The two yellowfin carcasses were still fresh and hadn’t begun to stink. They were a welcome addition to our arsenal of chum, but they also signaled that expectations were high. Our friend Dalton Smith (IG: @daltonsmith3) was visiting southern California from Salt Lake City, and he had caught one of these particular tuna on the fly the previous day. Today we were chasing short-fin makos, and it was going to take one hell of a shark to match the thrill of those tuna.
That’s the thing about makos — you might bring all the chum in the world, drift through miles of perfect offshore water and bake in the sun for six to eight hours, but in the end, the Tax Man might not show. There were four of us including Bobby Harrison (IG: @_bobby_harrison_), whose experience with makos is only outweighed by his knowledge around an outboard. He’s been known to pull-start an engine 30 miles offshore with the combined shoelaces of everyone onboard and is a calming influence.
We powered offshore a half hour to the target area and began setting up for our drift. To the naked eye, we might have picked a random spot in the middle of the ocean. In fact, this drift was crafted from a careful calculation of wind, water temperatures, and depth. It’s one of the few regions in the world where you can consistently sight-fish makos on a fly rod. And wouldn’t you know, with about 50 combined pounds of death floating in the water, it was only a half hour before our first shark was circling the boat.
Dalton hooked him like a pro, but that’s when all hell broke loose. Typically we fish makos with two, maybe three, people on the boat — four people is a proverbial cluster, with lots of shouting and stumbling as the shark does aerial cartwheels and threatens to run your line around the trolling motor. Bobby coached Dalton while we took pictures and got in the way, and after a 20-minute fight, we released the still-pissed-off shark. The pressure was off, and it was only 11:00 AM.
And so began five hours of nada. We drifted and drifted, even adding to our chum, but aside from the occasional sea lion, we only had each other’s company to enjoy. The wind picked up; things got choppy; the talking subsided; the tuna carcasses continued to rot. By 4:00 PM, tempers were short, and chunks of chum were starting to look appetizing. And that’s when he showed up. Roughly a hundred and twenty pounds of pure muscle, he easily tripled the size of the last shark. And he wasn’t alone. While this particular shark did ten-foot leaps into the distance, another entered the slick. And then another. Before long, everyone was hooked up and on the board. The chaos from earlier repeated itself, this time complicated by one of the smarter makos who had decided to gator-roll himself into a tangle with the wire leader. Freeing him, though successful, was sketchy at best.
As Dalton hooked into another shark, the wind laid down, and the sun began to set. Even now, only a week removed from the actual event, the details of this late-afternoon mako bonanza seem suspiciously perfect. But it’s a rare day to have four friends all catch a mako on the fly, and it’s even rarer to head home with a shark still circling the boat…
Photos: Matus Sobolic
Nicholas Blixt and Matus Sobolic are two crazy fly anglers out of Southern California.