Saturday, January 29, 2011

GIFT Tournament 2011 – Day 3

Kerwin puts the finishing touches on a billfish.

No more time spent at The Corner as we head towards the Furuno today. And we’re all alone. Nice! Today is uncharacteristically “rough” with a moderately strong wind from the north. I comment to Kerwin as we’re dropping the teasers in the water that I really like what I see in this chop because we usually get strong bites on days like this.

I was up first and had a crack at a sailfish that teased in but faded off at the third wave. I am surprised and Kerwin is as well because all our fish have teased in so well this tournament. It is now Kerwin’s time to be up and an hour or so later we’re on the board with our first sailfish of the day.

Now I am back up again and notice that the sea is starting to lay down a bit. It still has a good chop on it. With only a short time to go until I relinquish my position to Kerwin, there is a hole in the water behind the short teaser as a blue marlin tries to eat it. We all spring into action. Marco takes the short teaser line by hand and I prepare to cast.  When Marco yells “cast the fly” with the experience of 17 years of casting flies at billfish I smack the side of the boat on my back cast but fortunately the wind does not totally prevent me from laying the fly down in the sweat spot of clear water I am aiming for. Marco pulls the teaser forward to bring the marlin to my fly and yanks it out of the water. All of this happens as in an instant as the boat is sliding forward in neutral. Instead of immediately eating the fly the marlin heads for the transom. He makes a turn literally at our feet, lights up electric blue from the tips of his pectoral fins to his tail and in a millisecond engulfs my fly. It was the most exciting billfish bite I have ever seen on fly. 
Kerwin's practice day Black Marlin. Nuff said...

I barely have a moment to set the hook before the enraged marlin is screaming away from the boat taking line at a pace that I have rarely witnessed. My drag is backed off to nothing. On a fish like this I always let Jose see my reel so that he sees how fast I am loosing line. Teamwork catches fish. Jose puts the FRENZY in reverse and I begin to crank like a maniac. Mako has completely cleared all the other teasers and we’re ready to go after the marlin. Marco stands beside me to relay my requests of speed to Jose.

Of course the marlin heads up seas which means we’re backing into it. As we get closer to the marlin and can see the fly line after cranking in seemingly hundreds of yards of 50 lb Spectra backing we begin to focus on the last part of the fight. This is when it is most important to make sure that everyone is in synch about catching the fish. It always requires intense concentration on the part of the angler, mates and captain. It’s never easy but particularly difficult today as we have 6 feet of water crashing down on Marco and me as Jose guns the boat after the fish. As we get closer to the marlin and get fly line back on the reel we have so much water in the cockpit that my Crocs are starting to float off my feet! The fish makes a left and is now off the left side of the boat with the leader barely 6 feet from the rod tip. I am screaming, “Go to the fish” but we can’t get there from our relative positions. Fortunately the fish kicks it a bit and gets back in behind the boat. With water crashing over us on the stern, the diesel turbos kicking in and me yelling to go to the fish we finally get the leader in the rod tip for a legal release. It was the most intense 5 minutes of fly fishing I have ever had. I look up at Jose and ask “How big?” Jose says “350”. As we high-five around the cockpit we start to realize how much water we had in the back of the boat. It went all the way back to the door to the cabin! It was definitely a “Frenzy”! I am soaked to the bone but excited for the team as we put another 500 points on the board.

The FRENZY continues…

Jamie Walker

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