The garfish is a very common guest in many Northern European countries. It is normally a pelagic fish whose migration pattern is not known in detail. But one thing is for shure: these fish will return to spawn in shallow and rich areas along the coasts many places in Europe.
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|Garfish (Belone belone)
This section is the manuscript for chapter in a book on fly fishing in salt water in Northern Europe. The subjects covered here are also covered elsewhere on this web site. There are links to all relevant pages.
The garfish is a very common guest in many Northern European countries. It is normally a pelagic fish whose migration pattern is not known in detail. But one thing is for shure: these fish will return to spawn in shallow and rich areas along the coasts many places in Europe. The pattern of their behavior is well known in this respect, and normally they are very reliable, and will return precisely within days each year. In the outer Baltic area the season starts in the end of April and the start of May, and the fish can be followed towards south and east after this time. The fish will disappear again in less than a month and not return before the autumn where their appearance is less synchronized and fishing is much more sporadic.
The fish are mostly active in the daytime and even more so on mild, sunny days. This makes the first warm spring days in May ideal for a garfish outing. Choose a day with light wind as it enhances your possibilities of seeing the fish in the water.
They can be found everywhere from the deeper parts of the open ocean to the inner fjords. Normally you can spot them either moving over light bottoms in shallow water or tumbling in the surface during their mating ritual. They are not willing to bite while engaged in that ritual, but both right before and right after. Also mating fish will be a sign of other fish in the vicinity and it's a good idea to stay in an area with surface action.
If you see no fish, try looking for sandy bottom on depths of 0.5 to 1.5 meters (1.5-5') cut by patches of sea weed, sand bars, stone reefs or other significant 'landmarks'. The fish will often follow these natural corridors on their way. You can also look on a map to find places like points or narrow sounds that the fish have to pass on their way into the Baltic. These are bound to hold garfish.
If you see fish, just cast to them and let your fly sink a bit. Then retrieve slowly, maybe in small jerks. The figure-of-eight retrieve comes in handy here. Contrary to what many people think, this fast moving fish isn't only stimulated by fast moving food items. The fish will go for the fly and often miss a couple of times. Have patience and strike lightly on any feeling of weight in the rod. Keep on retrieving even if you have felt or have missed a fish.
When you have fish on, be prepared for some wild runs and jumps. Even a 0.5 kilo garfish will take line off a 5 wt. rod. Also be prepared to loose a few fish. They are hard to hook properly.
The fish are excellent food - don't be scared by their iridescent green bones, they are absolutely harmless - but keep in mind that you can only eat so many fish, and release the majority on a good day.