Dateline – July 21, 2010. Vangshylla, Norway. I know this has been one of the most blogged days in angling history; I promise the next entry will be for the 22nd, and that the 21st will fade away, remembered as something like the “Groundhog Day” of fishing.
Oh my Cod
So how the heck do you follow up that morning? After the milestone coalfish came aboard, things only got better. We spent the rest of the A.M. hunting coalfish and pollock, and although it was overcast with off and on drizzle, it was utterly windless – completely still. In my home waters around San Francisco, we are thrilled if the wind stays below 20 miles an hour, and in Hawaii, 20mph would be about as low as it gets, so this was almost strangely calm – like going on a big saltwater pond. Fishing was superb – this is why people fly all this way to come here. We were getting big fish on almost every drop, all on lures, and all on rods I had purposely gotten for this very trip – thereby justifying the expense in fisherman psychology. The “birthday rod” from Jens Koller was especially productive – thanks again, Jens and Birgitte!
A Pollock – not to be confused with a Polack, which can be seen in the background wearing a red hat
In the afternoon, we switched over to some deep bottom fishing, looking for odd species in 800+ feet of water. Fishing deep is always a gamble. There are certainly some weird and wonderful things to catch below the depths where sane anglers dare to drop, but reeling up a couple of pounds of weight for 1000 feet can ruin a rotator cuff faster than a bad baseball coach. But I had packed plenty of Advil for this eventuality, and we started dropping large hunks of split mackerel, carefully trussed up with elastic thread as to stay on the hook during the long descent. Kevin’s attention to detail on all this rigging was amazing – if there is a bait bondage fetish website someplace, he has a huge future.
After a couple of arduous resets, there was a definitive bite, and I set the hook over a quarter mile of braid. As the line settled out, there was a faint but definite thumping on the other end. I put the reel in low gear and began the long ride to the top. Figuring at about 18 inches per crank – well, do the math. It was about 20 minutes of steady reeling, and one sore shoulder, but the whole time I was wondering – what the hell have I caught here? Could it be a ling? Oh please let it be a ling. But it was not a ling – it turned out to be an impressively large cusk, a sought-after food fish that inhabits both sides of the North Atlantic. (I had caught them previously in New Hampshire and Maine, but this one was a personal best.)
The Fish Gods smiled on me in the harbor that evening. While sorting through another batch of “economically disadvantaged” cod, I pulled up an odd sculpin – the very same species Marta had caught and gloated over in the morning. Ha! I took photos and smiled to myself in a non-competitive fashion, then immediately sprinted back up to the cabin and burst into the shower to show her. This was fish #1001. 2000 seemed like a long way away, but at one stage, so did 1000. Heck, so did 500.
Now I’ve caught one too – nyah, nyah, nyah.
For the evening shift, Marta elected to go out with me and Kevin for a couple of hours. This frightened me deeply, because we were going to fish more deep water, and there was the risk that Marta would catch something bizarre that I would not. It was a grey, still evening – Kevin had predicted heavy rain, but it had not happened so far. Marta was iffy about going out in the weather, but for some reason, I did want her to go. Why do men insist on taking their women fishing? For the same reason they drag us, kicking and grunting, to see “Eat, Pray, Love.” Perhaps I hope she will actually want to go fishing every weekend, and perhaps she hopes that I will stop being an emotionally stunted Neanderthal. Fat chance either way.
We ran a few miles south and set up for the deep water. We had drifted for about fifteen minutes, with me keeping a sharp eye on the rod to evaluate every bounce and twitch, when it simply slammed down, the tip splashing in the water. This was a good-sized fish, and was pulling hard from the minute I hooked it through a whole lot of reeling to the top. I tried to think positive ling thoughts all the way up. Now, some of you might not be all that spiritual, but let me tell you, positive ling thoughts are a very important part of catching a ling – see below. I peered over the side of the boat as the leader appeared, and was greeted with the sight of a very toothy mouth coming straight at me, followed by over 4 feet of upset ling. Yes! #1002! “Could I reach 2000 on this trip?” I asked aloud. “Be quiet.” Marta said.
The result of positive ling thoughts
And just before we went in, just as I was beginning to bask in the glow of a day full of accomplishments, Marta just had to do something horrible. We were dropping metal jigs in about 25 meters. By conventional wisdom, there are three things you can catch doing this – pollock, cod, and coalfish. But the whiting Marta caught apparently lacked conventional wisdom. She uttered that awful phrase – “What’s this one, Steve?” Needless to say, I had not caught a whiting yet. Kevin tried to be comforting by telling me that the whiting is very common and I was sure to catch one, but if they were that darn common why hadn’t I caught one yet? This wouldn’t be the first time that something seemingly common had avoided me – it took something like 4 years for me to catch a gudgeon in England, after all. A black pall settled over my psyche.
An unfortunate end to an otherwise perfect day
But I was not going to let even this trash my mood, because this was the biggie, the day I reached 1000, and nothing, well, at least nothing that didn’t involve Jaime, was going to put a damper on things. Tomorrow would be a halibut adventure with Phil, the English guide. The predicted rain had not materialized, and I was optimistic that it had missed us entirely.