Ernest Hemingway wrote about two kinds of fish - trout and marlin - each an extreme in the world of angling.
Fly fishing for trout was delicate, intimate and escapist, allowing for introspection and peace in "Big Two-Hearted River" and "The Sun Also Rises." Deep-sea fishing for marlin was grueling, a thing of sweat and muscle, part of Hemingway's later life in Cuba, when he had to know that he was still strong enough to conquer big game, when he wrote "The Old Man and the Sea."
For latter-day, Washington-based Hemingways, marlin have arrived. They come in twosizes and colors: White marlin, more common, usually weigh 60 to 80 pounds; the less common blue marlin run 350 to 550 pounds.
Within driving distance are two great marlin capitals: Ocean City, Md., and Oregon Inlet, N.C., on Cape Hatteras. Both yield white and blue marlin. Oregon Inlet offers the best odds on getting a blue, but charter captains argue about which area is best for white. Historically, Ocean City was the place for white marlin, but in recent years more whites have come from Oregon Inlet. Last year Ocean City boats took 353 marlin, mostly whites, and released another 144. That was a good year. Ocean City is home port for about 20 marlin boats, and roughly half the trips came back with a marlin.
At Oregon Inlet, about 1,600 whites and 350 blues were caught. It has 25 marlin boats, but a longer season and charters more boats weekdays than Ocean City.
Both places have started a good season. Last Sunday nine boats left Ocean City and seven returned with white marlin. Oregon Inlet has already had some spectacular days with up to six marlin per boat. According to Dean Harrelson, manager of Oregon Inlet Sport Fishing Center, July should provide good fishing, but August and September will be best.
Charter trips out of Oregon Inlet Sport Fishing Center (919/441-6301) runs $260, capacity six people, who can all troll at the same time. Ocean City trips run $375, accommodate the same number and may be arranged through Talbot Street Pier, 301/289-9125; the White Marlin Marina, 301/289-6855; or William Bunting, 301/289-6394. Charters provide tackle; you bring food and drink or order in advance.