Tackle tips for GTs
If you want to land really big GTs, you will need heavy artillery, says Henry Gilbey.
There are few fish I know of that come with such a disturbing reputation. For the most part, they are known simply by their initials – GT, the giant trevally. The biggest and baddest member of the extensive trevally family and a fish that is arguably one of the most exciting species to catch anywhere on earth. I have watched grown men freeze solid as a rampaging GT charges down their innocuous little fly on an Indian Ocean flat, and I have very nearly had a rod and reel pulled straight out of my hands by the sheer speed and ferocity with which a GT has hit my big surface lure. Gentle fishing this is not, but if you want a big dose of adrenaline, then I implore you to go chasing the giant trevally.
As a species, the larger GTs tends to thrive in areas of reefs, channels and current. Look at any of the many videos online from places like the Coral Sea in Australia, New Caledonia and, increasingly, southern Oman and you will often see anglers fishing with what look like scaffolding poles and massive spinning reels – and note how they are so often fishing around structure and/or features. The GT is a pure predator and they tend to lurk and hunt around areas of structure, very much like our pollack or bass might here at home.
Now, with this comes your first hurdle. GTs get really big, indeed in the right places there is every chance of connecting with fish in excess of 100lb, and they fight so ferociously hard that there is almost no point in me trying to describe it. It's just brutal. Fun? Kind of. But the kind of fun that is more enjoyable at the end of the day when you are sitting down, sipping a G&T, talking about it – if you won the battle, that is. But make no mistake, GTs are going to beat you up from time to time. Indeed, they seem to delight in humbling anglers. At the time it tends to be a mixture of blind panic, fear and elation all rolled into one intoxicating experience. Put the size, preferred habitat and the scrapping abilities of these fish into the melting pot and you end up with the need to fish some serious, heavy tackle.
Forget all about fly fishing these kinds of areas that abound with structure and concentrate on what is most commonly known as popping. The term derives from the lures that are most popularly used – a popper is a surface lure that literally ‘pops' or spits water out of a concave head as you work it, but the term ‘popping' now tends to encompass most heavy lure fishing for GTs on or near the surface.
We are generally talking about specialist 7-9ft rods that might be rated to cast lures up to and over 300g – many will come from Japan where they have taken the designing and building of lure rods to an absolute art form. Go for suitable spinning reels to match, and for the most part these will be either the Shimano Stella or the Daiwa Saltiga.
GTs put fishing gear through all kinds of hell. The braid mainlines could well be around the 100lb breaking strain mark, for the need here is to literally tighten right down on the fish as much as possible and physically haul them out – otherwise the GT is going to smash you up on the reef and leave you in pieces. Just seeing these monsters smash into a lure is enough for me. Subtle it is not, but popping has, without doubt, developed into a highly specialist kind of fishing that requires certain skills. I have heard many stories of anglers spending time in the gym to become stronger at fishing for long periods with heavy lures and then being able to really turn the power on when fish after fish hits you. A South African I know was recently torn to pieces by a couple of huge fish in southern Oman, and then on the last morning of his trip over there he landed a GT that was measured and then estimated to be around the 120lb mark. They get big.
If you come from our somewhat up and down climate, then you will love the fact that GTs like hot places with lots of warm, clear water in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But if you want to tangle with the biggest GTs, then you need to think about places such as southern Oman, certain atolls of the Seychelles, New Caledonia, parts of Australia (and especially the Coral Sea), specific areas off East and Southern Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa), numerous remote Pacific atolls, parts of Indonesia, Fiji, the Andaman Islands and also certain areas of Japan. It is a fact that the best GT fishing is in the wilder parts of the globe, where the least people are. And I would put GT fishing as some of the wildest stuff you could ever do – especially when your trip might involve multiple flights and then living aboard a mothership out in the middle of nowhere.
But all is not lost if you are a through-and-through fly angler and are viewing the mere word ‘lure' with a degree of suspicion. Fly fishing for GTs is some of the most insane and exciting fishing I have seen anywhere on earth, but you need to be very careful about where you go and do it. For the most part you simply are not going to be able to put enough pressure on a big GT with fly gear, particularly if you are fishing near structure. That's a fact, and I would be wary of any popping destinations that say you can just as productively fish for GTs on the fly – unless you enjoy losing fly lines and breaking rods.
I have spent a lot of time now on some of the really remote atolls of the Seychelles, and what makes these warm waters such perfect destinations for the fly angler is that big GTs come up onto the flats to hunt. Hit it right and you can connect with serious numbers of GTs, plus of course bonefish, bumphead parrotfish, milkfish, triggerfish and any number of other species. The simple reason that fly anglers can land such big GTs on these shallow flats is that they are for the most part away from structure, and you can get a proper, ‘clean' fight.
Pure sight fishing is heart stopping stuff. A good fly angler can put so much pressure on a big GT with a 12wt outfit that you would be amazed at how quickly such a serious fish can be landed, photographed and then released to haunt the flats once again. In shallow, structure-free water you are on a more level playing field with these rampaging beasts, but a pushover they will never be. I have most likely seen many hundreds of GTs taken on the flats now, but I will admit to still standing there open-mouthed each and every time one of these creatures charges a fly down and smashes it.
When that back comes out of the water and that mouth opens wide it freaks the living daylights out of me.
Where to go
One of the best places to fly fish for big GTs is the remote but easily accessible Farquhar atoll in the Seychelles. There are other atolls out there that are crawling with GTs, but Farquhar is a land-based operation. There are some huge GTs on the flats within the remote St. Brandon's atoll that lies off Mauritius, but they are not as numerous as in the Seychelles. These destinations can be accessed via the fly fishing tour operator Aardvark McLeod at www.aardvarkmcleod.com
Christmas Island in the Pacific also offers some exciting fly fishing for GTs, but to get there from northern Europe is a serious mission in itself.