Fishing Update — or — How I managed to spend $1,000 and still not catch a fish
It started out innocently enough. We found a handline, a few hooks, and a lure on the boat. We then bought a second handline and another lure. We didn’t know a thing about fishing, but how hard could it be? You throw a line out, secure the line and sail away. Maybe a fish bites, maybe it doesn’t. But this trip is about sailing, not fishing, so no big deal.
After a small taste of success (one Bonito and a couple of barracuda) I decided that I wanted to learn the basics. How do I tie a fishing knot? Which lure works best? How does one filet a fish? So I bought The Cruisers Handbook of Fishing (a truly great reference and really fun read for anyone who is interested in learning about fishing on a sailboat).
Now, I’m not blaming the book for what happened next. But once I got a little information under my belt, I became a terror. No island fishing store was safe. Armed with enough information to ask intelligent questions, but no clue as to what I was doing, I asked shopkeepers for advice and just started buying things. In Grenada, I found a cruiser who was offloading a grab-bag of lures along with a Penn 6 and rod. For just $200 the lot was mine! Done. In Bequia a shopkeeper convinced me to buy two new lures (one snapped in half upon snagging a fish that I like to believe was a Wahoo) and some 150 lb line. $75.
At this point, we didn’t have any rod holders, so I tried mounting the Penn 6 on the rail and put a handline on the other side. Not only did it look completely janky, Will didn’t like it. Any time we had to reel in the hand line to clear it from the sea weeds, there was tangled monofiliment all over the place and Will was convinced that I was going to wrap the prop. So handlines got banned. This meant that I was allowed to buy another reel! Now we’re talking. I consulted my handy fishing book and it told me to “buy the largest reel I could afford”. Ok, if you say so. We had buddies coming down to meet us and they volunteered to bring us down any parts we needed. I sent them down with two stainless rod holders and my brand spanking new reel. I had ordered the Penn Senator 12. $400.
This reel is really, really big. Intimidatingly big. So big that I can barely hold it up. What was I thinking? And where the hell am I going to mount it on our small boat? There is literally no free rail that is facing the right direction upon which to mount this behemoth. But my friends got rid of the packaging so that they could pack it more efficiently in their carry-on, so a return is out of the question. I will use it, and I’m sure it will be glorious, but right now, the idea of what I could catch on that thing terrifies me. What would we do if we caught a marlin? Or a fish that weighs more than I do? I don’t even know how to properly hold a rod yet. So until I grow the cahones big enough to match that reel, it sits in my closet awaiting its moment in the sun.
But I was still not allowed to use hand lines, and it only made sense to have line coming from both side of the boat. So what choice did I really have? Another rod and reel was the only solution. $300 later at the fishing store in Guadeloupe, aided by a shopkeeper so taken with a girl interested in fishing that I not only got a discount, but also a present of 5 lightly used lures and a wire straightener, I was armed with a Penn 4 and rod (capable of handling reasonably sized fish up to 40 pounds), a telescoping rod and reel for fishing off the dinghy, some new line, and a few new lures. That should last me for at least a few weeks, right?
Now I’m all set up. I’ve got the rod holders in place. I’ve got the lines out. I’m experimenting with wire vs. mono leader. Weighted sinkers vs. surface plugs. Teasers. Different drag settings. Tying bimini twists. Perfecting my uni knots.
And nada. Bupkis. Yes, it has only been a couple of days since the new arsenal has been out. But if we were keeping score it would be the $30 investment of handlines with 7 fish (2 bonito and 5 barracuda) to fancy new shit, 0.
Unbelievably, Will remains supportive of my new hobby.