28 November 2011

Setting an IGFA Record?

I want this patch, dearly
A little more than two years ago, after talking with Cody, I decided that I wanted to set an International Game & Fish Association fly rod world record in Caranx melampygus, Trevally, Bluefin.  With each publication issue, I always turned to the world records section regarding the Bluefin Trevally.  I studied the categories, where others had fished to catch their records, worked on tying a Bimini knot (which was always an abject failure), and thought and thought about those beautiful Bluefins.

In 2010, we decided to sign up for two rod slots with Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company and return to the Seychelles in November 2011.  We spoke with a guide, Kirby LaCour, during an August 2011 Tailwaters Louisiana fishing trip.   Kirby told me to use our swimming pool and practice lifiting a bunch of grapes with the intended rigging I was going to use when trying to set the record, so I could understand what it would feel like to work with light class tippet.  As the time drew nearer for our trip, both Cody and I ensured that we had what we needed to take on the trip.  We checked the IGFA website for all the requirements we had to meet--whew! it was a lot.

IGFA Rules in a nutshell:
Attached to the fly line could be a tapered leader of no specific material, length, or strength.  The class tippet must be of nonmetallic material, at least 15" long excluding the knots at each end, and no stronger than the class category for which the record was being set or broken.  A shock tippet, which was optional, could be no longer than 12" and was tied from the class tippet to the fly.  Any knot could be used to tie the fly line to the tapered leader to the class tippet to the shock tippet to the fly.  To ensure that these rules are followed, the angler must cut at least one inch of the fly line (above the braided or welded loop), keep all of the leader intact, and submit the entire leader.  IGFA's suggestion is to get a stiff piece of cardboard, label it with the angler's name and class tippet strength, cut slits along its top and bottom, and wind the leader around the cardboard moving from one side to the other, because, if the leader is difficult to untangle or becomes knotted, then the catch is not certifiable.

My fly rod could not be less than 6 feet nor have a butt longer than six inches, when measured from the reel's center.

The fly had to be a recognized type of artificial fly, and just because a lure could be cast with a fly rod does not necessarily mean that it met the definition of a true fly fishing lure.

The caught fish had to weigh at least 1 pound.  The weighing had to occur on solid ground and especially, not on the boat (rocking and swaying motion could add to fish's actual weight).  If the fish was not weighed at a certified IGFA weighing station, then the scale had to be officially certified by IGFA (a $30.00 fee performed by IGFA for its members).

The pictures--there had to be a plethora of pictures!  Angler and fish.  Weighing fish.  Close-up of the actual scale weight.  Length of fish from tail tip to mouth.  Length of fish from tail fork to mouth.  Close-ups of each measurement.  Girth measurement and a close-up.  Complete fly rod, reel, and fish.  Close-up of reel, part of rod, and fish.  Fish horizontal.  Fish vertical.

On the first day of Seychelles fishing, bad weather bound us to Alphonse Island.  Cody and I fished with guide Brandon King.  After two years plus of thinking about this record, I asked myself now that I was here, did I really want this record?  Did I really want to work for this record?  Did I want to ask Cody to sacrifice some of his fishing time, so I could set this record? 

In what is the Bonefishing Mecca where I was having no luck, I was not sure what my answers were to those questions.  Then, as the rains poured down upon all 13 of us Tailwater Anglers, two South African fly anglers, and seven guides (Serge was on a two week holiday back on Mahe), I asked, "Lord, is this really a ridiculous, vain attempt?  This goal was never initiated as one."  I guess He knew my heart, because before five minutes elapsed of me asking this question, I caught a fish, and not just any fish.  I caught and landed a small Bluefin Trevally.  Brandon was talking about it, and I turned to him and said I want to set an IGFA record with a Bluefin Trevally.  That was it.  I knew I was going to work on that record for the next six days.  I guess Cody always knew that I was going to attempt to set the record, even when I did not, because when I told Cody, he was not in the least bit surprised.

Day 2 did not offer many opportunities for Bluefins; the chaotic weather did allow us to cross the channel and fish the St. Francois and Bijoutier Lagoons, but the Bluefins were allusive.  Scoty did put Cody on his dream fish for the trip--Milkfish.

Day 3 was the first really good opportunity to cast to Bluefins, and boy did I have a lot to learn.  After lunch, we began the search.  Cody and I were fishing with Guides Wayne Haselau and Alex, and by now, all the guides knew I was pursuing a goal.  We went outside the western surf; we boated to coral reefs just inside the western surf, and I cast and stripped like I was a mad woman possessed.  I had never learned to strip quickly single-handedly.  I can do a very quick two-hand, tuck the rod in your armpit, retrieve, but Wayne did not like my rod tip action when I stripped two-hand.  So, I learned to single-hand strip quickly, right-then-and-there; on the fly, I guess one might say.  Let me say, "Oh good grief!" that was hard work.  However, I was rewarded nicely and rather quickly, and then, after less than a five second hook-up, it was Bluefin Trevally break-off #1.  Apologies to Cody, because I just sacrificed a very nice Crease Fly tied by Cody Bell.  I kept at this crazy pace for three hours.  Determined, I was.


At this point, it needs to be said that the Great Rod Debate had already begun amongst the guides.  Deciding which record, the 3 kg/6.6 lb. record (which needed a 3 lb 8 oz weigh-in to beat Ms. Caroline Pilcher's existing record) or the 2 kg/4.4 lb. record (which was vacant and needed a 1 lb weigh-in to set the record), rod, and fly in our arsenal of fly fishing gear to use for this record was an Act even greater than the U.S. Congress; yes, really!  I had a 7# TFO Professional (medium action), an 8# TFO TiCrX (fast action), a 9# TFO Professional (medium), and a 10# TFO TiCrX (fast) from which to choose.  Wayne had me using the 10# due to a strong lifting-powered butt section, and a topwater fly.  Those Bluefins did come after that fly, but I had to learn to pop my tip and slow my retrieve enough just to hook the fish.  Tuesday, I had about 15 break offs, and used muscles I didn't even know I had.

Day 4, Wednesday, Cody and I fished with Guide James Christmas.  We targeted big fish, and looked for Bluefins near coral reefs (those were non-existent) and out wading in the surf.  We only saw one pair in the surf, which ended up being a good piece of luck.  I was sore from Tuesday, worn out, not casting well, and really lousing my retrieve.  James gave me excellent information to remember about my retrieve and rod tip, and knew I was forcing the issue of catching Bluefins and so backed off the record until I could reconnoiter and get my timing and casting synced.

Day 5, Devan van der Merwe, the head guide of Alphonse Island Resort, took us to the shores of St. Francois on Thursday.  I had never been on or that close to the island.  Devan said he was nervous, and I told Devan that truthfully, I was too.  I wanted this record really badly.  We began tag-teaming the rods; the 10# had the 6.6 lb class tippet and the 7# had the 4.4lb class tippet.  The 10# had a floating fly; the 7# had a sinking fly.  Let me say, I sacrificed about half my fly box that morning.  The break-offs on the 7# were so numerous, that I lost count after 20.  The 10# break-offs occurred less, but we were not getting fish larger than 1.5 pounds.  Devan held the fly having me pull and showing me how hard I could pull without experiencing a break-off.

Now, every time we pulled a class tippet leader out of the ziploc bag, the guides would comment and say how thin, how fragile they thought the material to be.  Seeing as we weren't catching anything near a 3 lb. 7 oz. Bluefin, I talked it over with Cody and Devan, and we decided to just go with the 2 kg/4.4 lb. record.  Next, Devan took us to the Aquarium, a coral reef just off Bijoutier Island.  I had the small fish chasing my fly, but no looks from the bigger guys, so we tied on bigger flies.  Zing, those bigger flies just kept on going, breaking my line at the class tippet, too heavy for the line to sustain their weight during casting.  Can't say how many break-offs and fly sacrifices I made, because there were too many.  I hooked up with fish, but was broken off on the coral beds; I was broken off at the class tippet time and again.  I began to measure where the class tippet was breaking and most consistently it was at the 11.5" to 12" mark.  At dinner that evening, most of the other guests, Dan Bolin, Jim Cochran, Randy Cupp, Robert & Ian Johnson, Matt Jones, David Leake, Jared Louviere, Ben McMasters, Jed Rosenthal, Will Ryan, Roy Washburn, and Clay Williams, learned that I was trying to set an IGFA record.  We talked strategy; we talked rod strength and leader length.  I expressed that I did not understand how I was going to be able to catch a pound or greater fish on a 4.4 pound tippet that kept breaking off at 11.5 to 12 inches.  Genuinely, I was beginning to lose faith that this record could be done.  Randy said something that made me feel better.  Randy said everything we were talking about made sense, because he had seen 175 pound men bench press over 440 pounds, so fish size and strength were not necessarily relative.  That thought got me to thinking.

Day 6, Friday, the last day found Cody and I paired with guide Andrew Mayo.  Earlier in the week, while travelling on the Tam Tam to St. Francois, Andrew spoke with me and gave some kind and good advice about seeking an IGFA record.  I shared with Andrew Randy's sentiment, and as Andrew was bringing his skiff to pick us up on the Tam Tam, Andrew had an epiphany, and put his idea in to play.

This was our last day of fishing the Indian Ocean with the Alphonse Island Resort staff, and I had been  working diligently all week to catch a Bluefin Trevally on both the 6.6lb/3kg and 4.4lb/2kg class tippets. When the week began, both of my tippet spools were new and contained 30 yards of line. By Friday, I had enough 4.4lb/2kg tippet to make five class tippet leaders.

Due to a slowly receding tide, Andrew boated us in Dolphin Skiff #4 to the island St. Fran├žois. We arrived at 8:40. Andrew and Cody had previously rigged my 7# fly rod with the 4.4lb/2kg class tippet, and they were tying more of the same class tippet leaders with the remaining line and rigging Cody’s 7# fly rod as well, to create a tag-team effect.

At 7°09’19.87”S 52°44’29.61”E are two coral beds where Bluefin Trevally are known to thrive. I began casting in between the two beds and hooked a fish almost immediately. It made a run back toward the beds, and after two minutes, broke off the line on the coral. I switched to Cody’s 7# fly rod, and Andrew and Cody rigged my rod with a new leader. I used a crab pattern, had a hook-up on the second strip, and the fish broke off the line immediately. I waited for Andrew and Cody to finish rigging my fly rod, handed them Cody’s fly rod for re-rigging, and began casting. This time I was using a Big Dale Bonefish Fly. For approximately 20 minutes, I was catching Bluefin Trevallys, but they were weighing in at .5 lb or less. I switched flies to a White Gotcha to keep the smaller fish from being able to eat the fly. I had a hook-up; the fish swam back to the coral, and broke off at the shock tippet on the coral bed. Since the class tippet was still intact, we tied on a Chartreuse and White, Lead-eye Clouser. I hooked a fish after many strips. It swam back to the coral, but I was able to keep the line from breaking. I played the fish for approximately 10 minutes, beached, and weighed the fish at .75 lb.

We decided to practice taking the measurements and photos using this fish. Fearing the receding tide was going to force us to move, we also clipped the fly line just in case this was our last fish at this spot. We preserved the line, released the fish alive, and Cody and Andrew began to make a new loop in my fly line and re-rig my fly rod. Andrew reported that we had about 15 minutes left of fishing before the outgoing tide trapped us on the island.

Following Andrew’s recommendation, Cody tied on a bead chain eye, Chartreuse and White Clouser. Then, Andrew and Cody resumed re-rigging my fly line. At this time, there were two 4.4lb/2kg class tippet leaders remaining. Andrew suggested taking the skiff boat out beyond the reef and walking back, so we could remain fishing on St. Fran├žois. We all liked the idea, and Andrew and Cody began gathering the fly rods, fly boxes, bum bags, and other accoutrements, and headed toward the skiff. At 10:17, as they were walking away, I hooked up with a fish. This fish fought harder than most of the other ones I had landed, and I hollered back at them that I had a hook-up which might be successful. Cody began timing the catch, and Andrew came back to the area where I was fishing. Andrew stayed for about five minutes, returned to the boat to sort through what would be left behind, prepared to move the boat, and then, returned back to where I was fishing.

This fish fought differently, making only one run back to the coral beds. Mostly, this fish swam right to left and left to right. I noticed many other fishes—Mullet, Bonefish, Bluefin Trevallys, and a Milkfish chasing the Bluefin I had hooked.  (Once we saw how the fish was hooked, we understood why the fish never made any long runs out.  All the other fish were harassing the hooked one, trying to eat the fly out of its mouth.  This "chase" tired the fish faster and really prevented it from running back out to the coral beds.  Luck can't be created, but I'll take good luck everytime it comes my way!) After a seven minute fight, I beached the fish, and a Bonefish had followed my hooked fish on to the beach. Cody nudged the Bonefish back into the water. Then, Cody weighed the Bluefin on the Boga Grip, and it weighed just slightly over 1 lb. Andrew looked at it, agreed on the weight, and we decided to boat to East Knoll to weigh and measure the fish. Keeping the fish on the Boga in the water, I began walking back to the skiff, when a Lemon Shark appeared. Andrew stayed between my catch and the shark, keeping it away from my fish. After the shark swam away, Andrew hustled to the skiff, helped Cody load everything on to it, got a small jug filled with saltwater, and we put the Bluefin into the jug.

We boated approximately three minutes to East Knoll, located in the vicinity of 7°08’25.26”S 52°45’21.10”E. Guide Scott Keller had boated anglers David Leake and Randy Cupp to fish East Knoll for Bonefish, so they were present when we arrived. Scott and David came over to see us weigh, measure, and release the Bluefin Trevally. We weighed and photographed the fish and then returned it to the water. We measured the X to X, photographed, and returned it to the water. We measured the XX to XX, photographed, and returned it to the water waiting a little longer before pulling it out to measure its girth. After the girth measurement and photos, we took the photos of the full length fish, fly rod, and reel, close-up fish, fly rod, and reel, and the fly as it was hooked in the fish’s mouth. Unfortunately, this Bluefin Trevally did not survive regardless our efforts to keep it oxygenated during the measuring and photos. We all felt that the boat ride to East Knoll stressed the fish rendering our efforts to keep it oxygenated futile.

While Andrew tried to revive the Bluefin, Cody and I clipped the fly line, preserved the line, leader, and tippet, preserved the paper where we recorded our measurements and time, and rigged a new loop and leader in Cody’s 7# rod. Cody began fishing for Bonefish and Bigeye Trevally, and Andrew and I preserved my Bluefin Trevally in the ice chest, so we could take it back to the ICS conservation team on Alphonse Island so they could have it for research studies.

The application, account, Boga Grip, 2kg empty spool, pictures, and fly line have  been submitted to and received by IGFA.  Now, we play the waiting game.

Weighing on East Knoll

XX - XX Length Measurement
X - X Length Measurement

Girth Measurement

Close-up of Cody's Rod, Reel, and Bluefin

Fish with Beadchain Eye Chartruese & White Clouser Fly as he took it

Andrew & I completing the IGFA Application


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sounds like a complicated process and a lot of work. I think you deserve a badge just for the effort. I wish you well and hope you get your record.

  3. Thank you for your kind sentiments, Jay.

    Louisiana Guide Kirby LaCour, who's guided 12 people to IGFA records, told Cody and I that a client of his caught a record fish, and they completed all the rules; paperwork and photos were good. This gentleman used Rio tippet for his class section. IGFA tests the submitted line 15 times, which means they break it 15 times to test the line strength. On the 13th break, the line broke 2/10s stronger than what it was supposed to be, so even though 14 of the 15 times the line strength was not stronger than the category for which this man was vying, the man could not be awarded the record because of that 2/10s stronger 1" section!

    Kirby phoned Rio and spoke with them in detail about it, and if I understand everything correctly, Rio changed their tippet processing due to this. I am a Rio Girl, so we will see what happens. I did my best on everything that was within my control.


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