Panama: Expedition Marlin 2012 in RetrospectMay 30, 2012
To the bluewater angler, the sound of the clicker on a 50 wide reel screaming like a scolded cat is one of the best sounds the world has to offer. When this sound is accompanied by dialogue… “Marlín, marlín… da le comer. Free spool, free spool!”, the product of the amalgamation is that much more exciting. When the auditory sensation of the captain’s exclamation and the reel’s antagonism is followed shortly thereafter by the taking flight of a 700 pound sea monster, the scene comes full circle. It is time for the angler to strap into the fighting chair and play his or her part in the wrangling of a marlin.
When all the factors that go into marlin fishing come together for a successful hook up, the product is quite the spectacle. It takes the breath of those who witness it for the first time… and of those fortunate enough to have witnessed it a hundred times. The combination of visual and auditory excitement is joined by the smell of diesel smoke emitted by the boat as she is thrown into gear in pursuit of the marlin. With the beast taking drag, greyhounding away from the boat– flying high and thrashing about, the angler’s thumb may experience a tactile sensation that is as exciting as the hollering and exclamation. If you are not careful, a big black or blue marlin can actually burn your thumb as it takes line. The physical exertion of cranking on a marlin can leave you with a sore back and shoulders the next day and a blistered thumb. Lactic acid build up in your muscles and a bubbled thumb print dissipate within a few days, the lasting change however exists within the mind of the fisherman. Though it may sound cliché, the power and grace of a marlin and its ability to steal 400 yards of 80 pound line against 20 pounds of drag, has mind and life altering qualities. Take it from me… I used to have a normal office job, with normal career aspirations.
In prescriptive terms, the addition of marlin fishing to your list of life experiences is wonderful. The sight of a marlin up top, dancing and flying, shaking and crashing, is counterintuitive. How can an animal of that size do what it is doing? How can a creature the size of a bull elk fly ten feet out of the water, covering 20 feet from the its place of exit to its reentry into the waves? The product is cognitive dissonance—the eyes see it, but the mind has a hard time processing it. As factual as the scene may be, it has qualities that are best explained by fiction. The result is something akin to what happens to a 13 year old boy the first time he gets a kiss on the playground. Whether or not he is immediately equipped to describe the sensation, he knows immediately that he likes it and will spend many hours in the future furthering its pursuit.
During Expedition Marlin 2012, the Sula Sula released 10 marlin, the Cape Knox 9 and the San Miguel 8. These creatures were predominantly black marlin, with a few blues mixed in for good measure. The average size of the blacks was north of 600 pounds. The largest was bigger than 800. It was caught aboard the Sula Sula– a classically lined beauty whose yellow hull stretches to 40 feet. Mates and captains joined anglers in high fives, hugs, and exclamations whose expression seem to be most probable only within the context to the utterance. Only within the context of marlin fishing; the exuberance of a successful release. All of this action took place surrounding some islands off of the northern coast of Panama. Beautiful pink sunsets, great food, and cold beer enveloped the stories as immediately as they were told.
Fisherman descended upon the West Coast Fishing Club Panama from across North America and beyond. From British Columbia and the scores of devoted Canadian anglers who have ventured down from WCFC’s northern lodges to Texans, folks from Florida, California, Utah, Minnesota, from Guatemala and Nicaragua and Panama, we have been fortunate enough to host guests from a diversity of geographic locations. We have had fathers and sons, husbands and wives, groups of old friends, and people who have decided to come fishing by themselves, just to see what happens. The experience has been wonderful. Old friends and fishing buddies with objectives involving catching fish and making sure that their friends do not get away without being given a hard time. This is what life is all about and often why fishing provides such a valuable platform for the development of lasting friendships.
Aside from the marlin, the great food, the fishing stories and diversity of guests, there has been the ocean. The Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean at her most prolific. We have caught more yellowfin tuna than we can count. And while the chefs have turned some of them into seared tuna steaks and sashimi, we turned many more loose. In five weeks, we have seen thousands, maybe tens of thousands of tuna swimming about the blue waters of Hannibal Bank. Tuna so prolific that they fly out of the water, frothing and churning the water until it was white with foam. Schools of feeding tuna that are not measured in feet, but in acres. Toss in a kujinua on a circle hook and hang on. The biggest yellowfin we caught was in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. We caught them on poppers, on blue runners, and on live bonito. Schools of tuna so voracious that the bait they corralled at the ocean’s surface would beach themselves on top of logs, completely out of water, in an attempt to avoid the swimming, crashing jaws of death.
We have seen sharks, jumping manta rays, porpoise by the hundred, hordes of frigates, boobies, and tuna birds. There are so many turtles in Coiba that driving across the ocean is a bit like playing mine sweeper. The ocean is alive, its blue depths extravagant in its providence. Fishing here is as much an experience as it is a fishing trip. There are qualities about it that seem more descriptive of a safari than of a day fishing. It is Expedition. Sometimes it is wide open. It is always interesting. There is charm about it.
As we head back to Panama City we are intrigued. Jessica Heydahl has been with us. She is incredible. Her photos capture moments in time that anglers fortunate enough to be involved will never forget. Her photography provides context, a foundation of truth, for stories and statements that without such proof could never be believed to have actually taken place. The English language is endowed with ample capacity for description and eloquence. Thanks to Jessica and her skill behind the lens, we have proof that the description of events, independent of eloquence, is truthful (something the size a bull elk really can fly). Her photos are as much art as they are fishing pictures and we are thankful for her.
We will be fishing in the Pearl Islands beginning the 24th of June. Come fish/eat/experience/safari/trade stories with us. It is really fun.