Sealing the Deal
All species of sharks have two or more rows of teeth enclosed in one of the toughest mouths a fish can have. To get a good hook-set, you have to use a quick series of firm strip strikes. Usually sharks get hooked in the lip, which is quite strong. So if you get a good set, the shark will probably stay on unless the line or leader rubs excessively against its rough skin or another shark cruising nearby grazes it.
Most of the sharks fly-fishermen target are plenty sporty on a 9-weight and will jump and pull pretty hard. But if you're going after big sharks, you should bring bigger guns with strong backbones and fighting butts. Spinner sharks off the coast of Florida range from 50 to 100 pounds, while hammerheads in the Keys can go hundreds of pounds. (See "Shark Fishing, Southern Style" on page 53.) When you're fighting any kind of hard-pulling shark, you have to be on your best game to get them in fast, before you're both too tired to recover. Keeping your rod low and off to the side in the Stu Apte "down-and-dirty" tradition of fighting big fish will maximize your efforts. While many species of sharks make blistering runs, some, like blue sharks, will try to go down in deeper water. In this situation, you have to "short-stroke" them, or lift the rod only slightly and try to get one crank at a time on the reel. Captains typically don't like to use the boat too much because you could trash your chum slick or wind up much farther away from it than you'd like.
You've done everything right - the fishing gods have kept those other hungry sharks far from your fly line, and your 50-pounder is just inches from the boat.
Now you are ready to snap a few pictures, give your fish a kiss and send it on its way. When it gets alongside the boat, use caution. No matter how small a shark is, they are all very limber and can easily bend around and bite you. Even the smallest of teeth are razor-sharp and can do some serious damage. The best idea is to use some type of dehooker to remove the fly while the shark is still in the water next to the boat. You can also use bronze hooks and release your catch with a little lip jewelry - it will rust loose very quickly in salt water. Either option is better than playing tag with a toothy, pissed-off predator thrashing around the inside of your boat.
Getting Shrimpy with It
Near what's called the "Crystal Coast" off Morehead City, North Carolina, fly-anglers are discovering great shark action, and they're not limited to one area or one species. The more they fish here and the Cape Lookout area, the more fly-hungry sharks they find. Part of their success is knowing where to look, and part is employing a tactic Gulf Coast anglers have been using regularly for years - fishing behind shrimp boats.