Basalt fly-fishing guide reels in Costa Rica sailfish tournament title

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
March 6, 2006

Kyle Holt shows off one of eight sailfish he and his fishing partner Baker Bishop caught as they won the team division of the Stu Apte Fly Fishing Sailfish Tournament in Costa Rica Feb. 1-3. Individually, Holt caught four sailfish to tie for second in the angler division.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Holt

Accustomed to casting his line in and out of rushing rivers, watching his fly float in and out of eddies and then reeling in Rocky Mountain trout, cruising in a boat 40 miles off Costa Rica's shore and fly-fishing for 100-pound sailfish was a little out of the ordinary for Kyle Holt

So winning the first annual Stu Apte Fly Fishing Sailfish Tournament Feb. 1-3 in Golfito, Costa Rica, was extraordinary.

Holt, a fly-fishing guide who works at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, along with fishing partner Baker Bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., won the team division by catching eight sailfish over the three-day span.

"I had never even caught a sailfish before," said Holt, who has done some ocean fishing off the coasts of Mexico and Florida, but never this far out in the sea. "It was very different from the fly-fishing we do around here."

Competing against 28 other anglers on 14 boats, Holt and Bishop set out each day, allowed to put their lines in at 7:30 a.m. and taking them out by 3:30 p.m.

Each boat was accompanied by a judge, who would officially tally the amount of sailfish caught and released each day.

"You don't even throw your line out until you see them," Holt said. "You have to land the fish, reel it in and then grab the fish by the bill for it to count."

The first day started slow, with Bishop bringing in the team's lone sailfish, one of eight that were caught by all the boats throughout the day.

"The fish typically took 15-20 minutes with one coming to the boat in three and one half minutes and the longest took 50 minutes," Holt said. "They were between 80 and 110 pounds. If the fish jumped a lot, they came to the boat much quicker."

Day two brought much more success as Holt reeled in two fish of his own while Bishop added another to put the Holt-Bishop team on top of the team standings going into the final day.

"It was amazing. It was awesome," Holt said of the experience. "(The sailfish) eat the fly within 20-30 feet of the boat so you can see them the whole time and see them jump and do flips. Sometimes they would take us out a third of a mile."

On the last day of the tournament, the sailfish really starting biting as 22 sailfish were caught through the course of the day.

Holt and Bishop nabbed two more sailfish each for the team victory and recorded a total of four each to tie for second in the angler category.

"There were quite a few of the top sailfishers there," Holt said. "It was an experience of a lifetime just to go down there, but then to win the thing was amazing."

At the end of the three days, tournament coordinator Joan Vernon announced $1,000 of the tournament's fees would be donated to the Costa Rica Billfish Conservation Group led by The Billfish Foundation.

The money will be used to assist the Costa Ricans in their fight to control the over-fishing of billfish in their coastal waters, according to a press release.

Despite being extremely different than fly-fishing in the Roaring Fork River, Holt enjoyed the new test of catching bigger fish from a so-called bigger pond.

"I just love all kinds of fishing. It's all so good. I grew up trout fishing, and this was just a new challenge," Holt said. "Saltwater fly-fishing is the ultimate challenge. It is going after the biggest, baddest fish."

Holt has since returned to Colorado, where he is on the valley waters 200 days a year fly-fishing. And as far as next year's tournament goes, Holt plans on being there.

"We are going back next year to defend our title," Holt said.