Jamie Walker is the founder of Frenzy Sportfishing in Quepos, Costa Rica. An expert in blue water fly fishing, he specializes in catching Costa Rica’s numerous offshore species on fly, with his favorites being sailfish and marlin.
In 2010, Walker won the Bill Barnes “Outstanding Angler” award at the 10th annual GIFT Tournament. An ardent supporter of conservation efforts, Walker also recently began The Billfish Research Project, which is already helping researchers conduct tracking studies of Pacific sailfish using satellite tracking tags.
CA: How long have you been fishing Costa Rica, and what do you enjoy most about the area?
JW: I have been fishing the prolific waters of Costa Rica for almost 20 years. What really keeps me coming back is that you can fish for a number of species of game fish basically 12 months of the year. And you’re fishing super flat water most of the time! The people are incredibly warm and friendly and the captains and mates are among the best in the world.
CA: Who introduced you to the sport or has had the greatest influence on your fishing habits?
JW: There is no doubt that the early pioneers of saltwater fly fishing like Harry Gray, Lefty Kreh and others blazed a trail for the rest of us.
Kerwin Steffen, my partner in FRENZY Sportfishing, has had a significant influence on how I fly fish for marlin and sailfish. Together with our captain Jose Hernandez and mate Marco Solano, we developed our own special techniques for teasing, casting to, hooking, and ultimately catching marlin and sailfish. It takes a real coordinated team effort to get really good at this game. These guys kept the pressure on me to get better.
CA: What’s your favorite or most successful technique for your gamefish of choice?
JW: There is nothing more exciting than the thrill of casting a fly to a teased-up billfish that’s 15 feet behind the transom of the boat and intent on eating anything remotely resembling a baitfish.
CA: What mistake have you made that’s cost you a great fish?
JW: Years ago I learned a great lesson about the importance of backing off the fly reel drag when I hooked a blue marlin that broke my tippet because I didn’t loosen the drag fast enough. Now I fish with a really light drag and rarely break off a fish despite my “stop ‘em or pop ‘em” approach to fighting fish.
CA: What fishing or boating technology would you like to see developed in the future?
JW: If you think about the quantity and quality of fishing tackle in the market today, we have all the technology we need for an angler to catch the fish of a lifetime. What we really need is to make the sport of saltwater fishing more affordable. This primarily means better fuel economy from outboards and diesel engines. That’s where the great opportunity is in terms of technology.
CA: What’s the one thing you think other fishermen should know or do?
JW: If you want to get really good at saltwater fishing, particularly fly fishing, you need to spend time on the water with the right captain and mate. I always recommend fishing with a professional guide to anyone wanting to improve their skills. There is no better teacher than time on the water. But, you must be prepared way ahead of time. I am always willing to talk to anyone about our flies, hooksets, rod set up and teasing techniques. This can get them prepared before getting out on the water.
CA: What species or fishing destination is on your bucket list?
JW: I want to catch all marlin and sailfish on a fly. So far, I have hundreds of pacific sailfish, a couple of striped marlin, a few Pacific blue marlin and one Pacific black marlin. Now I need to catch an Atlantic sailfish, an Atlantic blue marlin and a white marlin to complete the “Big Seven,” as I call it. So this means I need to spend some time in Venezuela soon!
CA: What’s the biggest challenge you see to maintaining healthy fish stocks and a healthy sport?
JW: People protect what they care about. To maintain healthy fish stocks we need to make more people aware of the resources that the ocean provides and develop fisheries management policies based on sound scientific research. That is why Kerwin and I founded The Billfish Research Project. Our satellite tracking project will contribute to the scientific knowledge base of the life history of billfish.