You know, it is a tough job being a dedicated fishing writer you know. Truly, I suffer for my art, trying to find exciting, fascinating or even just mildly interesting, stories for you folks to read.
In pursuit of these tales over the last year or so I have broken me back (well, it felt like it) I have been through a bona fide if somewhat anticlimactic EPIRB activation, and to cap off a ghastly, terrible year, I have had to spend three weeks playing with a whole bunch of new lures and toys in the Solomon Islands again, this time with a Miss Universe NZ finalist called Rebecca, along as a fish holder upperer just to make the pictures a shade more presentable. Weeks on end in a tropical paradise with a stunning model…., damn, the things I do for you folks. Now some of you may think, “well, that doesn’t sound THAT bad, Captain”. Some of you may indeed offer damn good money to swap positions with me just for a day or so, pretty
“The sacrifices I have to make to get these stories for you folks, having to put up with intolerable fishing conditions like this…..”
Now some of you may think, “well, that doesn’t sound THAT bad, Captain”. Some of you may indeed offer damn good money to swap positions with me just for a day or so, pretty please?, but no! No I say! This particular ordeal I hold to myself, so that you good readers need not. I truly am just that much of a helluva guy, you know?
Rebecca and I made our way up to Zipolo Habu resort in the Solomons again (her third trip, my….I dunno, hundredth?) with bags bulging with new lures and Hamachi rods and reels to play with, as well as a nice replacement Simrad NSS9 Evo 3, and a pile of other things mechanical and medicinal for the people and pets of the island. Flea and manage treatment for the owner and nicotine gum for the dogs…oh, I might have that wrong, gaskets, seals, springs and all manner of wondrous stuff you wouldn’t find in a normal tourists bags. Oh, and a MASSIVE bag of swimwear for the young lady. Well…it’s the tropics after all.
The trip started slow, as on the first morning was the ceremony of the Fitting Of The New Sounder! With great anticipation, we popped the new Evo 3 unit onto the bracket. Now there was a slight snag here, as we had not been able to get me my nice new 1kw transducer before I left (grrrrrrr), however, I was assured, yes folks, ASSURED, that I need only plug in the old (and as it had turned out, inadequate) transducer into the new unit and at least I would have a sounder… This, while not what I had wanted to hear, seemed grudgingly workable, right up to the minute we found out that the old transducer ran DIFFERENT FRIKKEN PLUGS! I cannot express, just by font change and exclamation marks, just how truly frustrating this was, to be thousands of miles from the nearest dealer and to have a
I cannot express, just by font change and exclamation marks, just how truly frustrating this was, to be thousands of miles from the nearest dealer and to have a seven point transducer plug that does NOT fit into a twelve point socket on the darn unit. No, not even if you push hard. A fifteen page email consisting largely of exclamation marks, explanatory photographs, and earthy early anglo saxite expressions resulted in an offer to courier that correct connector to me, but no, too far away, too late. Dammit! Oh well….at least I had a nice GPS unit, that at least was worth having. So, After a rather less than tropically relaxed morning, that afternoon, Rebecca and I loaded onto the boat with our driver Norman and off we headed.
So, After a rather less than tropically relaxed morning, that afternoon, Rebecca and I loaded onto the boat with our driver Norman and off we headed. Now, normally this would result in the catching of many many Giant Trevallies. Indeed, first cast, bingo! A small (about 4kg) GT. And then…..Nothing. Nada. Boy, we couldn’t find any decent fish anywhere! After a day or two we started using smaller lures and light tackle, and then sure, we got some good fish, but dammit, I wanted BIGGIES!
“ There were plenty of fish around, like this mean looking ‘cuda, but no GTs!”
A visit to the FAD and a nice Mahimahi and some baby tunas, and the awesome experience of a pod of Pilot whales (and them fellas are BIG!… but sadly not willing to take a lure.) cruising along on the pressure wave of the boat, glorious weather, calm seas, warm water, hell the place was perfect, but sadly seemingly containing no big fish! The time rolled by, perfect days followed perfect days, we traveled miles up jungle rainforest rivers, I managed to break, through my own ineptitude and hamfistedness, not one but three flash rods, but using smaller lures and light tackle was paying off well in a range of good, fun-to-catch fish, Coral trout, big shark mackerel and spanish mackerel, and of course the odd gratuitous pretty girl in a tropical setting picture that I would take, well, just because I could.
However, our fishless state disturbed Rebecca. She started pointing out her track record of being on disastrous trips. Her first overseas trip was to Western Australia…where on the first day, the outboard motor blew up. Bugger. Her next trips, to the Solomons, were marked by wet, windy weather for days on end, and her trip to Norfolk Island, well, the weather never dropped below 20 knots at any time, and indeed we couldn’t even land on the island first time around, it took us two days to get there! And now this trip….the sounder didn’t work and there were no fish! Oh dear, poor Rebecca was starting to think she was something of a Jonah. But “No!” I told her, “No!”, “ ‘tis not so!” said I! We have ages of time left to get into some fish!
To prove my point, I went to a spot I was dead certain we could get some decent hard line pullers (albeit sharks). A pin rising out from 150m to around 100m, this place was where I had been sharked so many times I have lost count, so surely I could find something to get Becca to swing on the end of a rod from.
Down went the rigs….Rebecca’s being a ledger rig, mine a 100gm Squiddo, sort of like a shaped sinker with a skirt tied to the back, and a couple of hooks in the tail. Down the rigs plunged, hoping to hit bottom and find a coral trout, a cod or hell even a shark, but no! Becca calls out from the back “Is my line supposed to be all slack?” … she had been snipped off clean just a couple of dozen metres below the boat. At the same time my lure was hit as well, and the 20lb line just melted of the spool of my wee Maxel reel.
The rod was doing a massive banana bendy thing, “Odd” I thought, “Sharks don’t often hit lures like this…” but the weight of the fish and the irresistible surge towards the bottom was indicating to me this was something a bit too grunty for the wee Hamachi XOS GT’n’Doggie 20lb set I was using. Had to be a shark. Then, as the line counted over the hundred metre mark, the line went slack, obviously, I had been bitten off. Up came the lure, and sure enough, mean teeth marks on the painted lead head of the lure, and the 200lb braid line tying the hooks to the lure were shredded. Yup, Shark. Gotta be.
Next morning and I realised this was Rebeccas last day on the boat! Noooo! What can we do! Well hell, who cares, it had really been a great trip in beautiful tropical weather, while NZ was being thrashed with a series of floods, storms and tempests.
After a great day playing with coral trout and small gear, and fresh caught fish cooked on a small fire on a perfect coral reef islet, crystal waters and, well, just everything, we set off for home, big fish-less but happy, when Norman spotted a distant splash. “Oo! Sailfish!” he said, “put out a lure!” I did better than that, I put out two. Five minutes later, first one reel said Zizz. And gone. Bugger. A second later the back lure also went Zizz. But this “Zizz” had a hundred and three zeds. Hook-up! Rebecca finally got to see a BIG fish! After what seemed like bare minutes of furious concentration, but according to the video was actually 24 minutes, the sailfish rolled on its side coming into the boat, and there it was, The Rebecca Sail! So there you go ‘Becca, you ain’t a jinx after all!
“ With this Sailfish, Rebecca proved that no way was she a jinx…”
Of course once Rebecca had flown off back t NZ, the fishing just bounced back to its normal high standards. Typical. In the next day or so, I was thinking (I am not good at this, as it hurts my head and it always leads to trouble) about the Shark I had lost the other day. Something wasn’t quite right. For a start, it hit me on the drop in mid water around the fifty metre mark. And while it took off, I did manage to turn its head a few times, which also didn’t add up to a big shark.
What else could it be? Barracuda and Mackerel were dismissed as being too weak and lightweight, although suitably toothy I guess, hmmm…..Oh! How about a Dogtooth! Dogtooth tunas hang around deep structures, mid water, feeding on the fast small fish such as the island Kawakawa tuna that were busting all around this pin every visit we made. And they most certainly take lures, and doubly certainly have the gnashers to snip any puny braid or nylon!
So, my last day, Norman and I hatched a plan….lets go try the deep pin, see what we can find. A plan! I replaced the braid hook rigs for a single large soft plastic hook, which gave a decent length of good solid steel shaft to hopefully render the lure bite off proof, adding to the allure of the lure but the simple addition of a short strip of nice bait, and when we got to our spot, using a slightly heavier rig, a Penn Slammer 3 5500 loaded with 30lb braid, as opposed to the maxels 20lb line, and a heavy Hamachi GT’n’Doggie PE 3-8 Speed jig rod (I put that in there for any tackle nerds out there) and off it went into the great blue yonder.
Several minutes later, jigging to the bottom, then back to the surface a couple of times, and I get a bump on the line…Oo!, dropping the rod tip and giving it another flick to try to tempt another shot on the lure, and WHACKO! (these are official fishing terms, please, stop me if I am getting too technical), and I was on! Sweeeet, hooked up on what felt like a good, if not spectacular or nearly as large as the fish the other day was, fish. Up down, up and down, it was a pretty decent scrap, with me praying all the time for the God of Traces to protect my 80lb fluorocarbon, before circling below us, at last, was something silver.
First flash, what was that? Silver, but WHAT silver? Second circle, and as it hove back into view, we were able to see it….a Dogtooth tuna! Allll riightt! Dang, but I love it when a plan comes together.
“I love it when a plan comes together! This Dogtooth Tuna was the perfect cap to a great trip!”
Now, to get it in the boat. This is where, traditionally, my plans tend to fall apart. This time, things went fairly smoothly, although my nervousness spiked when I saw how close the trace was to those vicious teeth. Perfect gaff shot. Fish on deck. Superhero smiled. All was well with the world. Realising this beautiful, sleek fish was going to be photoed like mad, Norman and I looked at each other, and chorusing the same thought, we both said, “Oh, where is Rebecca!” So I am afraid you will have to put up with decidedly less picturesque pictures of Me holding this great fish up, doing my normal trick of both shrinking the size of the fish and ruining the background of the shot. Sorry about that.
“Fluorocarbon is just better. Had this trace been nylon, I would’ve lost this fish, but the fluorocarbon, god knows how, held on!”
One last thing. The trace. People often ask me why I always use flurocarbon trace in preference over nylon. When we looked at the trace on this lure…well, lets let the picture save a thousand words. If it had been nylon, it would’ve popped instantly. Flurocarbon trace is just better.