Species: Mako Shark (Australia)
I departed central Melbourne at 4:00 Am to ensure that I would get to Queenscliff for the confirmed departure time of 7:00 Am. I met with the guys from Gone Fishing Charters and we began to load the gear and I instantly knew I that I was in trouble... I was a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler than expected and in the breeze it was freezing. I tried to ignore it and attributed my shivering to sheer excitement of the adventure to come. We would eventually run out of gas before even properly exiting port Philippe Bay. We called SAR and spent the next two hours patiently waiting.
I rebooked for the following day with a different skipper, borrowed two rods (12wt Sage's, one rigged with an Abel and sinking line and the other a Penn 4 with floating line) and at 7:15 Am the following day we departed. I was concerned that this captain has no fly experience - he had never seen a fly, never mind a fly cast, and I hoped we would both figure it out eventually.
The captain set the nose of the aluminium catamaran heading east to counter the rip. We placed the from pre-prepped chum in the bucket and watched as slowly but surely the tell-tale signs of a slick developed to the South. By now the Albatrosses and Seagulls had consumed what must have been a ton of scraps, had finished bothering us and were now just bobbing up and down in the slick waiting.
My boredom eventually got the better of me so when I saw some activity on the fish finder I convinced the captain that I wasn't wasting my time, rigged a spoon on one of the spinning rods and dropped it to the bottom. I pumped and wound three times and-ON! I didn't know what pelagics even swam in these waters and was shocked to see that it was a Snoek (South African term for Snake Mackerel). The captain muttered in a heavy Australian accent, "yeahh mate that's a cuta, they'll be plenty more down there". And with that in mind I scrambled to rig the sinking line outfit, managed to find some fishing wire, and tied on a densely tied polar fibre minnow with tons of flash.
I handed the spinning outfit to the captain and asked if he could please keep one on to keep the shoal up.."Yeahh, no worries mate".
First cast, a back cast off my right shoulder up current, hoping to take advantage of the rip to pull my fast sinking line into the action. I retrieved with a fast one handed erratic retrieve and no joy.. I tried this over and over and realized I just couldnt get the line deep enough. Fly fishing is just so heavily compromised in blue water when it comes to fishing deep in the water column.-Back to the drawing board. I asked for a ball sinker and after a couple more aussie grunts I was tying a small lead ball sliding sinker onto my fishing wire just up from the fly, sliding up and down the 13 inches or so between my knot and the fly.
I had never rigged a fly like this and was curious to see the effect on the cast. Surprisingly you could hardly feel it, so off the back of my shoulder and into the rip the fly line went again. Three quick strips and ON! I'm always surprised at these fishes fighting ability.. maybe something to do with the oxygen levels in the cold water. I was busy fighting my second fish when I heard the captain screaming, "Shaak shaaak, mako! mako in the spread, giant mako" and with that all hell broke loose... I did my best to winch the snoek out of the depths, grabbed the floating rig and cast the orange and falshbou squid deciever about a meter in front of the sharks head... strip strip , "shit, am i supposed to strip i thought?", "Why hasnt it just attacked?", "what the hell?" And nothing.... Five minutes later i was still shaking like a Chiuaua on speed and continuing to cast to this strange 400lb mako that for some reason was only here for a haircut and not for a meal.
Eventually it dropped down into depths and out of sight and I felt like a moron. I had spent hours waiting for this shark.. then it arrived and I couldn't perform.. The captains smart comments about how I ruined my only chance made me feel even better of course...and...disgruntled and disheartened, I sat myself down under the canopy.
I was staring at the big grey albatross far back in the slick about an hour later when I noticed something strange... it was swimming in circles? or was it? yes! it was, and all its buddies seemed conerned. The next thing white water broke and up out of it like a Nuclear Sub surfacing came a maniac Mako...It went for a few gulls then swam straight at the boat. I started my adrenalin fuelled shaking and fumbling routine and eventually stripped out enough line, ready for my cast. But the shark swam too close and attacked the right motor-Mental! It spent the next minute or so trying to steal a prop and then eventually backed off to casting distance. I dropped the fly almost on its head! too close but I left it.. and just like that I saw the orange fly disappear. The fish was almost standing still and i wasnt sure. "Ya on mate!" screamed the captain and I couldnt feel anything!? he was swimming slowly towards me.. I set the hook and he took off to the western horizon... The reel screaming, me screaming, the captain screaming, cowboy noises, the works. He turned on the surface, broke water, almost skidded on the surface and then slowed down. The second I started putting heavy pressure on him he turned and swam straight at me at what must have been 50km/h. I tried my best to gain the slack but no joy and felt my heart sink as I saw the bow develop in the line. The shark motored right under the boat made a quick turn and headed south but by now there was just too much slack... I was hoping the drag of the fly line in the water would keep tension but by the time I brought in the slack he was gone.
It seems to me like when you hook up to these monsters you have to have a captain on the motors ready to take off in any direction when they begin to swim straight at you. Oh well. Next time ill get one in my hands for a pic.