As soon as the photos hit social media, skeptics started calling bull. The images showed an angler standing on a rocky shoreline, fly rod dangling over his shoulder, holding a hefty swordfish. The post described how Thomas Paulsen, a Maldives flyfishing guide, spotted, enticed, hooked and landed the trophy swordfish. Catching a swordfish with a fly rod is almost impossible, but pulling off the achievement from the beach is unbelievable.
But this fish story is true.
Silencing the Critics
When people question his story, Paulsen laughs and says, “Some people are always going to be a pain in the ass.” Of course, the photos and story are real. Paulsen is a professional guide at GTFlyfishing, specializing in catching giant trevally from coral beaches in the middle of the Indian Ocean. His day job is unbelievable — he doesn’t need to stretch a fish tale for internet clout.
Paulsen says the overall reaction has been positive with congratulations and kudos coming from all over the globe and every corner of the fishing world. Still, he admits, “I can’t believe what happened.”
An Unbelievable Wade Fishing Catch
Paulsen was fishing on his day off, wading the edge of a coral reef, looking for fish swimming close to shore. “About 150 yards off the reef crust, the water depth drops 3,000 feet,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to see billfish hunting in the area.” Two days earlier, he spotted a school of marlin from shore.
When he saw a huge fish making a big commotion in the distance, Paulsen moved in to investigate. “I noticed a bill come out of the water and I thought it was a sailfish,” he said.
Sight Fishing A Swordfish
The angler waded deeper as the fish moved toward him. Paulsen uses a Winston Air Salt 9-foot, 12-weight rod and Hatch Finatic 9 Plus reel. His reel was loaded with 350 yards of 80-pound braided line beneath RIO GT 475 gram line and 9 feet of 130-pound-test Momoi Hi-Catch fluorocarbon, ending in a custom black and green fly on an 8/0 Gamakatsu hook.
When the fish moved into range, Paulsen made three casts without answer. On the fourth cast, the fish turned, zeroed in on his fly and attacked. After Paulsen set the hook, the huge billfish ran 200 yards parallel to the reef. “If it escaped to the deep, I would never have stopped it,” he said.
Then, the fish turned toward the reef and swam into shallow water where it flailed helplessly in a shower of spray. Moving closer, Paulsen finally got a good look at his catch. “That’s when it hit me, I caught a swordfish.”
How to Land an Angry Swordfish
Tackling a green swordfish in knee deep water on a sharp coral reef is dangerous, so Paulsen called a friend over to help him subdue the trophy. “By now my adrenaline is pumping and I almost fainted,” he remembered.
Catching a swordfish with a fly rod is a lifetime achievement for any angler. Landing the fish from the shore requires so many things to go right. No gambler would take those odds. Paulsen’s unbelievable catch weighed 102 pounds and measured 5 feet long, from tip of its chin to the curve of the tail.
“In 40 years of fishing, this is the craziest thing that has happened to me,” Paulsen says. He doesn’t expect to repeat this achievement or even best it. “I just can’t understand the huge amount of luck,” Paulsen said.