Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Marlin Curse

March 26, 2012


I could hardly sleep last night due to excitement because at dinner Sammy told me I was up for the marlin today. So far I’ve been an observer. Sammy sponsored this trip and it’s only fair that he get some good shots first. But the marlin have not been cooperating. If I was to get any chance at all, today was the day. We made the long ride back to Bank 88. The sun was scorching hot and like everyday so far, there was hardly any breeze.


Soon the teasers were bouncing behind the boat and Braden was quick to spot some floating debris so we headed toward it. There’s little structure out at sea so whenever you find something floating you can expect fish to be near. The bait fish take cover under it and the predators pick them off when they can. This structure however, turned out to be bad news. It was a fish trap. Basically it was a raft with a huge bag of chum below it. This chum bag ran 20 feet deep! Worst of all, attached to the raft was a satellite signal. The commercial fishing fleets have such unreal technology these days that fish barely have a chance.


These traps float randomly all over our oceans and they truly are tracked by satellite. Pelagic fish are attracted to the chum slick. Then, after it sits a few days, a commercial fishing boat comes by and puts a net around the raft in a circle. Some nets are a horrific several miles long! They gradually close up the net until finally they catch every fish within in a large distance of the chum. Braden finds these far too often on his fishing trips. It’s just one of many far too effective methods of catching hoards of fish and gives the fish populations and our oceans a very grim outlook.


The fish trap definitely put a damper on the day. I found myself daydreaming about the trouble our oceans face. At least two lifeless hours went by but then to my delight I felt the boat swing again. This time it was better news. We had a school of about eight striped marlin with their tails cutting the surface. They were quick to sink out of sight so and we turned our attention to the teasers in hopes of seeing slashing bills. I put the 15-weight fly rod in my hands for the first time of the trip and was ready for action, but after an hour of teasing the area, nothing.


I won’t bore you with the rest of our day. That one school of marlin were the only ones we saw. Not one single marlin came for our teasers – not one! I sat, stared and hoped for at least one cast to a marlin today and it never came. Once again the highlight was lunch. Today it was grilled grouper that we caught yesterday. Honestly, I’d be willing to fast for the rest of the trip if it meant Sammy and I would catch our marlin. We have a marlin curse to break!


As you can imagine, it was a long 68 mile back to San Cristobal. I tried to sleep it off but there was no way. All I could do was stare at the ceiling of the cabin and wonder why this had to be the week without feeding marlin in the Galapagos? Maybe tomorrow. . . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 2 - Day off from Marlin

March 25, 2012


Even though today was planned to be a snorkeling/deep sea fishing day, I got up early and rigged my two 12-weight Ross Essence FC Fly Rods with Momentum LT Reels. My Momentum 7 is rigged with a Scientific Angler sinking Tarpon Taper and on the other, a Momentum 8; I have a Mastery Series Bluewater Express 700-grain sink. With these two rigs Sammy and I were armed for some big fish if the opportunity to cast to them arose.


By 9 AM Braden, our guide this week in the Galapagos, had us at the very southern tip of San Cristobal Island in an incredibly remote snorkel place. Sammy had never snorkeled before and I knew he was in for an enjoyable experience. Braden’s mate, Ronnie, joined us also which was nice because when the first sea lion started swimming circles around me often times with his nose inches from mine I was a little concerned, however I looked around only to see Ronnie playing with the one around him. Things were cool.


The amount of reef fish here is spectacular. You may remember Granny and I snorkeled a bunch in Madagascar last April. The fish viewing there hardly compares to what they have here in the Galapagos. Ecuador has done an above average job of protecting its reefs and the life within them. It’s pleasing to see.


After snorkeling it was time to do some fishing. This brings up a common question. Can you fish in the Galapagos Islands? The answer is yes, but it’s extremely complicated and you better have permits. And the permits to fish inshore like we did today are particularly difficult to get. If you get caught without permits you will pay dearly. One of the reasons it’s expensive to fish with Braden is the amount of paperwork and how much he pays to file it and get sport fishing access.


When I climbed aboard first thing this morning I told Braden about the 12-weights I rigged just in case. He was excited I brought them along and after snorkeling his first move was to set Sammy and me up to strip huge streamers over a rocky reef. I heaved from the bow of the boat while Sammy cast from the back. Although I was getting tossed around a bit, I could see well from my high view point and after few casts I noticed some fish chasing my fly. They were pargo (big snappers) and they followed right to the boat but didn’t strike. Few fish excite me on the fly as much as big snappers. I made another quick cast as the school sank back down deep. This time one broke from the school and followed my fly till I had no room to strip anymore. He was huge and he was nipping at the tail of my fly. I thought I’d hook him but he turned away when my fly stopped swimming. I tried a figure 8 but no. Big snappers are as smart as a permit in my book and this whole school knew something was wrong. There was no way any of them were eating a fly for dinner today. Sammy and I changed patterns several times and drifted the area repeatedly but never saw them again and all I managed to catch was this small green jack.


We hit a few other spots after this one but zilch. They were great looking places all with bait fish everywhere but absolutely no strikes or follows. Then the last spot Braden set us up to fly cast at looked spectacular. It was the top of a jagged rocky island. Less than 100 yards off the rocks it was over 400 feet deep. Mammoth waves crashed almost completely over the top of the rocky island and there were huge schools of mullet and mouse size bonito everywhere. Undoubtedly there were big fish below. I tied on one of my favorite tuna flies, a small flashy minnow-like imitation and cast it around and through the schools of bait. I had the 700-grain line and I was letting my fly sink way below the school of bait fish. Low and behold I hooked up to something serious. Within seconds this fish took me well into the backing with no indication of stopping and my 12-weight was bent over like a 5-weight hooked up with a bonefish. Then, just as everyone started digging for the cameras my fish was gone. I was heart broken as God knows we haven’t exactly had a lot of luck thus far, but what can you do. I went back to casting.


Another hour went by and nothing for Sammy or me. By now Ronnie and Philippe set up some deep sea rigs with bait and were already getting bites. I can’t watch that for long so I set my beefy Ross down on the bow, cracked a beer and dropped my bait down about 200 feet to bottom. It was time to catch some fish and it didn’t take long. Less than a minute down there and I was cranking up a respectable tile fish from the depths.



We spent the remainder of the day fishing the depths with chunks of bait. We moved into an area of about 100 feet of water. 100 feet was a lot less time consuming to drop to bottom and easier on the fish we brought up. When you catch fish in over 200 feet deep it’s hard to release them because their air bladders inflate. At 100 feet deep most can handle returning to the bottom.


We caught a lot of neat fish. They included several Pacific barracuda, triggerfish, Galapagos grouper, a hefty African pompano and a gorgeous little flag cabrilla. I even cranked up some specie of moray eel. We also caught a mystery grouper and several other unknown fish you can see in the pics below. If anyone can help me with identification, jot it down in the comments section or contact me. Do some research to make sure they live in the Galapagos. Some of these fish I guessed the possible family they belong to but that’s it. I’d really appreciate it. Enjoy!



Ronnie with my first Galapagos Grouper


Sammy with something porgy or croaker or grunt like


A definite type of porgy - which one I don’t know


And another



Some crazy rockfish specie


Ronnie with an African Pompano

Tomorrow is back to the marlin and Sammy is giving me first crack – PUMPED!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 2 - Bank 88

March 24, 2012


Seeing the Orcas yesterday was spectacular but the only thing Sammy and I wanted to see today were marlin. Sammy literally sat ready to cast his fly for 9 hours and all we saw was one striped marlin of about 175 lbs that didn’t tease in for a cast. The Galapagos Islands are famous as the place where you raise more marlin than almost anywhere in the world and today we wanted to see it for our own eyes.


With the lack of marlin yesterday in mind, Braden and his crew took us on a long ride to Bank 88, a boat ride of exactly 68 miles that takes more than two hours. Bank 88 is an underground mountain range of about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide where the ocean goes from thousands of feet deep to a shallow 400. Best of all, this unique location just about always holds plenty marlin.


We left San Cristobal harbor at 6:30 AM. The seas were glassy calm and on our way out we spent the first hour dodging acres upon acres of surface feeding sea turtles and manta rays. It’s truly a sight to behold. The volcanic mountains of our island slowly disappeared as we ventured out to open ocean.


Once out of sight of land sea life turned to fleeing flying fish, dolphin and several different species of whales (not Orcas). I couldn’t tell you what the smaller species were but there’s no question when you see a humpback. Humpbacks are enormous and this morning I was lucky enough to see one launch half its body in the air and spin flapping its gigantic white pectoral fins in the air. Sorry, no pic.


When we finally reached Bank 88, Ronnie and Philippe had four hook-less teasers baited with ballyhoo bouncing in our wake in minutes. Sammy resumed his position, sitting next to a ready to cast 15-weight fly rod rigged with a huge pink and white fly. As for me, I climbed up on bridge with Braden and rather than stare into the teasers trolling behind the boat scanned the blue water in hopes to see a sign of a marlin. To my surprise, I saw two striped marlin tails slicing the surface just ahead of us.


Anytime you spot a marlin is exciting, but when you spent the previous day not seeing marlin it’s plenty more exciting. Braden veered the boat in the direction of the marlin and then we all spun our heads towards the teasers in hopes one would get attacked. Unfortunately there was no action and the marlin sank out of sight.


A miserable hope-sinking three hours went by when finally Braden shouted, “Marlin in the teasers!” I was half asleep at this point but it only took a half a second to come out of my daze. I jumped to see behind the boat and a striped marlin was tossing our furthest teaser around with his bill like a rag doll. Meanwhile, Braden was shouting orders in Spanish and Ronnie and Philippe were doing their best to tease the marlin in close enough for Sammy to cast.


Just for the record, enticing a Pacific sailfish into fly casting range is easy. Marlin have a far different personality and keeping one around takes an enormous amount of experience. Further difficult, the mates can’t see well from down in the boat deck. That’s why Braden needs to shout out orders. From up on the bridge he can see the actions of the attacking marlin much better.


There’s nothing like watching a marlin on a tear behind a boat from high up on the bridge. I saw this striped marlin’s stripes and pectoral fins glowing in an indescribable vibrant blue. When his bill broke the surface in an attempt to kill the teaser it was dreamlike. But like our one marlin yesterday, this one bit hard on one of our ballyhoo and stole it. The marlin was gone and Sammy didn’t even get a cast – extreme disappointment for all of us and then another two marlin-less hours passed by.


The one thing you can always count on when the fishing is tough on a guided trip is a good lunch. It’s the same whether you’re in Jackson Hole on the Snake River or in the Galapagos. As we dragged the teasers through the area we saw the marlin over and over again with no luck, Ronnie made us fresh shrimp ceviche that was to die for.


At 4 PM Braden said reel it in. Ronnie and Philippe cranked in the teasers and we began our 68 mile journey back to San Cristobal. Honestly, Sammy and I were about ten notches below disappointed. This is not what we expected from our Galapagos marlin trip. Tomorrow was a scheduled day off from the water before our final two days of marlin fishing. The plan was to do some of the normal tourist stuff in the Galapagos such as see the famous tortoises and snorkel with the sea lions. Braden however offered us a deal to take us snorkeling and for some deep sea fishing for grouper close to the island. I love some bottom fishing with bait and after a couple beers and short discussion with Sammy we signed on for another day on the water. We are big time expecting to see some cool fish of the depths tomorrow.


Stay positive – this is fishing and anything can happen and happen fast.


Friday, March 23, 2012

That Aint No Marlin

Day 1 on the Water


Today was day one on the water to catch a marlin on the fly. Most people laugh when I tell them you can catch a marlin on the fly. “Yea right Currier. You can’t catch a fish that big on a fly rod.” Then there are those who think they know about marlin on a fly and they say, “Yea, but really you’re just trolling the fly”. Well I’m happy to say that both those responses are wrong. You can catch marlin on a fly and you don’t troll the fly. You cast the fly and 90% of the time you’re looking the marlin right in the eye. Sounds like fly fishing to me and you better have nerves of steel!


Most fly fishing for marlin involves teasing. Teasing is casting a hookless bait to excite a marlin. Sometimes this is a wounded fish or a dead fish. Sometimes teasing is casting a hookless lure. The marlin chases it. Sometimes he eats it, but because there are no hooks you can continue to take it away. Once you get the hookless lure to the boat you yank it from the water and then cast the fly. If everything goes as planned the marlin goes crazy. Then you throw in the fly. The marlin is waiting because he thinks that his prey simply leapt from the water in an attempt to escape. When your fly hits the water he nails it and he’s enormously surprised when he feels the hook in the feathery imitation.


When marlin aren’t so obvious you do troll, but not your fly, instead it’s the hookless teaser. Sometimes it takes hours to find a marlin and some days you don’t find one at all. That’s fishing. But when you finally troll one of these amazing fish up to the teaser you follow the same process as above.


Sammy and I are fly fishing for marlin with Ecugringo S. A., a fishing company based out of San Cristobal Island here in the Galapagos. I could never afford to come here even though it’s been at the top of my list. Sammy however can and loves to chase marlin on the fly. I barely mentioned this amazing trip while we were together in Baja last year and Sammy simply said, “We’re going, book it”. So I did.


Here we are with four days of fishing (three more). Our captain is Braden Escobar and he has two excellent mates, Ronnie and Philippe. Today we left on Braden’s 35 foot custom sportfishers with twin 250 HP Suzuki outboards. We traveled for over an hour to where yesterday Braden saw two blue marlin. Unfortunately we trolled our teasers there for four hours and never saw a thing other then sea lions, sea turtles and dolphin. At noon we drove an hour to another spot off the north tip of San Cristobal Island.


Our new location had the “look”. We could see land, something we couldn’t do at Braden’s blue marlin spot. The land was rugged with old volcanic mountains covered in jungle. The actual area we were fishing consisted of huge gentle rolling waves showing ripples from a light breeze. Then there was this glassy current line. The ocean has lots of current but this particular area the current was so strong I could see whirlpools like you would see in the back eddies of a strong river. There were sea lions drifting on their backs sound asleep everywhere (likely a mistake for many of them) so there must be plenty of fish. Everything seemed incredibly peaceful.


We trolled the teasers along untouched for an hour or so when suddenly Braden hollered, “Orcas!” I thought I was hearing things. You think of killer whales as a cold water whale only, but this is not true. These mammals run the ocean and like humans can go anywhere they want. In all my travels I’ve never seen killer whales in the tropics so I grabbed the camera and got in a great position.


It appeared there were three of them. One was enormous while the other two respectable in size. They were moving down the current line opposite of us probably ambushing those sleeping sea lions. I got off a few photos then as fast as we spotted them they separated themselves from us and soon they were out of site.


We were all pretty excited about the sighting. It had been a lackluster day till now. Neither of our mates had ever seen Orcas and Braden said it’s a very rare sighting. Then, just like that they were back. Only this time we didn’t stumble upon each other. They came back to find us and check us out.


First we noticed the big guy about 100 yards back in our boat wake. He was actually swimming with his eye above the water to look at us. His dorsal was absolutely massive. Then as we were admiring him from afar, I thought I saw a huge figure of black and white under one of our teasers. It was hard to make out but there was something strange and it wasn’t a marlin. Then on our closest teaser another appeared. No question about it this time, the Orcas were in our teasers!


I’d expect the story to end there. Man, incredible, the Orcas checked out the teasers, but no. The two Orcas in the teasers went on to follow the heavy line dragging the teasers right up to our boat. They wanted to know everything about us and what we were doing and before we knew it two of the Orcas were swimming next to the boat upside-down so they could see us perfectly. We were a few feet away from two wild killer whales - absolutely unbelievable!


For five minutes no one even glanced at our teasers to see if a marlin was chasing as we trolled them along. All of us were engrossed with the whales. These guys were so big and so agile in the water right before our eyes. It was so effortless for them to keep up with us that it was unnerving. They kept swerving in and out from under the boat and at times you could literally see their eye looking at you from three feet below. It was magnificent. Then finally they got bored and off they went. That five minutes will go down as one of the most exciting in my blue water experiences.


Believe it or not, shortly afterwards we got a striped marlin in the teasers. This was a very teasable catchable marlin. He crazily attacked the different teasers. Braden cut our engine while Sammy got into casting position and Ronnie and Philippe worked the teasers, gradually getting the marlin closer to the boat. Then the marlin actually got hold of one of the teasers and stole the bait, something you must not let them do or they swim away happy with a victory over you. That was it. The only marlin we saw today was gone with a free meal.


As we were driving home we found the Orcas again. The first sighting for me was one I’ll never forget. From a half mile away I witnessed the big dude come nearly completely out of the water at full speed. It was like watching a great white shark pulverize a seal in South Africa. Only the Orca is bigger and thicker and although he could have been eating a sea lion it looked like a huge manta ray. The thing made one of the biggest splashes I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen the humpbacks leap before. Naturally we turned the boat that direction but we never saw an attack like that again. Instead the big Orca spent five minutes trying to scare us off. He’d come straight up half way out of the water then spin around and slam his tail on the water. Awesome.


That was our fishless day one. And it was a darn exciting one even without the marlin. Tonight Sammy and I chowed on a couple of lobsters and called it a day. Who knows what’s in store for us tomorrow.


The Galapagos Islands

March 22, 2012


I can’t believe I’m in the Galapagos Islands. I studied this place in sixth grade. We learned about the cool animals unique here but my teacher never said “Hey, some day you should go there.” She’d never been and she taught about the Galapagos like this was a fairytale place no normal person would go to. It was her way of thinking. In fact it’s a lot of folk’s way of thinking. But here I am with one of my best friends. Funny thing however, Sammy and I aren’t here for the amazing animals. We are here to catch marlin on the fly. That teacher never even told us about fly fishing for marlin!


We had a relaxing morning. Our flight didn’t leave Guayaquil for the Galapagos until 11:45 AM. That gave us time to chill around the hotel, suck some coffee and score a good breakfast. The airport scene went smooth as can be and we were on our way on time. It’s about 600 miles from the shores of Ecuador to the Islands, quite a bit further than I’d ever noticed on a map. That made it about a 2 hour flight which still put us at our hotel here on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos before 2 PM with an afternoon to kill.


It’s hotter than hot here. I mean it is scorching! Despite the heat we were hungry as heck so we knocked back a pizza and a few beers from the roof bar at our hotel. From our view we watched plenty of action. Some was human but most involved the resident sea lions, turtles and neighborhood birds – many quite colorful.


After the late lunch we walked the streets of San Cristobal and it was immediately apparent the town belongs to the sea lions and not the people. What’s most amazing is that so far none of the animals of Ecuador are afraid of humans. I guess no one ever messes with them and that’s the way it should be.


Tomorrow will be our first day of chasing the marlin!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

Struggling with ineternet out here on the Galapagos.  Will catch up as I can!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Guayaquil

Sammy and I landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador a little after midnight this morning. We were scheduled to get here at 9:45 last night but this is South America. Set times are rarely met like they are in the US. Like after any long as heck trip we were both exhausted by the time we settled into our hotel and we slept till nearly 8 this morning.


We purposely arrived a day early. One thing for certain is that when leaving Idaho or Wyoming even on the first day of spring, the weather can screw you. We’re going on a trip most can only dream about so we gave ourselves a buffer. If we lost a day of travel due to a snowstorm the extra day would help us make it in time. However, even though we experienced some snow on the way out of the Rockies we didn’t need the extra day so today we used the bonus to explore Guayaquil.


Sammy hired us a great guy named Julio to show us the town. If you find yourself in Guayaquil I’ll give you his number. Julio is top notch. He speaks English well, he’s very intelligent about not only Guayaquil Ecuador but also its history, the rest of Ecuador, its people and the list goes on. He even knows a few good places to nail some delicious seafood and ice cold beers!


I could go on and on about all the sites Julio showed us today, but as always for me, the fish market was the best. Even though it wasn’t a big one I stumbled into a new fish. As you can see he’s very eel like. At first I figured I as looking at some sort of smooth skinned aruana from the jungle but instead this is a saltwater fish.


Fish I’m very familiar with are these magnificent Pacific snook. Most Americans are only familiar with the snook of the Caribbean but the Pacific versions are found from Baja Mexico all the way down through the Peruvian coast. And as you can see these are a couple solid snook that would give any beach fishing fly fisherman a run for their money.


Last but not least was the Parque BolĂ­var. This is a park in right downtown Guayaquil that has friendly iguanas crawling all over the place. And when I say friendly I mean it. You can walk right up to them and they won’t even move. In fact, look at them in harmony with the pigeons.


Tomorrow we have an early flight to the Galapagos Islands. I’m sure we’ll have a good look around before we start fishing on Friday. Stay tuned.


Enjoy the pics!