There's no fool like an Old Fool
I have already managed to achieve the Royal Billfish Slam twice and the Royal Shark Slam twice by catching the Porgy so now it was time to get the Royal Tuna slam twice. I needed two Tuna, the Longtail and the Dogtooth. My cunning plan was to wait until the Longtail turned up in Karachi in September, go and catch one , then straight away go to the Andaman Islands and catch a Dogtooth ----------- Just like that! Following that, take my darling wife to the West Indies in November for a well-deserved break and me to do some research into Marlin or whatever (of course)
But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray and so it happened this time. My fishing contact in Karachi, Ali Mufti said that because of storms, monsoons etc the fish were going to well delayed, maybe until November or even later. You all know how understanding darling wives are if their promised break is called off and one does research and fishing, there was no option but to change plans and in a few days I booked a trip to St Lucia where I had a successful Marlin trip (story in blog) Back in good old blighty, back to work, netting week, getting brochure ready, getting another thousand gallons, no, actually it was 800 gallons as our reserves were full. Passport was sent off for visas. Still waiting and waiting for news of Longtail in Karachi. Finally Ali says they have not turned up and it is possible that the Tunas were overfished and there were not many left.
It is now the beginning of December – decision time, ok, let’s go for the Dogtooth Tuna in the Andamans. I was getting conflicting reports from various people in the Andaman’s and tour operators, the weather was rough (they turned out to be right on that one) there were naval manoeuvres in Port Blair etc. I contacted Bob Roberts several times and even Richard Foster who had both fished there and they confirmed the weather could be dodgy, but the fishing good.
Time was running out to go just before Xmas. I made the decision, booked the flights only and fishing with Island Gamefishing who would arrange basic accommodation for me. I contacted Andy Little at Fox Sportfishing who supported me with a rod and reel. My designated chauffeur Peter Rowe was informed, he was ready and waiting and at 2am Monday 12th December we left for terminal 5 at Heathrow. Had a problem, when I checked in, despite being promised an isle seat I was given one in the middle, I explained that I was “big boned” (not really a fatty) and psychologically upset etc, etc. I am pleased to say they upgraded me to premium class. Flight was very tiring and I was constantly worried whether I would be met in Port Blair. There was a gruelling 8 hour wait for connecting flight to Chennai and I finally arrived in Port Blair still wondering what was going to happen.
As I stepped outside the airport, I was relieved to see a placard with my name on and two smiling Indians Murli and Biswajit waiting for me. We dropped by a restaurant where I made a mistake ordering a chowmein and in future I will remember, when in India order Indian food. I asked Murli to email Rose that I had arrived safely and he assured me he would, unfortunately he forgot and I got a lot of “stick” from Rose and Zenia when I got back saying they were worried to death etc. We went on a private ferry which was very clean and fast and reminded me of the ones we had in the Canaries, the sea was a bit rough, but I was assured that we would be able to go fishing. On arrival in Havelock, the usual form filling and passport control as the Andamans are a restricted area. I was shown to my hotel room, rather basic but at least it had a shower, TV and air conditioning.
Biswajit invited me to his house, which was still in the process of being built, we had a vegetarian meal rice etc, this set the pattern for most of the trip although on occasion we had chicken and lots of fish, for a meat eater it was a challenge but when in Rome do as the Romans do. Biswajit’s English was a bit shakey but a few of the crew were better, I explained that the sole purpose of the trip was to catch a Dogtooth Tuna and then everything and anything, I also said that I fished by the IGFA rules and nobody was to touch any of the rods when we had a strike. We should go trolling and when we found a sea mount drop off in deep water would try pirking and if possible live baiting on one or two of the other rods or maybe strips of fish. I asked for beer every day on the boat and we had 4 bottles of Kingfisher lager which was chilled, after a couple of beers, I retired to the hotel, arranging to meet at 6.30am at their house.
At 6.30am I turned up at the house much to their surprise, some of them were still in the land of nod. Anyway everybody started stirring. They made breakfast, a sort of butter toast with a sliver of omelette in between, not quite to my liking but it was very kind and hospitable of them and I did not want to waste time going to a restaurant which I did not think were open at that time. Just after 7am we were in the open boat at sea (……….). We had two spooled reels which needed letting out and rewinding under pressure, both were loaded with pirks and let out , meanwhile I took the flag of St George and asked them to hoist it, after a bit of “why sir” and me saying the Zyggy does this all over the world, they put the flag up. Within 5 minutes we had a call from the coastguard asking what was happening and told to take the flag down, before we left the harbour a speedboat with armed police and coastguard caught up with us and asked what I was doing, I explained that where ever I fish in the world I put the flag up to tell everybody Zyggy’s in town, they left and told us not to do it again.
Just as we left harbour and were winding in we had a hit on a hook less pirk, I took this as a good sign, Biswajit said we had to stay close to the Island as the seas were rough in deep water, the seas were a bit choppy even close in and if you went to the bow of the boat you would be regularly splashed. As soon as the rods went out (only two as there were only two rod holders) they said the crew would hold the other two but as I was fishing by IGFA rules, if a hook up occurred it would not count , anyway I did my little song and dance
“Oh come to me you monsters of the deep
Awaken from your sleep
Let me kiss and caress and gently release
Come and taste my wine
It is divine”
Then one to the sea and one to Zyggy. They certainly gave me some strange looks but I explained it was part of the Zyggy ritual. I took one of the rods and held it in my hand then told them to look for drop offs and deep water. All the while we had the coastguard helicopter hovering and flying past on a regular basis making sure we did not put the flag up, we saw a few Barracuda jump but nothing connected. I got fed up holding the rod it was getting heavy and my arms were getting tired, so they managed to rig up another rod holder to the side of the boat, we had lunch, vegetarian Pilau rice, it was tasty but not what a meat eater would normally choose, we were here to fish, so I ate, this was the pattern for the following 6 days. Nothing was happening for a while then we had a hit and a small Barracuda, I decided to keep it for bait the following day. Hopefully we would be able to find deeper water and I would be able to jerk the pirk while we had another baited pirk in mid water, on the way back while we were discussing tactics the rods suddenly went all three hooked up, I grabbed one and said leave the others, however, one was in danger of being tangled so Biswajit was told to reel that one in, it felt like a reasonable fish all the time I was reeling it in, I was hoping it was a Dogtooth Tuna, it certainly was a Tuna style fight, unfortunately it was a Big Eye Tuna of about 20 kilos (over 40lbs) Biswajit got his in, I was glad to see it was also a Big Eye, I grabbed the third rod from the rod holder hoping it was different but once again it was a Big Eye, at least we had some fish, we went back to the harbour happy.
Next day we were hoping to go a bit further out, we let harbour at 7am, set up another rod holder, we now had 4 rods trolling. Just after “one to the sea and one to Zyggy” one of the rods trolling my favourite 6 inch Hawaiian lure with a purple and black skirt shot off like a bullet. I grabbed the rod while the others reeled in the rest of the rods, line was shooting off the reel, I increased the drag but it just kept going, it finally stopped at what seemed somewhere like the horizon. I tried to lift and wind in on the down stroke but could not shift it, rod well bent, it was a Mexican stand off. It was a good fish – was this the one, the line went slack, what a horrible feeling from elation to lowly desperation, I reeled in the line , 400lbs nylon leader, it had tooth cuts and scrapes. It certainly was not a Wahoo or a Kingfish otherwise it would be a clean cut, could this have been my dream fish, whatever it was would have been massive, I reckon much closer if not even over 100kilos than 50 kilos. I consoled myself that it was better to lose it at the beginning than to fight for a long time and have the line bitten off. This seemed to be the hot spot around where we had the hit on the trolling pirk and caught the 3 Big Eye Tuna.
The seas were still rough but were better than the day before and we went further out, some rough ground was found and I started jigging. Within a couple of minutes I had a savage hit and was fighting a good fish, the Fox rod and reel handled perfectly and the fish came to the surface. It was a Tuna but not a Dogtooth, another Big Eye. We continued to another mark and had a hit on a baited pirk by a small Grouper which I landed. I then put the pirk down again and started jigging, all of a sudden the spool fell off the reel into the ocean before I could catch it. It must have come loose when I was playing the Tuna, I started pulling the line hoping Richard had tied the line onto the spool, there was about 500 feet of braid, after what seemed like hours we got the spool back but not the drag tensioner , at least Richard had tied the braid on correctly. I took one of the other reels and put that on the rod.
The current picked up and we could not hold bottom so while they wound the braid onto a plastic bottle, we went trolling and I caught a double figure Wahoo, the unusual thing about this one was that it was infected with long thin worms stuck all over in its body. It seems whenever I fish the Indian or Pacific Ocean I always seem to catch Wahoo. It was now mid-day, the sun was beating down so I put on my long sleeved T Shirt, the waves were crashing over the boat and soon I was soaked so I went to the back of the boat where the waves could not reach, all the time, I was soaked and hoped to dry out in the sun, which parts of me did. On the way back we had another hit, it was a nice Giant Trevally and then back to the harbour.
Once again I was invited back to Biswajits where I think they had some official to check me out, I told him I was a type of Guru after a lot of philosophising he seemed to agree he asked me who I studied with and who was my teacher. I replied I studied and learnt from wise men all over the World, he liked that. Biswajit got the rod and reel to show how tight the drag was and managed to let the tip of the rod hit the fan, the 3rd part of our disaster for that day. The rod looks ok but I am worried it could let go in a fight. Biswajit said his father who used to work on trawlers was coming the following day to help and give advice on my mission to catch a Dogtooth. We agreed the following day we would go to different areas with deeper water.
Next day I asked that before we went to the new area we visit the place just outside the harbour where we had our strikes, however, nothing this time and we travelled to a new island. It looked promising, deep water, but the sea was too rough. We turned back to where we had fished before but before we got to our usual stomping ground we were all soaked and end the day with another Wahoo, a bit bigger but covered in spaghetti style worms. I have never seen such infestation before.
I meet Biswajits father in the evening, who I call Robin. I am getting desperate now, three days fishing and unable to get to the grounds where we could get a better chance for Dogtooth. I explain to Robin that size is immaterial, that although I would like to catch a big Dogtooth, even a small one would be sufficient in my quest. Robin says when he was on a trawler they used to catch shoals of small ones back on the Andaman Islands as well as big ones close to his home, so I said lets go there and so it was arranged.
I was ready at 6.30am in the hotel when Biswajit turned up and asked for my passport to present to the Port authorities that I was leaving. I gave it to him then while I was waiting for him to come back I worried that he could have run away with the passport and I would be stranded, especially as it was 25 minutes before he turned up and off we went to Port Blair and the Andaman Islands. My suitcase was wrapped in plastic to keep dry which. As it turned out was just as well. I was told that we would be trolling in the beginning then go fast and if we came across a sea mount we would fish it. We tried our favourite place just outside the harbour but nothing happened. Once on the way we had a proper strike which turned out to be a ten plus kilo perfect Wahoo with no worms.
Once we lost sight of land the sky began to darken and look threatening, the wind picked up and we were being tossed about like a matchstick in ever higher waves, the rain fell so hard on the body almost like bullets. It got darker and the sea got rougher, everybody was just hanging on, they were the roughest seas I have ever experienced and I was in an open boat soaked to the skin and shit scared, I said a prayer thinking my time had come, for what seemed like ages we just hung on like a mouse mesmerised by a snake, just waiting to be swallowed. Slowly the rain eased, the waves got smaller and the clouds passed us and we could see sunlight, what a relief. I forgot about being cold, wet and frightened and thanked God for being alive. I think this was the remains of a cyclone that had devastated the Philippines a few days earlier. A few days later just as I had returned to England a stronger cyclone struck that area.
Anyway we continued fishing and had a couple of GT’s and a couple of Bonitos . We landed in a little clearing and anchored the boat, we went to the remains of a house devastated by the Tsunami, they brought the rods and my suitcase, it started to get dark and I started to get uncomfortable and ill at ease expecting bandits to turn up and attack us. Fortunately Bisq car turned up and took us to his house where he lived with his wife, little boy and girl and his sister whist his father lived next door, these were new houses built after the Tsunami. They were very hospitable and I had a nice meal with some cold beer, making sure we had our usual 4 Kingfishers for the following day (Sunday) which would be our 5th day of fishing. They gave up one of their rooms and I slept comfortably, although the Indian toilet was not something I want to use too often.
On the way to the boat Bisq met one of his friends and invited him on the boat. As we got on Bisq admitted he forgot the ice for the beer and offered to go and get it, only 20 minutes, I knew his 20 minutes could stretch to an hour and although I did not like warm beer in a hot and humid climate, I did not want to waste fishing time. As soon as we put the rods out an immediate strike and a nice GT, twenty minutes later all 4 rods went. I grabbed the first and told the others to take 2 and leave one. Hoping all the time that it was going to be my Dogtooth, but it was not to be, all 4 were good GT’s, they wanted to keep them for the village so I said Ok. As we were going to deeper water we came across some native fishing boats and exchanged one of the Gt’s for ice, at least I had cold beer to ease my suffering. I caught a Bonito and the seas started to pick up. I was told it was too rough to go to the island with deep water for trolling and jigging, I was now rather wet again and decided enough was enough, I had given it everything, I had originally intended to fish a maximum of 4 days and now we were on the 5th day and still could not get to the marks where we stood a better chance of Dogtooth. I was fed up being battered and wet. I would not have minded so much if we were in deeper water where there was a better chance. So sadly we turned back, I did a one to the sea and one to the nice Zyggy and settled down to drink a cold beer while still trolling thinking when and where to go for a Dogtooth, Mauritius, Tanzania back to the Andamans or what, meanwhile one of the rods goes and I bring in a small Bonito, never mind I thought however it looks a bit different and the crew start excitedly jabbering away especially Robin who said it was a small Dogtooth--------halleluiah I can hardly believe it, you can see the small teeth emerging -------Gloria in excelsis deo (as it’s almost Xmas) or for the rest of you Glory be to God, I gave everybody a kiss and a hug and took a few photos.
What can I say? Never give up and keep going till the end or as my darling wife says “there’s no bigger fool than an old fool”. Who cares? I did it. Mission accomplished. Now for the Longtail Tuna.
P.S. In the excitement I had forgotten that we had arrived in Port Blair a day early and when they took me to the airport on Monday, I discovered that I was not due to fly until Tuesday. Fortunately I managed to grab Biswajit & Murli, just before they disappeared they took me back to the hotel and picked me up the next day, despite a 14 hour wait in Chennai I was well happy and on the BA flight home one of the flight attendants kindly plied me with red wine and bubbly, I was well gone but very happy.
Special thanks to Island Fishing tours. Biswajit looked after me very well and I recommend him. But only go between January and March. The rest of the time the sea is too rough