Ohhhhj, bloody decks are one thing, giant goose egg sounds totally another. Ouch. Way to stay with it!....In January I convinced 3 friends with limited-to-no-prior fishing experience to accompany me on an August 3 day on the Vagabond: "I don't know Shit" Geoff, "I know enough to be Dangerous" Adam, and "Hey, I just learned the UniKnot on Youtube" Caleb. Stalwart men and capable in their other endeavors, what could go wrong? I felt a little bad for the other hypothetical passengers, but... I figured what the hell, what better fish to learn on than bluefin.
Though I've only been pursuing this fine pursuit for a few years, it surprised my wife that I had enough tackle to provide 4 complete rigs for each of us from 25# to 80/100#. I just saw the gaps in the arsenal. Tackle Ho dom is a disease, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The 7 hour drive from Monterey was almost enough time to drill the essentials: follow your line; maintain contact with your bait, over-and-under dance; belly-hook vs nose-hook, downwind. The talks continued poolside at the Ramada but now there was whisky and cigars involved and it was clear their attention was wandering.
Loading up Thursday morning, it was Cameron at the wheel, with 2nd David, Adam, Tommy, and Chowder on deck and Brandon and Joe in the gallery. Sorry guys, but you will end up earning your tips. After getting (primo) bait, David gives the safety brief and outlines the Plan: a long run to west of SCI and then flatfalling through the night with that being the beginning of a caffeine and adrenaline-fueled 50 hour marathon. He recommended we have lunch and take a nap, as after the festivities began sleep would be better measured in minutes not hours. A good idea but rest was elusive as the combination of thinking about months of prep, the unaccustomed sense of responsibility to ensuring my friends had fun, and the realization that their first experience would be the arduous and often frustrating task of repeatedly dropping 10 ounces of tarted-up Vegas bling into the inky abyss hoping for fish the size of wine barrels, had my stomach in a bit of an uproar. Couldn't we start with a breezer of firecracker yellows? Maybe a few whitefish?
We get to the zone about 9pm and Cameron finds a school he likes and sets up the drift. 180' to 250'. Despite the mid-grade size of the fish we elect to drop our heavy gear. 200+ gram Mustad's on the 80/100. My jig gets hit maybe 20 minutes later. Soon enough, with a perfect gaff shot from Tommy, a 60 pounder greets the deck in a shower of blood and cheerful profanity. Skunk off the boat, and suddenly I feel fucking great.
By 2am, I think 7 total fish had come aboard, all in the 50 to 70 pound class. The MoonRiser 250 I was using had accounted for one more (as well as 2 more hook ups that I farmed), and Caleb 'the Sponge' had managed to put the newbs on the board with a beautiful fish. Spirits are high in our little band of intrepid goons, when Caleb hooks up again in the bow. This fish comes in green, and a missed gaff shot results in an explosion of froth on the surface and a long screaming run with Caleb pinned. He works the fish in again and another gaff doesn't quite hit and there is the repeat of the frenzied fish ripping line into the depths. Fish comes up again still herky jerky and 2nd captain David gets a bite lower down near the the tail. He hoists it up but has trouble getting it over the bow rail and, while I keep filming, Caleb in an instant reaches forward and before the word 'Don't...' can leave my mouth is pulling the tuna's head over. Shit, the definition of a rookie move, and one I never mentioned to the boys.
The fish hits the deck and Caleb is kneeling, still attached. He says quietly, 'He got me.' Then the fish thrashes and the storm of agonized vitriol that comes out of Caleb let's me know it ain't good. David's lying on the fish to keep it still while trying to brain it. There's a minute of taking stock once the fish is dead. It's a Daggerman 280 jig and the fish was hooked on the 4x Stinger treble that I'd put on the rear, while the 7/0 Mustad assist on the front is completely buried in Caleb's forearm - past the bend but no barb or point emerging. Ugh. While David cuts the hook off the jig so we can get Caleb in the galley for a better look, I'm feeling sick again - thinking about medivac flights or having to drive the boat 90 miles back to San Diego. Screw Caleb, the other passengers are going to kill us.
Inside the galley there's a bit of back and forth figuring out the best way forward. We get a couple/few slugs of Balvenie 12 in Caleb and he's in pretty good form: cracking jokes and holding forth. With only the eye and maybe an inch of shank protruding it's hard to know what the best move is. It's a damn big hook. One of the passengers - Frank - is an EMT and is enlisted in the discussion. Eventually, with a spritz of lidocaine and a filet knife sterilized on the stove, Frank, Cameron, and David make an incision in Caleb's skin and rotate the point and barb out of the muscle where it can be clipped with a handy pair of 18" bolt cutters. Caleb might have said something pithy and calm but the towel in his mouth made it difficult to understand.
With the steel out, it looked a lot better. Swollen, but no arteries hit, no tendons damaged. Caleb was lucky. Some tape sutures, a quick wrap, a gulp of whisky and at 3:30 we all went to bed. Maybe the trip can be saved.
Up at 5:30, and the hunt began for a school with which to dance the flyline 2-step. Finding one that wanted to play, it was a plunker bite on a steady drift all day. Mostly 40#, with some brave souls at 30#, belly hook on a number 1 or 2 hook. When Caleb shows up at the rail groggy eyed and gingerly handling his rod about 7am I was a little impressed. The sumbitch has climbed El Capitan a couple of times and apparently he thinks he's pretty tough.
The fish were 40 to 80, with the average at 50+. Absolutely beautiful grade, and a handful on 40 pound line. It rapidly became clear that our Gang of Four's hijinks and successes of the night before was in fact a fluke, and that the real fisherman have shown up today. While we struggled, others caught 2 or 3 or 4 or in one guy's case his 3 day limit. I finally get bit on a long soak and hand off the rod to Adam for his very first tuna of any sort.
After dinner we transitioned back to the flatfalls, but locating a good and willing school is harder than the night before. We cruise, and search, and drop jigs again and again with nary a strike, finally giving up to make the run to Tanner about 3am.
Wake up on the Bank and start a pick bite of flyline yellowtail: 15 to 33 pounds, with a good number of 10 to 20 pound bluefin in the mix. I wear myself out yoyoing a 6x jr with a single hit that I don't manage to convert. I pick out a lot of backlashes for my friends as the deckies are working hard gaffing fish and sorting tangles. My friends grow sad as the day progresses and they don't catch a YT. They are given several handoffs by other passengers but each time it somehow turns out to be a schoolie bluefin. Mark, the guy who got 6 BFT the day before gets 8 YT today, including the 33 pounder. He's an artist, loose limbed and effortless - a little like Jack Sparrow, but a little more portly, short hair, and no eye shadow. He claims the fish like his Copenhagen, but I wonder if it's not the serious quantities of light beer he's quaffing. Impressive.
For the afternoon we move back the bluefin grounds: another plunker bite that slowly grows into something short of sick wide but way beyond OK. Adam is one of the first to hook up on a bait he selected, shoulder-hooked, cast, shuffled, and hooked. Game on, we have a fisherman! He groans like an emphysemic old lady winching the fish up through its last 100' of death circles. 10 minutes later he does it again, but this fish is 10 pounds heavier - an easy 60.
Geoff is freaking out a little as other than hand-offs he hasn't got a fish. Not on his own, and none of them have been the larger models. Finally he does, but 30 minutes later it breaks off. The culprit? A knot I tied that morning for the YT bite and never retied. I suck. Finally in the bottom of the 8th, he gets a quick handoff and brings a 50 pounder to gaff.
Caleb's a trooper, never giving up, but refusing a handoff. Skinny, bedraggled and bandaged, he makes his way to the bait tank and then through the shuffle, again and again. He pulls the hook on a hard running fish but It's not to be. At 8:30 Cameron gets on the horn says 'lines up' and we head to the barn. Caleb has his two jig fish from the first night and there's almost no pus leaking out from his filthy bandage, so we count it a win.
This would be an appropriate time to mention that the other passengers on this trip were just great. It was only my 5th multi-day trip, but it was without question the most uniformly pleasant, affable, and experienced (excepting us) group I've yet encountered. Multiple generous hand offs to my dipshit friends, beers proffered, and tips given. Good stuff.
The Vagabond crew and boat were terrific. Those guys do a remarkable job on no sleep, and it's damn impressive. Maybe not my first choice for elective surgery, but when it's mandatory, hell yeah! My second trip with them, but certainly not my last.
The first pic should be self explanatory
The second pic is for those who feel a dead fish pic must be shown in every thread. Adam with his first tunafish
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