Quite abundant, but perhaps not always the most welcomed fish, Pla Tong, as they are called in Thai, often show up when targeting other species. If fishing from shore or close to it, you will sooner or later encounter them, whether you are fishing with small flies or big flies, they will be there, as long as it moves fast and near the surface. Their long sleek body shape is made for speed, and they really are very fast and agile. You often see them coming leaping like a dolphin at high speed when chasing baitfish or a fly.
They come with a turquoise-greenish back, silvery sides, and a sharp beak(full of pointy teeth). Typical sizes are in the 0.5 – 1.5kg range, but they grow larger. The larger specimens however, tend to be further out at sea. I would imagine they would be awesome on a fly rod.
It’s normally not the species you target specifically, and they can often be a slight disappointment when it turns out it wasn’t that big queenie that took your bait. It’s not that they are bad fighters, quite the opposite in fact. It is just that they are not the general first hand choice. On a #7 – 8 weight rod, they are actually quite a sport with their fast runs and acrobatic jumps. With their sleek profile, however, they don’t have the best endurance, and a fight generally doesn’t last too long.
They love fast moving flashy flies, and the size of the fly doesn’t seem to matter much, as long as it is flashy and fast moving. With their long beak, they can be very difficult to hook, and their constant nibbling at the fly can be quite annoying when you are targeting other species. They are also very good at removing fluff on the fly with their sharp teeth.
Handling a needlefish can be tricky. They are very aggressive and will happily sink their teeth into a careless hand. They can basically tie a knot onto themselves, so caution is advised when grabbing one. They are also very agile and fast in the water, and can make very sharp turns.
I don’t claim to be an expert in this, but if targeting them specifically, I would try using a bait in the 5 – 15 cm range, using one of the following methods:
- Use a tube fly, but let the hook be tied on piece of line extending some 5 – 10 cm from the end of the fly. I would use a small treble in the size 12 – 8. The reason for the additional line behind the hook is purely empirical. Knowing how they nibble at the tail of the fly, I believe a piece of line behind the fly with a small treble would twist around the beak of the fish and hook its beak.I know from my youth, reading Swedish fishing magazines where they wrote about targeting needlefish with small lures, and having the treble extend behind the lure with a piece of line. I didn’t understand the reason at that time, but it makes more sense now after having been in contact with them.
The downside using this method is of course that the treble might tangle with the leader…
- Don’t bother much about the hook at all, because it won’t actually be what actually hooks the fish. Instead tie the fly using long fine, fluffy synthetic fibers. This requires slightly longer flies. The teeth of the fish will actually tangle in the fibers, why the hook is actually redundant. I know this works from own experience. The nice 1.5kg fish from the picture above caught by my friend was actually caught with this method. At the time, we were targeting bigger unspecified species and my friend borrowed a 20 cm long fly, tied with EP-fibers on a single short-shank hook. The needlefish took the fly and actually tangled its teeth in fibers and couldn’t come loose. I’m certain this is a good method after this, and not only a happenstance, knowing how long and pointy needlefish teeth are.
As I have mentioned above, I am no expert fishing needlefish specifically. They just tend to be everywhere, and it is just unavoidable to be in contact with them at times. The methods described above are just what I would use if I targeted them. They are, in my humble opinion, somewhat under-rated, even for me, and are great sport on lighter equipment.