By Joe | March 25, 2019 at 11:55 PM EDT | No Comments
Ever since I read Trey Combs' book, Bluewater Fly Fishing and heard the incredible stories from Ed Rice on fly fishing on a long range boat out of San Diego down the Baja Coast, I could only dream about it. Finally the chance arrived at the end of November last year. I embarked with 15 other anglers from CA, OR, ID, WA and BC, to join in on a trip of a lifetime for some 550 miles down the Baja coast to seek the fastest pelagic fish in the sea. We were aboard the 92' Shogun from Fisherman's Landing, San Diego, and hoping for shots on various species of tuna, striped marlin, dorado, yellowtail or whatever predator was available to eat our fly! This was a 10-day trip as we fished our way to Thetis Banks for the renowned striped marlin and wahoo. Most of us were first timers to this game and believe me, this is completely different than fly fishing in a panga. The captain and boat crew were highly experienced in bluewater fishing and the boat had thousands of live sardines along with extra mackeral caught by the crew. Live chum is key and I can't imagine being on the open ocean without it!
It had been over 20+ years since the last bluewater fly fishing trip and thanks to Rustry Travis and his uncle, Ray Beadle, it became reality. Ray is a long time saltwater fly fisherman and overall salty dog his whole life. He has landed many pelagic species on the fly per IGFA regulations and especially billfish. We were also fortunate to have Steve Abel and Marty and Janet Downey (Janet was the only female angler and even managed a nice marlin all on her own!). Steve and Ray were very generous in helping out the "newbies" to make sure their gear was in order and were also fantastic coaches! Steve Abel has many experiences on the ocean and he was very helpful to explain how everything goes down (literally) when the wide open bite comes on! He also added a great sense of humor in his story telling!
I've caught a few tuna on the fly rod as in small skip jacks and bonito, but never in a Chinese fire drill with a big school around the boat going crazy on live chum! A short roll coast, a quick strip or two and WHAM! No need to set the hook. Its been said that if a skipjack could grow over 20 lbs, you'd never land one. In fact one guy on the trip broke his 12 wt SAGE trying to horse one in! They are powerful!
My first goal was to hook up with a yellowfin tuna and this happened right out of the gate on the first stop at a place called, The Ridge. I never could begin to imagine even after being told, how powerful the yellowfin really is. My first one was about 17 lbs and at first, I thought for sure it was going to empty my reel! After about 20-30 min, when it hit the deck, I was entranced with buck fever like non other! I was really hoping for an all out tug of war, ass whupin with a yellowfin over 50 lbs, but we did not encounter fish of that size. Definitely another bar set for a future trip!
Last but not least was the action from striped marlin. We had 8 fly hook ups and 4 landed and I was fortunate to be one of them. At incredible speeds and a matter of seconds, a striped marlin is well past 200 yards on its initial run and flying out of the ocean as if it had attached rocket boosters. Very impressive to say the least. It is glorious agony and pain never felt so good! If you've never had bruises on or around your navel, this how you do it, lol. I was also the only angler who was able to jump off the mother ship and onto a inflatable to chase down my marlin. We were given two bottles of water and a handheld radio! I always made sure the big boat was in site! After I landed my marlin, the deck hand says, "Quick! Get ready to cast there's another marlin up ahead!". I'm completely worn out and I told him, " I don't think I have enough in me to fight another one"! But he just smiled and said, "no worries, I'll fight it for ya".
There were also dorado, black skipjack and bonito caught to add to the list. The fishing as great, but we had ocean temperature conditions that were changing and unfortunately cooling off and that made things a little more challenging. In all, I had a great time and I hope to do it again. The comradery was great, met some super nice and experienced fly fishers, and the boat crew was awsome. They worked very hard to insure us the best trip we could have! If you think you might be interested in a trip like this, please contact me and I'd be happy to give the details. Or , if you would like to pick my brains on preparing for a trip like this, fire away!
Tite lines on the big blue pond,