Old Reliable Sets New Team Billfish Records for Striped Marlin

Consistent fishing in Mexico yields a new personal best.

Old Reliable Sets New Team Billfish Records for Striped Marlin
Cole Watkins and Nick Smith handle a doubleheader in the cockpit of Old Reliable.Courtesy Old Reliable

In the world of offshore fly-fishing, the Old Reliable team of Nick Smith and his longtime skipper, Capt. Chip Shafer, needs no introduction. They have been at the forefront of the sport and continue to set impressive personal and team records along the way. This is Smith's recounting of their recent season in Mexico.

It seems like the fishing in Magdalena Bay, Mexico, just keeps getting better each year. We started fishing the fall striped marlin season there in 2001, and our best fishing has been during the past five or six years. We’ve been able to establish new fly-rod records for the most releases in a season and the most single‑day releases each successive year.

The remote location, 150 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, and the lack of shoreside facilities help keep the fishing pressure down. That helps a lot.

This year, due to torrential rains in our home-base country of Costa Rica, we were unable to get to Mag Bay in October as we usually do. That shortened our season by a month, so we tried to get in as many fishing days as possible by early December, when the fishing normally winds down.

The striped marlin were there for us again this year, and as is typical, our early trips found aggressive fish. That’s great for our fly-fishing! As the season continues, it seems that the fish become well-fed on the abundant bait population and are somewhat less willing to chase our teasers to the transom. But by any standard, this was outstanding fishing.

According to Capt. Chip Shafer’s very sharp pencil, the end results for our 14 days of fishing were: 993 raises, 337 fly bites and 250 marlin released. Our best single day of releases was November 5, when we set a new record with 44 striped marlin on fly, beating our old mark of 35, set last year on October 20.

An impressive aspect of this year’s fishing is that because of our late start, we may have actually missed the best of it. A couple of the top boats that were bait-fishing in October reported red-hot action, also with record numbers.

Our crew has to get a lot of credit — Shafer has been on board since the beginning of our fly-fishing venture 15 years ago and always puts us on the fish. Mates Greysel, Conejo and Oscar have been working together in the cockpit for almost 10 years and are a really efficient team. They make my job look easy, and it's a great experience to enjoy this team working together so effectively. I can't fail to mention Old Reliable, our 64-foot Bayliss that serves us so well. Though it's going on its 13th year, I think we have the best boat on the water for what we do. We all look forward to being back at Mag Bay for the 2018 season aboard Old Reliable.