By Pat Ford

Way back before Covid Javier Guevarra Put together a plan to bring sportfishing for striped marlin to the Island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands.  That might sound like a simple procedure, but it’s not.  The Galapagos Islands lie some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  They are an entity in their own right and tolerate very little interference from other entities, including Ecuador which they technically belong to.  They have their own rules and regulations which are numerous and specific, especially when it comes to fish and wildlife.  For example, you are not allowed to take a photo of an animal using a flash.  I’m not sure you’re allowed to step on a bug and foreigners are definitely not allowed to set up a sportfishing operation, but Javier, a native of Ecuador, did just that.

I went on one of Javier’s first trips back in February, 2020.  As we were returning to the States, the first rumors of Covid were beginning to spread but our trip was a success.  When signing up, I asked Javier what make boat we would be fishing on.  He said that it was built in the Islands and was powered by outboards.  That was sort of a scary thought but the boat turned out to be perfect.  Good cruising speed, large cockpit, easy to fish from.  The problem was that we were fly fishing and the local captains and mates had little experience in that area.  Nevertheless, our first trip was amazing and as soon as the covid restrictions lifted, we were back in 2022.  Same boat, different crew but they were better equipped for teasing and fight marlin on fly tackle.  Chris Lalli and his wife joined us and Chris is a master fly tyer.  One of the problems we ran into was that outboards do not leave the same kind of wake as an inboard and when the captain puts the boat in neutral, it just stops.  Inboard sportfishing boats have very little prop wash and glide for a considerable distance when shifter into neutral.  The prop wash from the outboards is also much more intense than on the inboards and it was covering over and hiding our billfish poppers.   We experimented with several fly patterns until I pulled out a long nylon fly that had a strange lead lip.  A friend had given me two of them down at Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala and I had carried them around for years before finally throwing them at a marlin.  They were perfect.  The lead lip allowed the fly to quickly sink below the surface wash and the shape of the lip gave the fly a swimming motion.  The marlin hit it every time they saw it.

In 2023 Chris broke his collarbone just before our trip so Jean Eastman, Rufus Wake man and Jed Dempsey joined me.  Javier has really fine-tuned his operation.  We had our choice of hotels, all of which were in easy walking distance of the dock, the restaurants he picked for dinner were fantastic and the crew and captain had really perfected their teasing and boat handling techniques.  Our first day started off with e hooking a 200+ lb. striped marlin on my first cast.  The shock was the size of the fish.  It took me 40 minutes to get it to boat side and Jed was up next.  He promptly hooked up an even bigger marlin and fought it for an hour and 45 minutes.  The fish were huge…much bigger than last year and absolutely bigger than we really wanted on a fly rod.  Jean tossed a pitch bait to one that to have been close to 300 lbs.  She fought it for close to an hour and it was quite an accomplishment for her on heavy spinning tackle.  It was her first striped marlin, but not her last.  We raised over 20 marlin on each of the first two days then some storms blew in over the islands and the marlin just shut off.  Jean caught one on bait, but not one of the 10 we raised hit the fly.  It was depressing but the barometer must have been doing something wacky that the fish didn’t like.

Day four broke clear and calm which is normal for the Galapagos.  Hope springs eternal and we were well rewarded.  My first cast resulted in another 200 pounder and it seemed like we were raising and hooking marlin every 5 minutes all day long.  We raised 49 that day and 47 on our last day.  In all we raised 147 marlin for the trip.  We had our share of missed strikes, pulled hooks and broken tippets, but the action was non-stop.  We never lost track of the fact that these were monster striped marlin and not the overly aggressive pacific sails that we caught routinely in Guatemala.  Rufus has caught every species of billfish on fly (except swordfish, which is almost impossible) and he immediately booked a week in 2024.  Jed, who has traveled all over the world, said honestly that it was the best trip he had ever been on.  I had to agree…I booked my week in 2024 before I even got off the boat.  If you’re interested in thus amazing adventure the season runs from January to June….contact Javier at