12/20/10

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Midges


A Fish Is A Fish
I was listening to some music this morning, thinking about what to write about today
for this article, staring at the detail in a Guy Harvey painting on the wall in our living
room. It's a limited addition print of one of Guy's paintings of what I call the symbol of
all fish, the elusive blue marlin. I have several LE prints of his work and two 16 by 20
inch original paintings Guy did for me a few years ago of the "Madam and the
Hooker", a mother ship and sportfishing yacht and the fishing crew of Jerry
Dunaway. It was for the cover of two DVD's I produced on light tackle sailfishing in
Costa Rica, one of which features a world record sailfish caught by Debra Maddox,
now Debra Dunaway.

Over the years, I have spent many days in the offshore bulewaters chasing billfish.
Although I have caught a lot of sailfish, turna, wahoo, dolphin, white marilin, etc., in
my lifetime I have only managed to catch seven blue marlin. To the average guy, It
probably doesn't seem like I was much of a marlin fisherman. However, those that
know anything about marlin fishing consider it quite a feat. There's not all that many
people who have done that. Actually, no one person catches a blue marlin. It's the
results of a coordinated team effort of a captain, the mates and an angler. When I
say I caught, I am referring to marlin that I caught when I was the angler. I have seen
many more caught, captained the boat when a few were caught, and help work the
deck and pull a few through the transom door.

Some of Guy's incredible "Old Man of The Sea" paintings depict Jamaican men in
not much more than a canoe catching blue marlin. With the Hemmingway family's
permission, Guy released Santiago's Finest Hour, a seres of pen and ink drawings
that he conceived from "The Old Man & the Sea". According to legend, these men
fought marlin for hours, not for sport, but for food by hooking them on live bait on a
hand line and tying the line to their hand built boats. They let the boat fight the fish.
I have always wondered what they would have done if one sounded tied to a canoe
looking boat. They do that quite often when hooked on tackle. It is difficult for me to
believe, but probably true.

By now, those that haven't stopped reading and gone to another website are all
probably thinking
"what does this have to do with trout fishing". Well, that's
what hit me this morning, looking at the painting I have had for several years. It has
a lot to do with it. Let me explain.

When I first started fishing offshore for marlin, I had little problems arranging trips
because I had the only weekly television show in the nation that featured saltwater
fishing. There were not but three networks and a few independent stations in the
early 1980s. I syndicated the show on two of the networks and some independent
stations and had coverage in about two-thirds of the nation at the time. Through the
help of sponsors and many well known big game anglers, my camera crew and I
were able to travel and fish on the best of the best sportfishing boats that existed. I
had to learn the sport from scratch. This isn't your normal "deep sea" fishing. Most
deep sea fishing boats never see a blue marlin.

In spite of that, I known now that these were actually the same type of anglers that
you will find fly fishing for trout. There are two basic types. Some of the marlin guys
just sat back in the air conditioned cabin of the boat and watched the lures, waiting
for a strike so they could get in the fighting chair and be handed the rod and
hooked to the harness by the mate. That's the trout guy that lets his guide rig his
rod, tie on his fly, show him where to cast, and then, land the fish for him - twenty
feet in front of him with a big net. Of course, handing a rod to an angler isn't IGFA
legal, but it's the way many boat crews do it. The angler often doesn't even move
the rod from the coverboard or rocket launcher to the chair by themselves.

In the minds of this type of angler, everything is based on luck. In the minds of many
boat captain's, catching a marlin is pure luck. It's usually those that have never
caught one though. These captains usually have the same type of mates -
non-professional help that know just enough to rig big game lures, and maybe,
natural and dead baits to some extent. These are guys that can put the lines on the
riggers and do the 101 basics but most of them have never wired a big blue marlin.
The captain drags the lures or baits across a section of the thousands of square
miles of offshore bluewaters, waiting for a marlin to mistake a lure for a real fish or
squid. In many of the mate's and captain's minds, there isn't much to the fishing end
of it. Just tie some marlin lures on anywhere from four to six rods and put them out a
long way back behind the boat. Two go on the outriggers, two on the flat lines and
one in the long line as a general rule. Most of the time, the decision on what lures to
use is made by the boat captain, or whoever the boat owner or captain lets make
that decision. It sounds simple enough. It's not much different from tying on a Royal
Wulff and thinking, that's the lucky fly.

Facts are, it's possible to catch a blue marlin on many different lures even when
they are poorly presented. If everything goes great, in the Gulf of Mexico, which is
good blue marlin water, if you get a hookup from a blue every 10 days or so, you
are doing great. Now, I said hookup. If you actually catch one every 30 days, you
are still doing good. About 75% of all the members of all big game fishing clubs
have never caught a blue marlin after fishing for them for several days. I noticed the
first year of my offshore fishing experience that some captains, mates and anglers
paid little attention to which lures they used, the way they ran the lines and the way
they fine tunned the lures to jump in and out of the waves. The exact boat speed
and the way it's run in relationship to the waves seemed unimportant to them. They
were far less than professional yet worse, not even aware of it. Time doesn't  permit
me to outline the many elements of the sport many lack in this article.

The first two years I fished offshore, I participated in several big game fishing
tournaments in the Gulf of Mexico, the Keys, Bahamas and Atlantic Coast. Later I
was fishing big game tournaments in many other areas of the East and West
America's Coast,and some of the Carribean Islands. I got to fish with many different
professional crews. The first thing that hit me that made me realize that there was
much more to it than many though, was the fact Captain Ben Fairey won first place
in the huge Pensacola International Big Game Tournament two years in a row. He
and his boat crew caught a huge blue marlin both of those years. I thought, man if
this just takes luck, that guy and his boat owner is very lucky considering they are
walking away with about a quarter of a million both years. I wanted my own 58 foot
Bertram but facts are, if someone had given me one, I wouldn't have had the 250
plus grand a year to operate it and pay the crew. I knew the mariin tournaments
didn't fit very well with the five years of experience I had in fishing the professional
bass tournaments but I could see the exact same principles that won bass
tournaments, won blue marlin tournaments. I also knew it was possible for anyone to
catch a blue marlin because I had also witnessed that happen with a lousy looking
boat crews once or twice;however, I saw far more lost than i saw caught with that
type of crew.

In contrast, other boat crews paid a huge amount of attention to every minute detail
and fine tunned their strategies. Some worked all day long, adjusting, changing and
fine tuning everything. They also worked days before the tournament preparing
everything. For several years, I got to observe and to fish with some of the best
marlin fishing crews in the World. Fishing in many different waters in the Eastern
Hemisphere and with many different crews, I soon begin to see a huge difference in
them. Every once in a while, one of the less professional crews would hook up with a
blue marlin but not near as often as those that studied the water, make a game plan
and work their tails off all day. When the non-pros did hook up, most of the time
they lost the fish. After all, you are trying to catch a fish that can swim forty miles an
hour in different directions, jump twelve feet in the air and that weights anywhere
from around 200 to 800 pounds. You fight them on 80 pound tackle most of the time
and some use 50 pound standup tackle. If all the fish had enough sense just to
sound, there would never be another one caught.

In case I'm not doing a good job of making the point. Let me put it like this. You have
two types of anglers (lumping the billfish crew all under that one title for
simplicity)..You have the type that relies mostly on luck, actually knows very little
about the blue marlin and how it goes about acquiring the food it survives on, and
you have the ones that learn the sport upside down and use strategies that provide
them the best odds of success. In both cases, marlin fishing and trout fishing, the
final results always average out to be a about the same. The trout anglers that rely
mostly on luck end up catching far less than those that increase their odds by using
good strategies.

Now, other than that, why are these two types of fishing not really so different? Well,
the presentation of the big game fishing lures becomes very important just like the
presentation of your flies do in trout fishing. Just how your fly drifts drag free in the
right areas of the stream relates directly to just how your lures are run in relation to
the waves. Real baitfish that marlin feed on such as tuna, swim through waves a
certain way. When they are swimming near the surface they are always at an angle
on the downslope of the waves. The boat speed and distance the lines are set and
the spacing of the lure and teaser configuration is critical in getting the lures to
imitate the real fish to the point it fools a blue marlin.

The size and color of the lure can also be critical at times. Time of day, sky
conditions - clear or cloudy, and the same factors that trout anglers concern
themselves with also concern knowledgeable marlin fisherman. Different style lures
work different under different sea conditions. The shape of the head of the lure is a
big variable. Different sea conditions, wave heights and distance between waves,
choppy or swells, makes a huge difference in the speed and direction lures are
trolled. I can go on and on with similarities.

Knowing what the marlin are most likely to be keying in on is just as important as
what the trout are most likely to be feeding on. Determining which stream to fish and
which part to the stream to fish for trout isn't really all that different from determining
where the best water to fish for marlin is - offshore rip lines, rotary currents,
dropoffs, schools of tuna, etc.

When you think about a 500 pound blue marlin eating a 8 inch long lure that
imitates a squid, it's actually not very different from a 12 inch trout eating a quarter
inch long mayfly dun. Both fish have to be fooled. Both fish can reject the offering.
Marlin do this often; They come right up behind a lure at a fast speed with their bill
out of the water to within inches of it and suddenly turn away, never to be seen
again. It hurts. It hurts bad to see that. If you are chartering the boat for marlin
fishing it starts at about 1600 a day and goes up. If you own a big boat and are
paying the 4 or 5 man crew and burning a thousand to two thousand dollars of fuel
a day it gets very upsetting. If you put 50 grand in the Calcutta, and see a refusal,
you may consider suicide. You may not see another blue marlin in the baits again
for days yet you may see it happen minutes later.
When the fish turns away, you
failed to fool the marlin. When a trout rejects your fly, you failed to fool the
trout.

I just happen to pick out a marlin this morning because I was looking at a marlin
painting. You may be amazed when you start comparing different fish to each other,
just how similar some things are. Usually, when I am trying to illustrate something to
someone about fly fishing for trout, and I mention something specific about it in
relation to any other fish, the person often says, "I'm only interested in trout". If I am
talking on the phone, and they cannot see me, I usually just shake my head. Some
people are just narrow minded. I am very positive that I learned a lot of good things
about fishing for trout from fishing for marlin.

Copyright 2010 James Marsh