Fly Rod Nightmares of the Deep

by | Dec 9, 2018 | fly fishing for grouper | 1 comment

flyfishing Anaa AtollTim and I planned to do a dredge together here on Anaa Atoll months ago.  A dredge is when you rig your 12-weight with a Scientific Angler Sonar Titan Big Water Taper 450-grain sinking line.  Then you attach 5 feet of straight 150lb test mono and tie on a dangerously heavy size 5/0 Clouser Minnow.  Last, hope for a calm day and head outside the atoll to deep water.  When I got up at 4:55 AM we had our calmness.


Tim Brune flyfishingYou should also have yourself mentally prepared to do battle.  To likely get bruised and cut as well as possibly blow out your back or a quad muscle.  I forgot to mention that rods can break and reels can explode.  If you’re thinking I’m being dramatic, check out some of my Farquhar blogs back in 2014 and 2016.  There’s plenty of proof there that a grouper fights like a heavyweight boxer and dogtooth tuna can outrun a Nascar car.


Anaa AtollTim and I received a perplexed look from Rafael and Joseph when they arrived and heard our plan.  Most people including experienced saltwater fly anglers don’t think it’s possible to get a fly down 40-60 feet deep.  But you can and off we went to the deep blue.


fly patterns for grouperEven when its calm the open ocean almost always has good size waves.  Today was no different.  Tim and I braced ourselves and launched short casts then fed out more line while the heavy Clousers sank deep.  I don’t tie much but tied this concoction back in the day.  I go either solid black or chartreus and white with flies for the depths.  Without a fish finder judging how far to bottom isn’t easy.  I fed my line out all the way to the backing knot and started stripping.


small toothed jobfishWe went surprisingly long before our first strike and it didn’t come from the deep.  We passed a few patches of floating weeds and I switched to a lighter fly and made some casts hoping to jump a dorado.  But instead I picked up several of these not so glamorous small toothed jobfish.  He’s an unusual one but I caught a couple off the back of the Maya’s Dugong in the Seychelles a few years ago.


It was exactly a half hour into the dredge that the first big fish found my fly.  I’d just stuck my fly in the bottom but luckily got it loose.  I knew I was deep down.  I stripped it up about 10 feet and wham!  Fish on!


Jeff Currier fly fishing for grouper

As ridiculous as this sounds – you can not let the fish take line from you.  If he does then in seconds he’s back to his hole down deep in the coral and its unlikely you’ll get him out.  I’ll go as far as to say if you can’t hold on you’re wasting your time dredging.


I held on tight to the line with my left hand and the tug-of-war began.  Not an inch slipped from me.  Usually ten to fifteen seconds goes by and the fish gives up and you start stripping him up.  Not with this one.  The tug-of-war lasted more than fifteen seconds then the fish started to win.


I didn’t lose the grip of my line however.  The fish instead pulled me to the gunnel and to my knees.  Then my 12-weight rod tip started to bend so deep I thought it might shatter so I tilted it over the side and stuck it into the water and pointed it directly towards the fish.  I’d survived thirty seconds now.


The event became terrifying after 45 seconds.  I continued to hang on and somehow the beast of a fish hadn’t tangled me or broke me off yet.  But I was losing strength.  Then that feeling I’d been battling for came.  The fish caved before me.  I broke the massive fish’s spirit and I was able to gain line and get back to my feet.


I reeled like mad when I could.  I’d get in five feet then the mighty fish would stop.  I’d hold then reel more.  I got the fish at least 30 feet up to where we could see the weighted tip of my line.  We all peered over the side nervously dying to see what I had.


Unfortunately, big fish don’t come in this easy.  Yes, I’d survived the first danger zone down near bottom but now with the fish disoriented away from his hole he decided to make a run.  A run under the boat.


Jeff Currier fly fishing the deep

I screamed for Rafael to back up the boat.  But a rogue wave pushed us forward and the situation got worse.  I had my 12-weight clenched tightly but in one hand out and under the boat.  I was about to lose my entire outfit or go overboard with it.


The immediate savior was to loosen my drag.  I couldn’t reach it however because I had one hand on the rod and the other holding on to the boat so I wouldn’t go overboard.  Tim loosened it for me in a nick of time.


When my Bauer drag went loose the fish took off but I was able to stand and get two hands on the rod.  I maneuvered around the back of the boat and motor and got to the other side straight on to the fish again.  It was absolute chaos and unfortunately too late.  During that ten seconds of loose drag the monster ran all the way back to bottom and broke me off on the coral.  A potentially 100lb monster either a grouper or Napoleon was tragically lost.


Tim Brune flyfishing for blacktip sharks

I’m not sure our guides, or Tim for that matter, had ever seen a fly fishing terror event anything like that.  For me, this one may have been more serious then when I lost a creature in the Seychelles in 2014.  I sat down on the floor of the boat and trembled for the next ten minutes and tried to re-rig.  I was hugely disappointed and shaken.


flyfishing injuriesI’m no Hemingway so I won’t go on and on about this mornings dredge.  But I hooked and lost three more nightmares of fish.  Only one other battle was as dramatic as the first described but I lost him too.  The other two I lost to sharks.


Tim lost a fish to a shark also and his experience is worth mentioning.  He got what looked to be a bohar snapper to the surface in sight of us.  Out from beneath our boat shot a five foot blacktip shark.  The shark took off with Tim’s fish and he was so ticked off he tried to stop the shark.  His line snapped and whipped back at him so hard it branded him through his shirt.  A painful injury but it could’ve been much worse had it hit one of us in the face.


Hinanu Tahiti BeerAs I mentioned on the blog on Day 1, once the sharks show up you need to stop or you end up feeding the sharks.  At 10 AM we reeled in it in and requested a quick stop by camp to grab a couple cold beers.  We needed a beer bad.  Then we requested our next session to be more relaxing.  We opted to go bonefishing for a couple hours so we could calm down.




bonefishing Anaa Atoll

The beers were delicious and calming.  The bonefishing was further calming however the flat we were on was void of bonefish.  We walked a mile over an hour and saw zilch.  At noon we tucked into a beach and enjoyed lunch and a twenty minute nap.


flyfishing for grouperBy the time we returned to fishing it was nearly 2 and we had only a couple hours.  The morning dredge really took it out of us.  I walked the shallows casting to random triggerfish and picked up some baby grouper while Tim hit the reef.  Things were slow for both of us but I say it all the time, keep your fly in the water, it only takes one fish to make a trip.


fly fishing the reefIt was Tim that went tight.  I heard the yelling and excitement.  Tim was tight and backing up.  Then I saw Joseph pounce on a fish and lift it.  Tim had a fantastic Napoleon wrasse!


Tim Brune flyfishing for Napoleon wrasseRafael and I were a ways away but when it comes to a fish like this you reel in and grab the camera.  You also want to see the fish and believe me, this Napoleon was worth the walk.  After a handful of pictures we admired the crazy color pattern of the Napoleon then released him back to the reef where he lives.


Scott Smith bonefish

Photo by Scott Smith

Between Tim and I we really only caught one good fish.  But it was a real good one and I suspect I’ll be hitting the reef hard tomorrow.  As for the rest of the group there were a few bonefish caught and some bluefin trevally.  But overall it was a challenging day.



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1 Comment

  1. Howie

    That’s a Challenging day?! Damn, great blog! Awesome adventures!

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

Contact Jeff

I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!