The Bluefin Tuna game is hard. I was first introduced to the Bluefin Tuna during my commercial fishing years. We would set a course for the Gulf Stream in a tiny 70 foot fiberglass long lining boat. Believe me, out there a 70 ft. boat is tiny. After traveling several hundred miles off-shore to the Tuna, Mako Shark and Sword fishing grounds, we would carefully analyze the eddies, micro currents and water temperatures. The captain was the final decision maker and his decision on where and when to set the 1,200 hooks was at the root of a successful or unsuccessful set. Long line commercial fishing or any commercial fishing is exactly the same as any other type of fishing. The only difference is that everything is exaggerated. Catches are measured in the thousands of pounds. Instead of a couple rods, reels, lures or flies there are thousands of hooks. Instead of going out for the day, you go out for 15 or 30 days. Four foot seas are common, it’s the 10+ foot seas that become troublesome. Instead of 10 hours being a long day of fishing, the fishing never stops.
It is a 24/7 operation and sleep is a rare commodity. So, every night we would set the long line. It floated for miles on the surface of the Gulf Stream waters with 1,200 individual baited hooks hanging 6 fathoms below the main line. We would then pick up the line in the morning, assuming a freighter did not run over it and get it caught in its prop. The premise was much like any other form of fishing. The long line was reeled onto a huge spool of mono that was attached to the deck of the boat. As each hook was brought to the boat, there were only two possible scenarios. The hook either caught a fish or did not. But, just like any other form of fishing, there were contingencies to the scenario. What kind of fish was it? We were targeting only Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Mako Shark and Swordfish. So, anything else was not wanted. If the captain made a wrong decision and chose to have us set the long line in bad water, it was possible to end up with 1,000 or so Blue Sharks.
That was not a pretty situation, for the sharks or us. The sharks would roll themselves in the mono and tangle the mono to the point of being unrecognizable. But, nonetheless we had to get all of our expensive hooks back and untangle and splice all the mono. Needless to say, a bad set such as this resulted in countless hours of work. But, lets assume the captain made a good decision and ordered us to set the lines in “good fish” water. The hooks would come up to the boat and many would be empty but many would have “good fish.” But, typically, the majority of “good fish” would be Yellowfin Tuna or Swordfish and Mako Shark.
The Bluefin Tuna had a way of staying one step ahead of us. But, when we did get into the Bluefin Tuna, we were a happy crew. At $45 per pound, A few Bluefin Tuna could really make the work worthwhile. Fast forward to present day. I no longer commercial fish. I don’t like to eat fish. I don’t keep any fish. I no longer fish with conventional gear. I only fly fish. And, to be honest, if not for fly fishing I don’t think I would fish at all. With that said, my recent Bluefin Tuna fly fishing trip was amazing. It was amazing because I was able to exercise all of the skills I learned from the days of long lining in the Gulf Stream. It was amazing because the factors that determined our success with the fly rods were identical to the factors that determined success with the long line. We had a great captain and skipper, new quality gear, a combined wealth of knowledge and experienced and skilled fishermen. Our wise and knowledgeable Captain, Mike Warecke (860.304-9131) understood the water and the fish. Without Captain Mike and his good decisions, I truly do not think our trip would have been a success.
We had, Pete, a knowledgeable skipper and boat man. Pete is an editor of Boating Magazine and his knowledge of boating was obvious. We also had Tom Rosenbauer, the fly fishing guru at the Orvis Company and author of “The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide.” Tom’s gear was perfect for this trip. Tom outfitted our crew with 8, 10 and 12 weight Zero Gravity Fly Rods and Mach and Vortex fly reels. Tom also rigged the rods and reels with color coded backing, tested knots, Wonderline fly line (floating, intermediate and depth charge), Mirage leaders, tippet and flies. Above all of this, a huge thanks goes out to the fishing Gods. We were blessed with good weather, warm air and water temperatures, baitfish, Bonito, Skip Jack Tuna and Bluefin Tuna. It is truly magical when everything and everyone comes together. Thank you Mike, Tom and Pete for making this one of the best fly fishing trips of my life.