FIRST TO THE FEAT

Marlin - - BEFORE THE STRIKE - — Jake Jordan, Jake Jordan’s Fish­ing Ad­ven­tures

his friend Nick Smith, and he also knew that ev­ery sum­mer, Jake Jordan or­ga­nizes blue mar­lin on fly ex­pe­di­tions to th­ese won­drous hot spots. By this time, Arostegui had been fol­low­ing Wake­man’s progress with one thought in the back of his head: He had al­ready caught the swordfish. It was time for Arostegui to get se­ri­ous.

In June 2016, Arostegui took ad­van­tage of Jordan’s ex­per­tise and joined him on the seamounts, catch­ing his first Pa­cific blue mar­lin on fly. Now he had six of the nine re­quired bill­fish species.

A HELP­ING HAND

Arostegui went out of his way help­ing Wake­man try for his swordfish, but it wasn’t meant to be. Af­ter a dozen ex­pen­sive trips float­ing around the ocean all night, Wake­man de­cided to take a break, but he didn’t for­get the help, and set up Arostegui to fish for spearfish with Capt. Kevin Naka­mura on North­ern Lights in Hawaii, and then with Capt. Jono Shales in Ex­mouth for black mar­lin.

In March 2017, Arostegui be­gan five days of fish­ing with Naka­mura in Kona. On March 3, he raised his first spearfish and caught it, af­ter which they never saw an­other spearfish for the rest of the trip. Arostegui then moved on to Ex­mouth. Again, his first day was spec­tac­u­lar, land­ing two black mar­lin on fly, then the weather moved in, and he never got on the water again. Now, he only had to find a striped mar­lin.

THE QUEST CON­CLUDES

Cabo San Lu­cas, Mex­ico, is prob­a­bly the best place to catch a striped mar­lin on fly, but June isn’t re­ally the best month. Nev­er­the­less, Arostegui had some free time, so he booked a few days with Cabo lo­cal Capt. Jaime Ren­don. Ren­don runs a small panga, but his knowl­edge of the lo­cal waters is un­matched. The only prob­lem turned out to be the weather. When Arostegui ar­rived, the seas were much too rough for the panga, and it looked like he was in for a Wake­man ex­pe­ri­ence with the weather.

Then Min­erva Saenz came to his res­cue. Owner of Min­erva’s Baja Tackle and a great re­source for all things fish­ing in Cabo, she set him up with Capt. Pimi Fiol on Min­erva II. It was a sturdy boat, but the cap­tain and crew had lit­er­ally zero fly-fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The first hours were spent with Arostegui ex­plain­ing the rules to ev­ery­one and set­ting out his own teasers. It didn’t take long for the mates to pick up the teas­ing tech­nique, and on June 7, 2017, Arostegui caught his striped mar­lin on fly, com­plet­ing the royal bill­fish slam on fly. The first per­son to con­grat­u­late him: Ru­fus Wake­man.

THE NEXT CHAL­LENGE

Arostegui, Wake­man and I have spent a lot of time talk­ing about catch­ing bill­fish on fly. I re­mem­ber in the late 1970s, I started out fish­ing for sail­fish in Cozumel with a 12-weight Fen­wick rod and a Fin-Nor wed­ding cake reel, a full float­ing line and 12-pound tippet. A big sail could break the tippet just by drag­ging the bulky float­ing line through the water. I even­tu­ally fig­ured out that a 30-foot sink­ing shoot­ing head, fol­lowed by 150 feet of high-vis­i­bil­ity monofil­a­ment, was much more pro­duc­tive. Arostegui and Wake­man both used a sim­i­lar setup for all their catches.

As the years passed, fly rods have evolved into pow­er­ful graphite weapons that can catch any­thing that swims. Reels be­came big­ger and more ef­fi­cient, to the point where they can now han­dle 400-pound blue mar­lin ef­fec­tively. Jordan has de­vel­oped tac­tics and fight­ing tech­niques that have changed the game. Sur­pris­ingly, though, noth­ing has sur­passed 20-pound Ma­son Hard monofil­a­ment for a class tippet.

To­day, lodges like Casa Vieja in Gu­atemala cater to fly-fish­er­men and pro­vide all the ex­per­tise for a novice to catch their first bill­fish on fly. It can be a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. And while oth­ers might take on sim­i­lar chal­lenges, Arostegui and Wake­man have cer­tainly made their marks in an­gling his­tory.

Im­prove­ments in tackle and tech­niques have al­lowed even novice an­glers to ex­pe­ri­ence the thrill of a bill­fish on fly.

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: A re­tired Miami at­tor­ney,

Pat Ford has chased bill­fish across the globe for more than four decades.

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