Two weeks ear­lier Steve Wat­son had been out with a mate try­ing to catch a sword­fish dur­ing the day with no luck, but was keen to give it an­other crack. So, with the weather look­ing good for Satur­day, he did a ring around to find a crew, and the re­sponses

NZ Fishing News - - From The Helm -

It was a late 9am start at the Wai­tangi boat ramp. I made a quick stop at the Nine Pin to get a fresh ka­hawai to sup­ple­ment the frozen skip­pies. Then it was a quick run out to the trench with the weather set­tling nicely.

I rigged up the ka­hawai, checked the drift, and de­ployed the bait, drop­ping it down to the bot­tom 400 me­tres below. Then, af­ter bring­ing it up 50 winds, I placed the out­fit in the holder.

I wasn’t re­ally ex­pect­ing any­thing, but nev­er­the­less I pulled the gaff out, cleated off the rope, and placed the gloves, knives and mo­bile phone where I could eas­ily reach them.

Only five min­utes went by be­fore there was a very slow clack, clack, clack… It couldn’t be, I thought. Nah, must be the bot­tom. I checked the sounder: 420m and get­ting deeper.

A good mate Chris Small told me there are ba­si­cally two types of sword­fish bites: the Jaws (the movie) bite, with the slow, steady run, or it will all go slack. I watched the tip and asked my­self if the line was go­ing slack. Maybe… Yep, it’s slack!

I started crank­ing the han­dle, and 200 me­tres later the mono was back on the reel but there was still no real weight. Maybe a bass? How­ever the line kept an­gling fur­ther and fur­ther out, and then, fi­nally, the weight came on – big time!

I will never for­get the first run, which saw the fish charge 200 me­tres just un­der the sur­face, sug­gest­ing it was about to jump – but no, in­stead it went straight back down.

At this point I was at the stern with the fish head­ing down. That wasn’t go­ing to work, so I shuf­fled up to the helm and swung the boat around so I could fight the fish from the helm po­si­tion.

Half an hour later, I gave my mate Terry on Hot Tuna a call, as he was out on the wa­ter too.

“Mate, I’m tight on a sword and by my­self, so I’ll keep in touch...”

The next cou­ple of hours were un­event­ful (apart from suf­fer­ing ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain from a cramp­ing wind­ing arm), with the line re­peat­edly be­ing dragged out and then me crank­ing it back in again, but never get­ting any closer than 100 me­tres. I only chased it once, and when I did it was very slowly; if you keep things slow and steady, it’s harder to mess up!

Then, at the two-and-a-half hour mark, while ex­ert­ing 14kg

of con­stant pres­sure, there was an almighty crack and the rod whipped back. What the %@&$!?

For a mo­ment I had no idea what had hap­pened – un­til I saw the top of the rod sliding down the line. For­tu­nately I re­acted quickly, plac­ing the reel into free-spool and point­ing the rod straight at the fish. Af­ter that, still in a state of shocked dis­be­lief, I eased the drag back up a bit… Yep, still tight – but the game had just changed dra­mat­i­cally, as I now had to hold the out­fit with­out the har­ness, so the line wouldn’t get dam­aged on the bro­ken rod.

I think my sav­ing grace was that when the rod broke it gave the fish a wake-up call, bring­ing it right to the sur­face. Point­ing the rod di­rectly at the fish on the sur­face was a lot eas­ier than when di­rectly below the boat.

This gave me a minute to con­tem­plate the over­all sit­u­a­tion and con­sider what should hap­pen next, fig­ur­ing I had two op­tions: carry on us­ing the rod as a winch or, al­ter­na­tively, run off the full 900 me­tres of mono and Dacron, cut it off the spool, de­tach the bro­ken rod from above the reel, at­tach the new rod, then thread the line through the guides and tie it back on the reel.

The sec­ond op­tion would give me a new rod, but risked the hook fall­ing out – or maybe the fish would head down to the bot­tom and never come up again? And be­sides, could I change the rod over fast enough be­fore the fish started to pull on the line again?

I de­cided on Op­tion One: I would keep on winch­ing as long as the fish was close. So ba­si­cally this was ‘do or die’ time.

‘I’ll give you some­thing to think about, you mon­grel!’ I thought to my­self, be­fore sliding the drag to sun­set. (Later, when I checked the drag back at home, this set­ting was just shy of 20kg, so no won­der my arm hurt!)

Then I gave it ev­ery­thing, not even both­er­ing to ease the drag

back dur­ing big power runs – if the line was go­ing to break, tough shit, I wasn’t go­ing to stay out there all night.

Af­ter half an hour of se­vere winch­ing and us­ing the swell and roll of the boat to gain line, I was look­ing down into the deep blue fol­low­ing the high-vis line, and to my amaze­ment I could see the weak blink of the light at the top of my wind-on leader. Crap! That was sooner than ex­pected – I didn’t even have my gloves on. Worse, as I still had to point the rod at the fish straight down while hang­ing over the gun­nel, get­ting them on was go­ing to be a real chal­lenge.

So, with one hand firmly around the base of the reel, I stretched out and grabbed one glove, got my fin­gers in, and pulled it on with my teeth. One glove – that was go­ing to have to do!

The leader grew closer, a few cen­time­tres each crank, and be­fore I knew it, it was crunch time. I’d ini­tially hoped to get some leader on the reel, but could see the first light was go­ing to pre­vent that.

Look­ing down, I could see the shape of a large sword­fish eight me­tres below, its mas­sive tail thump­ing away.

Then, as soon as the light hit the roller on what was left of the rod, I reached down and grabbed the leader, drop­ping the rod to the deck.

Grip­ping and pulling, I brought it in a bit closer, fol­low­ing this up with a crimp with the left, a hold, then reach­ing down and sin­glewrap­ping with the gloved hand. This saw me stretched right out, but there was no turn­ing back now, so I took an­other wrap!

The sword was now as clear as a bell and do­ing big cir­cles, dis­ap­pear­ing un­der the boat and then com­ing back around. I took an­other pinch with the left – and the trace started to slip, forc­ing a sin­gle wrap with the left fol­lowed by a quick dou­ble wrap with the right, sav­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

The fish made an­other big cir­cle un­der the boat. I made an­other pinch with the left and a dou­ble-wrap with the right – one more cir­cle and she’d be up!

Sure enough, next mo­ment there she was, prompt­ing a dou­blewrap with the right fol­lowed by a reach for the gaff, then stretch­ing out and pulling it home for a per­fect shoul­der shot! (Well, good enough; there wasn’t much pull left in me!)

At this point my three-month-old pride and joy Suzuki out­board be­came in­ti­mately ac­quainted with a huge sword­fish bill. (Note: if you are pre­cious about your boat, don’t go sword­fish fish­ing!)

Then it was tail rope on, and wel­come aboard Miss Fisher – job done!

Well, not quite; get­ting the big sword­fish on­board ac­tu­ally re­quired the help of Terry and a bunch of big lads aboard the Tuna. Cheers for your help, Terry!

Back at the Rus­sell weigh-sta­tion the scales were pulled down to 247kg. Yep, very happy with that!

So now that I’ve ticked that off my bucket list, I’ll be able to watch oth­ers turn the han­dle from now on … for at least for a cou­ple of weeks any­way!

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