Yellow Dog Ambassador Jeff Currier recently returned from Costa Rica on a mission to catch a blue marlin on a fly rod. He’s caught over 325 fish species in over 50 countries on the fly but blue marlin was always one that escaped him. We had the chance to ask Jeff some questions about his Costa Rica trip and his pursuit of the blue marlin.
How long and how many trips has it taken to check marlin on the fly off your species list?
“This was the first time I specifically targeted blue marlin. But, I’ve been on the water for striped marlin at least 30 days and another 6 days for white marlin. I’ve bumped into a couple of blues and watched friends cast to them. In all those days I’ve hooked only 1 white and lost him. This goes back to about 1993.”
Was there anything that really surprised you during the experience?
“What surprised me was that I went all these years not catching marlin on fly mainly because we raised hardly any. Then on the second day last week in Costa Rica we raised 19 in one day!"
Landing a fish of that size is no small task. What should anglers do, if anything, to prepare to battle with these giants?
“Plan to have yourself in decent shape. Endurance and strength are important. For me, staying in shape is normal but by no means extreme. I ride my bike, hike, strengthen my core and lift light weights a few times a week. It’s not much but it’s enough to make a huge difference.”
“Also understand how to fight these fish. It’s vastly important to me to release these outstanding creatures unharmed. It helps to get them in quickly. “In quick” sounds impossible, but you’re not bringing the marlin in the boat. Such action wouldn’t be safe for the marlin or any humans aboard. For a billfish to be considered landed on the fly you need to get the leader in the fly rod. After you do that you can continue to fight them but most anglers break them off as fast as they can.”
What’s the fly selection for blue marlin like?
“One fly and it’s a big tandem hooked pink popper. If your boat offers to have them ready for you take that option.”
Could you run us through your fish taking the fly to bringing it to the boat?
“It seemed like a normal morning other than the fact that I was on a 43-foot marlin boat 40-miles off the Costa Rican coast. There were clouds blocking the sunrise and some rocking waves from the Pacific Ocean. The crew filled my Yeti with coffee and I watched daybreak arrive. Kind of like on the back porch in Idaho - right?
Then out went three hookless teasers and the giant diesel engines fired up. This snapped me into reality. Where was my friend Sammy in case a blue marlin attacked the teaser?
Sammy came out when he heard the engines vibrate. And he didn’t greet me as expected. He rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then very casually said, “Jeff you’re up.”
I wasn’t planning to fish until Sammy got at least a few good cracks. Now I had to figure out where to put my coffee if a marlin came and get some nutrition in my body fast in case I was lucky enough to do battle. I busted open a Kate’s Bar and made a practice cast with the 15-weight. Then I looked at my fly and imagined what it would be like if it was in the mouth of a blue marlin.
It didn’t take long for the **** to hit the fan. My Yeti was still full and I was chewing the last bite of my energy bar. The far teaser got hit. Mono screamed from the gigantic spin reel. Even without hooks the marlin wouldn’t let go. Finally, the teaser broke free but as one of the mates retrieved that one another got devoured. This marlin was hot and the chaos began!
I lunged for the sturdy fly rod. By the time I looked behind the boat the closest teaser had a bill tossing it around. Holy crap! One of the mates heaved the last teaser from the water and the boat shifted to neutral. I made my cast and in a split second the irritated blue marlin grabbed my fly. I strip set and he ripped off about 250 yards of line and backing in less than three seconds. Then as fast as he was on, the blistering fish was gone. Damn!
I’m not sure where the calmness came from but I was the only person on board that seemed calm. I reeled in and checked the fly. I was surprised to see the glob of pink feathers intact. The hook simply didn’t penetrate. I got things ready again and said, “Ok Sammy you're up.”
“Nope. Try again,” replied Sammy while still rubbing his eyes.
Minutes later the far teaser got thumped again. Everyone was awake this time. The crew got all three teasers from the water exactly as I was ready to cast. The boat hit neutral and I let it sail. When the bulky fly hit a large bill slashed at it. I popped the fly and in an instant, the fish was on. This time the marlin didn’t run. He jumped three times. Each jump edged him closer to the boat. His last jump had us concerned he may end up on board. It was wild!
Once the blue marlin knew he was attached to me and the boat he ran. And I’m not talking 250 yards of line. I’m talking like, when he jumped only seconds later, the marlin was so far away he looked tiny. This was an unreal fish!
Capt. Oscar shifted the boat to reverse and a high-speed chase began. I reeled so fast it was like I had a motor attached to my arm. Water drenched me as it crashed against the transom. Magically within minutes, I was within 75 feet from my marlin. The signature marlin “greyhounding” began. Some may say such a fish isn’t made for fly fishing. Guess again. This experience was absolutely magnificent!
I kept reefing on my marlin while Oscar helped with timely boat maneuvering. We worked like a well-oiled machine. In less than 15 minutes I reeled the leader in the rod. I was so pumped I nearly reeled in the entire leader and touched the marlin with the rod tip. Everyone cheered then I leaned back and held my reel tight.
The marlin, which was estimated at around 180lbs, cleared the water literally ten feet from us and broke off. An image etched in my brain forever. The marlin curse was broken!”
What’s the appeal of chasing these big fish?
“To me these fish are like a form of wildlife however we get to interact with them in a way you can’t with other wildlife. For instance. Remember how incredible it was when you saw your first grizzly bear? Blue marlin are the grizzly of the sea. Yet not only do you see this amazing creature lit up behind the boat but now you get to try and catch it!”
Why should I travel to Costa Rica for marlin or other bluewater species?
“Costa Rica is an amazing country. The gorgeous place has some of the nicest people in the world, fantastic national parks, amazing scenery, wildlife, pristine jungles, and options to fly fish for Atlantic Ocean species, Pacific Ocean species, inshore fishing, offshore fishing, and also freshwater fishing. Costa Rica has it all!”
Is there a fish that compares to marlin when it comes to fly fishing?
“The marlin is in a class of its own. Sailfish are the nearest, but honestly, when the sailfishing is on, sail are easy. Marlin are always a great challenge and a much larger fish.”
+ Listen to this WAYPOINTS Podcast: JEFF CURRIER - A Lifetime of Fly Fishing the World