With perfect conditions, my hubris swelled, and I ended up placing a friendly wager with my fishing buddy, John Frazier. We had arrived in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, two days earlier and caught a half-dozen sailfish on our first outing. On our second day of fishing, Frazier was scheduled to fly-fish on one of Parrot Bay's 30-foot Sea Vee center consoles, and I would fish conventional tackle on a sister boat. We each had our own captain and crew, but the odds were stacked in my favor. Frazier, an expert fly-fisherman with years of experience catching snook, tarpon and redfish, had never targeted billfish with the long wand. I, on the other hand, got to use some very familiar 20-pound conventional tackle. How could I lose?
Our breakfast conversation that morning went something like this: "Man, you ready to land your first sail on the fly?"
"You know it."
"I guess so. The mates gave me a quick lesson last night while you where bragging about how badly you were going to out-fish me today."
"I bet I out-fish you at least two to one."
"OK, you're on."
The Perfect Bite
We set out our spread of teasers for some pitch-baiting about 15 miles off of Matapalo Rock. The crews of the various lodges in the Golfito and Puerto Jimenez region use Matapalo as their waypoint. The large rock sits just off the point and marks the entrance to Golfo Dulce.
Before heading offshore, we filled the baitwell with a nice supply of blue runners and threadfin herring. After an hour run from Parrot Bay, Capt. Darren McClave eased back on the throttles, and we set out four teasers - a skirted ballyhoo in each outrigger and ballyhoo-and-bird combos on the shorts. We ran one horse ballyhoo way back off the shotgun should a
dorado or marlin decide to crash the party.
About a quarter-mile off our starboard side, Capt. Cory Craig set out his fly-fishing spread for Frazier. They ran three teasers, leaving one of the 'riggers up to give Frazier plenty of room to make a cast.
We trolled for about an hour and hadn't seen a single sailfish when the radio crackled to life.
"John just made a cast to a sailfish," Craig said. McClave looked at me and picked up the mic.
"Did he hook it?"
The sailfish fought deep, putting Frazier and his flimsy 12-weight rod to the test. It took him a good 35 minutes to inch the 90-pound fish up to the surface. When he got a glimpse of the tired, all-jumped-out sail, the look on his face quickly transformed from pain to pleasure.
"A bit different from a tarpon, aye, Johnny?" I yelled. He smiled and took one last look at the fish before Craig released it.
With some ground to make up, McClave and I quickly got back into the groove. I watched the baits for another two hours or so, ready to pitch a livey at a moment's notice. Then the damn radio crackled again: "John is hooked up." McClave and I looked at each other, suspecting beginner's luck. "You might want to come over here - it's a blue marlin!" Craig said. That's when our jaws hit the deck.
Frazier made two casts that day and caught both fish - a sail and an estimated 150-pound blue marlin - on a 12-weight! And, he retrieved his fly both times. We didn't raise a single fish (it even happens in the world's best sailfish spots). The only consolation was throwing Frazier in the water when we got back to the pier.