While average size baits in the 2-5inch range seem to be prolific most of the year, quite a few large gamefish can be caught using a technique which is extremely effective when larger baitfish are present, thus making it possible to use the larger flies which can produce some very large fish. Line control during casting is the most critical key in success and it will most certainly get your heart beating when a huge predatory fish lunges out of the darkness and swallows your 7-9 inch fly in plain sight!
Although the typical approach to fishing these seriously big flies on weighted fly lines is the typical dredging technique where the fly and line is simply laid in the water (not really cast) and allowed to sink as the boat drifts away but this standard big fly technique can be slow-paced and most anglers can find it boring.
The other technique which I call the “rifling method” incorporates more of an extended & intense workout with breaks in between fishing holes… It is a seriously active technique in fly fishing, which requires a good strong casting arm, a mean double-haul and an ability to maintain line control in a way which has the fly line land straight with line tight. This is necessary because this technique draws instinctual bites from huge predatory fish and they will move on it within the first 15 seconds the fly hits the water and explains why it is necessary to have the fly moving back toward yourself as soon as it hits the water. The difficulty is solved by making the cast complete in 1, 2, 3 powerful strokes and distance isn’t a problem with these heavy sinking lines as long as line control is maintained. Casting parallel or at slight angles to these ledges and breaks in terrain is the key.
Big fish regularly prowl the deep & dark edges along shallow sandbars and other hard breaks along underwater terrain. It is on these second and third points of an estuary where large baitfish are ambushed violently.
Sitting in deep water close to the most vertical shoreline with a steep slope yet one that flattens out enough on the top edge to hold a few feet of water is important. This is a perfect location for big fish to sit in the dark shadows down below and look up onto the edge of a carving shelf and when it sees helpless baitfish it races up and grabs the fly and heads back to the deep to reposition its food for better swallowing.
Deploying these tactics can bring a huge rush of adrenaline to the sport and is certainly exciting in locations where big fish roam the oceans, gulfs, bays and estuaries frequently. Give it a try next time the variables are right (location/large forage present) and let me know how it turns out! I can think of a dozen species where this combat technique would produce very large results during several periods throughout the seasons! Give it a whirl and worst case there is nothing wrong with a little strength training!