Wake up time at 4:15 AM came so abruptly I had no idea where I was. For me it was 2:15 AM because my body was still on Mountain Time. Then I heard the voices of the Mossy Creek Trow brothers and my new friend, Art Webb. My senses bounced into action. I was at Virginia Beach, Virginia to break my “marlin on the fly” curse.
Before 5 we boarded the well-known Waterman sport fisher and met owner and Capt., Mike Standing and his mate Richard Wright. The Waterman is a 63’ Scarborough custom fishing boat. I recognized in seconds this was the nicest boat I’d ever been on.
To go along with its dazzling appearance, the Waterman also has a Seakeeper 1000lb gyro stabilization system that keeps the boat from pitching side to side. This reduces the chances of seasickness. I’ve yet to ever get seasick but anything that helps prevent my first bout is welcome because we aren’t only fishing all day, we’re spending the night 70 miles off the coast in the open Atlantic Ocean.
Mike and Richard gave us a quick orientation then the engines of the Waterman started. Within a few minutes we were pulling out of the harbor. Mike kicked the speed up and the wake behind the boat began to glow. The glow was from the amazing bioluminescent plankton that as it gets disturbed emits its own light.
It was a two hour 70 mile ride out to sea. Once there we put out five hookless teasers with ballyhoo and started trolling in hopes to attract a billfish. While we mostly expected white marlin, presently there are a few blue marlin and spearfish as well. We all watched behind the boat with anticipation.
Our fly was the old standard, a big pink popper head type of fly. The guys generously assigned me to the first shot so I pulled 30ft of fly line off the reel and dropped it into a bucket. Everything must be ready when the marlin appears because action unfolds fast out here in the bluewater.
The weather was hot and winds were light. The swells weren’t bad but not far away Tropical Storm Julia was swirling. There’s no doubt the storm effects our waters and the fish. The white marlin were everywhere last week but we didn’t see our first until 11. I dropped my fly right behind his eye and while normally that’s a sure hook up, the smallish five-footer vanished without a strike.
The next action didn’t involve a billfish. As we passed some floating debris Capt. Mike could see colorful fish weaving below. He made a wide turn and brought us back. All of us have 9-weights rigged for dolphin and when we were close enough we launched. I had my Winston Boron III Plus with the Bauer RX 6 and for the next fifteen minutes that school put all of our equipment to the test!
We attracted two more white marlin early afternoon but neither fish teased close enough to cast the fly. The marlin were definitely acting poorly and perhaps that’s because a massive Chiquita banana boat passed right in front of us. In case you don’t know, having a banana on a saltwater fishing boat is bad luck.
We never saw another fish after 3 PM. It was obvious the fishing wasn’t going to happen. Nonetheless, the teasers bounced along while we put down some beers. Along with that, Richard made us sashimi from our fresh dolphin. Raw fish at a restaurant is great but freshly caught then eaten on the boat is indescribable.
When the sashimi was gone Brian fired the grill. The Waterman has one built into the deck. On went thick fillets and more fresh dolphin along with onions and asparagus. When fishing is slow we still make it happen. By the time dinner was served we had a spread like that at a fine restaurant.
Food comas and beer buzzes slowly took over. Our teasers teased for marlin an hour after sunset. I’ve always wondered what a teaser would tease after dark but tonight they only hypnotized the anglers. There were no curious marlin nor mysterious fishes. At 8 PM we reeled in the teasers and changed our game for the night.
What we’re doing now sends chills up my spine. We are presently drifting 70 miles off the Virginia coast over the Norfolk Canyon. Its 10:45 PM and I’m staring at two floating empty plastic coke bottles with glow sticks in them suspending our baits. The moon is out but it’s dark. The back of the boat is well lit and its shimmering light into the dark eerie depths. Down in those depths, suspended under the plastic bottles we have three rigged squid baits for swordfish. One down 250ft, another at 150ft and the last at only 30ft. The deep ones each have a strobe light to attract attention. This is the real deal – we are fishing for swordfish!
The swordfish to me is the fish of fairytales, the fish I accepted a long time ago as a species I’d never set eyes on. Swords are nearly nonexistent in many places around the world where they once thrived but on the East Coast of North America, like the stripers and redfish, they’ve made a comeback. Whether we catch one or not, it’s incredible to think I’m so close to one.
We’re sleeping in shifts tonight. Not only does someone need to watch the rods but what if another Chiquita freighter comes? I don’t want to think about it. We’ll be certain the watchman doesn’t fall asleep. Now, let’s cross our fingers that this ole blog gets spiced up by a swordfish!
Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing