‘WHOAA !!’ shouted Jeff at the top of the ladder beside me and I whipped around from peering into the fishfinder. ‘LONG CORNER !!’ and he was gone down into the cockpit. I saw the fish clearly then, bill out of the water, the fish acting like a sailfish at a teaser. The fish faded and then was back again. I slammed the port engine out of gear, dropping the lure back to the fish and there was a swirl, a distinct open mouth and then the rigger bowed and the clip snapped open. 130lb yellow Moimoi came tight in the later afternoon sun and the reel reluctantly came to life. The fish moved away from us in the wake, slowly and ponderously. Tim settled into the chair and Jeff was handing him the rod, as he had requested.
I spun around, took the auto pilot off, grabbed the headset and mike, slipped it on my head, turned on the power to it, stabbed at the event marker on the GPS, took both engines out of gear as the big Penn growled louder below me and turned around again. Tim had the rod high and the line was moving right to left away in the wake, beyond the lures being cranked in at high speed. Astern then, and quickly too. Nudge the throttles more, more port engine and the stately aluminium hull under us came to attention and moved smartly after the fish. Line slowed to a trickle on the reel and Tim tried to crank as best as he could as the fish, seemingly undecided as to what to do or what had happened, dawdled. Suddenly the fish woke up and the reel wailed in despair, the rod levelled out and Tim grabbed the handle of the chair as the rod bucked and groaned. ‘Turning the boat.’ I said into the mike and Jeff readied himself behind the chair as I started to turn after the fish, a normal occurrence, not the desperate manoeuvre that most people use when losing line. Richard was still winding in the long rigger as we came into the belly of the line and CEPHEUS moved stately after the fish like a dowager in white skirts, the wake the bustle of her movement. Tim wound as best as he could as the line stretched back inshore, gaining more than losing. Jeff yelled at me what was happening, but I could see Tim’s arm moving and knew he was gaining line. The ratchet told its own story, deliberately left on so I, high on the bridge, could hear as well as see what was happening. Damn I thought, we hadn’t even lost the 150 yards of top-shot. Maybe the fish was not so big after all. Back came the line as the fish slowly swam inshore and we within 50 yards or so of the fish.
‘Backing round.’ I said into the mike and spun the boat around, expecting at any moment to see the rigger loop out of the water. Two minutes had passed. No noise in the cockpit as Jeff turned the chair and gave it up to Richard so he could grab his gloves. Tim wound on, harder now and the line came tight again. The rod slowed and straightened and Tim reeled faster. Jeff came back into sight, slamming the tag-stick into the rod-holder. Tim reeled faster and I put the boat in neutral. ‘Whoa !’ said Jeff and then, ‘Go ahead !’ I put the boat in gear as the line came up through the water. Faster , the rod straightening up. ‘GO AHEAD!!!’ and I was already pushing the throttles down. Fifty yards of Moimoi glinted in the sun, no pressure, a belly of line waving in the breeze. Faster ahead, faster, more line straightening out behind the boat, lifting higher into the wake, a hundred yards of it. Faster, Jeff yelling up that the fish was gone, black smoke, more line levelling out. I slowed the boat, cursing, Richard moved to Tim to take the rod and wind in the sorry tale. Jeff almost turned away to put the other outfits back out and the rod nodded, distinctly, then 100 yards of Moimoi snapped tight and the reel started to snarl again. ‘WHOAA!!’ shouted Jeff, but I was already at the controls, slowing the boat, disbelieving that the fish was still there.
We moved off after the fish again, and Tim wound down, the rod well bent. Slowly it straightened again and I half thought that maybe the fish had come off and we had hooked some rubbish on the surge forward. The line slackened again and the rod lifted upright. Tim wound like hell, but was having difficulty coming to grips with the heavy outfit. Neutral, then ahead, faster again. Line waved weakly in the breeze again. I could sense Jeff staring intently at the wake, as I was. It seemed as though the fish was gone again, but I kept the speed up. The line surfacing limply in the wake gave the impression that the fish was off but I could see it was coming slowly tight, left of centre. Jeff saw it too and started shouting. Tim wound like hell, five minutes had gone by. CEPHEUS complained loudly at the jostling, the gearboxes chattering excitedly. Again, the rod bowed suddenly, the line whipping tight and the reel started to shriek as if in pain, line moving away so quickly that the top-shot was gone in seconds. CEPHEUS gained pace astern as I floored the throttles, the hull banging and the props cavitating, shuddering, as I desperately tried to keep up with the disappearing line.
Suddenly, with the dacron/mono splice still in sight, the rod straightened and looking far astern I saw the fish in front of the line, turning across our wake, a brown shadow moving right and the line started to leave the reel again, the belly coming tight. I nudged the right engine into gear and simply spun the boat so we came tight at the angle and we moved off after the fish again, the Moimoi stretching out under the rigger, Jeff on the gunwhale lifting the halyards slightly. CEPHEUS grumbled under me as the revs built. Eight minutes and counting.
Sixty seconds passed as Tim grunted the line back onto the reel, his girlfriend hovered with a camera. ‘Rachel,’ I called down. ‘Come up here, you’ll get better pictures’. She climbed up beside me. Lots of mono on the reel, turn the boat again, backing down, the fish closer now. I had an inkling of what had happened, I sensed one hook was somewhere in the top of the bill, close to a nerve, hurting the fish and unsettling it. We thundered down after the fish downsea, what little there was. I looked up again and saw the fish 80 yards away on the surface, a long brown shadow and I instinctively recognised the signs of a very large fish and called down to Jeff and the team. ‘ Nice fish,’ I said loudly into the mike, and Jeff looked up at me, working his fingers in his gloves, face set and sent his hat sailing into the saloon in preparation.
Tim wound steadfastly, back hunched over the reel, unaccustomed to the strange combination of muscles and effort. Closer came the fish, moving away to the left - the port engine snarled back at me as I gave it more power, the fish staying ten feet down, down another ten feet and then she was within fifty feet of us. I knew that with the 28’ leader still under the water I could see the fish clearly and that meant she was a slob. I called down to Jeff in a strangely detached tone and simply said ‘Thousand pound fish guys - right there. That’s a grander.’ Jeff looked up at me and asked ‘Are we killing it ?’, and I said ‘No.’, immediately justifying the decision with the thought that the fish would count for nothing as Tim had asked for the rod to be handed to him, and he also has no wish to kill a fish, a point he had made clear to me earlier in the week. Jeff simply nodded and checked the tag in the stick again. One more run of fifty yards and then we were back on top of the fish, eleven minutes gone.
Jeff reached out for the leader, the black dacron splice clear of the water. As Tim stopped winding the fish went again, ripping another 30 feet of line of the reel. ‘Keep winding Tim,’ I called down, and went after the fish again, harder, sensing we had a genuine chance of getting the leader. It was all down to Jeff.
Back came the splice, the fish clear as ever and I sensed she was a true Madeiran slob, maybe 1200 pounds, her depth enormous and her tail stump as square around as a log. Bloody hell, I thought, as I prepared to give the fish to Jeff, who, resolute as ever, reached out and plucked the leader tight in his hand, the fish going left and down. I put the port engine into full revs, desperately trying to keep Jeff with the fish and yet fully aware that if he could turn the fish the gearboxes would have to be slammed forward in an instant. The fish half bowed as she felt the different pressure from Jeff’s hands as he double wrapped one handful and pulled with the other. The fish seemed to blink, I sensed Jeff had turned the fish and it was coming up under the starboard gunwhale. Out of gear, ahead one engine, Jeff grunting against the coaming, pulling upright, lifting, and then he was straightening up, pulling the leader in overhand, the hooks had pulled, the fish unhurt, a clean release. I smiled and shouted down my congratulations to Tim. Jeff turned up to me, the lure in one hand, shouting unintelligibly, and I saw there was no hookset. Somehow the loop between crimp and hook had broken. ‘Bloody hell’ I thought again. Fourteen minutes had gone.
That’s the story of Tim’s fish.
Other happenings- - Tim caught another fish of about 175lbs earlier in the week that he fished, and we saw a double-header of blues which did not connect. He also had a spearfish bite on one day.
August 17th was again sunny and clear, but flat calm and we had Nigel, one of the owners on the boat, as angler. At 12.15 Richard started shouting in the cockpit. Jeff, engrossed in a conversation on the bridge about Yanmar diesels, looked back aft to see a washing-machine with a bill after the Andromeda on the long corner again, white water everywhere and this mad flailing in the middle of it. I knocked the port engine out of gear, and the fish, seeing the lure clearly, simply engulfed it, mouth as big as a wastepaper-basket simply opening and closing on the lure. This fish was a very different proposition from Tim’s monster. It immediately started head-shaking in the wake, blood colouring the foam, and I knew we had spiked a blood vessel in her mouth somewhere. Lines frantically clearing the water and the fish started to jump violently. Turn the boat, chase her down, slide into the turn and we were up to and had the leader in hand after four minutes. Then the fish came REALLY to life, jumping on the leader and then again and again as Jeff was forced to let her go. A frantic circle of surges almost brought her back into the boat but we managed to keep CEPHEUS clear and she jumped straight back into the leader. A violent and angry fish, and Jeff had the leader again, hanging on for all he was worth. I sensed what he was trying to do and yelled into the mike, 'Don’t break it Jeff, I want the lure back !’, but he had let go of the leader anyway, the fish far to strong and green to be turned.
Three minutes later and the fish was down, going deeper, and Jeff and I suspected the worse and told Nigel to put the heat on the fish. I could sense the fish was wrapped and we struggled to try and pull the line out tight. The reel spun over, the fish going down, and we managed to stop her and start her back up again, using the angle, pulling the boat around into the line, the rod working its magic. Up came the fish, tantalisingly close, and then she was gone again, the line crackling off the reel in fits and starts. I called down to Nigel to put the reel in park and use his fingers. ‘She’s in her death-dive guys,’ I said, and watched as Nigel managed to halt the fish with about 150 yards of the line gone. Damn, I thought, and started the monotony of the planing process. For some reason, it took up a long 40 minutes to get her up, Nigel working patiently and hard, the boat bumping into the current. It became clear soon she was tail-wrapped and she was not planing and so it proved, the leader leading around the head, around the body and then around the stump. We pulled the fish into the boat and headed back to the marina, calling Jose and asking him if we could use the forklift to weigh the fish.
Weight: 875lbs. Short length: 133". Girth: 72". Tail stump: 19.5"
The fish was gone within an hour, our friends from the marina office hard at work with the giant banana knives, and a steady stream of local people with carrier bags flowed to and fro. A large portion of it went to the local hospice. A sad end to a great fish, but at least it did not go to waste.
August has been as slow as July for fishing here, many boats have left, including Peter Wright, and we are the only ones still here. Fishing in the Azores, Madeira and the other Canarian islands has been slow as well, and there is no great rush to go anywhere else. Monotonous it may be, but we have caught four blues (all falling to the Andromeda), four spears (one on the Andromeda, the other three on small lures intended for their quarry, including a fish on 16lb line which missed out on a record by one pound), one 60lb tuna on the Andromeda, and various skipjacks and other denizens of the deep. Slim pickings at the diamond mine, but good quality gems when they turn up ! We await September with some relish at the prospect of all the May and June fish coming back thru on their way south - hope we are right !
I suspect the more curious amongst you want to know what the Andromeda is. E-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell all !