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Feeling Triumphant

Chapter 9 – We go even more remote.

I stirred early about 4:00 am and decided to grab a quick chest workout in the gym downstairs. That would turn out to be a huge mistake later. Breakfast was one hard-boiled egg, toast, chopped fresh tropical fruit, a big pitcher of mixed blended fruits, one hunk of weird cheese, and coffee. Not bad! We assembled down on the pier and waited for Jason. It took a couple of trips to load all his bags onto the boat. Wouldn’t want to be caught out at sea without the back-up baby-wipes!!! In the end we were only a few minutes late. The water taxi took us out to “Leodan” our fishing vessel.

Leodan was a 31’ Ecuadorian built fishing boat with two 200 horsepower outboard motors. It was not super fancy, but it was appropriately manifested for the task at hand. The hull was strong. The captain’s seat was high, so that he could do some spotting. The interior cabin had enough seating for 5, even after we’d loaded all of our backpacks, camera, and gear bags onto the boat. The “underneath” area was tiny, and the bathroom was tinier.

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Taking a leak on the boat was an acrobatic task. If you made it out without pissing on your leg, you were doing good. The open rear deck had 6 rod holders, and the rods and reels looked to me to be in great condition. The gear was categorically better than my previous deep sea adventures. To my surprise, Sean was on the boat! It would be a great change of pace to actually be able to communicate with the crew. This proved to be one of the best surprises on the trip. Sean makes for good company, and he answered a great number of our questions while we were out to sea.

The Captain, Edwin, looked tough as nails. He’s everything a sailor is supposed to be. He was leathery and weathered. He was skinny, but you could tell he possessed a great deal of strength. His vision was keen, and his boat driving skills were exceptional. When he wasn’t out guiding trips like ours, he had his own boat. He fished for a living. I gotta admit, I thought he was a total badass.

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Marco, our first mate, displayed a sharp contrast in appearance. He reminded me of one of “El Juapo’s” fat henchmen from the movie “The Three Amigos.” He was a capable set of hands on deck (certainly better than me), but Edwin found some opportunities to coach him, both days, on what he could do better. For being a roundish slow-moving guy, he was still alert. Marco always had his eye on the lines behind the boat, and was the first to see many of the fish.

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As we were about to pull out of the harbor, the thought occurred to me, “We still are not quite there yet. San Cristóbal is remote, for sure. But we have another 80 km to go before we reach our most remote point, our actual destination.” The seas were choppier than usual. Sean said that the conditions around Galápagos are usually like a lake, very still and flat. We had 6 foot swells at times and the boat pitched, swayed, and launched as we powered out to sea. We followed the coastline of the island to the southeast. It was just minutes before you could see no signs of civilization. We were realizing that the tiny town of San Cristóbal is just a spec on this island, and the vast majority of it is untamed and wild. From this vantage away from the shore you could see the different strata of vegetation. The black rocky lava shoreline was trimmed in cactus and arid vegetation. Rising up the hills was a more lush tropical vegetation. The peaks of the highlands were shrouded in fog, so we couldn’t quite make out what it might look like. 

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There wasn’t much talking on the way out to sea. The noise of the engines and the boat slapping against the waves made it difficult to hear. I sat in the fighting chair and tried to keep my eyes on the horizon, and the island for as long as possible. I didn’t want to get sea-sick! This was the best way I knew how.Two hours of pitching and launching later, we had arrived at the steep underwater banks. When the boat slowed I got up to get some water. You could see that Bryan was already looking pale. He gave us the bad news that he was feeling sick. I knew right then that he was in for a rough day. I’ve been there before and it sucks. You never really feel better until you put your feet on the dock.  At this point we were about 9 hours away from that.

Once when I was in the Dominican Republic I got sea sick. It’s actually a funny story, but I”ll just tell the short version here. About 1 hour into the fishing and we hooked up with a “triple.” 3 Mahi Mahi take the lined simultaneously. I jumped up, adrenaline flowing, and land 2 of the 3, while the other guy still hasn’t got the one fish in. He starts throwing up with the rod in his hand, so I take it from him and land his fish too. Afterwards (I guess it must’ve been the adrenaline) I felt quite a bit better. Still sick, but a lot better.

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So with that story in mind I suggested that Bryan take the first fish. He took his position in the chair and waited for his moment. Sean had told us “fighting in the chair is for girls.” He preferred that we fight them standing up with a waist-plate on.  He showed us how he would put on the waist-plate and also a vest that would help us hold the rod. So Bryan suited up with some gear and waited.

When you’re Marlin fishing, the lines are shockingly close to the boat. The lures run just a few feet behind the boat. In most cases we were able to see the marlin swim up and look at the baits before the action started. Marco or Edwin would start screaming when we saw a fish swimming up behind the baits.


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 It was about 9:15 when we hooked up with our first Marlin. Marco flipped the bail on the reel into “strike” position, and the fight was on.  Bryan did an excellent job. In less than 30 minutes he had a beautiful blue marlin up boatside. I was sitting up top and heard our skipper Edwin say “100 kilos.” It was the perfect first fish! We considered ourselves very lucky to have seen a blue on the trip.

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Before 10:00 the rod was bent over again. Mr. Soos sprang into action and grabbed the rod. I scoured for a waist-plate and strapped it around his waist. Everyone was scrambling a different direction. Some of us were reeling in the other lines, others had to get the photo and video cameras ready. Someone had to strap in the guy fighting the fish. And of course, Bryan made a scramble for the side and heaved bile into the ocean. A second striped marlin was flying around getting airborne as he sailed past our boat. It was as if he was saying “You hooked my dumbass brother, but you won’t catch me!

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Soos made quick work of his marlin. High-fives were slapped out. Ham-and-cheese sandwiches appeared. Olives were enjoyed. Beers were cracked. In no time our lines were back in the water. Jason Hall was on deck for a fish…

We were severely unprepared for what happened next. I was standing near the stern when the reel suddenly started to squeal out line. I picked up the rod, it was supposed to be Jason’s fish! Jason instinctively picked up his camera as the fish was flailing about acrobatically above water. He said “Keep it, fight it” as he snapped off some photos. Then another rod bent over and line started to spool out. Craig picked up the rod. He was just trying to hold it steady for Jason…. But Jason had tunnel-vision with his eye looking into the lens and shutter. Bryan was underneath looking white-faced on the bench, no doubt the world was spinning for him. Neither Craig nor I had a waist plate on, and we were getting bullied around by these fish. “I need a waist plate Jason!!!” I screamed from about 20 inches away. 

Click. Click. Click. I could hear the shutter flashing.

I need a waist-plate, moron!!

Click. Click Click. “Huh?”

By now the fish had settled into a big powerful run. With nothing to brace the rod against except my crotch, I was quickly pulled up against the transom of the boat. I pinned the rod up against the transom with my foot and held on for dear life as the reel spooled out line at a terrific speed. Bryan came to my rescue. He’d found a waist-plate (a little guy) and got it strapped around my waist. I managed to stand up and latch it in.

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Jason, I’ve got a fish here for you.” Craig said. Jason got plated up and was fighting his fish off to my left.

My waist-plate was on too low, below the belt, and was resting right on my johnson. It was painful, but I was ok. The fish switched sides, and Jason and I were forced to switch places. I saw down in the chair and let Jason pull his rod over me. As I sat down, the tiny waist plate slid up into my crotch and was totally racking me. Soos was there for encouragement. He helped me get the butt of the rod into the chair base, and totally relieved all the pressure off of my crotch! I could finally start making some headway on this fish. He was at least 200 yards out, and I started to crank him back in.

Edwin could see I was in a bad place, and started to give some reverse to assist me. Jason’s fish was taking a run to the bow just as Edwin gave it the reverse gas. I think Jason nearly went over or lost the rod. It’s hard enough to fight one of those fish without having to fight against the engines of the boat also.

Once I got seating and started cranking, I got my marlin to the boat in a hurry. It felt great! He had me roped into the corner early. I was just hanging on for my life. Then when I finally got settled into the fight, I worked him out in a hurry. I was the only one ( I think) who’s had experience fighting a fish and level-winding at the same time. That helps a bunch, as it can be a big distraction if you’re not used to it.

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I had help from Bryan with the plate, help from Craig getting into the chair properly, help from Edwin on reverse, and of course Marco was helping out holding on to me to make sure I didn’t fly into the water. It took me by surprise how powerful that first fish was.  I was thankful for everyone’s help!

Meanwhile Jason was still fighting his fish. He had the sucker tail-wrapped and it was now able to put the resistance of the rod on his tail rather than on his head. Jason was beaded up with milk-white beads of sweat mixed with sunscreen. “One more set!!” We yelled at him for encouragement. You could tell he was gassed, but Jason was determined. In the end, he dominated.  I don’t think Jason’s ever lost a fight.

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So we’d made it through a complete rotation! We all felt that to be a huge success. Personally, I’d never had a day of marlin fishing where we landed more than one fish.  Now we had finished a full rotation and we were enjoying some of Marco’s fisherman recipe ceviche.



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Well, everyone except Bryan. The sight and smell of the ceviche sent B clamoring for the side where he proceeded to release the contents of his bread basket. I’ve been there before, man! Your lips and fingers go numb, chills come over you, and sweat beads up on your head and upper lip. Your stomach feels like a pit that stretches all the way to the center of the earth, and your head bounces up and down with the waves as though it were independent of your body. Nothing sounds good. Nothing seems funny. Time stands still. In short, it sucks

After a short spell of trolling around I noticed that Craig and Jason were napping. Now we had all of the classic elements of deep sea fishing at work… the rough ride out, sea sickness, fish, double fish, early morning drinking, eating fresh fish on the boat, and now afternoon napping. If you’re not a deep sea fisherman, that’s pretty much the full experience.

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We were lucky enough to hook up again. Bryan was on deck and took the rod. We huddled around to give him encouragement. He fought the fish for a good 15 minutes before his energy was zapped. These fish are tremendously athletic. Bryan was working on no food or drink all day, and I believe his blood sugar levels were quite low. I took the rod and finished the fight for him. It was striper number 5 for the day.

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Our lines were back in the water. Jason looked at me and said “One more and we need to go in… For Bryan’s sake.” I was having the same thought. It was just a few minutes before Edwin shouted from the top that he’d seen fins in the water. There was a marlin chasing behind the boat. Edwin grabbed the live bait rig and tossed it out into the water. I watched the marlin take the dead mackerel. I watched as Edwin patiently let the bail spool out line for another 5 seconds while the marlin swallowed the bait. Then I saw Edwin close the reel bail and slowly set the hook, letting the circle hook slide up and set itself. He handed the rod to Soos, and the most epic fight of the trip was underway.

“Last fish Bryan. We’ll be back on land before you know it!”

I grabbed the video camera and got a good vantage point in the crow’s nest. Craig’s form was outstanding. He was cranking on this fish, really getting his back into it. He was steady like an oil rig, bobbing up and down over and over. The camera ran out of battery about 25 minutes into the fight. The fish was boatside several times before embarking on massive runs out to sea.

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Nothing could break the mental focus of the Soos. We even relieved him with a mid-fight beer. Later Craig would say he was in a mental zone… I guess similar to that of a marathon runner. You just check out and say to yourself

“I’m not gonna let this fish win. Furthermore, I’m not passing this rod off. This fish is mine.”

Finally after an hour and twenty minutes the fish was landed.

We headed back to San Cristóbal feeling triumphant.

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A note from Sean (Galeodan):

Rod-handling is just one of the things we discuss on the way out to the banks.  If you’ve done this before, chances are you will not want anyone else touching that rod when the fish strikes and, of course, we’ll respect that. But if you haven’t done it before, or would rather we helped out anyway, we’re more than happy to do so - Including helping you stay on your feet and in the boat!

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