March Madness - Guatemalan Style
March 11, 2006 Iztapa, Guatemala:
I received a call Tuesday morning from Jim Turner, owner of Guatemala's newest gameboat the Release, a classic 37ft Merritt. He asked "what are you doing this weekend?" Having spoken minutes earlier to Capt. Ron Hamlin aboard the Captain Hook on his second day with over 50 releases, my response was quick "nothing, let’s go fishing."
Airline tickets were issued and away we went. I met Jim and his wife, Liz, at the American Airlines ticket counter at Miami International Airport, where we checked in our typical four suitcases full of tackle. We spent time talking about the incredible body of sailfish that had moved into Guatemala. Two and half-hours later, we were arriving at Guatemala City’s LaAurora International Airport being met by Antonio, for our 90 minute drive down to the coast.
Once in Iztapa, we checked in at the Quinta Pez Vela where Jonathan and Melusine, our hosts, met us with cocktails served by our very own bartender Julian. The anticipation of what was to come the next day kept us up all night swapping stories. Jim made the decision that night that we were going to fly fish for them.
The next morning Capt. Hamlin met us at the dock, by now it was his fifth day straight with over 50 releases, "Well boys do the best you can, it’s unbelievable out there". We boarded the Release and Capt. Chris Sheeder introduced me to his mates Nico and Ricardo.
Teaser baits were rigged and three Billy Pate Bluefin fly reels coupled with Cam Sigler 16 weight fly rods were ready for action. A selection of Cam Sigler flies, ballyhoo and belly strip teasers were rigged and ready. Forty-five minutes later, the engines throttled down to trolling speed, the left outrigger was lowered, and the bridge teaser started dancing in the waves. Not more than 10 minutes later, the madness had begun, "He's on the teaser" said Capt. Chris calmly, and like aWimbledon final match, Nico and Ricardo teased the first sailfish into position.
The Release team with a hefty Pacific Sail
Jim performed his first cast flawlessly, like he'd been casting buddy with Lefty Kreh for years. Minutes later Nico retrieved the fly and the teasers were back in position. "Teaser" said Capt. Chris again. I thought to myself, "there's no way, it has only been a couple of minutes." Again Jim's cast was right on the money and a few minutes later the sailfish swam away as fast as it had come into our spread. "Teaser", "He's on the Spinner", "Teaser", "Teaser" and sail after sail were released.
These weren't your typical sailfish, not the 30-40 pound fish I'm used to catching in South Florida. These were BIG! The average sail was 75-90 pounds. It was 9:45am, and we had just released our 18th sail!
No one dared mention "the record" word, but we all thought it - "Could we tie or even surpass the fly day record of 27 today?" At 11:30am the new Fly World Record was released, number 28! The radio was ablaze with the usual congratulations, good going, etc., but it wasn't even noon. Obviously, this was no ordinary day. This was one of those days you read about in the Lerner logs at IGFA or hear about from some old timer at your local tackle shop.
The baits were placed back in the water to see where the day would take us. It's now 2PM and number 40 had been safely released! Did I mention that 95 percent of the flies were retrieved! WOW What a day! My one gig camera chip was full, and we still had two more hours to fish. We were back at the dock at 4:45PM with the new Angler World Record of 54 releases, along with the new Boat Day Fly Record of 57 releases! I even sneaked in and released three sails of my own.
Congratulations to Jim, Liz, Capt. Chris, mates Nico and Ricardo. Great mates who made the magic happen. Thank you for sharing this incredible day with me.
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