Barracuda may be the most underrated saltwater species to catch on a fly. After hooking one, imagine this scenario: the fish is on the end of the line thrashing and running, suddenly the line goes slack. You think the fish is off but he's not because you stand in amazement as you watch a 5 foot barracuda leap 15 feet into the air like a missile being launched from below the surface of the ocean. This is an impressive sight and a very frequent occurrence making the barracuda a favorite of fisherman.
Alas, they are not considered by many to be game fish, and remain the troublesome partner of the flats that contain the other species we seek.
They are primarily seen in tropical and subtropical areas where they serve as apex predators as they have no natural enemy. Once they become small adults in the 18-24 inch range they are virtually unchallenged by predators. They are incredibly agile and strong and can swin as fast as 40 miles per hour (~80kph).
Fly Fishing for them can be incredibly difficult at times as they are true speed demons. What does this mean? Well if the bait (or fly) isn't moving fast enough the barracuda will not chase & attack it. They love the chase and the challenge of a fast moving prey. It also makes them less likely to be attacked or injured if they remain in their safety zone until launching after food.
There are different techniques for enticing them to strike but like any other fish, sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't.
1. Double handed strip
The first technique is the double handed strip in which you throw your fly out in the vicinity of the barracuda, usually just in front of it or just beside it. You then place your rod handle under your arm, in your armpit and use both hands to furiously strip you line in. The only issue here is making sure you have a plan for a strike. Depending on the circumstances the rod could be easily pulled from your grip so please be careful.
2. Zig-Zag spey
The second technique we like is casting you fly as before in the usual manner and placement. You will the use large sweeping movements to the left and right almost like a two handed Spey cast but leave your fly in the water. This movement will produce a very fast zig zag pattern and will appear to be a fleeing baitfish and will usually produce a strike. Flyboss likes this technique best.
3. "Dry" fly casting
The third technique is actually a series of casts with very little pause between casts. This action will mimic a baitfish jumping out of the water and will usually excite the nearby barracuda and trigger a strike. They appear to become angry that they can't locate the prey and will strike just as the fly hits the water in anticipation of it disappearing again. This technique is probably the hardest of the three but is the most rewarding as it feels like catching a big trout on a dry fly which as you know is quite a rush.
*Alternately you can also troll a fly behind the skiff but this is just for the fight as there is no casting, set or hook up to experience. This technique requires no specific casting skill or technique what-so-ever. It's just mentioned for you to keep in your back pocket for that particularly bad day when you just want to fight a fish. (we've all had them)
Make sure you use a metal tippet at least 12 inches long. It can be wrapped wire or tyable nylon covered steel. It really doesn't matter, just make sure you have enough tippet & flies as you'll be re-rigging after each fish. Barracudas destroy everything, without exception. They always destroy your fly, tippet and sometimes your line and leader. We had one almost give a reel a fatal melt down in Belize a few years ago.