Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Go With the Flow

For the rest of the day, he stood in the port corner of the boat, rod in hand, becoming more agitated.

In the past few weeks of football playoffs, often players would try to force a pass, run or tackle in an attempt to compensate for a broken play. It reminded me of how many anglers attempt to do the same thing.

As prolific as Baja fishing is, there are times when it can behave likewise, refusing to perform as expected. When that happens many anglers react, resolutely attempting to coerce the conditions to fulfill their expectations which usually results in a disappointing trip.

A few years ago I fished with an angler from the East Coast, who had traveled to many of the world's striped marlin hotspots with limited results. After hearing the many stories of double-digit shots at marlin attacking the hookless teasers in Magdalena Bay, he was convinced to make the cross-continent trip to catch striped marlin on the fly. For months emails were exchanged, tackle, flies and techniques were covered extensively and thousands of dollars were spent in booking the six-day trip on a sixty-foot boat. He planned to fish alone so that every opportunity for a striped marlin would be his. By the time he arrived, I was convinced that his trip would be one of my most memorable and it was…

We met at Puerto San Carlos to begin the trip; tackle was rigged, techniques discussed and strategies established. The following morning, we ran through the Entrada and headed downhill toward our last hot spot. The hookless teasers bubbled in the wake as we watched and waited.

It wasn’t long before a shimmering gold bull dorado streaked behind the flat line. If you fly fish you get use to refusals. However, it is usually the fish not the angler who refuses. The dorado was in easy casting distance and I screamed over the noise of the engine, ”CAST”! My client looked at me shaking his head, "I only want marlin."

For the rest of the day, he stood in the port corner of the boat, rod in hand, becoming more agitated. He shook his head in refusal as dorado, tuna, and wahoo continued to appear so frequently behind the teasers that I felt like Professor Harold Hill in Music Man leading the parade.

By day’s end, it was clear the marlin that had been so plentiful the week before were gone… down or who knows what. I was sure that the second day ‘Mr. Marlin’ would lighten up and take a few shots at other species for practice or at least to catch dinner.

However, the second day was more of the same, except we actually raised five marlin. Mr. Marlin missed four and caught one. After watching his performance, I realized he needed all the practice he could get. However, no matter what I said, he never consented to cast to anything but a billfish. He absolutely refused to attempt to cast to any other fish that frequently appeared in the wake.

The final day, we found the mother lode of marlin that we had been seeing the prior week. Mr. Marlin had his multiple shots and demonstrated his woeful inexperience as he managed to catch only a couple. Instead of using the week to fine-tune his skills, he stood in the port corner with what I am sure he would describe as ‘firm resolve’ waiting for striped marlin. In my book, he was "forcing it."
Magdalena Bay 2009 season was one that will go down in the record book as an unusual year. Most of the yachts and sportfishing fleet that came in search of billfish soon were seen heading over the horizon when their target couldn't be found, leaving in their wake some of the best wahoo, tuna and dorado fishing in recent memory… not to mention the Estero fishing which was equally as good.

Sportfishing, like football, requires an understanding of the conditions available and exploiting them, not trying to force the fishery to fit your expectations. Go with the flow!