Want a challenging winter getaway? Try sailfish on a fly rod!

Sailfish sojourn

Want to test your fly-fishing mettle? Head south this winter and tackle Guatemala’s powerful billfish

As seven feet of iridescent-blue fish—all sword and muscle and great leathery fin—rocketed into the air just 60 feet from the boat (above), my eyes bulged in astonishment and I tightened my death grip on my fly rod. This was the strongest, wildest, most violent fish I’d ever felt, and not by a small margin.

Then, as the great fish accelerated away from Guatemala’s Pacific coast in the general direction of American Samoa, I had a fleeting thought: perhaps some activities just shouldn’t be attempted with fly-fishing tackle, and landing a 90-pound Pacific sailfish just might be one of them. How did I get into this predicament? I blame it all on my good friend Phil Shook.

For several years, Phil, one of my saltwater fishing mentors, had been suggesting a big-game fly-fishing trip. At the top of his list of destinations was Guatemala, which is almost certainly the best place in the world to land a sailfish. I wasn’t sure I was ready, but Phil persisted.

So, last April I set aside my doubts and we headed to Pacific Fins Resort and Marina in the quiet seaside town of Iztapa, about a two-hour drive from Guatemala City. I thought I knew what I was in for, but simply reading that Pacific sailfish can swim 40 kilometres an hour doesn’t really prepare you for the real thing…

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