Nothing quite represents the East Cape better than chasing roosterfish with a fly rod. With out a doubt the roosterfish is one of the greatest prizes in fly fishing. The juveniles are relatively easy to catch, but become very fickle as they mature. They are often compared to the permit as a tough adversary to fool.
- Rods: Appropriate rod size will vary by size of fish in quest. We fish nine and ten weights on the beach for the smaller to medium sized fish.When the grandes are present we step up to the ten and twelve weights, especially when throwing the larger flies that capture the interest of the bigger fish.
- Lines: We find that a clear intermediate line is the best all around line for roosters and will cover all applications including fishing with poppers.Floating lines are adequate in most cases, but will give up some distance and control in cross wind situations.
- Leaders: We modify our basic Dorado leader system to include a longer butt section (four feet) of 30 or 40 lb. Soft mono. We like the loop to loop system here as well as it affords the quickest change of fly and leader combinations.We build four to six foot class tippets in 6 kg, 8 kg and 10 kg, with out a bite tippet. A standard salt water tapered leader also works fine for the roosters.
Flies: Match the hatch can be critical to catching roosterfish. The small to mid sized fish are often found feeding on sardines and small needle fish. The same fly selection that worked for the dorado and tuna work here as well. The larger roosters prefer bigger meals such as mullet, lady fish, mackerel and caballitos. At times the ballyhoo move inshore and create some incredible feeding frenzies. For these larger fish we cast big bucktail deceivers, rastas, Clousers, Clouser-hoos, crease flies and sea habits in sardine, ballyhoo or mullet colors. A mullet pattern with a spun deer hair head has proven very effective for big roosters on the beach and from the panga. In all cases the size of the fly should match the natural food source, with the larger patterns running approximately 5 to 8 inches in length.
Tactics: Beach fishing for big roosterfish is the ultimate challenge on the East Cape. This is not the pursuit of the sedentary. Physical fitness, stamina and the ability to cast quickly and accurately are decided advantages when in quest of large roosters. These fish move constantly along the beach in search of prey and afford small windows of opportunity. We patrol along the beaches looking for fish cruising, or hopefully fish feeding. Once the roosters are spotted we move quickly to intercept their movement and try to place the fly directly in front of the fish. The best angle is dead on the nose so that the fly is pulled directly away and in line with the movement of the fish. Both double hand strips and fast single hand strips are both effective as long as the fly moves fast and steady. We go back and forth on the type of retrieve to find their trigger point. Getting roosters to follow a fly is relatively easy. Getting them to eat it is the skill.
Fishing for big roosters by boat offers several advantages including the ability to cover more water and to tease up fish using live bait. We rig a spinning rod with a live mullet, caballito, mackerel or large sardines by either sewing the leader through their lips or using a snap swivel. The live teaser is then trolled slowly through good habitat. When the rooster shows behind the bait the teaser is kept just out of reach. Once the rooster shows that it is ready to pounce, the teaser is pulled and the cast is made to the fish. As with beach fishing the retrieve is very fast, accelerating the fly away from the fish when he shows interest. Big roosters have a tough mouth, so be sure to use sharp hooks and a strong strip strike to bed the hook home.