Today, Wednesday 3rd December 2003, will go down in my personal history as my most successful fishing story ever. Unfortunately it will also be remembered as one of my biggest tragedies following a schoolboy error that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. Matt, this story is for you.
I should have known today was going to be a special day. My early morning watch saw a fantastic bit of sailing action with Simon and myself chasing the wind. We dropped the spinnaker and took the wind side on, all in a storm that was so torrential the rain slashed at my face and stung my gritted teeth.
After the rain eased up we were back to sunny weather and were joined by Dave the Egret. He spent the first few hours following the back of the boat, and then settled on the anchor, so I suppose you could say he was on anchor watch. Meanwhile, whilst bobbing along with no wind at around zero knots the mainsail decided it had had enough and just dropped! The main halyard had chafed at the top of the mast! Can you believe it? There we were in the middle of the Atlantic, the sun blazing and the boat bobbing around and we’d lost our mainsail.
Some cunning repairs were required from Rich so we hoisted him up the mast with a bucket full of tools, as well as my camera. Whilst he was up there, tinkering and taking in the views, he shouted down to us that he could see three large blue fish swimming towards the boat. Manuel, the lure who had not yet caught anything, was happily trolling out the back of the boat only 10 metres out, and his fluro green colour was obviously attracting some attention. As the fish swam closer so they came into full view: they were the most fantastic blue (“80’s eye shadow blue”, observed Dobby), were very large and thin. Their fins made them look like huge dragonflies darting through the water, eyeing up Manuel. I’d never seen fish like this before! Hold on a minute…yes I had! They were dorado! Their beautiful colour scheme was so intense that it was only apparent in certain light and because Manuel was so close to the boat we could literally hang out the back for a bird’s eye view of the largest of the three dorado going for the lure. He gulped once, missed. He darted towards it again, bit, and bingo!
We had him hooked! I grabbed the line and everything went berserk! Although we could see this one was a biggun, we didn’t know exactly how big. He was jumping clear out of the water and I struggled to hold the line. Then he mustered all his strength and shot off with all his power. The nylon line ripped through my fingers and I let go of the line in agony. The friction had burnt through my skin and I had three white-hot lines imprinted in my fingers. I had been so close to getting the thing on board. Simon shot down below and grabbed a pair of sailing gloves, put them on and pulled on the line.
Eventually after a bit of a battle we got the dorado out of the water and onto the back of the boat. The thing was a beauty! Simon slammed it on the deck and it jumped around so violently he couldn’t hold it down. Tim screamed like a girl and ran away whilst I snatched the knife and drove it right through its gills. It took some stabbing to kill it and I ended up using Vincent’s trick of cutting its neck almost clean off.
It was only after the dorado had stopped flipping and struggling that we were able to take in the enormity of Simon’s and my combined catch. It was huge! All this time Rich had been on the top of the mast snapping away with my camera, so I left the fish to bleed and waited to get my camera off him before I started filleting it.
I was elated. I had finally bagged a fish worth talking about and I had photographic evidence to boot. With Rich still up the mast I figured I’d save some time and start filleting one side of this monster. I took the chap down to the swimming platform at the back of the boat. He was a healthy adult male. His appetite was obviously very big since a flying fish popped out of his guts! The skin was easy to peel off and my mouth was watering at the thought of grilled dorado, baked dorado, fried dorado, raw dorado. Damn, this guy was so big the six of us to live off him for a couple of days!
And then it happened. With one side of him still scaly and wet he just slid off the back of the boat and into the water and very quickly out of my sight as the boat sailed away. He sunk beneath the surface heading for the bottom of the sea three miles below. I knelt there, jaw open in complete disbelief. My prize catch had literally slipped out of my hands and headed back from whence he came.
I almost cried. The rest of the crew just heard me shout my expletives at the top of my voice and Rich got a great aerial view of the half filleted fish disappear to become shark bait. The reaction of the crew was mixed but the general consensus was that although I was a dick, we’d eaten so much dorado recently that it didn’t really matter. Rich’s words of condolence offered me the best support of my loss: “You caught it, had it on the deck, got its photo and added it to the official list of caught fish. So it counts”. And so it does, but I’ll never forget that moment when I saw him slip off the back and disappear for the last time.