Sunday, August 17, 2008


I have discovered the similarity between marriage, golf and angling – the first 25 years are the most difficult.

I learnt everything I know about angling from that great ex Springbok rock and surf angler from EP, Paul Hansen. Under Paul’s guidance I have gradually over the last 25 years improved my ability to use a 400/3 Purglass surf rod. I have in the process enjoyed some of the happiest moments of my life fishing with Paul.

This prepared me well for my unique angling experience in Mauritius with the next best angler I know, the mad Afrikaans speaking Frenchman Dominique Thevenau (Dom).

I was holidaying at La Paradis with my wife and 3 daughters. When registering for a dive course, I noticed a wall plate advertising Professional Rock and Surf angling, not something I was expecting in Mauritius. I was even more surprised when I phoned Dom and the first question he asked was if I was fit! As I run 8km four times a week, I confidently said yes.

We agreed to go fishing, when Dom saw me he insisted we jog up the road for 1km followed by 10 minutes of stretching! How many times have you had to warm up and stretch before angling (or for golf or marriage? – sorry).

Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. We set out with Dom’s assistant, Francois, a local black Mauritian, in a 23’ La Pirogue boat, which I am can only describe as an oversized rowing boat with two Yamaha 15’s on the back. Casting for GT’s in the white water margin just behind the reef. Dom’s focus on safety and expert seamanship was clear from the start.

We used 2 rigs; purglass 400/4 with roller tip eye, a large penn 345 level wind 3.5:1 retrieve ratio reels – 130kg line on the reel and 200kg leader with an oversize 4oz wooden plug. This heavy tackle is necessary to avoid break-offs on the coral and to retrieve the fish as quickly as possible so it can be returned with the maximum chance of survival. Dom is the consummate professional guide, meticulous in his preparation of boat and tackle.

We headed for a ‘gap” in the reef looking for the white water margin between deep and shallow water, where the Giant Trevally (GT) feed.

There was a 3m swell running with a brisk southerly breeze making the sea extremely rough. Francois expertly piloted the boat keeping in close to the white water but without getting caught in breaking waves. If you were not distracted by angling and focused on sea you would be terrified.

The technique is too cast about 80m, take up the slack and then tug the rod to get the popper to splash on the surface then reel like crazy to take up the slack and repeat the process, creating a life-like rhythm. Standing up doing this in a small boat in rough sea is very physically demanding – extreme angling! After 4 hrs of this I realised why Dom had asked if I was fit.

We got one big chase – an explosion of energy and silver on the surface following the plug which focussed our attention. The sight of a monster chasing and missing caused a surge of adrenalin. The game was on!

On my third cast after seeing the “chase” I miss-timed a cast got caught off balance and in the choppy sea my takkie slipped on the wet floor, causing me to lurch forward and loose balance. I turned my arm and shoulder to “break” the fall and to prevent the rod from smacking the boat. Unfortunately the reel banged against my forehead connecting just above my right eye. The wound in my head started pumping blood all over the show. Dominique’s assistant had the first aid box out in a flash applying anit-septic. I wanted badly to carry on fishing but Dom decided I needed medical attention and we headed back to shore. We raced off in Dom’s bakkie to see a doctor we had located 30 minutes away at La Paradis. After several stitches had been inserted we headed back to the boat. We were back in the water by 12:15 loosing only 1 1/2hrs of angling.

Dom passed through a gap in the reef and cut of the engines about 1km upwind to start the drift downwind toward the reef. We started casting and retrieving, after 40 minutes my line went tight. Excitement dwindled fast when I realised I was hooked on a marker rope from a local lobster trap.

After another 20minutes of drifting my arms and back were in agony from the exertion of casting & retrieving the giant popper. Seeing the white water coming very close to range I was looking forward to a rest knowing Dom would have to start the motors and move upwind to start the process over. On my last cast before we were too close to the reef I noticed after 3 tugs on the line that the slack vanished with the 4th tug jamming against what felt like a train going in the opposite direction. Despite a tight drag line disappeared off the reel at frightening speed causing a sound that’s impossible to describe – something like a high revving Formula 1 racing car.

Instead of a rest I was in for the fight of my life. The effect of a deep diving fish and a 4m rod on the small of one’s back was devastating. After 45minutes I was sapped of all energy the muscles in the small of my back were about to snap, my eyes were out on stalks and my tongue was hanging out. The fish finally came to the boat. Expertly gaffed in the mouth to avoid unnecessary injury the fish was landed in a flash to the sound of “cent, cent” French meaning a 100 pounder.

In less than 30 seconds the plug was carefully removed, the photo’s taken and the “pig” returned to the sea.

Francois comment was “the South African has a hard head!”

25 years was worth the wait for this dream 125 centimeter/110 pound fish!

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