Needlefish

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.

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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.

The weapons of a needlefish.

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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.

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6 thoughts on “Needlefish

  1. Heyho,

    your blog and your videos are so interesting for me. I will go to Thailand in march and i cannot find anything about flyfishing at the coasts in the web. Can you tell me where you were chasing these fishes? I will be on the west coast near Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Pukhet etc.

    Greetings and tight lines!
    Johannes

    • Hi,

      I can honestly say I have not fished on the west coast for quite some time, and not much at all in fact. I seldom have time going there, as I live in Bangkok. The east coast is closer to me, and therefore I usually fish there when I have time. Apart from the species I usually find on the east coast, the west coast has some additional interesting species, such as GT, Dorado, various Tunas and many more. Though you definitely need a boat to target Dorado and Tunas. GT’s probably doable from land, if you find a good spot at the right time. I don’t know any unfortunately.

      Some places, like Phi Phi, which has a rocky shore, can be hard to fish from land. Depending on where you stay though, you may be able to reach some places from a Kayak. The stone outside Long beach is interesting, although it tend to be crowded with people snorkelling. Otherwise you will need to go with a longtail boat. Depending on time and season, the price to charter one may vary from 1500 – 3000 THB. Beware that the longtail boats usually have a high bow sticking up in the front, which can make it hard to cast from if you flyfish. Another problem is that the skipper likely does not know much about flyfishing, and will head out to fish Sailfish, Spanish Mackerel or bottom fish using angling methods. You will basically have to tell him what you seek.

      I have no experience at all fishing in Krabi, though I am sure there are many nice places. Phuket has some, although the fishing has been so-so. I have mostly fished at the southern part of Phuket. At Promthep Cape, which is the most southern tip of Phuket, I have tried once or twice. It looks very good there, but I have not been fortunate so far. I caught one Barracuda at the tip of the cape last time I was there. The tidal currents are very strong, and I am 100% there are GT’s around, or at least were. You can also find Queenfish there I am sure. The Needlefish are about everywhere. If you walk out on the southern tip of Promthep Cape, beware of the waves when you step out. If you fall there, you can hurt yourself badly on the sharp rocks. I think the best is to charter a longtail just around the cape on Rawai Beach. Apart from the cape, there are also some interesting islands around, which you will need a boat to reach.

      I have also fished along the rocky shore south of Kata beach, and caught smaller Queenfish there. I am sure there are bigger ones as well. Sadly, the fishing around there may not be what it once was. Lots of people fish, and they(locals and tourists) normally take up all fish, which has had a noticeable impact, unfortunately.

      Depending on what you target, you will need a rod/flies to match, and unfortunately, different flies for different species. What rod weight are you bringing?

      Queenfish: 5 – 15cm flies, such as clousers and deceivers on 1/0 – 4/0 hooks. Rod weight #8 – 10. Around stones in the water, reefs and even beaches. Falling/Rising tide is best.
      Barracuda: 15cm+ pike flies or needlefish patterns, on 3/0 – 5/0+ hooks. Rod weight #9 – 10. Everywhere, and nowhere:) Dusk and Dawn are best times.
      Needlefish: 5 – 10cm flies with lots of flash. Rod weight #7 – 8. They are everywhere, but tricky to hook.
      GT: 15cm+ flies. Rod weight #10+

      Don’t forget sunscreen and lots of water. You need it, believe me.

      Welcome to Thailand, and have a nice holiday. Let me know how it goes for you!

  2. Hi,

    at first I want to thank you for your Tipps and your time 🙂
    Like you wrote it is so hard to find informations about saltwater flyfishing in Thailand and you are the only source for me.

    Like you said i think the best way to catch some fish is to rent a boat or a kayak and go to the small islands which aren’t crowded with tourists. Is it dangerous to go with the kayak or is the sea calm?

    I will bring a Saltwater #9 onehand rod with a floating bonefish flyline.
    I tied a few clousers, deceivers amd poppers in the colors you described. White,chartreuse,pink on 1/0 – 4/0 hooks. I think with that combination I am flexible and can hook and land most of the fishes.

    I’ve read your report 🙂 so I can imagine which amount of water I have to bring.

    I will write a report and send it to you after this holiday.

    Thanks a lot and greetings from Germany 🙂

    • Hi,

      A kayak definitely has some advantages over a boat in some instances, and sometimes you need a boat. I just a have problem feeling relaxed with a skipper along who is not fishing, so I try to avoid that if I can. The longtails can be troublesome casting from as well. A kayak too, if you cannot sit on your knees. Best is to fish from land, and in my opinion, the most fun as well:)

      I cannot really say how the sea will be when you are there, but often at this time of year and moving forward, there should be less and less wind. The most important is how you feel about it. If you don’t feel good about it, then don’t go:) If it is windy/big waves, perhaps that day is not a good day in any event.

      A #9 rod is a great general purpose rod here. Wish I had one too:) A floating line should be ok, though I mostly fish with an intermediate. In most cases, however, a floating line would had been just as good though. Most takes for me are just on/below surface. Especially if you target Queenfish/Barracuda.

      With some luck, I will be heading out in coming months as well. I have not had time to fish since August last year, and have been comforting myself with tying flies since:) Will probably write a blog about the flies I have tied shortly.

      I look forward to hearing your report, and I wish you a great holiday here!

      Janne

  3. Great blog!

    Going to Thailand/malaysia the 18 of february. Been throlling the web for some information about flyfishing thailand. Your the best.

    Prepped my self with #7 travelrod and 3 different lines, sink, inter and float. Brought some crabflies also including your tips of flies.

    Really hope my equipment isnt to weak, saw your recomandation for rod/line now.

    Im going to khanom/koh tao/KL/tioman. Really hope I can get some of your experience. Taken your advice.

    Erik/Norway

    • Hi Erik,

      I’ve never been to Tioman, but I’ve heard it’s very nice there(from a beach point of view). Know nothing of the fishing there, but I’m sure it can be great. I’m positive both Khanom and Koh Tao are great locations for some Queenfish and Barracuda, not to mention needlefish.

      A #7 could be a little on the weak side against wind and for queenies and cudas: queenfish, because they’re helluva fighters and damn heavy when they use their deep profile to brace with. Not impossible though, just not optimal:). Cudas tend to like bigger sized flies, which could be a problem with a #7. Not to say they don’t bite smaller bait too, so not impossible there either. Needlefish are great fun on a #7 though, I’m sure!

      Let me know about your experience. I’m eager to hear.

      Skitfiske!

      /Janne

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