FIELD NOTES

Con­sis­tent fish­ing yields a new per­sonal best for striped mar­lin

Marlin - - CONTENTS | DEPARTMENTS - —By Nick Smith, as told to Sam White

In the world of off­shore fly-fish­ing, the Old Re­li­able team of Nick Smith and his long­time skip­per, Capt. Chip Shafer, needs no in­tro­duc­tion. They have been at the fore­front of the sport and con­tinue to set im­pres­sive per­sonal and team records along the way. This is Smith’s re­count­ing of their re­cent sea­son in Mex­ico.

It seems like the fish­ing in Mag­dalena Bay, Mex­ico, just keeps get­ting bet­ter each year. We started fish­ing the fall striped mar­lin sea­son there in 2001, and our best fish­ing has been dur­ing the past five or six years. We’ve been able to es­tab­lish new fly-rod records for the most re­leases in a sea­son and the most sin­gle-day re­leases each suc­ces­sive year.

The re­mote lo­ca­tion, 150 miles north of Cabo San Lu­cas, and the lack of shore­side fa­cil­i­ties help keep the fish­ing pres­sure down. That helps a lot.

This year, due to tor­ren­tial rains in our home-base coun­try of Costa Rica, we were un­able to get to Mag Bay in Oc­to­ber as we usu­ally do. That short­ened our sea­son by a month, so we tried to get in as many fish­ing days as pos­si­ble by early De­cem­ber, when the fish­ing nor­mally winds down.

The striped mar­lin were there for us again this year, and as is typ­i­cal, our early trips found ag­gres­sive fish. That’s great for our fly-fish­ing! As the sea­son con­tin­ues, it seems that the fish be­come well-fed on the abun­dant bait pop­u­la­tion and are some­what less will­ing to chase our teasers to the tran­som. But by any stan­dard, this was out­stand­ing fish­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Capt. Chip Shafer’s very sharp pen­cil, the end re­sults for our 14 days of fish­ing were: 993 raises, 337 fly bites and 250 mar­lin re­leased. Our best sin­gle day of re­leases was Novem­ber 5, when we set a new record with 44 striped mar­lin on fly, beat­ing our old mark of 35, set last year on Oc­to­ber 20.

An im­pres­sive aspect of this year’s fish­ing is that be­cause of our late start, we may have ac­tu­ally missed the best of it. A cou­ple of the top boats that were bait-fish­ing in Oc­to­ber re­ported red-hot ac­tion, also with record num­bers.

Our crew has to get a lot of credit — Shafer has been on board since the be­gin­ning of our fly-fish­ing ven­ture 15 years ago and al­ways puts us on the fish. Mates Grey­sel, Conejo and Os­car have been work­ing to­gether in the cock­pit for al­most 10 years and are a re­ally ef­fi­cient team. They make my job look easy, and it’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence to en­joy this team work­ing to­gether so ef­fec­tively. I can’t fail to men­tion Old Re­li­able, our 64-foot Bayliss that serves us so well. Though it’s go­ing on its 13th year, I think we have the best boat on the wa­ter for what we do. We all look for­ward to be­ing back at Mag Bay for the 2018 sea­son aboard Old Re­li­able.

Nick Smith bat­tles a lit-up striped mar­lin on fly (be­low). Cole Watkins and Smith han­dle a dou­ble­header in the cock­pit of Old Re­li­able (above).

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