LONDON BOYS – EAST CAPE, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, SEPTEMBER 2007

WE ARE: - JIM TAYLOR and ANDY FIELDER,
from West of London, England.

OUR AMBITION: - TO CATCH
OUR FIRST-EVER BILLFISH.

OUR DESTINATION: - HOTEL PLAYA DEL
SOL, LOS BARRILES, EAST CAPE, BCS, MEXICO.

OUR PRACTICAL
KNOWLEDGE:
- ALMOST ZERO! HOWEVER, AS WE SPENT THE
PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS WATCHING VIDEOS AND READING ALL THE LITERATURE WE
COULD LAY OUR HANDS ON, WE ARE, (PROBABLY), THE MOST EXPERIENCED
‘ARMCHAIR EXPERTS' THIS SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC!!

Andy
writes:

September
6th:
  A 36-hour journey via Chicago and Dallas
deposited two weary Brits at Los Cabos airport, and a 1-hour minibus
ride along the interesting (i.e, dangerous!!) Highway 1 finally found
us on the shores of the Sea of Cortez at the Van Wormers' Hotel Playa
del Sol at Los Barriles, East Cape. Hurricane Henriette had passed over
the area just 24 hours previously, and we were concerned that
conditions may not be at their best for fishing. Anyway, nothing
ventured, nothing gained…

September
7th:
No organised fishing today, just an excursion along
the beach armed with some Rapala lures and light spinning gear. What a
beautiful place! Didn't matter that we failed to catch – just being
there was enough.
 


Lurefishing in the
surf; not very good conditions, but, hey, we're used to that back
home!

September
8th:
  Our first day of fishing and Jim's 52nd
birthday; We were booked on the Maria II, crewed by Capt. Martin and
his crewmate, Alejandro. Jim and I had already decided that, if fortune
were to smile on us today, and a billfish showed up, then Jim would get
‘first bite at the cherry'. Weather was good, the sea calm, and a 7am
start saw us making the run towards the Pulmo Shoals, to a point some
40miles SSE of the hotel. A quick stop at 8.30am amongst some flotsam
saw us hook our first fish of the trip – four nice dorado up to 20lb
came aboard, and then it was off to look for the marlin. Unfortunately,
even with the crew's expertise and knowledge, it didn't happen for us,
and, after several hours, we made our way back to the hotel dock. For
us ‘novices', a good start nonetheless. Feels great going back to the
dock with the pennants flying!

 
First fish of the trip! A nice
double-figure dorado for Jim

September 9th: Day 2, and we're on the Maria II
again. Alejandro asked what we would like to fish for, and as per
yesterday, we asked that the billfish be the target. After the
customary livebait collection, it was off once again to the same area
as before. The fish had obviously not bothered to read the script, and
apart from one striped marlin showing on the surface and refusing a
well-presented livebait, it was back to the dock with nothing to show
for our efforts. Yes, it was frustrating, not to mention a little bit
embarrassing, (seeing most other boats proudly displaying their
pennants) and I'm sure the crew could sense our disappointment. Still,
a couple of beers and some friendly talk with the other anglers from
the three USA-based fishing parties staying in the hotel (Ralph's
Banzaii Rodbenders, the Firefighters, and the Minnesota Trio) soon
revived our spirits and our enthusiasm.

September
10th:
Day 3, and something different on the fishing menu.
We're booked on the not-inconspicuously coloured (bright yellow!!)
panga, ‘Siboney', and its charismatic Capt Juan. Now here's a guy who
really does seem to know everybody – and I mean everybody! Juan
announced to us that he was taking us South along the coast to La
Ribera, and only a few miles out from shore, where the tuna were lining
up to play. We had brought our spinning pack-rods along for the ride,
thinking that this could be a good trip in which to try them out.
Tactics were simple – freeline, using 20lb line tied straight to a 6/0
circle hook baited with a small livebait, or drop a livebait down deep
using an added 2oz clip-on or free running lead, rubber bead, swivel
and a further 4ft of the 20lb mainline down to the hook. Either way,
20lb line was the max – anything heavier and the fish turned away. Gear
sorted, bait over the side - it was a fish-a-chuck right from the
start! The pack rods were bent double under the weight and strength of
the fish gathered below the panga. Many of the fish were bonito, with
the occasional yellowfin tuna up to 35lb. We were surprised to see the
bonito unceremoniously dumped back into the sea – Juan explained (in
his broken English!) that their eating quality left much to be desired.
However, for pound-for-pound fighting ability, both Jim and myself
thought that the bonito pulled much, much harder than the yellowfin. An
added bonus for us was that Juan got us both ‘hands-on' involved in
setting up rigs, baiting up, driving the panga – in fact, just about
everything! It was like having our own personal fishing tutor – and
comes highly recommended!

 
Jim with a nice yellowfin tuna – great
sport on light gear

 


Jim in ‘Captain'
mode – har har!


 
Have
it!! Andy gets stuck into another yellowfin tuna on the far-too-light
packrod!

A good 20-minute scrap on light tackle
– and here's the result!

Suddenly, Juan was signalling for one of us to come to the front
of the panga – a striped marlin had gatecrashed the party, and made off
with his freelined livebait! Both Jim and I were bent into tuna, and
before either of us could react, Juan and the marlin parted company. It
sure set the adrenaline pumping, though! Within minutes all three of us
were bent into tuna once again, and my fish decided to take me
‘walkabout' to the front of the panga. As the fish bore away for the
umpteenth time against the packrod's pressure, a long sharp fin broke
surface right in front of the boat – another marlin! I yelled out as
loud as I could - “Marlin!! – front!!”, and Juan (while still playing
his tuna!) deftly picked up the spare rod, baited it and launched it
towards the fish as it circled the boat – and it took it! Juan looked
at me, handed me the rod, and took my still bucking packrod from my
shaking hands – “marlin – you play! Not much chance – only 20lb line,
no proper leader” Jeez, what a situation! Here I was hooked up to the
biggest fish I'd ever seen in the flesh, and the Captain then tells me
that I'm undergunned for what's about to follow!
 

The smile says it all – Andy's
first-ever
striped marlin hookup!

The little rod came alive
in my hands and the reel sang in protest as virtually all the 20lb line
disappeared behind the now rapidly-departing marlin. “What do I do now,
Juan?” I wailed. Juan calmly replied “When you see the last few turns
on the reel, tighten right up and hang on!” Not quite the reassuring
answer I was hoping for! It seemed an eternity before Jim and Juan had
boated their fish and were standing alongside to assist me. The fish
had stopped its frantic leaping, but was still a good 100yds away,
going deep, and making for open sea. Juan backed the boat down and told
me to regain as much line as I could – he advised me that we'd have to
try and get on the fish as quickly as possible before the line parted,
especially without a proper leader attached, just a small swivel and
the extra 4ft of 20lb line. Jim was poised with the camera, just in
case our luck held, and the fish came to the boat.

What a fight I had with that fish! Thirty-five minutes of pure
adrenaline-filled pleasure, and, wonder of wonders, suddenly the fish
came to the surface just a few yards away. What an awesome sight! – the
beautiful colours, the shape, the sheer power! It was now or never, and
with steady pressure applied, the fish broadsided close enough for Juan
to grab the line just above the hook, and allow me to lean over and
touch the fish. As he had predicted, there was little chance of getting
the fish into the panga, so Jim clicked away as Juan held the fish on a
short line. One final attempt to bring it aboard resulted in the line
parting, and the fish heading out to safety and freedom.

 
Here's two pics of Andy's fish
coming to the panga – his first successful marlin
catch-and-release!

 

“How big, Juan?”
“120, yes, easy 120” he replied. I fell back onto the floor of the
panga, my legs as wobbly as jelly, and hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Yeeeehaaa!!!” I'm sure my family must have heard that yell back in
London! God, what a feeling! Elation, emotion, awe, and, not
unsurprisingly, an overwhelming new-found respect for my quarry – my
ambition achieved, the fish safely returned. What more could I ask for?
The rest of the day passed in a daze for me, and the Corona Extra never
tasted as good as it did that evening back at the hotel bar!! All we
need now is a fish for Jim, so that he, too, can share in the wonder
and excitement that is a first-ever marlin capture.
 


The pennants tell
the story - a moment to
treasure!

September
11th:
Day 4 was planned to
be a rest day for us. However, ignoring the aching backs and tired
arms, the excitement of yesterday was just too much for us – we just
had to get out on the water again! Yesterday evening, a quick word with
Capt Juan and Tomas, the hotel's efficient fishing manager, had the
Siboney rebooked for today. Yet another beautiful sunrise saw us
boarding the panga, eager to get to grips with the tuna, and maybe even
another shot at a marlin. A re-run of yesterday's first three hours saw
fish after fish come to the boat, mainly bonito, plus nine yellowfin to
30lb. By 11am, we were on the marlin hunt; Capt Juan circling the
flotilla of boats targeting the tuna, outriggers working the lures, and
a baitrod poised ready and waiting for the moment a billfish signalled
its presence ... if it ever would! Jim was primed and ready for any
chance which came his way – and came they did. No less than five marlin
showed to the boat, and it seemed unbelievable that we would go away
empty handed, but that's how it turned out. A real shame – we felt
certain that today was going to be the day for Jim. A splendid
first-ever roosterfish for Jim on the trip back to dock went some way
to raise the spirits. We could only wonder what tomorrow would
bring!

 
Yet another ‘first'
– Jim's roosterfish, taken close to the shore on light gear – a real
little scrapper!

September 12th:  The sun rose on Day 5
with two tired,
aching but ever-enthusiastic anglers waiting once more to board the
Siboney. Surely today had to be the day – Capt Juan had certainly shown
the way to raise the fish, and we had every confidence that he'd get at
least one of them to accept a nice fresh livebait today – please!! As
before, we began with a tuna bash just off La Ribera. Within two hours,
we had twelve yellowfin up to 35lb in the icebox, plus numerous
returned bonito. Today's fare also included a pargo for Andy, and a
couple of welcome dorado between us. Before long, we were off in
pursuit of the marlin, and after cruising the glassy, flat-calm waters
for what seemed an eternity, we finally spotted a marlin on the
surface. A deftly placed livebait was too much for the fish to resist –
hook up!! Jim took the rod and was about to prepare for the ensuing
battle when, disaster! – the fish threw the hook without the battle
ever really starting. Glances were exchanged, but in true,
time-honoured British fashion, we kept the ‘stiff upper lip'. There
were to be no more offers today, and we headed back to dock wondering
just what we had to do to get a fish on the hook. Time was running
out….
 


Andy with a pargo
(red snapper)
– it went down a treat at the dinner table that
evening!

September 13th:  Day 6. Our final
day began very early. Maybe it was nerves, but sleep was hard to come
by during the night. I sat on my bed at 4am and opened my birthday
cards – 50 years old today. How was the day going to turn out? Would
Jim get to be rewarded for his effort and perseverance? Only time would
tell. I couldn't eat much breakfast – my stomach was churning like an
overworked diesel engine! I'm sure Jim must have felt the same, but as
is usual with my old friend, his demeanour betrayed not a hint of
nerves, tension, … nothing. 7pm, and we're back on the Maria II. Bait
was taken on board, and Alejandro asked the question – where did we
want to go today? Only one answer to this one – “it's our last day, so
give it your best shot for a marlin, please.” The cruiser headed out
towards La Ribera, but this time the lines were in the water and
working for the marlin right from the off – no tuna bash today! Capt
Martin kept the cruiser surprisingly close to the shoreline, and we set
course due South, with only the thrum of the engine and the disturbance
in the water from the Zukers to intrude on our thoughts.

The sun beat down on the cruiser, the temperature rose
steadily, and we constantly scanned the sea for signs of our elusive
quarry. Adrenaline pumped and nerves were jangled by the arrival of
three dorado in quick succession … and then, two hours into the troll,
just south of the Lighthouse - it happened all so quickly – a shout
from the flying bridge, Alejandro rushing down the ladder to the rear
of the boat, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, a livebait
was launched skyward and out to the rear of the pattern. A steel-grey
fin cut a direct line in from the left, straight through the wake of
the boat, and without any hesitation, a huge eruption on the surface
heralded what we had waited so patiently for – marlin hook up!! Jim
rushed to the stern and took up the rod. My fighting belt was secured
around Jim's waist, and the rod fixed in. Line was screaming out, and,
as we looked out to the left side of the cruiser, the most wonderful
sight met our eyes – a blue marlin; leaping, fighting, pure toned
muscle in full unbridled flight! Jim grimly held on while the fish
proceeded to leap skywards, pulling him from one side of the boat to
the other, never giving an inch, making him work hard for each and
every gain. I prayed to all the ‘Angling Gods' that, today, NOW!!, all
would go well. Please don't let this one get away ….

 
Fish on! – Jim takes up the
strain as a lean, mean fighting machine makes a bid for
freedom!

 


He's not coming in
without a fight! One look
at the cruiser, and Jim's marlin heads out once
again!

The
fight was long and hard – very hard. One minute, acrobatic leaping and
running full tilt on the surface, next moment, the fish was sounding –
straight down for what seemed an eternity. Jim worked hard, the sweat
running off his back in small rivulets. The bend in the rod just never
let up – this fish was going to make him work for his success! Capt
Martin skilfully kept the cruiser in just the right position, and Jim
began to make some headway. Alejandro kept a watchful eye on the
proceedings, and, as he said nothing, I presumed that Jim must be doing
it right. The fish came to the surface, and the cruiser slowly gained
ground. It was now only a few yards out to the left – I could see its
whole body lit up with lines of electric blue colour – it was truly
awesome! “Touch the leader! Touch the leader!” I silently thought to
myself, but with an arm-wrenching pull, the fish was off once again. At
that moment, I thought the chance may have gone, but Jim kept his cool,
and skilfully replayed the fish back to the rear of the cruiser. It was
now or never!
 


The moment of
truth –
will Jim get his ‘trophy shot' after all? Or will it be ‘the one that
got away'?

The wind-on
double-loop line slid
silently through the rod rollers and onto the reel. Alejandro, armed
with his orange gloves, leant over the side and reached for the leader.
The fish was right alongside! A deft movement saw Alejandro's hand grab
the bill and hold tight. The water turned to foam as the fish thrashed
on the surface – Capt Martin left the bridge and ran to the stern to
help. Two hands, four hands, six hands were needed to carefully guide
this beautiful specimen into the rear of the cruiser, and with Jim now
seated perfectly in the middle of the stern, the fish slid deftly onto
his lap for the ‘trophy shot' of a lifetime! I clicked away with my
little digi-cam, just hoping and praying that the pictures would come
out. A quick check to ensure that the photos were OK, I gave the
thumbs-up, and the fish was reunited with its watery home. I could hear
Capt Martin and Alejandro talking figures – what was the verdict?? “200
plus – a good 200” – a figure both men were happy to agree upon. The
cheers reverberated around the deck of the cruiser!! Hands were shaken,
and grins as wide as Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat spread across all our
faces. Out came the Coronas from the icebox, and the four of us
celebrated our good fortune together. What a result, and especially so
for Jim!! Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!
 


Success at last!
Jim proudly holds on to his
200lb prize – a fantastic ‘first' and ‘personal
best'!

The adrenaline
subsided, and with it, the elation of
the moment. Alejandro calmly re-set the Zukers and prepared the bait
rod, and Capt Martin turned the cruiser northwards and restarted the
troll. We still had a good two hours fishing left – was it to be my
turn now after all? I know that I had been fortunate enough to capture
the striped marlin earlier in the week, but a fish, a marlin, on my
50th birthday was my ultimate ambition, ever since the first days of
planning this trip had begun over twelve months previously. Jim was on
a high, and justifiably so. Me? I sat back in the shade of the cabin
and reflected on the day's events. The nerves were back with a
vengeance, and my stomach churned so violently I felt that I was about
to see my breakfast for the second time that morning! If I ever hoped
and prayed for a little slice of good fortune, then it was now.

I don't know how long I had been sat in the cabin, but
I remember hearing a shout, and looking up, I saw the glint of a bill
breaking the surface behind the right outrigger. As the fish homed in,
Alejandro was on it in a flash – the baitrod launched its offering in
the direction of the now clearly-visible marlin. The fish went under,
and line began to peel off the reel. Alejandro set the hook and turned
to me – “Dorado” he muttered. “What?? Where's the marlin gone??” But it
was true – a fourth dorado had sneaked in and snatched the bait from
under the marlin's nose! At any other time I would have been as pleased
as punch to hook a dorado, but now I felt cheated. The fish was played
in without ceremony, and swiftly dispatched to the icebox by Alejandro.
The lines went out once again, and the troll continued. Time was
ticking by very fast - that surely was my last chance. I sat back down
in the cabin; I'm certain that Jim could sense my disappointment, and
so he proceeded to try and raise my jaded spirits with a proclamation
that I would still catch my fish before the end of the day. Well, I had
to have faith – after all, just about everything else that Jim had
predicted during the week had come true. I could only hope that this
time, of all times, Jim had called it right….

I
was looking for my sunglasses when a single word was shouted from the
bridge – “Bait!!” Alejandro, who was busy filleting my dorado, moved
rapidly to the baitrod, and without looking to the bridge for
instruction, launched a livebait out into the middle of the spread. I
couldn't seem to move – everything was as if in slow motion! I saw the
line accelerate from the reel; saw the rod strike upwards; Alejandro
looked at me with that quiet smile that is definitely his trademark –
hook up!! “What is it??” I gasped to Jim. “It's one of those spikey
things!!” was the jubilant reply.
 


Oh
yes!! It's Andy's turn to feel the sheer brute strength of a Sea of
Cortez blue prizefighter!!

The belt was wrapped
and secured around my waist, and the rod pressed into place. Just as
well, because the next pull sent me down to my knees as yet another
beautiful blue marlin made an explosive dash for freedom! The rod was
pointing straight out the back of the cruiser, but the fish was leaping
and running at full tilt some 90degrees to my left! It headed straight
for another cruiser which had been keeping discreet company with us
ever since Jim had caught his fish, taking my line out over the
outrigger line. The fish must have been a full 200 yards away before it
sounded and turned direction. I got to my feet, keeping the rod low as
the fish kept on leaping, and frantically pumped and rewound in order
to maintain contact as the fish turned and ran to the right; Alejandro
rapidly reeled in the outriggers and wake lure whilst Capt Martin
brought the cruiser to bear on the direction the fish had taken.
Bringing the rod up for the first time, heavy resistance was felt, and
the line just melted from the reel. It was simply unstoppable!

The fish then decided to come back to the top, and
launch itself into a frenzied run across the surface, skimming the
water like a fresh-running Atlantic salmon. Jim was already taking
pictures with his digi-cam, and it was during this run that he managed
to capture what was, for me, the best picture of the entire trip. My
marlin in full flight, straight and level, right out of the water!
Absolutely marvellous!

 
Andy's turbocharged marlin skims the
surface on yet another
blistering run!

For a
full twenty minutes I
stood with knees braced against the back of the cruiser whilst the
marlin proceeded to give me a demonstration in sheer brute strength and
power. The cruiser seemed to be in permanent backwards motion! A change
of tactics – the fish sounded, and all my gains were lost in one
searing dive. The sweat ran profusely – help! my sunglasses are steamed
up! Arms and back strained to excess; the line singing in the breeze
like an overtightened guitar string! No longer the “armchair expert” –
here I was, doing it for real! My God, it just felt SO good!!

Another change – the fish was back up near the
surface, just meandering along as if it didn't even know it was hooked.
This was my chance to make some gains – I wound down as the cruiser
slowly sped up and made headway, albeit in reverse! In my mind, I could
see Jim's fish making that desperate last break for freedom when it was
first near the boat. Trying to remember how Jim had handled the
situation, I brought extra pressure to bear as the fish slowly drew
nearer, .. nearer…

Alejandro was at the stern,
gloved hands at the ready. The double line slid over the rod rollers
and onto the reel – the weight felt incredible! The fish, now lit up
with the most stunning blues and purples, obliged me by broadsiding on
the first approach, and Alejandro was there in an instant, his safe
hands grasping for the leader, sliding down, reaching for the bill….
contact!! The water exploded as the fish made every effort to evade his
grip, but Alejandro was more than up to the task! The engine cut, and
Capt Martin was down in a flash. Jim took the rod from me and I moved
to the centre of the stern to help bring my prize of a lifetime safely
over the side. I watched almost helplessly as Alejandro heaved on the
fish - it wouldn't come over the side! I grabbed the dorsal fin and
tried to get my hands to meet around the body – I couldn't do it – the
girth of the fish was simply too big!! Capt Martin had also leant over
and gripped the wrist of the tail, and with one final, massive effort,
the fish slid over the side and onto my lap. It was then, feeling the
marlin's full weight on my legs, that I realised that I had finally
captured the fish of my dreams!

The marlin had
one final act of defiance in store – it writhed on my lap, and with a
huge twist of its body attempted to catapult me over the back of the
cruiser! Had it not been for the fighting chair, I would have gone
over, but I was just able to hook my foot under the armrest and save
myself from an early bath – this could have been VERY interesting, as I
am a non-swimmer! (I did have a lifejacket on, though). Jim couldn't
take the ‘trophy shot' because he couldn't stop laughing! 
Cheers, mate!!

I attempted to turn the fish into
a fully upright position for the photo, but it was having none of it.
With me yelling at Jim to take the picture before the fish took me back
overboard with it, Jim took my ‘trophy shot', and the fish was then
quickly returned to the water. I waited apprehensively for the mutually
agreed verdict from the crew … “at least 250, a big 250”. 
Just as before, the cheers rent the air, hands were shaken,
congratulations all round!! What a feeling – the best ever!!!
 


Andy clings
tightly to his 250lb blue marlin
– a 50th birthday present to beat them all!

The
ride back to the dock passed in a total daze. The ten pennants were
hoisted for all to see – including the two bright blue marlin pennants
with the all-important ‘caught-and-released' red/white-T pennants
flying below. I don't think I've ever felt so proud of any sporting
achievement in my life, and I'm certain that Jim felt the same way too.
As a grand finale to our adventure, you just couldn't have written the
script any better! This was truly ‘mission accomplished', and both Jim
and myself hereby give our grateful thanks and appreciation to Capt
Martin and Alejandro – (and not forgetting Capt Juan!) for making this
the fishing trip of a lifetime!
All true professionals! - same again next year, please!!

 
10 pennants tell yet another
story! - and what great memories to bring home to England!!


ROLL ON NEXT YEAR – THE ‘LONDON BOYS' WILL BE
BACK!!

JIM TAYLOR & ANDY
FIELDER


Editor's Note: our thanks go to Jim Taylor and  Andy Fielder for taking the time and effort to submit such a fabulous story. It was a pleasure to be allowed to publish this on Anglers' Net