A Day In the Life: Conway Bowman

BUFF® Staff / 7-1-2016

0530  Home
The Alarm in my head always goes off at 0530. Doesn’t matter how late I’ve stayed up the night before. I see if Michelle, my beautiful and very understanding wife is awake (usually not considering she is the night owl in the family) Walk down the hall way check on my two boys (usually my oldest, Max, is up too playing with Legos, reading or feeding his pet crayfish, Capt. Barnacle. Jackson, the youngest, is usually snoring away sound asleep. Then it’s down the stairs, to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, a light breakfast then out the door to start my day of fishing. I love the morning drive to the dock where I keep my boat. The freeways are empty this time of day and to watch the sunrise over the foot hills to the east as I drive along the coast never gets old.

0700 The Landing.

My boat has been dock here for 20 plus years. I can remember when the landings tackle shop/deli was no more than a tiny coffee stand on the corner of the street leading up to the launch ramp.  Now it’s a full scale marine landing catering to everyone from fisherman to whale watchers with a 300 daily customers walking in and out of its doors to purchase bait, tackle, food and drinks. How things change.
I catch up on the previous days fishing reports with Johnny, the store manager who has worked there as long as I can remember. 
I gather chum, ice, water and check the day’s tides, looking for a high tide push, hopefully at mid-day (prime time for site fishing to mako sharks)

0730 Motoring out
I don’t have to motor far most days. 1 to 6 miles tops. If I’m lucky, I’ll spot a surface finning mako right outside the harbor. 
My program is very simple. Go to a spot, check the currents, wind and water clarity look for signs of life, set a chum slick and …wait…and wait…and wait…and wait.

Mako DNA
Fly fishing for Mako sharks is not complicated. It’s more like hunting and the one being hunted is not the Mako shark it’s the guy in the boat. Mako sharks are the most aggressive fish in the Pacific Ocean. They can swim upwards of 60 miles per hour and their tenacious unpredictable behavior is legendary. I’ve always maintained that if a Mako shark grew to the size and weight of a Great White shark, it would have no rival in the sea.  Even with that said, I’m still not convinced the Mako is not the greatest advisory in the ocean.
0800 – 1530  The Spot  100 Fathoms 
I wait for at least two hrs. This gives the slick time to spread out and cover water. Ideally, the current is strong, about 3  knots, pushing my boat along the 100 fathom curve which is any ware from 1 to 6 miles off shore. Makos swim along this fathom curve looking for food, sort of like cattle walking fence line. As the chum flows’ out and over this fathom curve, the Makos pick up the sent and swim right up to the boat.

The set up

Like any saltwater fly fishing the tackle required is a whole lot bigger than what you’d use on the trout steam.   A 14 weight rod (preferably one piece) matched with a very large saltwater fly reel loaded with a few hundred years of backing, fly line , leader and wire trace leader  is what you need to play this game.  Then there is the fly… A 10/0 hook dressed in 12 inches of  heavy orange and red feathers topped with a very large  brightly colored foam popping head  is the business end of this fly rig.  Not pretty, not subtle, this beast of a fly is not what Makos want to eat but rather what they want to kill!   
There is no fish on the California coast that matches the mako sharks leaping and fighting abilities. It’s like hooking up to freight train and having it go off the rails! The mako is an unpredictable fighter, sometimes toying with the angler for a few moment before it decides wake up.  These makos are the most dangerous and have a tendency to jump towards the boat, landing somewhere in the boat which could result in some serious problems for the angler.  

My moment of truth

Once a mako is brought boat side it’s up to me to release it. This is the moment of truth where any number of things can go wrong and one misstep could result in serious injury.
There is nothing like looking into the eye of a mako shark. It’s as if they shark is staring right through you. The eye, large and black, is lifeless. No feelings, no mercy, no conscience. The teeth, long and dagger like, are as sharp as a stiletto.
I grab the steel leader, which is short measuring only 3 feet. I run my gloved left hand down the wire leader getting as close as possible to the fly hook which is lodged neatly in the corner of the makos mouth.
I lift the head of the mako upward and place the head of the 4 foot long  release stick at the base of the hook, applying heavy forward pressure on the hook. If all goes as planned the mako is released unharmed ready to fight another day.
A good day might bring 5 makes to the boat for release.  A bad day…zero. But, any day on the Pacific and not on land with all the traffic and craziness is a good day.

1700: Homeward Bound
It’s now late in the day, the boat has been docked and cleaned, rods and reels put away.  As I drive the 30 minutes home in traffic I look out to the west and take in the brilliant colors of the evening sky.  I look back on the day’s events.   

1800: Casa de Bowman
There is nothing like having your wife children greet you at the front door with hugs and kissed after a long day, no matter how great the fishing was.
After a nice  relaxing dinner, I put the boys to bed then settle on the couch with Michelle where we  catch up on the day’s events.

2200: Good Night…
There is not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for all the great things in my life.  I’m truly a very lucky guy.
Im very fortunate to be able to make a living fishing, traveling and living in Southern California.  I guess some would say I have a charmed life? Maybe so! But it’s a life I never take for granted.

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