JD Ghai faced some ups and downs in fishing expedition in the off the coast of Bahamas that reminded him of the trials and tribulations of Santiago in Hemingway’s classic ‘Old Man and the Sea’
Man is adventurous by nature. He is intrigued by everything new and different. And if the place is exotic, it becomes even more difficult to rein in the senses and inquisitiveness.
And, how could anyone stop the fisherman in me when an offer to fish in the Caribbean was thrown at me. I seized it with both hands, since I had been angling for an opportunity to explore the coral islands. Surrounded by aquamarine waters, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the clean, transparent and clear sea.
A twenty minute drive led us to the jetty, which was on the roadside next to a family bar and restaurant. We transferred our equipment to the boat, which included an ice-box full of drinks, junk-food, and a few apples.
We all were excited and this occasion was really special for my son and nephew as this was to be their first experience in fishing. The tour guide took us alongside an island and selected his favourite spot where fish were a-plenty and as such, an easy catch. The month of January in Bahamas is not conducive to fishing or any other water sport, as strong winds act as a dampener. The guide was an experienced hand and was accompanied by his eight-year-old son. He set up the line for us by removing the flesh of the conch-fish and putting it on the hook. With bait on the hook, he gave us the lines with the gear and showed how it was to be thrown and how, when one feels movement or pressure under the water, the fishing hook had to be moved to reel in the line. My nephew and my son got excited on handling the lines but they were frequently reeling in the seaweed. Fishing was not as much fun as we had conceived before we hit rough waters. Things were made more difficult when we couldn’t find a suitable place to anchor. The water was only five feet deep but we kept trying to anchor and the boat kept drifting towards an island and thus catching fish was becoming a harrowing experience. Time was running out as we were supposed to be back on shore at 1 O’clock.
Although I am a fishing aficionado, the question flashed across my mind: “am I destined to be unsuccessful once again?” However, on persisting, we were taken to the middle of the sea, where the fish, as we were told, were in abundance. However, the problem of anchoring followed us there too. After about fifteen minutes, we were taken near a group of islands, which brought to mind, the memories of The Blue Lagoon and Kaho Na… Pyaar Hai.
It seemed we had arrived at the right spot when my brother-in-law caught the first fish, a snapper, which was around one-pound in weight. We were jubilant! We realised that there was loads in there just waiting to be caught.
My brother-in-law was a seasoned angler. We, being the guests at the newer lands, or rather waters, were given a fishing lesson by him. The mistake being we were committing time and again was that we were leaving the line too loose. The result was that either the fish ate the bait or took away the hook after biting. We could never comprehend the phenomenon because we were unaware of the movement ‘down under’ as we never kept any tension on the string. The whole idea is to reel in the loose string so that even the slightest movement at the hook can be detected.
I followed the directions and tasted first blood very soon. Excitement was writ large on my face; I pulled out my prized catch. After the photo-session, I was ready to throw in the line again. Another catch soon followed. Like the first, this one too, was a one-pounder. The former was a snapper and the latter a grouper.
My son and my nephew were unlucky so far. Time was running out but the climax of our fishing expedition was not far off. It came in the form of a three pound. To my amazement, the blue colours of the scales were like an artist’s palette, ready to paint the myriad hues of the blues of the sea. We were informed that not only it is one of the most exotic and rare varieties but also one of most difficult fish to catch. The Gillingbow even eludes master fishermen and this explained the power and energy it had, as it was quite a task to free it from the hook. My line was hailed as lucky and soon it was taken away by my nephew. Lo and behold! He also got an opportunity to build on the tally and we returned after a successful expedition of conquering the underworld by having five catches.
On our return, the fish were scaled and sliced in preparation for cooking. The Gillingbow was separated into two portions—one for frying and other one for making Sashimi. For the first was time in my life, I saw fish with blue flesh and it was even softer than a lobster. So there was a case for it to be made at least half of it into Sashimi. However, the cook didn’t know the simple recipe and the chef in me took over. I explained it to him how it was to be kept in the lemon juice and kept there for half-an-hour while the other portion is being fried. My brother-in-law had a few rounds of beer and I enjoyed my tonic and Grey Goose Vodka. We partied hard and enjoyed the freshest fish of my life along with potato fingers. Each member of the gang carried fond memories of the catch in the Caribbean!