For a guy who has never had any interest in doing the whole billfish-on-fly thing, I almost hesitate to go on with this story. I know that plenty of anglers out there are salivating at the chance to throw an oversize fly to a hot billfish.
It’s hard to say why the big-game pursuit never sparked any interest for me. What’s not to like? An acrobatic fish bigger than me that fights like a heavyweight should have an open invitation to chase the fly anytime. Then again, some things that seem totally uninteresting at first glance become a whole different ballgame once you witness them firsthand.
And in the billfish-on-fly game, I’m batting .1000.
Capt. Darren McClave is the manager at Parrot Bay Village in Puerto Jiminez, on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Darren and his wife, Katie, invited Marlin magazine managing editor Charlie Levine and me to fish the southwest coast for a few days.
It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
I actually remember debating whether to bring a rod heavier than a 10-weight on my first trip to Costa Rica. I wasn’t a big-game fisherman and didn’t have any desire to become one. But before I zipped up my rod tube and in anticipation of the potential guilt over not being prepared if our hosts wanted to target sailfish, I caught myself thinking, I better bring at least one 12-weight.
We set out for the day with Capt. Corey Greig and mate Jonathan Lopez aboard a 28-foot Sea Vee center console rigged with twin 140-hp Suzuki outboards. After a 20-minute run, the crew dropped back the teasers, and I prepped myself for the first fish. It took a couple of hours, but when the swashbuckler of the seas showed up, I grabbed the rod and somehow made the perfect cast. The fish ate, and after a stubborn battle and the prerequisite aerial displays, Lopez billed my first Pacific sail – estimated at 110 pounds. We snapped several quick photos, revived it and let it go.
My attitude toward billfishing did a 180-degree about face. It was awesome, and I wanted more!
Greig deployed the teasers again, and we got back to it. Two hours later, we had another fish in the spread. But there was something different about how this fish ate the fly. If the sail was a puppy, this was a pit bull.
Suddenly, I heard Jonathan screaming, “Azul! Azul! Azul!” With a puzzled look, Corey yelled at Jonathan, “Es Azul?” Any onlooker would have thought our boat had struck oil. We were all ecstatic. I’d cast and hooked a Pacific blue marlin!
As the fight wore on, I managed to get most of my backing back on the reel. Finally, I could see my fly line, but I kept my wits and didn’t say a word. I knew when I heard the tick of the fly line connection creeping toward me through my guides that we were getting pretty close. With the fish 30 feet away, I had to ask, “Corey, you think we have a shot?”
Laughing, the captain replied, “Not a chance!”
For the next 10 minutes I fought the marlin like I didn’t care if we lost it or not, pouring on as much pressure as the 16-pound IGFA tippet could stand. It was now or never.
Finally, I eased the tired marlin into Corey’s grasp. We got him ? and I guarantee that everyone within a 10-mile radius knew it. After releasing the estimated 150-pounder, Corey turned to me, shook my hand and said, “Bro, that’s the first marlin I’ve ever touched!”
I don’t know what it’s like to win a Super Bowl or a World Series, but I’d like to think the feeling has to be similar. My experience at Parrot Bay is something that has probably spoiled me for life.
Batting .1000 on fly-caught billfish is a stat few are worthy of, especially me. However, I’m happy to admit that I hope that average dwindles in the future. If it does, that means I’ve been throwing at more fish.
For more information on fishing at Parrot Bay on the Osa Peninsula, visit parrotbayvillage.com.