Billfish of all species are considered to be at the extreme end of flyfishing targets. Of these, sailfish are thought to be the fastest fish in the ocean. To put in perspective just how fast, a sailfish can swim at around 112km/h while a tarpon comes in barely half as quick with a top speed of ‘only’ 56km/h! It makes sense then that the ultimate way to test a saltwater flyfishing outfit is by using it on sailfish.

The common thought with flyfishing for billfish is you need a fat wallet to pay for copious amounts of diesel, Tanqueray gin and top-end flyfishing gear. However with 4-stroke outboards, Gordon’s gin, and some well-priced gear, flyfishing for billfish has become almost as affordable as a trip to New Zealand. This year’s release of the Redington Behemoth fly reel got me excited but also sceptical about whether a reel that comes in at $250AU really could subdue the world’s fastest saltwater species. Then again, reel included, I started to wonder – would it be possible to put together a full billfish-capable outfit for less than $1000?

Three days flyfishing was booked out of Kuala Rompin, Malaysia, known to have one of the highest concentrations of sailfish anywhere in the world. In fishing, nothing is a certain but my mate Matt and I gave ourselves every chance. The best skipper, the best time of year, the best fly, the best rod and reel… Maybe not but certainly the lowest priced outfit that marketing jargon tells us will work.

Here’s a breakdown of the gear used. All pinched from stock at The Flyfisher, Melbourne.

Redington Behemoth 11/12 Fly Reel $249.95
Redington Predator 9ft 4pc 12 Weight Fly Rod $399.95
Scientific Anglers XTS 50lb Backing 500yds $159.95
Scientific Anglers Saltwater Titan WF/F 12wt Line $149.95 

TOTAL COST $959.80

Currently a Sage ONE 6 weight fly rod retails for $1259.95 – considerably more than the total cost of this saltwater outfit. So my thoughts were something would go wrong with this ‘budget’ billfish outfit. The drag would stick. The handle would fall off. The rod would break. Surely this was bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Firstly, how did the Redington cast with this big ugly tube fly? Well it’s not quite as nice to wave around as the Orvis Helios 2 with a Nautilus hanging off it but long casts with tight loops isn’t flyfishing for billfish. It’s simple: one back cast and deliver. From a casting perspective, the sub-$1000 outfit is no match for the premium but this could be said about any lineweight outfit comparison. Okay, casting works so lets find a fish.

“LEFT TEASER!!!!” Comes the shout from the captain. Teaser man works in the teaser, gradually making the fish angrier as it comes closer to the boat. Teaser man screams “ANGLER READY!?”, “READY” I reply. As the teaser is ripped from the water – the cast is made. A hot fish jumps on the floating fly and turns. “BANG HIM!” screams the teaser man. FISH ON!


Hooked up to an angry sailfish.

Line screams from the reel under a heavy drag. 500 yards is a lot of backing and in this case, I was glad it was there as three quarters of it disappeared over the next minute or two, followed by several impressive jumps. Slowly the fish was worked back to the boat before putting on another jumps show. Eventually the leader was touched and the fish declared caught, then the bill was grabbed to retrieve the fly. As it turns out, this fish was foul hooked which meant that the fight was more intense than if it had been hooked in the mouth. I was satisfied the outfit had been appropriately tested and surprised it held up to the task. As far as the reel was concerned, the drag was flawless, no rod bounce and silky smooth under heavy setting. The Redington Predator fly rod had lots of backbone strength that made subduing the fish easy as it got closer to the boat.


The sub $1000 outfit does the trick!

I went on to use the sub $1000 outfit on more fish and over three day’s fishing Matt and I landed 17 sailfish. Flyfishing for billfish is insane fun and now more affordable than ever.

A nice sailfish carefullly lifted into the boat for photo.

A nice sailfish carefullly lifted into the boat for photo.

Flyfishing for billfish isn’t easy and there was a lot to learn. Our catch rate improved hugely as the trip went on. There is lots to tell here and so there’ll be a feature article on Kuala Rompin’s magnificent sailfish in a future issue of FlyStream Magazine – keep an eye out.

A nice fish being released.

A nice fish being released.

To book a sailfish adventure in Malaysia, contact Fishzone Sportfishing Rough cost including flights for three anglers for three days actual fishing, is less than $3000 per angler.