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Announcing the release of Sweet Gulf, the ultimate coffee table photography book!

Season 4 Episode 4, 5 and 6

The theme of this post - Conditioning and technique… Learning a whole new way to battle fish.   

The update this week will include several outings that capture a variety of fishing expeditions. First was a great Kayak outing with Captain Tosh and our new neighbor David Horn (an accomplished angler who has fished around the world). Whereas we didn’t tie into any serious fish, it was a great outing none the less with a few special photos of the Osa Bay before sunrise.       

That evening I went on a run up the mountain and had my first “in the wild” Redtail Boa Constrictor encounter. As I was coming down the slope of a steep hill it was crossing the gravel road and I was able to capture some photos on my i-Phone. I didn’t have great light but my “Steve Irwin” training enabled me to lift it up and get one good shot (I had several Boa Constrictors as pets during my teenage years). I placed it back into the jungle and it was on its way. It was a very healthy specimen that was about 6 Ft long.     

Now to describe what I’m referring to being “A Whole new way of battling fish.”   

Throughout my fishing career, I’ve trained myself to fight fish based primarily upon one simple rate limiting factor – AKA the maximum tensile strength of the tippet (leader connecting the angler’s line to the fly, lure or hook). When fly fishing for trout, you typically use a very long – flexible graphite rod (9+ feet in length) and the strength of the tippet can range from about 4 pounds to around 10 pounds. When fighting larger Salmon or Steelhead, the line strength can go up to 12, 15 or even 20 pounds.   

To explain the science behind this… I’ve landed many 30 pound and 40-pound class King Salmon on a fly in heavy current with a 15-pound tippet. I’ve even landed a 64-pound Redfish in Mosquito Lagoon (FL State Record) on a super light spinning rod with a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader. Essentially, the angler is fighting the fish to a level of fatigue that enables the controlled landing of the fish for a safe release. This technique of fishing is both challenging and rewarding as it matches up the most skilled anglers with attempting to land the largest fish on the lightest tackle and equipment. The simple science is that the length of time that you fight the fish is directly dependent upon the strength/stiffness of the rod and the class of tippet leader connected to the fly.   

The new fishing technique that Captain Cory has introduced me to when fighting monster Yellowfin Tuna is similar in concept but different in the physical demands placed on the equipment and angler. Basically, you have a very Stiff/short (heavy duty) rod with a reel that holds several hundred yards of 80-pound braided line that connects to a 50 pound fluorocarbon leader that is ultimately tied to the hook. When using my traditional technique that focuses on “tiring the fish” on light gear to a level of exhaustion where you can land them, it would typically take me about an hour to land a 60-pound Yellowfin.  It can become physically brutal on the angler (endurance wise), to land several fish in a row and it obviously can consume most of the day.   

The new technique that is counterintuitive to an old-school fly-fisherman is to Hammer the Living SHIT out of the fish by putting so much pressure on the beast that a 60 pound Yellowfin now arrives to the boat in only about 20 minutes. Whereas this “high intensity interval tactic” is definitely very physical for a shorter duration of time, it’s not nearly as exhausting as fighting an equivalent fish for an hour or longer.   

Cory says that this new technique is possible because, it’s highly unlikely to break a 50-pound leader even with the heaviest equipment and significant reel drag (in fact - you are more likely to get pulled overboard than you are to break the rod). This tactic allowed me to land 5 monster yellowfin in a row in the following classes – 40, 50, 60, 70 and 50 pounds. The longest battle was maybe 20 minutes in length and I didn’t break off one fish in the process.  

The only negative aspect of this technique is that the Yellowfin tend to come in REALLY HOT and PISSED OFF and go ballistic when they reach the boat (making it significantly harder on the Captain and Mate to actually manage them). It can also be quite dangerous to attempt to remove the hook safely for a release or to bring them in the boat as they will proceed to break any angler’s legs that might be within range.   Cory’s solution to this challenge is to first sink a huge gaft into the fish, then – while it is thrashing out of control - attempt to take a knife and drive it into the brain of the fish and then finally to slice the artery near the lateral line to “bleed it out” before the fish finally gets dragged over the gunnel into the boat. 

After being bled out along the side of the boat for maybe 10 minutes, the Captain and/or Mate can then “in theory” lift it into the boat AND MAYBE… it will have lost enough blood to where it’s then safe to venture to the back of the boat for a photo. In every case on this day… Just when you thought it was safe to go in close for an inspection, the beast would somehow come back to life and proceed to get even with the angler with it’s last pound of strength!   

As these photos illustrate, the Yellowfin were so big that I couldn’t physically lift them and Cory had to prop them up on my lap for the photos.       

The Yellowfin we targeted were off-shore about 18 miles and they were gorging themselves on really small Red-Sardines (about 2 inches long). They bait school was so massive that it spread out for hundreds of yards in every direction and was maybe 50 feet deep.  Dave hooked the largest Tuna of the day (maybe 80+ pounds) on his heavy fly rod loaded with 400 yards of backing. He fought it for over an hour (at long distance) before it finally broke the tippet as a result of the line “raking across” it’s teeth.  Word on the street is that Dave is looking forward to “getting even” soon.     

When the fish we landed came crashing into the boat, they basically “threw up” the bait that was loaded in their bellies.     

After landing 280 pounds of Tuna, my back, legs and arms had enough of a workout, and it was time to hunt a few Roosterfish and Jacks on topwater poppers along the beach near our port. Once again, we weren’t disappointed as we hooked 8 and landed several fine species in the 30+ pound class.             

Captain Tosh with a Monster Jack in the 30 pound class.     

The sunset was spectacular (as usual) and the following photos with Captain Cory surveying the bay tell the story as to why we feel that the Osa Peninsula is now our new “Last Best Place.”         

Cory, Katie and I go out again tomorrow for a day of Inshore fishing hunting the elusive RoosterZilla and Giant Cubera Snapper.   More to follow, Happy Holidays and Plan Your trips.   T.O.

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