suddenly got plucked from a very far exotic place with white beaches and crystal clear water when my alarm clock sounded with that irritable, continuous, nagging noise. As I reach out to knock the living daylights out of it, reality set in. It’s 03:00 am and time to get the hell out of bed. I am not off to work but off to that magical promised purple water of the deep blue ocean.
At 03:30 am, my wife Juley and I were at the Shelly Beach launch site waiting for our good friends Mike du Toit and his brother-in-law Nico to arrive. It was only the second time that we launched our new Lee Cat Xpressa 800 to go out hunting for that ever elusive fish: king of the ocean, the marlin. Blue, black, white or striped — it didn’t matter — we were willing to take any of them in any size as long as the critter takes our bait!
Mike came up to me and asked me what my plans were, so I replied that I am heading for the southern pinnacle of Protea banks, from there out to the 500 m mark. Mike looked at me and I knew instantly that he had different ideas. “OK, Mike” I said, “what do you suggest?” I am always open to any suggestion and normally that’s where it ends, a suggestion.
Mike then looked at the map on the GPS and suggested we head off to Deep Hole #2, from there, we head up north and turn on the 1 000 m mark and head down south again. The rationale for this was that the North Easter will be blowing later and that we will then have it on our stern that will make for a comfy ride back home, while enabling us to work our spread much better. Well now, how could I argue with such a rational thought? So, I put my pride in my back pocket, turned the wheel and headed north.
We were cruising at 30 knots, a very comfortable speed with the Lee Cat on the calm waters. However, as soon as we passed the colour line, the water roughed up and I was forced to reduce speed to about 20 knots. I looked at my darling wife and we seem to have that telepathic connection as she straight away nodded her head and dived into the lure boxes.
I reduced speed to trolling at 8 knots and got two rods out. I could see the confused looks on Mike and Nico’s faces but I just nonchalantly took the two Mold Craft Lures from my darling wife and rigged them to the two 80 lb rigs.
Mike then confronted me and I explained that we were going to do some high-speed trolling. I mean we have nothing to lose, it is still 12 km to our destination and we can only travel at 20 knots, so why not? The lures are chuggers and hollow heads. These lures tend to track straight during high speeds and do not jump all over the place, thus they were ideal for the conditions.
Mike stood next to Nico when I took off on a tangent and hit the 16 knot speeds. I could hear Mike say to Nico, “This is a first, way too fast”. But, I ignored the grumbling and kept going. We were running for about five minutes when the reel screamed on the port side. I reduced speed and Mike had the rod. It was a good-size tuna and I could see from Mike’s expression that he was in total shock!
We landed the fish and then the stories started, “I have never seen a tuna take a lure at that speed,” Mike exclaimed. I then replied with, “don’t worry old friend, today you will see a lot more of that”. The lures were set again and I took off. I looked at the GPS and said to my wife, “before we hit Deep Hole #2 we are going to hook up a Marlin”. I just had that gut feeling.
Both Nico and Mike were still looking at the lures running a brilliant smoke trail, and then, “SPLASH”, a marlin took the pink and white Mold craft lure! The reel screamed and the marlin made its first jump, with Mike and Nico staring in disbelief!
I saw Mike grab Nico’s arm and told him “take the rod swaer, take the rod”, but Nico just kept on staring … he was firmly gripped in the clutches of that terrible fever, referred to in fishing as “viskoors” (fishing fever) and he was numb from head to toe.
While Nico was suffering from his fever, Mike took the rod (the one who grabs the rod, must fight the fish!). I pulled back on the throttles and we started retrieving the other line. Juley got the hot seat harness onto Mike and he settled into the fighting chair. Nico, still seemed dazed and confused, took a seat and watched the drama unfold.
The fish got close to the boat for the first time on the starboard side, at this moment I relieved myself from skipper’s duty and handed the steering to Juley, who is a qualified skipper.
Mike took one look at this change of skipper and I swear I could hear his thoughts: “damn Charles, if I lose this fish today…” I took a gaff and now Nico emerged from the seat with his own gaff. I could see the fish was still green, but the leader was close and if Mike could tip the leader then at least the fish will be considered caught and we will be able to fly that lovely little black flag (as it was a black marlin).
The leader came in and hit the tip. “Well done Mike, she now belongs to you,” were my words, I grabbed the leader to coach the fish in but she had a mind of her own, she took off and went straight down, I saw the fish heading straight under the boat and could see the leader touching the keel strip. A dreaded sickening feeling gripped my stomach as the repeat of a long fight with a fish and my wife at the controls sprang to mind.
Then the line went slack, I shuddered and I was just about to start explaining when the line went stiff again and I could feel the life returning to my whole being. I shouted: “lock down right, lock down right,” and I could feel the boat respond with a fierce roar and my wife spun the boat around on a tickey! Amazed, I looked up at my wife and saw the grin. At that moment, I was the proudest husband there could be and this manoeuvre of her has prompted many a discussion at the bar later that evening.
The fish was now on the port side of the boat, and it just seemed so much easier to land her from there. I talked Nico through the gaffing process (we didn’t have a flying gaff on board). We decided to gaff the fish and boat her since we all wanted some marlin for the pot.
We got the fish in close and we set to gaff. I gaffed nice and deep, but Nico missed and the next thing I saw was the marlin taking off, with me holding on! I nearly went for some skiing lessons but luckily, common sense prevailed and I let go off the gaff, but with horror I realised I am still being pulled. I had put my hand through the retaining cord of the gaff, but luckily this cord was not strong enough and it snapped just before I became one with the ocean.
The fight was over and we managed to boat the fish without any further ado. I sat on the tail and Nico had the bill firmly gripped. Mike looked at us with that proud expression, our hands went into the air displaying the triumphant signal of “we did it, we did it”.
Now for anyone who has ever caught a marlin, just cast your minds back on that very first one you caught. Yes, it’s a great feeling, isn’t it? I could see the pride swelling from Mike. The day belonged to Mike as we headed back to base to weigh the fish and do the necessary celebrations. The fish weighed in at 124 kg. Well done Mike and may we catch many more!
Charles, Nico and Mike celebrate after successfully hooking and landing a 124 kg Marlin! Well done boys!