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.