2016 (March-June)

Another trip to TLL, while Marcia & Brandon in Rio

Dead calm.

One of those days when the horizon fades as Sea & Sky become One.

No Islands visible today from TLL.

Disorienting...would be completely lost without GPS !
South point is looking positively paintable today.

HEYYY !!! Something to write home about !

Ono (Wahoo), 21 kg.

Thanks TLL !
My biggeat fish in Fiji so far.

And a nice 6.5kg Ahi (Yellowfin tuna).
Perfect size for eating : not too riddled with heavy metals yet...?

Man it's hard to take these photos alone on timer:
these fish swing like a pendulum from hell as soon as you let go for a couple seconds !

Sunset at TLL ; time to say goodbye to my favorite place.

Au revoir...1 hour back to the mainland at 25 knots in the dark.

A week later, off Thakau Mbalavu reef, Mbengga a Kaku (Barracuuuda) !
Better than nothing as a giant Tuna just stripped my reel and took off with my favorite lure,
and 200m of expensive spectrafiber braid !

Then half an hour later, a bit farther out in the Kandavu channel, another hit !
What happened next is such an epic fish tale, and was so traumatizing, that I felt compelled
to write a cathartic essay about that un-divine comedy of errors & horrors, below.
It also explains why I have, today, officially decided to never fish for giant Ahi again.

A Fiji fish tale: It all starts out okay as I feel now I hooked one of the big ones that almost stripped the spool before. Revanche!
This one sure did not seem THAT big in the beginning, even though I did see some humongous fins breaking the surface as they were feeding,
before he hit the lure. He did come very close to stripping the rest of the line on the reel though. Little did I know what was to come,
for 3.5 hours ! Had I known, I would have prepared better.

Now, after 2 hours of hardcore battle, I really need to drink some of that Fijiwater that's sitting over there at the helm looking back at me,
but I can't really move up there; I could use those sunglasses too; and a pair of gloves; and certainly a harness with hook-on straps for the
reel. By now it feels like I've been at the gym doing biceps exercises with a pair of 20 kg dumbbells for 2 hours ! This is really extreme !
The undersized rod seat is wearing a hole in my flabby tummy/pubic area. I almost lost the rod a few times as it slips around a lot and my
arms are shot, as is my back ! I am amazed that that little double hook on that little squid lure is holding all this extreme pressure
without losing its grip on that fish, and why did a big fish take such a miniscule lure that I tied directly to the very visible green
main line just for fun so I could still have two lures out even after this one's evil sibling stripped almost all the line off the reel and
said goodbye: never thought anything big would actually hit it. I am also impressed that my 20 year old Maui gear is holding up well;
the rod (TunaStick 40-80), bending 90 degrees for 2 hours; the reel (TLD 25), getting very hot from the heavy drag and constant tug-o-war;
the 18yr old spectrafiber braid, and all my knots. Only the lure is new: $3 bargain bin at big5 sporting goods in LA.

Fast forward to 3+ hours in the ring. It's sunset now and this has turned into a prize fight for the annals, or more like a MMA cage fight!
RicktheSwede vs. GrandSlamTuna. He is now finally getting closer, but my strength is nearing a definite brick wall. The engine is turned off and
raised, it's calm. The peace and tranquility is frequently broken by what can only be described as the insane laughter and groans of a madman, as
GrandSlamTuna takes back every meter of line I laboriously reel in, with a now trembling, sorry, constitution. For 3 hours I have become one with
this beast; his tail beats feel like heart beats: powerful, rhythmical (once per second), constant; like a grandfather clock with a giant pendulum
counting down to Contact. I have the gaff close at hand for when this diabolical hellion shows his shiny ass and I can finally go have a drink of
water & lay down for awhile. The moment eventually comes, after spending my last ounces of strength furiously pumping him up those last few
meters. I can see in the dark clear water a silver shape, circling counter-clockwise. He is Gigantic ! About the size of the big one on
FAD 1 the other day. The big Wahoo last week at TLL seems like a sardine, in comparison: I got him up in 5 minutes, no drama.

HE'S HERE ! GO ! Gaff ! Damn !!! Missed ! It's dark, and I only have one eye. No sweat, he's coming around again, scraping
that braid along the bottom of the boat, then he gets me off balance somehow; I don't remember exactly what happened, but I
go flying onto the deck and hit my head on the side of the boat ! I see stars, but I'm still conscious. One roundhouse to the temple
by GrandSlamTuna ! The crowd is roooaring with sadistic pleasure ! But, as I gather my wits, I discover that I still have a kung-fu
death grip on the rod. Impressive ! Ricktheswede is still in the fight ! I crawl to my feet, but I am now too weak to pay attention to
details, and GrandSlamTuna takes full advantage and cunningly snags the gaff with the line and gently pulls it into the Sea, with a quiet
irritating "plop", and during the mayhem of getting slammed to the deck the reel has flipped into to freespool ! The crowd is now howling
ecstatically ! They know, now it's game over, it's only a matter of time. Starting the countdown...10...9...8... This is what one calls being
up shit creek without a paddle ! Should I put the rod in a rod holder and jump in and get the gaff ? I have rigged up floats on the gaff just
for such an occasion... No, you just don't jump off your boat when alone, and miles offshore, with a giant fish pulling the boat this way and that way
...in the dark so the gaff slowly floats away....And now starts the most insane climax of hand to hand combat the sporting world has ever witnessed !

Let's recap : It's dark, I'm alone, no gaff, no gloves, no leader to grab on to, only super thin braid, no spear gun:
not that I'd be able to load it even if I had one; no hand gun; completely drained after 3.5 hours of combat, barely able
to lift a cup of tea let alone a giant energizer bunny GrandSlamTuna. Without a harness with hook-ons to the reel I must pull
him up with my left arm and grab him with my right hand somehow... After many valiant attempts for about 5 minutes, as we trade
blows, crapes and screams, the line finally goes "PING!", and unceremoniously the battle that started at 3:30pm is OVER, at 7pm. Winner =
GrandSlamTuna !!! THEEE toughest pound for pound fighter in the world retains his title ! The crowd goes hysterical ! ...and I check to see
if I still have all my fingers: insanely, I did wrap that fine braid around my hand a couple of times ! But who can blame me, by now I was in a
hallucinatory, trans-like haze, not thinking straight anymore. At least I got some of his fish slime on my hands, better than nothing...? no?
....and I got to see & touch him and I only have some minor cuts and major bruises, nothing a bit of Neosporin and band aids won't fix. I
only lost a couple of lures and got a free 3 hour workout. I can't complain, but I ain't doing THAT again ! I gingerly lay myself down on
the padded bench, with the GPS lighting up the boat in an ethereal glow, and I notice the full moon is out too maybe I can find that
gaff in the moon light !? It's now dead calm. After 15 minutes of backtracking I give up and head back to the beach house. As I
approach I see a bunch of strong flashlights at the house, on the deck and underneath !!? Oh great, burglars in action !
This is turning out to be just a swell kinda day, isn't it? I am in NO condition to battle burglars right now !
When I get to the house the lights are gone, everything intact it seems, I must have come just in time.

OK, it's a wrap, another awesome day at sea; let's freeze that Kaku. Or, maybe throw it away...?
The way things have gone today I'm pretty sure that fish has Ciguatera poisoning.

Note to self: In hindsight, should've tried to kill GrandSlamTuna instead of wrestling with him, my big knife WAS within reach.
Trying to grab him was indeed futile, as anything I tried to wrap my lil fingers around was way too big and way too slippery;
the tail base, as thick as my leg, impossible ! I'm not shoving my hand down its gaping mouth with the lure in there,
and tunas have teeth too ! Everything is just too damn slippery and streamlined ! And big ! And no gloves.
Second option: Wear him out for another hour until he finally turns belly up. No !
Because I would turn belly up long before that, I'm basically there already !
Third option: I could have accessed a rope and tried to lasso his tail. Maybe...but very
difficult when alone with no harness. It could have turned out differently but it didn't.
Could've, would've, should've ... Two 80kg tunas in the boat would have been just fine with me.
But hey, I got a 2 kg Kaku instead ! Yippeeeee !

24 March 2016

Behold; the mysterious "crater", next to Vanua Carioca, burned to a crisp, by some halfwit.

Vunimanggo sky.

Tropical Depression TD17F,
providing the heaviest winds I've ever felt on this coast in 5 years.

Windier than cyclone Winston, which wasn't windy here, except after dark.
Absurdly overpowered on 4.7 !

The aftermath...! Our normally sandy beach.
Debris fields far and wide offshore too, from the heavy river run-off.

A new toy !

A walk among the tide pools during a super record low tide.

There are an incredible amount of critters, that only Brando's sharp eye can spot !
A 1" baby lobster !

A 1" Scorpion fish !

Little Sea stars.

Crown-of-thorns Sea star.

Brittle star.

Amphibious coral gardens.

Waindroka view, from Ryan & Megan's house.

Full Moon !

Serua Island lights.

Still recovering from my traumatic "GrandSlamTuna" experience, my post traumatic
stress may have made me exaggerate matters a bit too far the other way.
Instead of hooking the biggest fish on the smallest lure, I am now proudly
hooking the smallest fish I've ever caught, on the biggest lure I've ever had.
At least I didn't need that gawd damn gaff !
And a Aku (Skipjack Tuna), ca. 5kg, t'was tasty.

Yanutha. Mermaid-Natalia birthday trip.

Kava ceremony.

Brandon in the tidal pools again...

A Harpa snail & a Spanish dancer Nudibranch.

The beautiful face of a Spanish Dancer.
They grow to 45cm ! Nocturnal. Eats sponges.

Ron's old gear...3 Senators (two 9/0 and one4/0)

+ lots of lures...

hooks etc...

Check out the mouse lure !

Ut till havs igen !

En liten Yellow fin.

Cruisin TLL.
The cold dawn of winter has descended upon Fiji.
Sea temperature has plunged 4' to a fridgid, bone-chilling 27'C !
The shallows have dropped 10 degrees from 37 celsius!


A double lined Mackerel.

DavetaMatia "passage", in the thakau mbalavu.

A wreck on thakau mbalavu southside.

2016 (Sep-Dec)

Back in Fiji !

Hash birthday.

International golf tournament, Natandola.

A tidepool walk yields...

A tiny Octopus !

One last fix at the beach house.

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