FIRST TO THE FEAT
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.