Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Techniblock Billfish Challenge

There are few fish, that when attempting to catch, will offer you the full spectrum of emotions.
On any single specimen the hook up is one of surprise for most of us, followed by the elation that something is on the end of your line, as you come to grips with the tussle that ensues.
Of course the bigger the beast you’ve picked a fight with, the more trepidation sets in, as you consider what can actually go wrong!
If you throw the fact that you’re taking on the fastest fins in the ocean into the equation, which it must be said, is more than a little hacked off that it’s easy meal turned out to be your glistening hook, then your angst turns to justifiable fear of the possible outcome.
After the initial run and acrobatic jump and what can seem like an eternity, confidence is eventually restored as you convince yourself you have it all under control.
But complacency has no home in the world of fishing and the distance between a photo of another conquest and the fish you now see peeling line seems like a bridge too far…........................doubt and anguish are ugly bed fellows.
At some stage frustration eventually overwhelms, as after all, you have earned this fish and what right does this over rated sardine snatcher have to challenge your authority.
Realization that you are a little out of your literal depth sets in and that’s when respect is silently but irrevocably bestowed.
This is what anyone who has ever tried to catch a billfish on fly for the first time, experiences. If the angler happens to tag and release his fish then like any self-respecting manic-depressive, the euphoria returns.
But, if after an hour and forty-five minute marathon barney, the hook pops just as you’re about to tag it, well then even a tourettes sufferer would blush at the expletives bellowed. Spare a thought for my team mate Clive Garlick to whom this actually happened!
That he had caught a respectable 75lb sail fish the day before mattered not……our skipper, the renowned “Jackson” on the renowned boat “White Bear” was ambivalent to his wails of despair as he pointed out that it was the largest sail fish he’d seen at the back of the boat in his 18 years on the water!
We’ve all had salt scrubbed into our fishing wounds, especially at a Techniblock Billfish Challenge as these long distance sprinters are an unforgiving lot.
Steve Bridgeford had his hooks straightened on an IGFA 20lb test rig………..almost unheard of, but the last laugh was reserved for the finest angler I know. Jeremy Rochester caught his 1st Saily on fly four years previously, but he will be the first to admit that the fish had barely grown a bill……….. and ever since the billfish has proved his nemesis.
On this trip, his two hook ups were not to be rewarded….one tippet parted and again right at the death, his new imported, life time guarantee rod snapped at the butt…. right at the back of the boat!
Still, better than on my watch, when the fish gave scant regard for the fly put in it’s path.
Nailing a billfish on fly is on most anglers bucket list, but those who’ve spent some time trying will tell you that while the baitfish cause the game fish to chase and tease the thousands of birds in tow, getting that bill to breach and to the back of your boat can be quite frustrating.
Needless to say, you see far more fish than you get to cast at.
Fortunately, the North East ‘Kaskazi’ wind had started to blow heralding the arrival of these migrating pelagics, giving all the teams in the competition a crack at landing their prize.
7 Fly fishers caught their very first sailfish on fly in this years tournament, with Shane Fergusson laying his ghost to rest on his 3rdouting…having had serious equipment failure on his first trip and narrowly missing a striped marlin on his 2nd.
The largest fish of 40kg’s went to Richard Baudry from the Kenyan team (Clive Garlick’s near conquest was estimated at 50kg by the skipper) and  Warren Geerdink took top angler for his 100% conversion rate……the first cast on the first day producing his first sailfish on fly.
It was a close run competition, if this exceptionally relaxed holiday in the comfort of Hemingways can be described as such, with every team recording sailfish.
The stats definitely favored the fish, with around 80 sailies being raised, 30 of which were brought to the back of the boat and 9 eventually tagged.
The team that resoundingly took top honors was Team Columbia, with Warren, Adam Fowls and Greg Slotar each landing their 1st sailfish on fly.
Once again Garry Cullen and his fantastic team at Hemmingways made the Techniblock Billfish Challenge a pleasure to attend, with this years event set to be a Tri Nations of sorts with a challenging team from England taking on the South African and Kenyan contingent.
If you want to conquor the fastest fish in the Ocean, make sure you enter your team into this years’ Techniblock Billfish Challenge from the 22nd to the 29th November 2013.
Here’s to many more breaching bills!