That Aint No Marlin

by | Mar 24, 2012 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

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.


  1. Erik Moncada

    O SHIT! Did you get one on a fly?!

  2. Erik Moncada

    The suspense is killing me, what happened with the damn ORCA!?!

  3. Erik Moncada

    That is great Jeff, good stuff. It is amazing how intelligent those Orcas are… that then followed your line up to the boat to check you out… Great stuff.

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!