make this trip happen, do it right. Bali is beautiful. Enjoy the beaches, the food, the pools. Relax. Get your mind right. Once you start fishing you’re in for long days, and your body is going to hate you.
I figured that because I fish for a living that I was ready. This was my biggest mistake. I knew I would fish all day, every day, and I did. But only because I pushed through the pain and exhaustion I felt. Not everyone could, and not all of you can or will. This is the greatest fishing in the world, but it demands your best, all you got. If you think you can half ass these fish they’ll break you. I love Bali. I can’t wait to go back. And next time I’m going to land that 40+ kilo giant trevally when he bites.