Dr. Martin Arostegui recently shifted gears from chasing IGFA world records to a new pursuit: A quest to be the first angler to successfully catch and release a Royal Billfish Slam on fly. To accomplish his goal, he will target black marlin, Atlantic and Pacific blue marlin, white marlin, striped marlin, Atlantic and Pacific sailfish, swordfish and spearfish. Earlier this year, Arostegui successfully released a spearfish on a trip to Kona, Hawaii, to mark off perhaps the most elusive of the billfish species from his list (read more about that trip, along with a photo gallery of the experience).
Next on the list: black marlin. Arostegui headed to Australia with his wife Roberta in hopes of tangling with a nice black on fly. The following is his recap of that experience.
To continue the quest for the Royal Billfish Slam on fly, we fished with Capt. Jono Shales in Exmouth, Western Australia. On our first fishing day, the weather was very good and Jono suggested that we should start fishing very early and stay late if needed because we might be getting bad weather soon.
Jono fishes out of a 22-foot boat that is similar to our bay boats we fish from here in the U.S. He uses only one teaser rod, which he holds himself while running the boat at the same time. This strategy might sound crazy to some, but Jono is truly an expert fly-fisherman and is just as comfortable in shallow water as in the deep blue ocean. This setup made it very simple for the angler as well.
We raised our first fish after about an hour of trolling. The black marlin appeared to be around 150 to 175 pounds. The fish came in and switched to the fly without any problems, so I set the hook and the fish ran about 50 feet then turned back toward the boat. I reeled as fast as I could and got a release, but within a few seconds the fly pulled and we could not get the required photo for the royal slam.
Later that morning we raised a wahoo that ate the fly and got hooked in the corner of the mouth. We released it after a few quick photos, andt was the first wahoo on fly for me and Jono as well.
At around 3:30 p.m., we raised another black marlin that also came in and switched to the fly. The fish actually came all the way to the transom and ate the fly going away, which resulted in a perfect hook up. The marlin jumped all over the place and took a lot of backing. I was able to get the release in about 30 minutes, but then the fish sounded and the fight lasted another two hours before I could bring the marlin boat-side for a photo.
I have to thank my good friend Rufus Wakeman because he recommended both Capt. Kevin Nakamaru in Hawaii and Capt. Jono Shales in Australia. Rufus was spot on with both calls. Western Australia in a great place to fly-fish and Jono is a master guide that truly understands how to fish for these black marlin.