Word on the street of Cabo San Lucas last night was that the yellowfin tuna are in just outside the harbor. Without a sighting of a single marlin yesterday we decided to give the tuna a try for the first few hours of the day and try marlin in the afternoon. Years ago at Christmas Island I trolled up yellowfin after yellowfin on flies but I’ve never actually cast and caught one on the fly. I’d love to add the amazing species to my list while they’re around.
Grant made it clear that yellowfin on the fly is a patience game and suggested one of us fish dead squid down deep on the spin rod. This was Grants way of saying catching a tuna on fly was doubtful. Sammy had no problem fishing squid so I took the bow with my 9-weight Winston Boron III Plus Jungle rod and fed my 300-grain down deep with a small size 6 chartreuse and white Clouser. As I was watching Sammy lower his squid bait I made my first strip and to my disbelief line screamed off my Abel.
There was no doubt I’d stuck a yellowfin tuna on my first cast by the speed of his takeoff. I had him hooked solid and survived his first couple smoking runs. I was thankful I do pushups before trips and pumped him up with relentless pressure. With the excitement I didn’t feel the pain of the rod butt bruising my belly or the quivering of my muscles as they strained to fight this fish. But the joy was interrupted by the weirdest thud and a release in tension. It seemed as though my tuna was going to jump, something they don’t do. Suddenly an enormous boil came to the surface the fly lines length from the boat and there was a sea lion with my yellowfin tuna in his mouth. “No ******* way!”, I yelled.
It was a tug of war for a minute until my tippet broke. Tuna blood squirted everywhere and I could hear the bones in my tuna crunching with every sea lion bite. I prayed for a great white to appear but there was no such luck. My yellowfin tuna on fly would have to wait at least another cast. But often when you hook up on the first cast, it’s your only chance.
Only chance it was. That Clouser was my only one that size and color. I tried tan of the same size, larger ones in chartreuse but the tuna wouldn’t cooperate. I hooked another fish but lost him. It didn’t tug like a tuna so I suspect it was this strange fish because Sammy and Alex reeled in a few of these on squid. The shape and color reminds me of the lyretail of the Seychelles. He would’ve been a nice addition to my species list.
Other boats around us were catching tuna. They were using small live baits. Grant rigged Sammy with our smallest green jack and sent it overboard. The active live bait annoyed me by continuously swimming into my fly line and tangling me. But perhaps it was swimming actively for a reason. Sammy went tight and out leaped a Pacific sailfish!
We were due for a good fish and this was a grand fish. We weren’t expecting to hook up with a sailfish with Cabo in sight. Sammy reefed on the billfish as hard as he dared. The bills of billfish are sharp and abrasive and normally you have 100lb shock tippet to withstand rubbing against it. Sammy only had 50lb line so chances of landing the fish were slim. But he stayed steady and soon Grant hoisted the bill for a quick photo before release.
The sailfish was the beginning of a tear for Sammy. He hardly had the next bait back in the water when his spin reel screamed off line nearly pulling him out of the back of the boat. Sammy had his first yellowfin tuna on and like anyone who hasn’t fought them before, the power shocked him.
Tuna are built like torpedoes. Their shape excels through water like no other fish. They are made of pure muscle and their tails are like a pair of 250 hp outboard motors. Their pectoral fins are like the wings on an aircraft but when they really need speed they fold up inside the body eliminating any drag at all. They’ve made many a man sweat, cry and give up the fight.
Sammy wasn’t exactly about to give up on his yellowfin but I can assure you he sweat. Five times he had the tuna to the net only to get smoked all the way back to bottom. Atlas he held the powerhouse fishes head up long enough for Jacobo to net him. We had our sashimi and tuna steaks for tonight. Sammy posed with his first tuna and was surprised after battle that the handsome fish wasn’t larger.
Our afternoon marlin on the fly session went by the wayside. Sammy stuck about four more yellowfins and landed two more. He also caught a hefty black skipjack tuna to add to his insane day. Meanwhile I tried every tuna fly from my box and Grants but the only fish I landed was a green jack, the same species we use for live bait.
It was a tough day for me. I was relentless in my attempt for a yellowfin tuna on the fly but my one chance was taken from me by a sea lion. The longer I went without a tuna hook up the more that sea lion incident haunted me. I don’t hate many animals but I can assure you next time Discovery Channel shows sea lions getting munched by great whites or killer whales I’ll be sipping red wine with a smile.
This yellowfin tuna bite is special so we plan to try again first thing tomorrow morning. Grant wants my persistence to pay off and plans to tie me up a special tuna fly. I can’t let this rare opportunity get away. Tomorrow I will get it done. Now it’s time for fresh unfrozen sashimi!