In the breaking Oaxacan dawn, the panga rode through the surf, and launched up on the beach, bouncing on the plastic roller as the noise of the airborne propellers were drown down by the sand. It was a familiar face that greeted me, one whose typically calm disposition was replaced by an ear to ear grin followed by a "Amigo! Hay mucha tuna arriba. A pura te." Translation: "There are a lot of tuna on the surface get your butt in gear!" A group of friends assisted us with gathering of the gear and launching the boat. We were off.
- Bendigo Shaafter
I breathed in the fresh Pacific ocean air and smelled the locals' wood burning stoves smoldering. I watched the horizon filled with beaches, palms, and mountainous foothills vanish into the sea rollers. It wasn't long before Beto pointed to a group of dolphins and frickets following their predatory senses. Tuna were busting bait and I began to become overwhelmed with the nervous anticipation that I can only liken to watching your favorite football team in the big game awaiting the kickoff devoid of certitude that the deal will get done. Beto circled the boat into casting distance and cut the motor using the instincts of generations of his fisherman ancestors. Stripping out 12 weight clear intermediate tip line onto the deck, I rid myself of my shoes in order to feel if the line were to get under my feet. I looked over my last 6/o red headed electric deceiver and primped the feathers superstitiously. Three falsies with a double haul set up a 60 ft cast that laid the fly into the wheel house.
The rod was quickly tucked under my armpit to facilitate a double hand retrieve. This may not be the most comfortable way to fly fish, but it's certainly the most effective technique for a fish that can cruise the Pacific with the speed and velocity of a Jaguar xj12 on the Autobahn. Six strips of the line and a pack of yellowfin tuna in the 10-20 kg class bore down with the determination to beat his brethren to the next meal. The leader locked down on the fly and I stripped set with everything I had. Within seconds over 100 yds of backing had sped through my flyrod. A 45 minute fight ensued traveling 2 or more miles in the direction the tuna was dictating. She gave up hard earned line in 25 yd increments and counter punched by ripping backing off in 40-60 yd runs.
As the yellowfin came broadside along the panga, Beto locked down her tail knowing my intentions of wanting to liberate this fine specimen. A few quick pictures were taken of the tuna and I'll leave the weight to those so inclined. The engine was started to aid in the consumption of oxygen the tuna needed to keep the muscles from building up lactic acid. The release of the tail punctuated what has been permanently filed into my top 1-5 fishing experiences that we covet. As the screamer from Detroit says, "It's the memories that make me a wealthy man."
Beto nodded towards the frickets hovering the melee while cranking the engine in hot pursuit. I prepared my flyline for the next opportunity. The engine was cut and several casts and retrieves were made before a schoolie of about 7-9 kgs hammered the fly. After 10 minutes, the consistent pressure on the fish created a gap in the soft tissue of the tuna's mouth. Beto reached and pulled the fish into the boat and I hastily grabbed the pliers. While yanking on the hook, the tuna shifted its weight and the hook was lodged into my palm past the barb.
I looked at the captain trying to remember all of the articles I had read about, "The Best Way to Yank Out a Hook". It was something about using line to pull the hook straight out. However, I couldn't recall any of the expository pieces referring to a 6/0 big game hook with a full barb. I retrieved the pliers and Beto emphatically stated, "No! Yo tengo una idea major!" "I've got a better idea."
Within 15 minutes the panga was docked in a sleepy little Oaxacan fishing port and we were walking up a hill after getting directions from a local to the towns only doctor. After a feeble attempt on my own part using my broken Spanish to explain what had transpired, Beto gestured for me to be silent. I listened intently to an offer of one's reputation and a promise to return the gringo with proper payment. There wasn't a response as the doctor continued to look at me head to toe. In a last ditch effort, I explained that I was an educator of Latino students in the U.S.A.. With the sight of his daughter in the doorway, the doctor lead me to his lone examination room. He looked the hand over, stuck me with a few local pain relieving injections, and pushed the hook end back towards and through the surface of the skin. He then asked Beto to grab a pair of disinfected needle nose pliers. The captain was instructed to cut the tip and barb off of the hook. After doing so, it was effortlessly pulled out of my hand. I looked at the doctor relieved and asked, "Doctor, cuantos cuesta por su ayudar?" "How much do I owe you for the help?" A Cheshire smile spread across his face as he opened a drawer full of dismembered lures and responded, "Dos cien pesos y una mosca por me collecion del pescadores." "200 pesos and a fly for my fishing collection."