fishing lines: Endless bout with heavyweight contenders
Sunday 20 July 1997
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.
Latest in Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny announce engagement
Manchester United vs Newcastle United preview: Alan Pardew targets rare Old Trafford win to halt Newcastle slump
Arsenal vs QPR: Leroy Fer seeks perfect present for Boxing Day
Jose Mourinho on Sir Alex Ferguson: 'A good friend, a good person, a fantastic sense of humour. I like him very, very much'
Arsenal vs QPR live: Latest score and updates plus reaction to wins for Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs
- 1 PlayStation and Xbox hacked by Lizard Squad
- 2 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 3 The Grace Dent Christmas Questionnaire
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...
£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...