YOUR SALTWATER WINCH
Heading off to Alphonse Island we were forewarned about the sheer brutality and un-distilled raw power that a GT can enforce. Like most, we immediately turned our focus and gear prep to the rods, reels, amount of backing and flies we would use to tame these savage beasts. Fortunately for us several of our close mates are fly fishing guides out in the Seychelles and they reveled in schooling these ‘Saltwater Flats Virgins’.
We took fly-line selection as a simple formality and made sure we had 12wt lines paired up with our outfits of choice, until they gave us the statistics on lines lost to GTs playing dirty – rocks and coral on the flats, the submerged blades of coral bommies and the sheer force inflicted during the fight all make for fly-lines going ‘POP!’.
On this trip we were reviewing several of Scientific Anglers new premium lines and five days before the trip made the panic-stricken call to let Scientific Anglers Head Office know that a GT shot next to their lines will be a mishmash of ‘stars-aligning-unicorn-dust-and-leprechauns’. To our embarrassment we got schooled AGAIN and all this with feet still firmly planted on terra firma; instructed to pay closer attention to the packaging, the heavens parted and there was angel-song as we picked up the Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan Big Water Taper (BWT).
A NEW SALTWATER WINCH ON THE BLOCK
The Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan Big Water Taper (BWT) is part of their latest range of sinking lines, SONAR. But the distinguishing feature of this specific model and what saved the trip for us is that it is the first fly-line to be built on a 100-lb. monofilament core.
Yup, no typos here, 100-lb. core!
With an 80ft running line, a 25ft intermediate belly and front taper that sinks at a steady 1.25 ips (inches per second) it makes for an ideal line targeting fish in waist-deep water. Available in either 350 GR (9-10 wt) and 450 GR (10-12 wt) this line stepped out of the design lab ready to do battle with gigantic fish.
It is specifically designed for tropical climates and though it is the bully of the playground, is still packed with all the features of the SONAR range and these shone throughout on the trip:
- Mastery Texturing
- Scientific Anglers Line Identification
Each line is marked accordingly i.e. SA SONAR BWT F/I ###
- F/I indicating the floating running line and intermediate tip
- ### the grain weight (either 340 or 450)
INTO THE FIGHTING RING
The two big GTs we got happened under such vastly different conditions that we decided to allow each editor to give his own account of the experience:
The first GT we came across on the trip oozed of GT unpredictability; there we were ambling along the finger-flats targeting Triggerfish with our dainty 8wts when he charged out of the depths of the lagoon onto the flats no more than 50 ft. away. My guide went ballistic plucking the lighter rod from my grasp, shoving the 12wt with enough line already stripped out into my hands and, in a flurry of profanities, directed me where to cast.
The fly slapped onto the surface no more than two rod-lengths away from us and no words can describe how fast that GT turned, annihilated the fly and started bolting for the deep.
We instantly found ourselves surround by a wake of froth and spray. With line burning off the reel, my guide cranked the drag knob on the reel to full-breaks instructing me to keep the line off the coral and rocks and not allow the fish to pull me off the ledge whilst he grabbed the skiff. For what felt like an eternity I clung to that rod whilst the GT had its way with me. Because of several large coral bommies in the vicinity letting the fish run was NOT and option and all I could do, with chants from my guide, was to keep the reel locked down, bend the rod deep and pray.
The last thing that went through my mind was whether the fly-line would hold up and it did so with vigor and unflinching gusto. After it all was said and done we knelt next to the 98cm brute, mates sharing an incredible moment, knowing full-well that it would have been humanly impossible to pull that fish harder than I did…sounds vain, but you tell that to my biceps that are still 5cm bigger!
If I am to be brutally honest, after watching the power of Pieter’s GT described above, I was a little afraid of setting the hook into one of these apex predators. It is always worse when you know what’s coming … but then I grew a pair and here is my story!
Picture the scene: the wind is pumping, it had been all day and we were getting a little windswept and downtrodden, so our Alphonse Fishing Company guide Cameron Musgrave (Cam) walked us to sheltered bay in the lee of St. François atoll called “back of the moon”. We were four up scanning a vast white sand flat for GT’s & other targetable species. I was up on the 12wt, a loaded Thomas & Thomas Solar paired with a 450 Titan Big Water Taper & an 8/0 Sanibel big enough to start a riot through airport security.
With me distracted Pieter was having a blast bashing bonefish in the shore break when Cam lights up, shoves a rod in my hands and as calmly as an assassin says… “Here comes your fish”.
A long cutline channel runs from the surf line directly toward the atoll proper then veers left at 90 degrees and runs parallel to the beach 20 meters out and directly past where we stood. Cameron had spotted what turned out to be three monster Geets cruising in formation, thug-like, menacing and looking for a fight. We waited & watched… the seconds ticked by… they followed the channel, turned left and were now 100 meters off to my left and closing. “Make a cast.” Cam says, “Straight out & wait for my signal… and when I say strip… strip like mad.”
This was entirely different from what I had witnessed yesterday! We were laying an ambush! More seconds ticked by, and I was getting twitchy. These three gangsters were on a collision course with my fly, which had been cast 30 seconds previously straight out … this was not at all the frenzy I was expecting, it was somewhat cultured … more seconds ticked by…
Note: in situations like this you have time to over stress yourself with things like rod striking, missing a strip or dropping a fish. All the horror stories play out in you mind.
Slowly they came; oblivious to our presence or our plan. 40 meters… tick, tick, 30 meters… tick, tick, 20 meters… Adrenalin surged & at 10 meters from the fly Cam crisply told me to strip! First strip, seco… BOOM! Those fish charged so hard it wasn’t a question of if I was going to hook up; it was more a question of which fish I would hook into! The ocean exploded and I was connected to the GT I had been dreaming of for as long as I can remember. Set hard & set again. I wrapped the Titan Big Water Taper around my hand wrenched it behind my back and straight sticked directly toward the fish so hard the GT did a handstand on the flat, already 20 meters out.
But I knew the hook was set and I owe it all to the 100lb core… unbelievably, that core is the weak spot in the system.
We cranked down the drag hard but nothing was stopping this fish from making for the surf line. At max torque these fish peel fly line & backing from your reel without flinching. I waded deeper trying to maintain an angle on the fish & finally with 100 yards of backing to regain the fish finally turned. The flats caught GT’s have only a single plane to fight you on and this bad boy took full advantage, surging & surging while I applied maximum breaks.
The tension I inflicted on this fish is unbelievable, so much so that I fought the entire tussle with the rod at an angle away from my face so convinced I was that something would give & I’d end up with a face full of graphite smeared across my nose. I gave everything; never have I pulled on a fish that hard. Never have I had the confidence to do so. My faith lay entirely in that 100lb core and when I could barely lift my GT for broken biceps I knew that it took maximum effort to keep me connected. I know exactly what line I want strung up for the next time I tussle with denizens of the deep – the Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan Big Water Taper.
THE FINAL VERDICT
There is no doubt that the Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan Big Water Taper is a specialty line designed to tame the biggest of fish but we were amazed that despite the 100-lb. core it still presented with as much ease as a 11-12wt line will allow.
With its Tropi-Core the line came off the reel with zero memory and was perfectly suited to the tropical conditions of the Seychelles. The textured coating is actually barely noticeable and not once did we loose skin to a running line, but it undoubtedly allows one to shoot the line effortlessly. We found the 450 GR a bit on the heavy side for the 12wts we were fishing and once we swopped it out for the 350 GR model it made a dramatic difference to both our accuracy and distance; it will depend on your own preference, conditions and experience with such big rods. In our case, 90% of the fishing we do is with rod weights 9 and below. The Scientific Angler Line Identification system, in our books, should be the industry standard as it is clear, durable, easy to interpret and when swopping out line on a regular basis a necessity not a nice-to-have.
Closely inspecting the lines post-battle, there was zero stretch evident and despite having scraped against the coral, the outer coating showed no detrimental wear-and-tear.
Most importantly, we had not one line pop on us or get sliced off on rogue coral and in that proverbial pudding is the proof as to why the Scientific Anglers SONAR Titan Big Water Taper is a GT’s (and other titanic sized fish) worst nightmare – give one a hug next time you land him!