Posted by: 1000fish | May 26, 2018

A Case of the Bens

Dateline: November 18, 2017 – Long Beach, California

Yoga is good for you? Baloney. Yoga has nearly killed me several times. Marta, as you know, is a yoga teacher in her spare time, and this means that I am often called upon as a test animal. (“Ready? Now then – nose against rectum. Namaste!”)

The cruelty is generally physical in nature, but it can also be emotional, especially for me. For example, last November, Marta was going for her Iyengar yoga teacher certification in Los Angeles. This is a big deal in the Iyengar yoga world. It takes about three years of studying, and still, some applicants don’t pass. You can imagine how much stress this was for her, but of course, it was even more stressful on me. Some of you hippy liberal types might think the main point would be Marta’s experience, but let’s stay focused here!

Marta went down to LA a couple of days before me and was in no mood to socialize before the test. Being the dutiful, kind, and loving partner that I am, I volunteered to come down and drive her home on Sunday. Sure, it was a chance to go fishing in LA for a couple of days, but I didn’t realize I would have to spend 24 hours with Marta when she would not know whether she passed her assessment. These would be rough hours, a time of intense worrying, and no matter what she will tell you, she took it out on me. It’s a long drive up I-5 when your passenger guesses that they failed their assessment every three minutes.

But before we cover my emotional torment, there is some fishing to discuss. I drove down in the afternoon, and made a quick stop in Malibu. Barbara Streisand wasn’t available and wouldn’t let me on her beach, so I took a shot at calico surfperch.

If I caught one, you would see a picture of that here instead of some general Malibu scenery.

The next day, I connected with our old friend Ben Cantrell, who has conveniently moved to San Diego. (You may remember Ben as the guy who spent over a month with a catfish spine lodged in his calf.) Our plan was to spend a day of bumming around the Los Angeles piers. Targets were many, but catches were few. Still, it was a lovely day, if you don’t consider that Ben had a nasty cold and that Marta was doing the written, demonstration, and Pranayama portions of her assessment. (I have no idea what most of that means, but she made me put it in here.) While I had wanted a spotfin croaker, no new species were to be had. I settled for an overambitious thornback and a beast of a diamond turbot. Late in the afternoon, Marta reported to me that she felt she had done reasonably well on this part of her assessment. This made me feel good.

The turbot. My first one was caught in San Diego – details HERE.

We tried several piers, finishing up at Redondo Beach.

A lovely sunset at Redondo Beach, which we got to enjoy undisturbed by fish. Then we got to eat at Taco Bell.

The next day, we added an extra Ben to the equation, because you can never have enough Bens. This time it was Ben Florentino, the legendary kelp bass guide made famous in the “Korean Superman” blog.

The fabled Captain Ben Florentino – you can reach him on

Over the years, Captain Ben has put 12 species and quite a few world records on my list, so I wasn’t expecting a huge species haul. Still, there is always a chance at something weird in Los Angeles, like the (still) elusive zebra perch, and it’s always a lot of fun to go out in the kelp beds and toss lures.

We had a blast catching the usual reefy inshore species – and Ben C. added a couple of new ones, especially a nicely-colored sheephead.

Ben’s first sheephead.

My first “three color” sheephead.

I caught loads of fish – bass, barracuda, rockfish, and my personal best scorpionfish.

My PB scorpionfish. Do not put this in your pants.

A California barracuda. Great fun on light tackle.

It was one of my smallest fish, however, that was the most memorable. While we were casting lures in kelp lanes, Ben F. noticed some large jacksmelt. The jacksmelt is an oversized silverside that is found up and down the west coast. They are a common pier catch, are completely inedible, and never, EVER reach one pound. I tied on a small spoon and starting getting a few, and these were, AS ALWAYS, close to but not quite a pound. I have caught thousands of these and I had never seen one big enough for a record. I got four in a row that were so, SO close, but didn’t make it, and just when I was lamenting that this fish just KNOWS it weighs 15 ounces, one of them actually pulled the Boga down to that 4th black stripe. It was a pound. A world record jacksmelt, which was a great point of personal pride, even if it won’t garner any major press coverage.

My moment of triumph.

Interestingly, at least to me, is that just a few weeks earlier, Martini had set a world record on the Pacific Sand Dab. This is another generally-tiny creature that gets caught in pestilential droves, and are usually the size of my hand. This is slightly but measurably weirder than a one pound jacksmelt. There is a fine line between persistence and stubbornness for the sake of stubbornness, and we both crossed that line years ago.

Well done, Martini.

We moved back into the estuary, and Ben got a nice bat ray.

The mighty mud marlin.

Ben and Ben celebrate a great day on the water. You can book Ben on

Just as we were wrapping things up in Long Beach, Marta called. I crossed my fingers, hoping for good news, even though the official results would not come in for 24 hours. I answered the phone, and Marta said “I blew it.” My heart sank, as this would mean a far less cheerful ride home. But when I questioned her further, details began to emerge that gave me some hope. It turns out that she felt she had not handled one student well and that she thought they would flunk her for that. When I asked her how the rest of the program went, she thought she would have passed otherwise. I know squat about yoga, but you would think that touchy-feely holistic types wouldn’t be so vindictive.

We spent the night in Los Angeles. The mood ranged from resigned to depressed to curiously upbeat (as soon as I managed to get lightweight Marta a couple of tropical drinks.) We had a lovely Jamaican dinner, and I tried to convince her that things might turn out fine, but she wasn’t having that, so I gave lightweight Marta more tropical drinks and tried to be supportive. (At times, literally.) I maintained my hopeful attitude, even when she woke me up at 3am to announce that she must have failed and that she had likely wasted three years of her life. To get even with her for this, I made sure we had lunch the next day at the fabled Willow Ranch BBQ on I-5. Marta was so bummed by this stage she didn’t even point out that the only vegetable on the menu is deep-fried jalapenos.

Marta poses in front of the Willow Ranch BBQ. You can tell this is before the meal, because she is not doubled over with cramps. 

I tried to keep the conversation positive and focused on my world record jacksmelt as we ground out the miles north through the desolation of California’s central valley. But every few minutes, she would announce that she must have failed. She revealed that she could try the certification again in 12 months. This would mean another year of me being forced to do random and painful yoga experiments. No one ever seems to understand I am the victim here.

At exactly 5:47pm, just as we had exited the freeway and were heading to our house, which still does not have a wood floor, her phone chirped. “That’s the email from the institute. My results are in.” she said. I told her to wait so I could share the pain or joy, and wisely decided not to tell her she had ended a sentence with a preposition. She ignored me and opened the email. Her eyes went cloudy, and I thought to myself, Ohhhhh #&$%, she really did fail it and now my life is going to be miserable, because I am the real victim here.” I pulled the car to the side of the road.

She could hardly speak, and my heart dropped. Then, quietly, she said “I passed.”

I told her that I knew she would the whole time, although I secretly wet myself with relief. (And, ok, maybe a bit of pride and joy for her. And obviously, “wet myself” is just an expression. Or is it?) She thought for a moment, and said “If I start studying right now, I can go for the next assessment level in two years. But I would need to start preparing right away. Can I have you do a class tomorrow morning?”

If only she could understand how much her obsessive hobbies affect our lives …




  1. Knowing Marta, I knew all along that she would pass her exam. Be cheerful you will continue to be the test yoga object for at least two more years!
    Please continue to add fish to IGFA’s All-Tackle data base.

  2. I need to catch me some of those sheephead, they look amazing!

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