Fishing Lines: Bitten by the land of Knud

WHENEVER I am seasick, I think of Knud Holst. It was on his boat in Ecuador that I enjoyed eight merry hours of seasickness. It was like dying, only worse. Knud was very sympathetic. He offered me a bloodstained, fish-smelling towel to rest my head on as I lay inert. A nice gesture, though it didn't do a lot for my seasickness.

I read this week that Knud had died of a heart attack. It brought back fond memories of mosquitoes, cannibals, arapaima and the day I almost saw a blue whale - and it all happened eight years ago this week.

I had read about arapaima in David Attenborough's Zoo Quest to Guiana and resolved one day to fish for them. You say things like that and they get forgotten. But this one stayed with me. And so it came to pass that I found myself in a canoe heading up the Rio Napo in Ecuador. With me were five arapaima enthusiasts and a couple of native guides. It was trail- breaking stuff. We travelled three days from the nearest road, sleeping in hammocks in the jungle. At that stage, it wasn't really dangerous, unless you count the mosquitoes. One of the party failed to cover his body properly one night. He counted 169 bites on one leg.

Because the guide's brother was in the army, we got past a checkpoint, the usual limit for tourists. We travelled to a tributary called the Tiputini, which is part of a national park. Suddenly, the nature we had expected turned out to greet us. Giant blue morpho butterflies, howler monkeys, freshwater dolphins, anacondas, turtles, vampire bats, multi- coloured macaws. And mosquitoes.

It could have been an epic trip. We had planned our expedition to coincide with the dry season, so we could fish for arapaima in small pools. The weather had other ideas. The Tiputini was a dozen feet above normal level.

So we didn't catch any arapaima. In a lagoon straight out of The Lost World, we saw a couple, huge things several feet long (they are said to grow to 14ft or more). Around that same lagoon we saw the dinosaur-like hoatzin, birds that still have claws on their wings. But we didn't catch any arapaima. We tried, goodness knows, fishing all day and often all night. During the day, the ants (vicious things two inches long with jaws like piranha) bit us. At night, the mosquitoes bit us. With food, water, antihistamine and patience all running out, we gave up.

But serious fishers do not let little things like tarantulas and a 10- foot bushmaster (our guide told us it is the only snake he knows that chases people) put them off. Instead of heading back to Quito to lick our wounds, we headed on to the coast. We had little money or enthusiasm, and we needed to catch some fish. That's where Knud came in.

In Salinas, the Blackpool of Ecuador, Knud ran a couple of big-game fishing boats. Unfortunately, the weather had not quite finished with us. Knud warned us it could be a bit bumpy. Yes, force 8 is quite rough. Being seasick is no fun, but it is infinitely worse when you roll around the bottom of a boat like a marble in a container lorry.

That's why I missed the blue whale. I'm told it was awesome. Knud tried to rouse me, but I said something like: "I'm only interested if it will swallow me whole." I missed the giant turtle and the blue marlin that ran off 300 yards of line and got away. Eventually (I think it was about three days later) we returned to shore. A few hundred yards off the beach, I was feeling humanoid enough to raise my head above the deck. And at last God took pity on me. One of the reels screamed as line poured off it.

"Do you feel up to taking this fish?" Knud asked. No, I did not. But I had a go anyway. It proved to be a rooster fish, a strange, rare creature that hunts close inshore and is named after its huge dorsal fin, like a rooster's comb. It weighed about 30lb - and was the only catch of the day.

So thanks, Knud. Without you, I would just have eight hours of seasickness to remember.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders