Sunday, June 29, 2008

Out of the boat and into the water

Sometimes bad things happen and good things come out of it.

Death of an outboard
My outboard motor blew up about eight months ago. That was the second time since I bought it 4 years ago. This time I decided not to fix it because I think it is a lemon, a Monday or Friday built outboard. On top of that, there are no competent mechanics around to do the job. Maybe on the main island, Viti Levu but not on the one where I live, Vanua Levu. In order to get the motor to a mechanic who could actually fix it I would have to drive 2hrs to catch a 12hr ferry ride and get a hotel room for the entire time it is in the shop. That is just not going to happen as I have already stated, I think it is a lemon so fixing it is just out of the question.

Solar powered fishing
The lack of motorized boating has forced me to adapt my well defined style of boat fishing. Having fished out of a boat for the last seven years, you could say I have formed a few habits to the way I fish. Now in general this is a good thing. I have certain routines and methods to create a comfortable and successful fishing trip. The problem with this is when something happens to the boat motor and I am forced out of my fishing comfort zone. Now I still have an electric trolling motor on the bow and it is getting used a lot. I charge it off a solar panel and that usually takes about 2-3 days of good sun to get a really good charge. There is a definite distance restriction when using electric only and for some reason I am always going into the wind. Realistically I can only fish with the electric about once a week. If I want to fish more, and I do, I am out of the boat and wading in the water.

Time to change
Being on foot now means I have to scale everything down. Tackle boxes, five gallon buckets, big landing nets, and multiple rods are completely out of the question. More like 5-6 favorite lures, pliers, fish glove, leader material and a knife. That is it, nothing else. I must travel light because more than likely I will travel far and deep. I could be chest deep with my rod held high or ankle deep casting over a small reef edge. Once the tide came in and I actually swam from one stone to another with only my head and my rod out of the water. I am sure that was a sight to see. The comfort zone as I knew it is no more and that is not such a bad thing.
Since I have started wading it has actually become easier to go fishing. I now take such a little amount of gear that I can be ready in just a couple minutes. Things are very uncomplicated now. I spend more time fishing and less time prepping, cleaning and putting away gear. I do not have to work strictly with the tides to keep the boat floating or lug a fuel tank and battery around.

Water hazards abound
As a regular boat angler I have found a few new obstacles to wading while fishing. I no longer have the height advantage of a boat when spotting fish, reef edges or weed beds. If the sun is in the wrong position or behind a cloud then it is very hard to see anything at all and feels a lot like blind casting. When the wind is blowing into my face I can not reposition the boat so it is at my back. The best I can do is put a heavier lure on and load up every inch of rod length to get a cast off. As for snags, when it happens and it does, I am faced with the dilemma of breaking the line and loosing my lure or swimming out and trying to get it free. It really depends on how far out it is and how deep it is. Probably the worst hazard I have personally faced is a stingray. Normally a very docile creature, but step on one and you will feel their sting. The more I fish my particular area the better I get to know it and the hazards. I have created a mental map of the area by using an elevated position to view it, especially at the low tide.

The good the bad and the fishy
Being without a motor has been both good and bad. The bad being the lack of freedom to move about and change locations if an area is not producing. When I had more mobility on the water I would fish as far away as 2-3 miles. My regular haunts included river mouths and mangroves as well as some really nice shallow reefs. These are all accessible by boat only therefore I no longer fish them. The good on the other hand has been the change in the way I fish in general. I realize I can fish with a lot less than I was fishing with before. I now spend more time fishing one particular area thoroughly before moving on. Within walking distance of my home I now catch good fish in places I normally would never have fished.

I have now added a completely new style of fishing to my repertoire. I still miss having a motor and the freedom it allows. However, the lessons learned and the fish caught have made it bearable to say the least.
If you happen to be without a motor just lighten up, get wet, and get back to catching a fish.

Tight lines and screaming drags

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fishing Fiji Style

Navigating the waters of Fijian culture
If you plan to go to Fiji and guide yourself fishing then you should be prepared. With a little cultural forethought you will be fishing in no time and trouble free.

Fiji is not Australia or the United States. Culture and traditions still play a major role in everyday life and need to be respected. All of the waters inside the barrier reef system called qoliqoli (ngoly ngoly) are controlled by different villages. To obtain permission to fish the waters you will want to visit a village. You need to present yourself and a sevusevu (sayvu sayvu) or gift to the chief or headman of the particular village where you want to fish. The sevusevu should be Yaqona (yangona), which is the root of a plant of the pepper family. It is best if you have a local person to take you in to the village and do the talking for you.

Entering a village
The modern day village still has some cultural nuances. Modesty is at the forefront and should be practiced. Here are a few basic rules to follow. Women should wear a sulu (wrap-around) and no tank tops or bikini tops. Remove your hat when you enter a village. In most tropical countries it is accepted practice to remove your shoes before entering. Picture taking opportunities are plentiful inside of a village. The children will always find you and your camera first so be prepared as they love to see themselves on the digital camera screen. Most people do not mind having their picture taken but always ask first.

Performing a sevusevu
After you have entered the village it is now time to meet the chief or an elder. They are the highest member of the village and are the only ones who can give you permission to fish in their qoliqoli. When you enter the room everyone will be seated around a tanoa (Yaqona basin) and the chief should be sitting at the head. This part of your visit is deeply rooted in Fijian tradition. A very serious tone and definite role playing will make it seem like a solemn occasion. Luckily you only have to sit watch and listen. Someone will do the introductions for you. Most of the formalities will be in Fijian and then it should revert to English so you will not be left out.

Drinking Yaqona
Once your sevusevu is finished then it is time to drink Yaqona.
Yaqona is Fiji Islands' national drink. It is derived from the roots of a shrub belonging to the pepper family. The roots, called waka, are dried in the sun and pounded into a fine powder. It is prepared in a tanoa and then drunk from a bilo.
The tradition of drinking Yaqona goes back many generations, originally drunk only by the high priests. Yaqona was chewed by virgin girls and spit into a tanoa where it was then mixed with coconut water and plain water. It was used by the priests typically for visions and fortune telling. The tradition of drinking yaqona has evolved into a social affair. When strangers enter a Fijian village, they seek out the chief or village headman to ask for permission to enter and visit, and are expected to present some yaqona. It is now used as a social drink enjoyed by all and encourages a sense of well-being.
You will be handed a polished coconut shell called a bilo, with mixed Yaqona. Take the bilo from them and in one or two gulps finish all of it before you return the bilo to the server. Do not put the bilo on the floor, as it is bad manners. Once you have returned the bilo then you will cobo (thombo) or clap three times. Everyone there will also clap three times for each person who drinks. This is a basic guide, as each village will have some variation to their style of drinking Yaqona.

Yaqona------------------------------------ Bilo's --------------------------------Tanoa

Down to business
Now that the formalities are done you can relax a little and talk easy. There will be lots of question and some will seem a bit prying but all with good intentions.
This is a good time to find out what attractions the village has to offer. You can arrange a fishing guide, a full village tour, or some other excursions.
It is almost customary for Fijians to invite you to tea of lunch. Accepting this will also give you more chances for a real Fijian experience

Time to fish
Once this is done you will be free to fish in that village’s qoliqoli. You might want to have a local with you when you first go fishing, as they will be able to show you some of the good spots. If you want to do some casting over shallow reefs or in a river mouth then use your own knowledge of fishing and fish habits to ask the right questions. The locals will be able to show you where the reefs are and how to get to the mouth of a river.
If you want to hire a village boat then you will need to discuss this with them and prearrange a price. If you are going to be out in a remote location then you might also have to supply the fuel.

Going through this process you will find yourself in the heart of a Fijian village, experiencing real Fijian culture and I hope catching some nice fish.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bad weather no fish

As an avid angler it is all ways difficult when I can’t fish. Usually it is the weather, but sometimes there are other extenuating factors such as broken motors or sick family members, but usually the weather.

So what is an angler to do when one can’t fish? I usually try to read about fishing. There are heaps of blogs on the internet as well as fishing forums and sites related to fishing with articles and stories. Not to mention all of the magazines about fishing that I subscribe to.

I also find myself, in times of bad weather, going through fishing gear, cleaning and repairing everything. Taking reels apart, right down to the last screw, then cleaning every little bit and oiling it, then putting it all back together again, that has to be one of my biggest time wasters when I can’t fish. I think I have some of the cleanest gear around.

Sometimes I grab a spool of line and just practice tying knots. The knots I use the most are the Uni-knot, the Bimini twist, Australian plait and the offshore swivel knot. I have yet to have a failure do to one of these knots. I used to tie the Albright special but with the braid I use the leader had a tendency to slip out of the knot.

I see fishing as an addiction, if I go to long without wetting a line I can get a bit stir crazy. Fishing withdrawals are some of the worst. Sometimes I just sit and look out the window to the sea and shake all over with the thought of not being able to fish.

Right now here in Fiji it has been raining for days. Not that sissy rain you experience in upper and lower latitudes but the real tropical down pours you get near the equator. The kind that is so noisy it will not let you sleep. The kind that makes a little babbling creek turn into a raging torrent of brown water you dare not get near. The kind that you can’t even go fishing in for fear of your boat filling up and sinking while you are out.

Make no mistake about it as soon as it stops raining and even shows the slightest bit of letting up, I am going fishing.

Hope the sun is shining where you are.

Tight lines and Screamin drags

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bad weather Good fish

The weather has been about as
cooperative as a lion at the dentist. That being said we have had a couple of mornings that were fishable. Being that I am a fishing slut, I of course jumped on the opportunity. These are a few pictures of some of the fish we caught. After all, we are all are fishing addicts and this is for your and my fishing fix. The last big bluefin was a helluva fish and had about four really good runs in him. I actually saw some braid on the spool that I have not seen in a while. I let it go to fight another
day, he deserved it.Oh yeah Iam trying to take a little different kinds of fish pictures not just someone holding it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Unforgiving weather gods

Well after 10 days of rain and 8 days of 30+ knot wind we finally caught a break in the weather. It is 7:00 am, a bit overcast the tide is falling, and Rosie and I are ready to fish.

Within 20 minutes I have the first fish is in the boat, a little Barracuda not worthy of a photo, but a fish none the less. A few minutes later Rosie is onto a little Emperor but again not worthy of the camera.

The weather looks promising as the early morning breeze starts to subside and the sun is peaking out. Both of us are starting to warm up, after all this is the beginning of winter and the nights can get to a chilly 21c, and the boat is full of optimism.

As we near the hour of low tide I take a nice strike that cuts my line way above the double. Luckily my poppers float and it is quickly retrieved. While I am retying my double Rosie boats a nice little Trevally, again too small for the camera. We are both holding out to take pictures of the big ones.

A few casts later and I land a nice little Barracuda, note the use of the word little again. Then the weather gods decide we have fished enough. The wind starts to kick up and the sky turns dark, threatening to rain. As the bay starts to white cap we turn tails and head for home. At least we got to fish for a little while after nothing for 2 weeks.