Recently I went to Samoa for a 10 days with my partner Ceri. The primary function of our visit was to hang out with two friends who have been living there for the last year. The trip was wonderful. The whole of Samoa is a stunningly attractive place. Beaches, forests, waterfalls, glorious sunsets and on top of that the people are lovely. It has it all (ok, no snow capped mountains, but its still pretty great). Most of our time was spent making the most of Samoas natural beauty, drinking beers while swimming at sunset, sleeping in fales on the beach literally meters from the water, drinking coconuts under palm trees. You know normal south pacific island stuff ;). The whole 10 days was awesome, we met some great people, went to some wonderful places and generally had a really good time, I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday.
To the fishing. Well I didn’t do much. About the extent of it was a half day game fishing out of Apia. Game fishing was a first for me, something I’d never done before. While game fishing probably isn’t my thing, we ended up having fun. The only thing the trip was missing was some better beards and a few mojitos and a couple of cigars, tools which would have helped us achieve a more authentic Hemmingway-esque experience. The fishing itself was pretty basic, just trolling around the ocean, something so big and expansive you wonder how you are ever going to actually encounter a fish. Alfred the skipper and Oliver the deckhand did all of the work, so for most of the trip we just sat there and talked.
About half an hour out of Apia we set up to start trolling. The boat was decked out with four proper game outfits, shimano 80Ws and all that jazz. It was a completely foreign world to me. The outriggers were set, Alfred and Oliver then spent a fair bit of time making sure each lure in the spread was breathing properly and we drove. Drove and drove and drove. After an hour or two, I’m not quite sure how long given all of us were warding off sea sickness and somewhat preoccupied during that period of the trip, one of the rods went off. Knowing how much I love fishing Nick, Ceri and Sarah were nice enough to let me take the hot seat. I sat down and set up for a battle with something bigger than I had ever battled before. The line screamed off the reel for what seemed like forever, never slowing or stopping, just peeling off consistently second after second after second. After a while it felt like what was attached might be unstoppable, that maybe we had accidentally hooked a bus. Then all of a sudden it stopped. The fish had taken 600-700 meters of line but whatever had been attached was now gone. So I started to retrieve the line, eventually I got tired and Oliver took over, then Nick, then me again, then Oliver. Turns out retrieving almost a kilometre of line on a huge bulky game outfit is hard work. After a few minutes we had finally retrieved the line, allowing us to deconstruct the events of a few minutes before. The line had broken. It would have been heartbreak, but I really had no idea what I was doing so it hardly had an effect on me, Alfred and Oliver seemed far more disappointed than I was. I hadn’t even been able to turn the reel in anger. The “fight” had been a fundamentally one sided affair, an impotent man sitting in a chair holding a rod while being beaten to a pulp by a big fish. Alfred assured us that what had been attached was most likely a “very big” marlin, but at this point in time that was just a pure abstraction to me. What is a “very big” marlin when you’ve never caught one, never gone toe to toe with one, never been a chance. In any case, after that “heartbreak” we continued trolling.
A little while later, one of the rods went off again. Again Ceri, Sarah and Nick put me in the hot seat. This fish was far smaller, it stopped pretty quickly and soon started jumping. It was a marlin, a small one in comparison, 60-80kgs, still by far the largest fish I have ever been connected to. I fought it for a few minutes, got some line on it, had it take more than I had regained, got some more line back, had it jump, jump again and then again the line went limp. It had thrown the hook. Funnily, while the second fish was far smaller than the first, actually getting to fight it, to feel the power, watch it jump, interact with it through the line, the whole experience ended up being far more exciting than the monster I’d “fought” earlier. It gave me a glimpse at what game fishing is all about. Watching a marlin jump, interacting with such a majestic, other worldly beast was actually quite exciting. They are truly marvellous fish worthy of the upmost respect and adoration. If I ever go game fishing again, its that experience, that few minutes fighting such an awesome fish that will bring me back.
Next stop was a fad not far away, as we approached, Ceri (who is blessed with very good vision) spotted a surface commotion about 100 meters from the fad. We drove on past it. As we approached it was obvious what it was, Mahi mahi feeding on the surface. All I wanted to do was set up the fly rod and cast flys at them, but thats not what the day was about, Alfred was in charge and we were trolling. As we continued to troll past the school of fish one of the rods went off. This time it stopped quickly, I again got in the hot seat and this time it was all pretty easy. On the super sized gear on the boat, a 6 kg Mahi Mahi provided only minimal sport. This is where things got gory. Before we had booked the charter, they had made it clear that the boat owned the fish we caught. So while I would have liked to have gotten a nice happy snap with a live, lustrous mahi mahi before releasing it, that is not what happened. As soon as the fish got close to the boat, it got gaffed, then killed in a way that was less than humane. So, the only photo of me with a fish, is me with a dead fish. Its hardly what we like to showcase on the blog, but it was what it was.
So after all that, we headed back to do another run past the fad. The lines were set, and we started trolling. As we went past the fad, we saw two big mahi mahi fly over from the fad, they jumped and then, bang, we were on again. This time Ceri took the hot seat. It was obvious that he fish was a bigger model, it took some line and then she settled in for the fight. Ceri is a master of muscling fish and she muscled. However, she didn’t leave much in the tank and after a few mintues got tired and Nick took over. Soon after the fish got to the boat and the gory gaffing and killing happened again. This fish was far bigger than mine, a beautiful 14kg bull. The photos don’t do it any justice of course, in the water, mahi mahi are one of the most beautiful and colourful fish in the ocean. Almost fluorescent, speed machines, shimmering, alluring, alive. Dead, well you can see for yourself. After all that excitement, we trolled for a few more hours before heading back to port. And that was that, my first game fishing experience. Fun, at times confronting, at times exhilarating. I’m glad I’ve experienced it, its probably not something I’ll do again anytime soon but at least now I can say I’ve tried game fishing.
Apart form the game fishing, my only other fishing on the trip was a half hearted attempt from one of the beaches right at the end of our trip. It wasn’t “successful”, I think the only fish I landed was a small wrasse type thing. It was however one of the most stunning locations I’ve ever fished, a gorgeous volcanic bay, with a pristine white beach. After a fun hour of casting flies, I packed up the rod and decided to read my book instead, looking forward to a coconut with lunch and a beer and a swim later in the evening. It was a good way to round out a wonderful trip, a trip that wasn’t about fishing at all in the end.
Good luck on the water