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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fish 1 - me nil

I'm a guy who spends most days at a desk, my manhood being tested only by locking horns with Windows XP. So when the chance to go big game fishing came up on my holiday... well you've got to go, don't you? I was ready and waiting at the resort wharf at 7.30am on Friday, the harbour quiet and glassy as the boat pulled up. I clambered on board to meet skipper Fabrice, a local, and his son Stefan the decky.

I was a bit nervous, frankly. My preparation for a new sport is usually sitting down with a book on it, and having read about epic man vs. fish battles lasting several hours I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I went on a fantastic fishing trip off Great Mercury Island earlier this year, pulling up Snapper by the bucketload, but Marlin the size of horses would be an entirely different (ahem) kettle of fish.

Handily, it's a quick trip out of Vanuatu's harbour to the open ocean, and we quickly went from gently rolling seas into big old swells in 100-150 metres of ocean, and the Nikita, an 8 metre fibreglass boat started pitching up and down. I'm generally OK at sea, but wondered if repeated viewing of 'Jaws' and an overactive imagination were the best way to settle the nerves. Stefan had quickly organised 6 rods with impressive reels and brightly coloured lures looking like SpongeBob Squarepants' mates - and we were fishing.

Vanuatu is renowned for its Marlin, Sailfish, which is like a Marlin with different fins, MahiMahi, a big fish with a weird round head, and Wahoo, "very agressive fish, teeth like Shark" explained Fabrice in his thick French accent. We trawled through the swell for an hour or so, before hitting Pointe Diablo, an impressive place where the ocean swell smacks the coast hard from very deep water - Nikita started bobbing more erratically than a Wallaby walking home from a team night out.

We followed the coast back into the bay, and just as we were headed out to sea Fabrice started shouting "Fish! Fish!". I leaped up and into the chair, heart pounding... 30 seconds later I sheepishly pulled a thin little Tuna of no more that 30 centimetres on board. This was a great sign according to Fabrice, as it was our prey's favourite snack, but Stefan gave me a quizzical look as I snapped a photo - surely it was too small to waste pixels on?

It was back out to sea, and my little Tuna was quickly speared with a big hook and chucked overboard to add variety to the menu we had on offer. The swell was just as big, and despite Fabrice's constant pleading "Where are the fiiiish?", we had no luck. He was on the radio to other fishermen, and of the four or five boats out that morning, only one caught a fish, a 22kg Wahoo. It wasn't my day, and as we went back to the harbour, I thought technically, I'm not a big game fisherman yet (I'm on my way though - on observing Fabrice and Stefan's bare feet, I quietly kicked my jandals off under my seat - smooth). I enjoyed being out in the ocean and listening to the tales of better days and bigger fish, I'll be back out there for sure.

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