Recently there has been some debate about a fish’s weight, I said I would tell you guys a story about something like this and so here’s one of the old “days gone by – one that got away” tales. This is a true story, a story of what a Barramundi can do to a person, especially if it were the first one.
As I recall, it was “Good Friday”, Good Friday” is or used to be a day where the old anglers from Bombay, Bandra especially, held a superstitious belief that one always caught something “nice” on that day. So yes, the whole bunch of us was there at Lands End. Noel, Freddy, Firi, Crasto, Jerome, Winzer, perhaps Mickey was there too but I am not sure, but I am sure that I am missing a couple names at least.
A few of us started earlier that morning and went to the famed “Outer Rock”, we fished for little over an hour, it was on an incoming tide, being a lousy swimmer, in-fact I cannot swim, I decided to leave Outer Rock before I was literally in too deep and head for safer grounds. A couple of other guys decided to join me. But Freddy and Jerome stayed behind. We thought that it was a bit silly because, the currents there got pretty strong as the tide filled up. But Fred stayed back along with Jerome casting away, determined to catch that Barra that was teasing him all morning. As the three of us stumbled over slippery rocks we glanced back to see Freddy casting fervently. “Hope they know what they are doing” I thought. “That Jerome is crazy” someone said “but he will get Freddy back.”
We headed back to the base of the old fort and when we got there we noticed a few more of the gang had arrived. We exchanged pleasantries and decided to move to the Jetty or Middle Rock, the Jetty sticks out into the sea for 30 meters and is part of a massive rock formation, it is a good casting point, especially because just in front of it is big rock boulder where the predators hang out when the tide is in. In fact I caught my first Barra from that very rock. To the right of this Jetty is the rest of this massive rock formation, it is cut up into several channels or gullies and when the water filled up fishes like Threadfin, Barra and Mangrove Jack wait to ambush mullet.
The tide still had to come in, so some of us walked straight ahead with our backs to the old fort where there was just enough of water to cast and let our lures fly, we did so more out of optimism than anything else. It was now about 8:30 am and it started to drizzle a bit, that soon turned into a light shower, so we decided to take a break and “shoot the breeze” to con a phrase. This is when the guys sat around told tales about the fish that they or “dat bugger” caught “dat day” or “last time men”, in a very matter of fact way. How long “dat day” was, was anyone’s guess, it could be last week or five years ago. But it was interesting, exciting stuff that made good listening, the stories were told so enthusiastically, it was like it happened yesterday. They were the kind of doses an angler needs to keep going, tales that made us feel “YES! there is still hope, even though there were no signs of any fish at that given moment”.
During all these wonderful stories we looked towards “Outer Rock” only to see that the rain had caught up with Freddy and Jerome and they were heading back, Freddy however, was holding something silver, he had managed to land that Barra after all. In a short while Freddy and Jerome were with us, the Barra was a very small one 3 – 4 lb but a Barra never the less. Now it was Fred’s turn to tell us about the fish he just landed. The rain had stopped by then, but the stories continued, it had all the makings of a wonderful lazy morning.
Enter the hero of this story, lets call him Raj, Raj worked at the Sea Rock Hotel, he was new to the game and was just beginning to enjoy the pleasures of the angle. He lived just one house away, down the road from where I lived. Raj was a very nice person, he was dating my cousin, my cousin who incidentally lived in the same building or huge villa where Freddy still lives. Raj had just finished the night shift and walked down to take a look at what was happening, meet the boys, get the “Khabar” as we said back then.
None of us were casting as there was no “action”, we all agreed that the water still needed to fill up. Noel was sitting there with us as well, Noel was one of the most generous persons I had ever met, those days I did not have much money, some of my trebles were singles tied up with wire, all my spoons and plugs were home made affairs, I had one reel and one Rod. Noel was a sailing man and got his tackle from all the ports he visited. I hated complimenting Noel about his tackle because whenever I said something was nice he told me “take it” and insisted that I did. That’s the kind of guy he was.
All our rods lay resting on the rocks at such an angle where no ones reel even touched the rocks, tackle was very precious. Even Noel’s rod a brand new 12 foot, 3 piece Shakespeare with a Ryobi Reel lay there, attached to it was a lure, it was one of those silver Japanese Trolling Tuna Jigs with red eyes and red and white feathers attached to the rear end, where in a treble hook was concealed, it was something that you are not supposed to spin with. The lure was attached to 20lb line by a 2 ft long wire trace, quick release clip and swivel.
Seeing all those rods just lying there Raj could not resist the temptation to pick one up and having a go. Noel’s looked more inviting than others not just because it was all shiny and new but because Noel was such a nice guy. So Raj did just that, he came over took Noel’s rod walked to where the water started and started casting, the 80 gram lure went a devil of a distance, Raj retrieved and cast again, and kept going. The rest of us took our rods from time to time had a few casts and got back for a rest and chat, but not Raj, he just kept at it, casting away like a man possessed. This went on for over an hour. Among all this I glanced at Noel, he did not look quite happy with what was going on and who could blame him, after all, he had come here to fish, not for the fresh air. But he was just too damn nice to say anything.
Suddenly, there was this shout and we all turned towards Raj, the Rod had good curve in it, fish on, it was. This was Raj’s first good fish and one could tell from the way he was winching it in. The drag was set on pretty tight so the fish did not get a chance to make a run. Raj just wound the poor creature towards the shore.
I picked up a gaff a hurried towards Raj, I stood to his left as he wrestled the fish, as it got close enough we could all see it was a Barra of about 12lbs. and it had a lot of fight left in it. By now most of the guys had walked to where Raj was but all being experienced anglers gave him enough of room. There was no shortage of advice though, “keep your rod tip up!”, “pump the rod!” etc. The fish was now real close but still a livewire, towards the left of Raj was a gill-net and the fish made straight for that, I saw that and bent forward to gaff the fish which was still very lively. Raj saw that too and yanked at the fish with all his might in an effort to turn it around, all that pressure was too much and the lure came free, 80 grams of menace flew inches away from my face almost taking my eye off in the process. To say that frightened me was an understatement. I could hear all the moans and groans behind me, not because of my near miss but because of the lost Barra who swam away very quickly.
A few seconds later, I gathered my wits and turned back. Raj was a sight to behold, his legs turned to jelly they started to wobble, he just did not have anything left in him to stand up any, the adrenalin rush before was too much and he just flopped on his rear end onto the rock, he was trembling, not able to say a thing. The guys sheepishly came over to console him one by one. All agreed the fish was about 12lbs and Raj acknowledged.
About fifteen minutes later Raj gathered himself together, “Good fish, wasn’t it?” he said, making more of a statement than asking a question, “Yes” I said, followed by “don’t worry, you will get your Khajura soon.” “How much do you think it weighed?” Raj asked, “A good 12lbs” I said, “Yeah” said Raj in acknowledgment. There was then a long silent pause, some of the guys all worked up by the recent event took their rods and started to let their lures fly. “I could see some splashes near that rock… that is why I was casting at it for so long” Raj told me, I nodded. “You know, that fish looked like 16lbs to me” Raj said, “More like 12” I countered, “every one thinks so too.” He looked at me wanting to be consoled, “well, fish do look deceptively smaller in water, you may be right” I said, more just to agree with him than anything else. Raj had a bit of a satisfied look on his face, till he realized that he had now missed an even bigger fish and the cloud of gloom returned.
I walked towards my rod picked it up, went to the water that was now filling up at a faster pace and started to cast. Now even I believed I had a good chance of catching a fish that day, after all, one hand been taken earlier that day and another one just lost. I stood about four meters away from Noel and started to cast. Noel did not have anything complimentary to say about the fish or Raj, after all, was it not his rod? So he believed it was his fish, as, if he had the rod at that time he would have been fishing and had he been fishing he would have hooked that fish and if he hooked that fish then he surely would have landed it. Well, I believed the last bit at least.
I guess Raj still needed some more consolation, so he walked down to us and said, “That fish must have been about 20lbs at least, cant believe I lost it, it was so close” I looked at Raj in disbelief, the fish had really stared to grow now! I could almost read Noel’s mind and what I thought he said was not very pleasant. I just hummed at Raj, as if to say “May be” and I kept casting in silence. After five minutes or so Raj went back to the rest of the gang who were still sitting a short distance behind us on the rocks. A while later after nothing so much as a ‘tap’ I headed back where the guys were sitting. I do not know what the rest of the gang told Raj, but the fish had now grown to 30lbs! I guess they were all taking the mickey out of Raj.
The morning wore on and people started to leave one by one, there was church some had to go to and the others just got fed-up not seeing anything positive. Normally I was the last one to leave, I think Freddy had left a while ago, he had caught his Easter breakfast or Friday dinner, only Fred knows what he did with the Fish. Raj decided that is was time for him to leave as well, he had been working all night after all. So he walked to me to say bye, “Ok Bob, I’m leaving” he said, and in the same breadth disappointedly added “If I only had landed that fish I would be going home with a 35lbs Khajura”. OKKAAAYYY….. A while later I left too, a wee bit disappointed but smiling to myself. That evening I met Raj on the junction near my house “Hi Bob, what a day, that fish must have been almost 40lbs” he said. I had given up by then and just said yes.
For some reason we never spoke of that fish after that day, but one can only imagine, with that kind of growth rate, how large that fish would have been a few days later.
This happened over 25 years ago, so all of you guys who think that there is nothing left a Lands End today, think again, lurking somewhere in the depths off Lands End there must be a real monster Barramundi, still waiting, waiting just for you.