last. Tropical climes and the flip-flops, sun-block and shades are back in action. No more hairy-toed trampers in their
Berghaus hiking boots and Gore-Tex Y-fronts. No more driving aimlessly for
miles in the name of entertainment. No more Eels. And no more crap weather (or so
I thought). Just me, some of the most frustrating attempts at fishing in the world (ever),
the apparent failure of the bait crop this year, a few million insects, a few thousand backpackers
having the same conversation every night... And a psychopathic
marijuana dealing evangelist lard-arse called Douglas...
Andy! Shit shit shit shit shit! Get up! Get up! Are you ready to go
mate?!" Through the fog I stirred briefly on Aaron's all too
"Andy!! It's quarter past six!!
What time's your plane man?!"
I sat bolt upright, hair plastered
vertically from the side of my slowly splitting head, as my eyes
gradually focussed on Uncle Regis, Aunty Sarah's significant other,
hurriedly pulling on his sweatshirt and rushing around the flat.
"25 past 6... Whyzzat...?"
Realisation slowly dawned. "Oh shit shit shit shit
shit!!!!" I gazed down at my massive heap of luggage in it's usual
disarray in the middle of the floor. The heap of luggage which I'd
promised myself I'd organise and pack before Uncle Regis gave me a
lift to the airport for my
flight from Auckland to Fiji in the
morning. The same heap of luggage
that I'd promised to organise
and pack before my final evening out in Auckland had metamorphosed
into my final early morning out in Auckland. The very same heap of
luggage that I'd promised to organise and pack before Steinlager
and Sambuca became part of the equation. Bollocks. A brief flurry of
activity was the best I could muster before the futility of the
situation finally sank in.
"It's too late Regis. I've
missed it mate." I dropped a handful of T-shirts back onto
the floor and admitted defeat. "Suppose I'd better ring the
airline and let them know I'm not coming, eh?"
I picked up the phone and by closing
one eye managed to focus on the digits and dial the number on the
sheet I held in front of me with trembling fingers.
got a flight this
morning to Nadi. I'm really sorry but I've overslept and it looks
like I'm going to miss it". I almost managed to string a sentence together and appear coherent. Almost. I felt a tiny pang of
pride that I was at least managing to hold it all together for the
nice lady at Qantas customer service on the other end of the line.
"Are you sure sir?" said
the nice lady, "could you give me your name please".
"Pearson. Andy. To Nadi. Fiji.
7.25 this morning".
"Hmmmm. Do you have the flight
number and booking reference?"
"Yeah it's KK5ZRH," I stuttered as I scratched around for yet another
scrap of paper.
"Are you sure sir?"
"That's what it says here...
Flight number N...Z...2...0."
"Ahh, I think I can help you Mr
"You could try ringing the right
I placed the phone down on the
coffee table and unravelled myself, head in hands, hoping that the machine for the Qantas "your call may be recorded
for quality control and training purposes" message was out of
Tropical Fiji awaits. Sucks eh?
Island and another knackered shelter and
sleeping quarters, but this time without wheels.
New Zealand Air flight number NZ20 touched tarmac that evening it
was tipping down with torrential tropical rain, and after negotiating the
raft of hawkers, touts and taxi drivers ("NO!"), I
eventually got a taxi driver under my own volition, and most
probably ended up paying the exact same amount as I would have done
through one of the touts anyway. On the drive into town, my driver
recommended the ever-opulent Nadi Hotel as the cheapest around, and
what finer recommendation could the discerning traveller wish for? A
creaking metal bunk was secured in a dorm room again, but this time
with the massive bonus that there was no one else staying there.
This was good, but then in all probability a bad sign. After a quick
shower with the cockroaches and a large spider, I went to
investigate the still soaking streets. Since the Steinlager effect
had precluded any attempts at eating so far that day, I grabbed a
bite to eat at a grubby roadside cafe, the buffet food kept 'warm' by
a single 40 watt light bulb suspended a foot above it in the glass
display coffin. Then I finally headed forth into the fray - such as there is a fray in
A lady very soon stopped me in the darkness of
a street corner. "Hello.
Where you from?" she asked. I'd been out of Asia for a while,
so I was obviously out of practice, it taking me almost five
seconds to realise what the heck was going on.
"England", I answered.
"You want some company
tonight?" she asked as she stroked my back with the sensual
touch of an arthritic miner in boxing gloves.
I looked her up and
down and finally focused on her most prominent attributes - her
black, two white, and then another black one, looking like a set of
broken piano keys.
"Not now thanks love, I've just
eaten" was the best I could muster as I beat a hasty path
onwards up Nadi main street, relieved to escape the pressure zone
that only an unexpected encounter with an skanky hooker can create.
the time I got back to my bed that evening (further relieved that no
other guests had been booked into the room) I'd stumbled upon
another dozen taxi drivers and one more dodgy hooker, and
the sultry allure of those exotic South Sea Island beauties..." they
warned. And forewarned is forearmed I say.
avoid being roped into the karaoke bar on the corner- a result in
itself. After waking up the next morning with a lower colon vaulting through hoops after the cordon-bleu meal of the evening
before, I then spent the day trying desperately to avoid being
ripped off, and then passed an hour or two drinking kava with a
local bloke out the room at the back of his shop, whereby he tried
to sell me everything from wooden bowls to towels to 4 foot high
carvings, which he assured me would be no problem to ship back home
to the UK. He also tried to sell me a fist sized bag of marijuana,
but for some reason he couldn't give me the same assurances on the
shipping for that.
I wasn't sure what effect the dirty
dishwater-like kava was supposed to have, and I waited for some kind
of cane toad/mushroom-like 'out of body experience' to sweep over me.
Or maybe there'd be an amphetamine rush inner body experience? But all
I did was walk back out the shop a while later with a numb mouth, leaving the old fella a little
hacked off that I wasn't game for taking him up on any of his
import-export business opportunities. Yup, I'd been in Fiji little more
than a few hours, but it already seemed that things could well be a
bit more berzerk than my recent travels in New Zealand. It was
almost (well, kind of) like being back in Asia.
Kava man at the souvenir shop had told me in conversation that
the Fijian islands, his favourite was Mana Island, in the
Mamanuca group, so I decided this would be my first port of call.
Island spear-fisherman displays his wares. But the plastic canister?
Unnecessary showboating in my book.
Space Cowbuoy. J-Kay
(I prefer "Twat In A Hat" myself) from out of
Jamiroquai shows off a greedy
what a strange port of call it
proved to be. Half of the island is owned by some Japanese
consortium or other who operate a five star international resort
there, while the other is inhabited only by a few villagers and a
couple of backpacker's lodges, all of whom have to share the lovely
However, to separate the great
unwashed of the villagers and backpackers from the more select
members of society, our friends of the rising sun have erected an eight foot
high wire fence across the width of the island, which actually
passed about three feet wide of the canteen table where I ate my
meal each evening, a bit reminiscent of slopping out time at Tenko. Very strange, because the
punters of the resort were actually made welcome to drink and relax
at the backpackers bar, whereas to make good The
Great Escape into 'Kuoni-world'
could actually see a
The lovely views of Waya
Island. Nasty sweaty walk up that hill to get the picture though.
harmless (if a little scabby) beatnik being
forcibly ejected back to the shanty from whence he (or, indeed, she)
came. It's a mad, mad world.
Yours truly personally fell foul of
this spot of tourist apartheid while trying to tangle with a
Trevally from the pier where the Hawaiian shirted fun-seekers would
be dropped from the ferry with their matching Samsonite luggage sets
and Louis Vuitton toiletry bags.
I had been speaking to a lad
called Will from Southampton
during the afternoon about my plans to head up the beach and do a bit of
fishing in the afternoon and evening, and since the beach was very
shallow, the pier seemed like a perfect spot to start since it protruded way out into the clear blue sea to the
spot where a sharp drop
off into deep water occurred. Will asked if he could join me a bit later
on- all fine by me.
rigging up with a couple of rods and working my way up to the end of the
pier, I threw around a couple of surface poppers for a while on some heavy
gear in the hope that some passing Trevally might take a swipe, without so
much as raising a smile, before taking up a lighter outfit with 12lb B.S.
line and a small blue and silver jig on it to see if anything was stupid
enough to have a go at that. First drop down by the end of the pilings of
the pier, I quickly jigged the jig, as you do, and what shocked me more
than anything was the clear flash of blue and silver as a large Blue
Trevally launched itself from amongst the timber and concrete beneath my
feet and smacked into the lure deep down in the clear aquamarine water. It
took a second or two for me to register that the thing had actually taken
it, although the hundred metres of line that disappeared out to sea in the
next few seconds left me in no doubt! I slackened off the Baitrunner drag
twice to lessen the pressure from the rapidly emptying spool.
got one already?" I looked over my shoulder, rod hooped over in the
bright sunshine, to see Will joining me on the decking.
a Trevally. Problem is it's already halfway to the mainland and... well, I
think I've got fat chance of seeing this one on the beach mate" I
the fish came to a grudging halt, and I began the painstaking process of
getting the fish back in range, not helped by ten pounds of brown weed
gathered up the line. Inch by inch I gradually refilled the spool. A few
times I lost several yards, but patiently teased it all back, and soon I
started to believe that I may even have a chance of having my photo taken
with the thing.
The future's bright, the future's orange... But socks and sandals? What's
he playing at?!!!
Sunrise over the bay at the southern tip of
Some twenty minutes after hook-up, we had a beautifully
lit up sliver and turquoise Trevally of at least 15 pounds swimming
tiredly around the barnacle covered piles.
now I had a new problem- that being I was 10 feet above the water. So I
decided to walk the fish like a dog on a lead back up towards the beach
until it was shallow enough for me to jump in and grab it. Will grabbed my
camera and followed.
this is where things began to go tits-up. As is usual, but no less
of a pain in the arse for it's predictability, the sight of a large fish being played by
anyone for some reason had generated a level of interest (even
amongst the non-angling public at large) well, well out of
perspective with the actual event, a fact not helped by the arrival
of a gaggle of tourists on the pier to await the ferry.
They were joined by three or four massively obese Fijian
blokes who obviously worked at the resort (the evidence being a tuft
of franji panii flowers tucked behind their ears and a shirt so
tasteless not even Magnum PI would have been seen dead in
it), along with a pair of arseheads on that nemesis to all anglers -
jetskis (my number 1 entry for Room 101 for many a year now).
Fijian Fatman Number 1 in the gathered throng started:
You give me this fish!" he demanded.
sell me this fish!" he tried his luck again.
must sell me this fish! Why won't you sell me this fish?!"
it's my fish, and because I'm going to kiss it, take it's photo, and then
put it back alive". He looked shocked.
must sell me this fish. Why you put back alive?!"
it's pretty and I like it's colours", I smiled.
He clearly wasn't happy, and in no way wanted to
take my answer as final, and so pestered me incessantly all the way
along the pier.
In the meantime, as I managed to work my way through
the crowd, the Trevally looked like it had finally given up the
ghost and was laid on it's side on the surface, flapping idly in the
waves, exhausted. While fielding off Fatman and picking my way
through the cluster of gathered tourists, one of the jetski riders
had edged his way to within a couple of feet of the fish, and was
about to just grab the line and hoist it, something which would have
seen the 12 pound line snap like cotton.
Please don't! Yes, you mate... please don't touch the line!" He
looked up for a second and then just made another grab for it anyway-
luckily missing it as the fish lunged downwards. "I said DON'T!!!"
And this time his
hand shied tentatively away from the line. The fish was finally in
water a couple of feet deep at the side of the pier. Will told me he
had the camera ready, and I jumped in with my gear in hand. Somehow,
the jet skier had abandoned his craft, apparently hypnotised by the
sight of this knackered Trevally, and was now stood in the water
right by the fish. He just wouldn't let it lie. His hand moved
forward to grab the line, as I edged closer to seize the fish by the
wrist of the tail:
touch the line mate!!" I said... as he grasped the line above
the leader and pulled... as the fish made one final flap for
freedom... with the predictable result. The nylon parted, the
beautiful Blue Trevally bolted off between his legs as he tried to
dive on top of it, and I watched in despair as it disappeared with a
bow wave at high speed across the white sand of the shore. The crowd
groaned as one. I smacked my rod into the water in a fit of pique,
and stared angrily at the jet-skier:
said DON'T touch the line!!! Why DID you touch the line?!! When I asked you NOT to touch the
just looked sheepish, remounted his purple and white jet-ski and sped
off out to sea in the usual obtrusive, noisy, incongruous
manner they always do. I was gutted, and I am not ashamed to say I
had the hump. Badly. Perhaps my one chance ever to land a Blue
Trevally in my lifetime, played against the odds for over half an hour on light
tackle, beaten, ready to be photographed and
released, soaked to the bone in sweat in the tropical heat and near
90% humidity... only to be screwed up by some knobhead. As we walked back up the pier to where
my bag had been left, Will tried to console me a little:
I say you caught it anyway mate. After all, you had it beat, and if
it hadn't been for that arse you would have got it easy - no
I guess so. Thanks", I nodded, flicking through the
the last half an hour in my mind. "But I waaanted it's
piiiicture..." I whined, bottom lip stuck out like a six year
old who'd just had his bag of sweets taken off him. I really must
remember to grow up sometime.
evening didn't finish there though. As I retied a leader and Will
threw a lure around on my heavy rod, Fatmen 1 and 2 came
waddling up the pier like a pair of tropical Weebles.
cannot fish here. You must go" demanded Fatman 1, who only
moments ago was raging keen to take my fish from me for his supper.
so a dispute ensued which started up quite heated, and then finished
up quite comical, as 20
stone of Fijian lard threatened to evict us, the strapping 5' 6" ten stone Will stood
poking a finger up to his snout, going "Yeah, and I look forward to
that... Anytime- just send em down here!!" All
eventually diffused when hotel security came down, with two of
the local fellas from the backpackers, and after much
negotiation, 'our' fellas asked us to go back with them in
order to keep the peace, which we did for the sakes of good order. Not a dull moment that
evening, but I hoped that the fishing I managed to do in Fiji from
here on in was free from any further such difficulties. Little did I
one more equally unsuccessful, and a whole deal less eventful, short
fishing session was managed during the rest of my time on Mana
Island, all other activities being curtailed by the tail end of a
cyclone arriving from somewhere in the Coral Sea off the east of
Australia. The rain fell heavily and virtually continuously for the next three days, and
once it had cleared I had decided to leave the island, beautiful as
it was, since I was having problems finding anyone who would
give/lend/rent me a boat, or indeed even take me out to do some
Lynx Effect. The only things it
seems to attract have either six or eight legs unfortunately.
was the Coral Trout stolen? Or did someone eat the evidence? The
finger of suspicion pointed squarely at Mr John. Note his badly emaciated
frame. Poor bloke.
village on Waya Island turned out en masse, and
Fiji won the Wellington Rugby Sevens. Any excuse for a Kavarama.
Idyllic tropical beach #4357 (and
I had been told
via a group e-mail from another Perhentian Islands acquaintance,
Charlotte "Red-hot Roller Girl" Delsignore (her words, not
mine...), that Beachcomber Island was a fun place to visit. Since
it was only a relatively short boat journey from Mana Island, I
elected to give it a try for a couple of nights. I should have know
better once I had rung to book ahead and found out the sleeping
arrangements. This really was the dormitory experience to top them
all I think. With over a hundred beds, it's certainly the biggest I've ever
stayed in, with the expected mayhem occurring all
night long, capped off at about 3am as two drunken Israeli
guys came in and decided to have a shower... for an hour or so,
while they discussed in Hebrew whatever it is that Israeli blokes
discuss in the shower together at 3am. Shalom. "I'm too bloody
old for this" was all I could think as I passed another bunch
just heading back to their beds while on my way to see if I could
find a coffee anywhere at 7 in the morning. Suddenly I actually felt
As beautiful as the beach
and sea was (although the huge, rotting pile of seaweed behind the
'resort' which they rake up from the beach each day neither looks or
smells very beautiful). I already knew it was relatively expensive
on the island,
but when I was quoted 130 Fijian dollars (about 45 quid) an hour to
take a fishing boat out, this was a clear signal that they were
taking the piss and it was time to get on the boat again.
Douglas and his mates snap busily to it out on the Dead Sea. Clearly it's
hard work being nuts.
of Beachcomber a.s.a.p., hoping to find whatever the
"real" Fiji was sometime soon, the next stop was to be
Waya Island, I decided; further north in the Yasawa Islands. The
ferry was met by "Mr John", a rotund, happy kind of bloke,
in his rowboat and outboard, and on the way to the beach he informed
me that going fishing there wouldn't be a problem. This lifted my spirits a bit, and when
I saw that I could have a thatched bure to myself beside the
beautiful white sand, and that there was next to nobody else about, my
spirits lifted even further. Maybe this would be what I had been
dawn the next morning, I took a walk up the hill behind the beach
with a local bloke called Sam. As we talked, I expressed an interest
in catching a large Giant Trevally during my stay in Fiji. Sam
informed me about a spot near his village where a huge shoal of
sardines gathered, only to be systematically hunted down by packs of
roaming GTs. Furthermore, he and his friends would often catch them
on livebaits and handlines, and had taken them to over 30kgs. I then
became very, very interested. I became even more very interested when he said
that he could take me to give it a try. A 9am rendezvous was
arranged for that morning, after which Sam said we would take a
boat, net some livebaits, and then go and sit in the appropriate
spot to await the attack of the Trevally. I made my way back down
the hill to my room to get a bag of gear ready, had a bite to eat
and a coffee, and sat down to await Sam. 9am came and went. No sign
of Sam. Mr John came down and sat by to talk, and told me that Sam
would be at work. Confused, I told him what Sam had told me.
he's at work. But I
can arrange fishing for you this morning. I can get a man to take
you in the boat. Cheap cost too- you just pay fuel".
Trevally? How much is the fuel?"
Mr Andy. Trevally. 15 dollars". This sounded fair enough to me,
and half an hour later I found myself out on the ocean. I explained
to the boatman that I was hoping to find some GTs. He just smiled. I
took this to not be the best of signs.
get Giant Trevally here?" I asked. He just nodded. Hmmmm indeed.
There was no net to
catch bait as I'd discussed with Sam, and when I asked where the
Giant Trevally spots were he merely swept his arm in a wide arc at
the ocean surrounding us. And so we trolled. My favourite. One daft,
if pretty, Coral Trout
hung itself on a Yo Zuri being dragged out the back of the rowboat,
the compensation being that at least they make very good eating. En
route to base I briefly tried a small jig over a bommie of coral but
the only taker was a small wrasse of about six inches long. Some
three hours later we were back at the beach, and as the
boat slid up the sand, Mr John slid up to meet us:
have fish my friend?" he enquired, and as I held up the
lonesome Coral Trout he launched into a fit of joyous celebration.
Best to eat! Best to eat!" he rejoiced, although he was a bit
put out that I released the small wrasse to fight another day. I
looked forward to a meal of fresh fish with the standard plate of rice that evening. At
least something positive had come out of the disappointment of the
day. Strangely I never saw Sam again...
entertaining evening was spent watching the Wellington Rugby Sevens,
whereby the whole of the village turned out to watch the finals on
the only TV around, an aerial having been lashed to a post outside
the bure and manoeuvred until a signal was received. When Fiji
actually won the competition, it signalled great merriment in the
cramped, sweaty room, and the kava bowl did yet another round. The
Coral Trout failed to put in an appearance though, my rice being
served with curried veggies and bread. "Maybe tomorrow" I
thought, hoping that the fridge kept it's cool once the generator
went off that night in the 90 degree heat. The day was rounded off a
treat by having to move out of my nice thatched shack into a shared
room with four people who turned up that day, all due to Mr John's
"random" booking policy. The night was spent sweating under the claustrophobic swathes of a mosquito net, and
entirely sleepless as I listened to the resident rodents and huge arachnids
scuttling around in the rafters above my head. At least it was
beach at Waya was a really beautiful spot, with a lovely white
beach, azure seas lapping, and thick green vegetation coating the
rolling hills and sharp escarpments in the backdrop. And the sunsets
Reader's Fishwives: our helpful and informative fishmonger, Lewa, puts
aside her inhibitions and proudly displays her prize-winning kipper for
there were amongst the most spectacular I have ever seen, with
burning orange and yellow filling the sky from the horizon to the
The fishing, however, proved to be less than spectacular. I
tried to arrange to fish for GTs the following evening. Mr John
assured me that for the same cost as before I could have the boat
and a boatman, and he would sort out some bait- as well as a net to
try and catch some bait. As I boarded I
asked the boatman (my toothless friend from the day before) if we
had bait, and he held up a bucket at the far end of the boat as he
reversed the boat off the sands. When we got out onto the ocean
beyond the bay, I inspected the bait. My heart sank. The tail and
spine of a Coral Trout (where was the rest?!) and a slimy bolus of
chicken skins. Bloody useless.
have a net?" I asked... no, almost pleaded. Boatman shrugged his
shoulders while mine slumped.
good for Trevally", he advised with a toothless grin. I wasn't keen, but faced with
little alternative, we dragged lures about,
without such as a sniff of activity for what seemed like forever,
but was actually perhaps a couple of hours, before I scraped together a
single flap of flesh from the trout tail and caught yet another
wrasse, and finally discovered the hard way that fish like eating chicken
skins no more than I do.
Upon arrival back at base after dark, Mr John was again
mortified that I returned a half pound wrasse alive (he didn't get
in that shape by pure genetics it seems), and my rice waiting
on the table was also without any Coral Trout-like embellishments
either. What had happened to the rest of it I guess I'll never know
for sure, although if I looked close enough I'd guess there would be
plenty of evidence down Mr John's vest. As I picked through my rice,
Mr John bemoaned the release of the small wrasse, while I bemoaned
the lack of any Trevally action in return... or even any sightings of
A bloke called Tom who worked for Mr John came over and joined
us. Tom was another local who had a history of catching Trevally it
seemed, and he inspired me with his stories, having caught, between
forty and fifty of them, all on handlines, with the largest being an
amazing 45 kilos in weight. He held up his hands to offer the proof.
The skin covering them was covered in several deep, striated scars.
all from a special place. If Mr John agrees, I take you there
tomorrow morning. We need much fuel though. We need to leave 5am too
to get livebait- better than lures". Mr John cast him a
sideways glance, and they disappeared out the back to talk.
let's clear this up. How many fish did you say you've caught since
A double-take moment! Grey enough to
be Hokitika in New Zealand.
seemed that Mr John didn't agree because Mr Tom had work to do in
the morning. However, Mr Tom agreed to tell Mr John where the magic
spot was, and Mr John agreed to take me there himself. I wasn't too
sure about this, with Mr John seemingly more into eating fish than
catching them, but again, faced with little else in the way of
options, we confirmed a 5am rendezvous on the shore- once the fuel
price had been agreed, and I had ascertained that a net for catching
livebait would be brought along too. I was once again mildly
once again it proved to be a false dawn. We steamed for an hour to
the other side of the island, until Mr John advised me we were at
the hallowed place. Very fishy it looked too, outcrops of volcanic
rock pounded by the waves, and occasional paler patches of coral
visible through the deep, clear blue water. "Nice", I
where do we go and net some bait Mr John?" I asked. His face
turned from his usual jovial, gappy smile to a big, round blank.
He made a show of looking in a plastic bucket.
'I love my life'. Sometimes.
forgot the net" he grimaced. My head sunk into my hands. It thereby
came to pass that I spent hours drifting round the rocky
outcrops chucking surface poppers until my arms ached without a
single offer from (or sighting of) a fish. Mr John recommended that we
trolled, which I didn't want to do because it's so boring, but after a
bit more throwing lures around I relented on the basis that we might
get something (...anything!). Nothing was daft enough to snag
itself on the big Yo Zuri again, although a scad type species I
couldn't identify of a foot or so long did grab a small lure I hung
out the back on a lighter outfit. This in turn was quickly
nose-rigged up on a
10/0 hook and an 80lb mono leader and slow
trolled around a reef for an hour or so until it passed away
unmolested. I was going to give the pale, limp, beaten looking fish a burial at sea, but Mr John
hastily intervened and stowed it under his seat: "No Mr Andy!
This fish good to eat!!" he laughed. How silly of me.
just looking at some distant rocks, about to suggest that maybe we
could try some lure casting over there, when suddenly Mr John looked
at his watch, and remembered that he was going to take a someone snorkelling in the boat at 10.30am, something he hadn't
mentioned the evening before. I disembarked the boat more
disillusioned than ever. When a cruise liner pulled up in
the bay, dropping off dozens of tourists in a couple of aluminium
landing craft onto the previously peaceful beach- complete with
masseur, tables, parasols and a special consignment of their own bead
and bracelet vendors- like some kind of opening sequence to Saving
Private Ryan launching into Sandals, I decided to leave Waya the
next day to continue my Trevally search elsewhere in the Fiji
Islands. Waya was a beautiful place, and Mr John and
his people on the beach there were really as friendly as could be. I
felt a little sad and frustrated that the fishing didn't work out on
the fish-front really, otherwise I'd probably still be there
journey around Fiji continued with fishing cock-up after fishing
cock-up to be honest. I could go through the full list of them here
in detail, but a quick skim over it should suffice! There was the
visit to Nananu-i-ra Island, yet another lovely beach in an idyllic
setting, which, however, is primarily a dive centre and as a result
is operated by what could be termed as 'Dive-Nazis'. My tentative
enquiries about fishing from the beaches were met with a firm
negative, and after another enquiry into renting a boat to get out
to the reef to fish, I was informed that if I went to fish on the
reef that "that bloke over there will be after you with a spear
gun" as a stocky & cocky shaven headed loon was pointed out to me. I
took it that they were joking, but the inference was lucid enough.
And the irony that they occasionally used spear guns instead of hook & line was seemingly lost. A
local bloke called
"Zed", who was more camp than a row of tents with a shower
block, told me he could maybe arrange for me to go fishing with some
local commercial fisherman, but after that conversation I didn't see
him again despite hanging around for a day longer. Who knows; maybe
Zed's dead? I didn't stay at Nananu long.
Actually, I know I said I was going to skim the disasters- of which
there were several- but there was one day to maybe top the all time list
which does perhaps require the full treatment: the day that "Dodgy
Douglas" lurched into my life (and thankfully out again).
was on one of my passes through Nadi Hotel that one of the kindly ladies
that worked there, Suzy, told me that she knew a man who could get
me out on the ocean really cheaply as we talked at the front desk
early one morning. She placed the call, and a few minutes later a
bloke who's name escapes me now appeared in reception. We spoke
about issues fishing, and he assured me that I could go fishing that
day, he could arrange the boat, that there were Trevally to be
caught out there on the reefs, the boys on the boat would be able to
net some mullet for livebait, and when he asked me how long I wished
to fish and I replied "as long as it takes" he laughed and
said it wouldn't be a problem. The cost? 40 dollars (about £12 or
so) to cover fuel, and then I should give the boatman a few dollars
for a beer or two. It sounded too good to be true...
Jacks. Loads of them, and they demolished that lure in a single
evening- aggressive little suckers. Nice grub too.
man drew out his mobile phone and placed another call, and very soon
yet another man lumbered into reception, and strangely enough it
turned out that he was staying at the Nadi Hotel too. This I thought
was a bit strange, but stuck with it. Man number 1 left, and the big
man I was left with introduced himself as Douglas. He was dressed
only in a sarong wrapped around his waist, and his dark chest and
back were covered in tattoos depicting large crosses, hands clasped
in the manner of prayer, and even declaring his undying love for God and
the baby Jesus. At the sight of this, my alarm bells started to
chime, wisely taking this to be some kind of sign of a latent
It seemed he needed to call for a taxi and make sure
the other members of his group were ok with the boat. His mobile was
out of credit, so asked if I had a phone card he could borrow, so I
loaned him it. Douglas also asked for 20 dollars for a few beers,
and since this was as discussed with man number 1, I handed it over.
He reappeared twenty or thirty minutes later to say he was ready (having
swapped his sarong for some shorts) and that the taxi was waiting. I
grabbed my rods and we exited into the baking heat. Two of his mates
were waiting in the taxi, and we were introduced, but again, I can't
remember their names. Douglas assured me that his friends were good
fisherman as the taxi wound it's way through the dirty streets of
Nadi and out to the harbour at Denerau, whereby everyone deserted
the taxi, and left yours truly to pay the man. Another ten dollars. I could see a pattern developing
While the boat- an 18 to 20 foot
aluminium number- had it's tank filled with fuel, Douglas and I
perused the shop for drinks, and he said we needed some ice, which I
paid for... along with the drinks and the fuel, which now came to
50 dollars, not the agreed 40. I was now looking for an ejector seat.
Sean with Ziggy and a Mangrove Jack. Ziggy's the one that isn't
Thinking about previous mishaps while trying to
fish in Fiji, I asked about bait.
can catch livebait out there can't we? You do have a net and
"It is on the boat" he replied.
And so we set off out the mangrove
channels of Denerau onto a flat, breathless ocean. The mirror calm
sea stretched around us and the sun beat down from an empty blue
sky. The boat pushed out into the reefs and islands for perhaps
three quarters of an hour, until the engine was cut and we slid to a
halt. It was almost midday.
"Ok. Where do you want to
fish?" asked Douglas...
so my little aching heart crashed down through my shorts for
the 512th time since I began my journey. "I
thought your friends here were good fishermen? Don't they know some good spots?". Douglas spoke in Fijian to the two other
blokes. They just shrugged in a non-committal manner and
curled up on the duckboards of the boat..
"Anyway. we need to catch bait
first. Aren't the mullet in the mangroves?"
"I'm thinking you have net" shrugged Douglas.
What the???!!! What the????!!!! What the????!!!!
"But but but when I asked you
whether you had a net you said it was on the boat...???!!!"
Douglas looked down at his bare feet.
I sat down in the bottom of the boat and put my head in my hands for
about the 513th time since I began my journey.
Another wasted day,
and more wasted money. I fought the urge to tell them to turn the
boat round and head for port, knowing that refunds were not an
option. We ended up catching some small fish on the crusts of the
bread they'd brought for their sandwiches, which I then cut up and
used for bait. I hardly need mention that all I caught were small
grouper and snapper, which I deliberately threw back even after
Douglas and his friends had asked me to keep them. This did not
amuse the boys, icy stares flitting back and forth down the boat, but quite frankly, my dears, I couldn't give a shit.
They suggested trolling, which we did half-heartedly - yours truly
yawning my way through another hour as my faithful Yo Zuri rattled
the rod tip somewhere out the back, while trying to get the
boatman to slow down a bit and skirt the edges of the reefs rather
than just drive in straight lines across the barren ocean with the
rod bent double in my hands. Douglas
and one of his mates actually went to sleep. Suddenly, one of the
blokes remembers that he has to go and visit some family, and with
that we were off back to port. It was 3pm. So much for fishing for
"as long as it takes". However, I really wasn't bothered
about the session terminating early; I've had more fun picking the
scabs off my mosquito bites.
outside the hotel, I was
left high, dry and pissed off as Douglas absconded up the steps
leaving me holding my bag and looking down at the outstretched palm
and bloodshot eyes of our Indian driver. Another ten dollars. Somehow, and don't ask me how because
I have no idea, I ended up going for a bite to eat with Douglas that
evening. Maybe it was because he promised to buy me a couple of
beers? Who can tell?
with the Trevally. The word "Giant" was lost in translation somewhere.
apparently required a cab journey round the less salubrious
districts of Nadi, before we finally took a seat at a restaurant
not 200 yards from the hotel, for some reason. The meal was delivered to the table, and as I stuck my fork
into the rice, Douglas reached across the table and touched my arm:
"We must always do grace before
we eat", he whispered. And so I sat for an uncomfortable,
embarrassed minute while he bowed his head and said his thanks, and
again declared his undying love fo de Lord. As we ate I enquired
why we had journeyed out to the suburbs. It turned out he had visited a
friend's wife to buy a bag of ganja, since it "helped her
out" while her husband was in jail for eight years for drug-pushing.
"It help me too. I can make a
little dollar when I sell it with my friends". Fair enough.
It seemed that times were a little tricky for Douglas at the
moment all round, and he was staying at the hotel while he was
suspended from work and awaiting a court appearance.
"What for?" I asked.
had an argument with my foreman at the factory".
needed a weekend off to go to my girlfriend. So he changed my shift.
Then on Friday before, he changed it back and made me work. He
wouldn't change his mind. So I was angry".
hit him over his head with a chair. Then I knocked
two his teeth out. I punched his temple and then I kick his chest and
break his ribs and arm. He went hospital for two month".
was in any lingering doubt, I now knew for sure I was dining with a
meal finished and the bill came. Douglas shifted a little nervously
in his plastic chair and looked down at the table. I looked him in
the eye: "Don't
tell me. Let me guess. You haven't got enough money to pay for the
would like to thank you for a most delicious meal" was all he said. At
this point I forgot all about his perchance for throwing chairs
around, and the fact he was about 50 pounds heavier than me:
taking the piss now. All day long I've been haemorrhaging money
since I met you and I'm sick of it. Where's the 20 dollars I gave
gave it to my friend's wife".
so you sit here, order a table full of food, eat the lot of it,
knowing that you've got no money to pay for it, and expect me to pay
and don't even ask?!"
The waiter came over
and stood over us, staring. Douglas just shrugged his shoulders and
in turn stared at his place mat. My gaze flicked from one to the other
of them, gradually realising that I was going to have to pay up just to
be able to leave the restaurant without a tail of half a dozen
Asians with machetes from the kitchen. I spooned out yet again. Walking back round to the hotel in silence, Douglas eventually broke
it by promising that he had money back in his room and he'd buy me a
beer in the hotel bar (eh?!) I soon sat in the bar waiting for him, with a
beer, on my own - apart from the two and a half thousand mosquitoes
that had joined me. No sign. I became
determined to winkle a beer out of him. So I went up to his room and
knocked on the door. It took a moment until he answered, the door
creaking open slowly. The vision that greeted me was like something
out of the movie 'Seven', but without all the blood. There were candles
arranged all over the window cills and table, a mat was rolled out
on the floor, and the mystical Douglas stood naked except for his
red wrap around towel at his waist.
erm, wondered if you were coming down to get me... well... erm..
that beer you mentioned...." I muttered, a little overcome with
the smell of incense and having a 17 stone tattooed Fijian stood
half naked in the candlelight in front of me.
will be there soon, Mr Andy. But at this time I always pray to the
good Lord for half an hour every day". He
looked at the bottle of Fiji bitter in my hand. "But get
me one of those and I will join you shortly".
As I turned down the stairs, I heard the door creak
and click shut,
and that was the last I ever saw or heard of Dodgy Douglas. One of the true 'characters' I have met on my trip, and
the like of which I hope I don't encounter again. Oh, and when I
tried to call home with the (brand new) 20 dollar phone card I'd loaned him, the
remaining credit on that was exactly zero. I guess he must have
called his lawyer.
just re-read the preceding drivel, I realise that it must sound like
Fiji was nothing but pain and disappointment. But I have perhaps
painted an unfair picture. As I mentioned, the islands and beaches
are incredibly beautiful places, and for the most part the people
were extremely friendly, helpful and happy. And on one island I even managed
to catch some fish.
just left the Coral Coast, I took a bus up to the town of Sigatoka,
where I hoped to maybe find a fisherman at the market there, either
to wrangle a boat, or to get some local advice. I spent an
"evening of luxury" at the Riverview Hotel. A shop keeper
directed me there when I asked for "the cheapest room in
town", and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity I
had a room to myself instead of sharing in another bloody dorm. When
I got into the 'suite', the cleaner was still hard at it. I helped her
out by nudging a used condom and it's torn packet out from under the
bed into the line of her dustpan and brush with the end of my flip
flop. She smiled pleasantly; "Vinaka".
After eating a cold
noodle dish of some type from a cafe near the bus station, which I
suspected would be through me faster than a speeding bullet (I was
right, although I never expected it to be a dum-dum), I retired to
my room to read and, as it turned out, listen to drunken Fijians
brawl, screech and smash bottles across the street outside until
long after midnight. The melee was something like you'd expect to
hear if you gave a classroom of 12 year olds Vodka Red Bulls
with their Smarties (the blue ones, of course). Next day, a really
nice lady called Lewa who worked at the fish stall in the Sigatoka
market told me that there was some good fishing to be had on
Robinson Crusoe Island, not a million miles from the town itself.
So, a couple of calls later I was on my way, although not until I
had been told by one 'conductor' at the station that there were no
more buses in that direction that day... and then told by the
'conductor' at the very next bus (when I double checked) to get
aboard because "Yes sir, this bus goes there now. Leaving 5
that day I was on Robinson Crusoe Island. Why it was called that I
have no idea, because it would have taken no more than a steady half
hour paddle to get to the mainland at low tide, let alone get
marooned there for an age. Still, again it was a lovely beach, and
after talking to a couple of people there, it seemed that Ziggy was
the fisherman to talk to, and he would be on the island the very
tracked down and spoke to Ziggy as soon as possible, and he told me
he would take me out onto the reef that
Above and below: some freaks from the
Sean with a Grouper that managed to avoid my hooks! At last- after a
few hundred of them now he's most welcome!
very day, in an hour's
time. I went back to the dorm to get some gear ready. When I got
back to the beach, Ziggy was putting a box full of handlines on the
boat, and a queue of people were gathered. It seemed that Ziggy had
decided to turn the excursion into a resort day out. Not what I had
the Trevally fishing he so enthusiastically spoke of would have to
wait. One amusing moment occurred that morning though. Very little
was being caught, I'd had one Grouper (really?!) of a couple
("Oooh, big fish, big fish!" shouted Ziggy - Oh gawd...) and a
few of the ubiquitous small wrasse and snapper things, and that, to be
honest, was about it for the whole boat of eight, apart from a couple of
tiny wrasse. There had been a long, bored silence, when out of nowhere
sprang the voice of an Irishman:
wanted to ask you something".
you always catch this much?"
Sometimes even more!!!" he replied with a proud smile.
problem with irony eh?
the afternoon, Irish Sean, Dutch David (also from the boat trip) and
myself were down on the beach doing a spot more fishing, having
spotted stingrays and garfish patrolling the edge of the waves, when
along came one of the rotund Australian owners of the island to tell
us that fishing from the beach was not permitted on the island.
Another kick in my piscine nuts. After chucking my gear back under
the bunk, I decided to go and speak to them about it. I guess I was
fed up with the whole ordeal by now. After explaining my
predicament, and listening to their reasoning behind the fishing
ban- the locals had basically netted everything out a few years back
anywhere close to the island, so they'd put a row of buoys about 200
metres offset from the perimeter of the coast and called it a 'no
fish zone' for everybody. I understood. Seeing
my frustration, one of the owners finally said:
Andy, I love fishing too. Take Ziggy and one of the boats for a go
up the river this evening for a bit. there's Trevally in there, big
Mangrove Jacks- allsorts. I even have a couple of lures you can use
that I'm sure will do the trick". It sounded promising. When I
told Irish Sean (who did a bit of fishing back in Ireland) and Dutch
David (who had never caught a fish in his life) what had been
discussed, they both wanted to come too.
The more the merrier I
the markets and stalls of Nadi town, and I noticed that boxing
promoter Don King's brother- Juan King- was doing ok in these parts
as some kind of a hair-do-guru. A barnet to aspire to I reckon!
After the heat of the day began to
dissipate into evening, the fishing down the mangroves was great
fun. Ziggy had be kept in check from trolling at water skiing speed
every now and again, but soon a couple of spots were found that
obviously held concentrations of predators- deviations in the
underwater topography that had the lures bouncing briefly across the
river bed until it dropped away into deeper water. These spots would
provide some action at every pass, the Mangrove Jacks hit the
lures regularly with aggression, and Dutch David caught his first
fish, a small Trevally, with which he was delighted and subsequently
hooked himself. At one stage I caught three Trevally in a row... a
tiny one, a tiny bit bigger one, and one a bit larger still. We
finished the session off by heading out of the river mouth into the
ocean to try for a big Trevally before darkness fell, chucking the
big surface poppers around, all on tenterhooks in the hope that the
next hit would be the one I wanted. The
evening concluded without any monsters, but who can complain when
you're fishing and slurping down a couple of cold beers under an
amber and ruby sky?
Next evening, with David having left
to carry on his journey, Sean and I headed up the mangroves with Ziggy
again in search of some fish action. We headed straight for a couple of
spots we'd found,
and the fish kept chewing with Sean
notching the first three fish in the first three passes, before I
finally got a look in and a Mangrove Jack crunched to pieces the
lure I'd used the previous evening, which was had been just about hanging in
there until then.
After this, more Snapper species, Estuary Cod for
Sean (another Grouper... he was welcome to it!) and freakishly
enough, a large Pufferfish- which was hooked fair and square in the
mouth- hung themselves on the lures one after the other all evening
long, and left us happy with what we caught. Although Ziggy didn't
seem quite so happy that we only kept a few of the fish to eat,
releasing the rest. His little face was a picture when the
Pufferfish was dropped back over the side, adamant that they were
good to eat. A final hour was spent attempting to track down a large
Trevally on the reef again as the sun set, but again to no avail,
despite Ziggy insisting this was the best time to get one. I wasn't
convinced, but you have to put your faith in local
Back at the island after dark, one of
the Aussie owners quizzed us on how the fishing had gone, and as we
waited for the Jack we had placed in the campfire to cook, wrapped
in foil with butter, garlic and onion, we told him what had
happened, and that his freezer had some new stock:
"I'm telling you now" he
said, "Robinson Crusoe Island has the best fishing anywhere in
Fiji!!". I felt this was a grand statement considering we'd had
two decent evening's fishing up the creek... "But Ziggy's not exactly
the best Trevally man here. I'll ask one of the other guys who
knows this place inside out to take you for a go at first light
tomorrow if you like, cos that's the best time to catch them".
Again I was mildly enthused. "I'll be down the beach at dawn.
An Indian employee on the island,
who's name I regrettably can't remember, took me out in the morning.
As the sun broke the horizon, we tried spot after spot with his
favourite lures, and a couple of mine, but when the sun finally
wound up to full strength, I was just sweaty and fishless despite
all efforts. We headed back to the beach, with my guide for the
morning seemingly in disbelief that we hadn't encountered any
Trevally, and me cursing the bloody things for being so elusive! The
Aussie hosts commiserated that I was still Trevallyless, but said I should head out for an evening with Ziggy again that night,
it being my last on the island.
The familiar pattern ensued, with
lots of fish hanging themselves at regular intervals up and down the
creeks- the same spots still producing the goods. The choice of lure
didn't even seem to matter too much by now either- as long as it
didn't work too deep- and I have to say I was really enjoying the
fishing, the beautiful surroundings and the perfect tropical
weather. Only Ziggy didn't seem overly happy, this being every time
I released a fish alive on the basis that plenty had been dropped in
their freezer over the past couple of days. I'm sure his bottom lip
was trembling a couple of times. "Soooo good to be
eating!!" he wailed at one point. The final fish of my jaunt in
Fiji was a bit of a surprise too, being a metre long fish resembling
a highly polished sword with teeth that seized a Rapala as the
mosquitoes swarmed around us on the cusp of darkness. I had never
seen, let alone caught one before, but I was assured later by our
hosts that it was a "Haretail" (or "Hairtail"?).
Unless, of course, anyone knows better: please see photo above left.
Just before I left the island, our
host proclaimed yet again that "Robinson Crusoe Island has the
best fishing in Fiji mate. I'm telling ya. And please tell ya
mates!" I smiled and said that it had been fun.
"And I have to say that no one we've had here has ever caught
as much as you have this last few days. I mean, we had Rex Hunt here
a year or two back, and he only caught one fish in four f***ing
days". It took me a moment or two to rearrange that little cluster of
contradictions. Whether it meant that the fishing is any good or not, or that he
thought that I could fish and Rex Hunt couldn't... or both... or
neither I have no idea at all. Whatever it meant, I sure as hell couldn't catch a
big GT I'm all too sorry to say. "Yibbida yibbida", as the
bearded burbler would say.
Another Boomshanka moment.
Conversation would be going as follows - guaranteed:
long have you been in Fiji then?... Really? Cool... So where do you go
next?... Really? Cool... So did you go to New Zealand?... Cool isn't
it?..." Blah blah blah etc blah titty blah blah blah....titty
blah blah titty...