fishing lines: Endless bout with heavyweight contenders

David Denholm was fishing off southern California when he spotted a broadbill swordfish swimming on the surface. He cast a mackerel to the fish. The swordfish swallowed the bait. It was midday.

Nearly 18 hours later the line broke. "Without warning the line went slack. I said: 'It's over,' and wound in. Another broadbill had won," Denholm said. He was lucky. It could have been a big broadbill, rather than a small one. (He estimated it at 250-300lb). The swordfish, xiphias gladius, is the toughest of the great game fishes. The biggest landed on rod and line is 1,182lb, but they grow to 2,000lb. No wonder that Peter Goadby's definitive Saltwater Gamefishing describes the broadbill as the king of fishes.

The broadbill doesn't have quite the same respect for anglers. There are reports of them feeding on small fish even when hooked, the equivalent of Pete Sampras signing autographs while playing a Wimbledon final. Its spear is so powerful that it can break cable wire, and there are several reports of its "bill" being driven into boats.

Quite clearly, such a fish is well beyond the modest aspirations of most fishing journalists. But to establish the Angling Writers' Association, we had planned our first trip to be one for broadbill. Not any broadbill, either. We intended to do so from Scotland.

The traditional areas are New Zealand, Portugal, Hawaii, Chile, Panama and Mexico. But that's because people go there to fish for them. It would certainly save a few pounds in air fares if we could catch broadbill locally. It isn't such a ridiculous idea. The Scottish west coast is affected by the Gulf Stream, which gives temperature ranges considerably higher than you might expect. Three swordfish have been caught by trawlers working out from Solway and Mull. Further catches have been made off the Irish east coast.

But nobody has ever fished that wet bit between the two countries: at least, not with big-game tackle. Other exotics such as bonito, tuna, albacore and various sharks almost certainly live there. It was worth a try - and we could make history (of a sort). We had the boat, the 53ft Magnum, designed specifically to catch these monsters. We had a skipper, Stan Massey, who was convinced they were there. And we had, er, a boatful of angling journalists. Well, my plan was to overcome that one when we needed to.

Everything was right. And I had hoped to be writing to tell you how we had boated the first broadbill in British waters. Ah, but those swordfish were lucky! The one thing we couldn't do anything about was the weather. On the evening we arrived, the wind started to blow. By the next morning, the Met Office was reporting severe gale force winds. There was no way we were going to toddle 60 miles into a raging Irish Sea.

We fished a bit, caught a few small pollack, coalfish and dogfish, drank a lot of wine and bemoaned the weather. And so it went on - until our final day, when the weather changed. It was perfect, not a breath of wind. The trouble was, there wasn't time. We needed 12 hours' steaming just to get to the broadbill areas. But there was a big-game alternative. Not too far out, there are places where giant skate lurk about 500 feet down. Last year, I caught a 160-pounder. So we went skating.

As the skate expert, I was looked to by the rest for advice. But once again I performed to expectations, hooking and losing two, which is a bit like missing your head with a hat. We captured a couple, about 110lb each, which were tagged and released.

Battling these skate is a bit like having a two-hour body check by a clumsy masseur. It takes about 30 minutes to bring a small one (sub-100lb) up. It's mostly a matter of heaving as hard as you can, and gaining a few inches of line at a time. My guest, Mark Edwards, who caught one after an hour's tussle, was left with a bent back and a leg shaking uncontrollably. Still, as I told him, it could have been a broadbill.

The more alert readers will have spotted last week's catch: the editors enjoyed the previous week's column so much that they repeated it. If you missed this, you're not reading the column carefully enough. Don't let it happen again.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments