Sailfish, Indo-Pacific (Istiophorus Platypterus) & Atlantic Sailfish (Istiophorus Albicans)

The Sailfish is named for its large dorsal fin which extends most the length of its body. Its sail is dark blue with rows of black spots between the spines. The sail can be folded down into a depression on its back where it can’t be seen making it completely streamlined. Its back is bluish black fading to silver on its side and belly.

Sailfish have an elongated spear like upper jaw which is used to stun its prey, a torpedo shaped body and large forked tail.


To be successful at targeting Sailfish you need the right teasing equipment as well as fly tackle. As most Sailfish do their fighting in a spectacular airborne manner you can target them on fly rods as light as a 12 weight, but to insure that you don’t stress the fish too much you are going to need a rod with plenty of lifting power. Match the rod with a high quality large arbor reel with a smooth drag that has the capacity to handle a large amount of backing and you are half way there.

Floating, intermediate-tip, sink-tip or full sink fly lines all work well in different conditions. The important things to remember is never use a shooting-head, always use a full length line. The reason for this being, as the fish takes the fly you should allow it time to turn before setting the hook. In order to do so you have to give the fish a little time and line before striking. With all this going on you don’t want to end up with backing or braided running line in your hand while trying to set the hook as it will cut to the bone. Secondly, the fish will tire far quicker whilst tail-walking and dragging the fly line around. A full length fly line creates more drag and will allow you to beat the fish quicker and reduce its stress before releasing it.

When teasing the FlyCastaway guides have found that trolling skirts or softheads in hot pink, green and chartreuse or blue and white with a belly-shine or halfbeak works best. As the Sailfish will mouth the teaser while you entice it closer to the boat, the fishy taste of the bait will bring a “hotter Sail” to the boat and allow you more time to get your cast in.

We have found that when encountering a slow period or calm sea using a bird as well as the above-mentioned teaser will often produce some interest. Combine all this with the teaser being trolled in the third wake, at the optimum speed of between 6 and 7 knots depending on sea conditions and current speeds and you should have a winning combination.

As sailfish are largely a migratory species it is very important to know when these fish will be in your area. Working to structure like drop-offs, pinnacles and entrances to atoll lagoons while concentrating on bird life and baitfish chases will often prove successful.


  • Fly Rod: Quick action 12 to 15 weight fly rod.
  • Reel & Backing: A large good quality saltwater series reel loaded with 600 or more meters of 50 60 lbs braid. A Bimini Twist to Double Surgions should be tied into the braid, following which the fly line and backing should be joined using the loop to loop method.
  • Fly Lines: Billfish intermediate tip, 450 to 600 grains or any sink-tip line with 50lbs braided loops nail knotted on both ends. Leaders: 100 – 120 lbs Fluorocarbon or Monofilament Shock. We prefer to always choose heavier class tippets as to reduce the fighting time and stress on the fish.
  • Knots: Fly to leader – Improved Homer Rhode or Perfection Loop; Leader to Braided loop – Perfection Loop. NB mono has a stretch factor and a tendency to slip before seating. When tying your knots make sure you leave a tag and seat them properly with the use of pliers. In saying this ensure you do not stress the knot.
  • Flies: Cam Seigler’s or Large Flashy Profile’s on tubes tandum rigged hooks or other billfish tandems. Flies tied in white and hot pink have consistently been the most successful.
  • Sunglasses: Dark amber or blue mirror grey lenses.

Before leaving on your trip you will be briefed in detail by the FlyCastaway guides as to exactly what fly patterns you are going to need and how you should prepare your tackle. For all our destinations we have compiled a comprehensive tackle list.


CosmoledoProvidence, Astove and Farquhar Atolls – Seychelles
St Brandons Mauritius
Manda Bay and Kingfisher Kenya
Principe Sao Tome