Remember when I swam with sharks and jumped off a plane earlier this year? Simply put, I’m always down for an adventure and you can bet that there’s plenty of that to go around at Mike’s Camp in Kiwayu Island. I’ve always been open to trying out deep sea fishing but I’ve never really encountered different sets of people who were as taken by the sport as I have over the past two weeks. So many conversations that I have been part of have involved fishing, and in little ways, the rebel in me started to resent it a little. Was it possible to get through dinner without someone talking about how they almost caught a sailfish? Granted, that was probably a tough subject to avoid given that the lovely meal laid out before us had been swimming in the Indian Ocean only a few hours before!
One of the many interesting people I met at Mike’s Camp was Lucas who had come down to Lamu for a fishing trip with a friend and they would go out every morning for up to 8 hours sometimes. I was both intrigued by this level of enthusiasm and tired of having to sit through another communal dinner listening in on a conversation I couldn’t quite contribute to because of my lack of experience in the subject matter. Finally, late one afternoon, rather than have a glass of wine by the beach while tucking into a novel I had just picked up (One Day by David Nicholls- fantastic read!), I caved in and decided to discover firsthand what the thrill of the sport was. Together with a crew of two local captains called Answar and Msalam and a location already mapped out, we set out into the blue.
I was unprepared for how choppy the water was and as the boat rocked back and forth with each passing wave, I felt both exhilarated and dizzy. I didn’t want to add to the count of newbies that venture off for their first trip and spend half the time hurling their breakfast into the sea or hunched in a corner wishing they had stayed on dry land. To ease into it, I shut my eyes and quickly counted numbers out of order because it is hard for the brain to panic while doing so, an anxiety trick I must have subliminally picked up from lord knows where and that seemed to work perfectly fine in keeping sea sickness at bay. Later, Lucas explained that another trick was to shut one eye and look out onto the horizon, something to do with the reason pirates stereotypically have an eye patch. You could even take certain medication to help your stomach hold firm.
If you burn easily, it is advisable to wear layered clothing, good sunglasses, a hat, a mask and a generous amount of sunscreen. You will be contending with not only direct sunlight but also its reflection off the water. Of course I pretty much just waltzed out in pajamas because I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into but thank heavens I didn’t have to deal with the scorching sun!
One of the great things about our coastline is that one can go deep sea fishing throughout the year. The water is teeming with sailfish, tuna, dorado, skip jack, wahoo, blue or striped marlin, barracuda, bonito and much more, and you can even try creek fishing for species like the rare bone fish, trevally, snapper or rock cod. I am meant to take a skippered deep sea fishing boat to try catch some sailfish on fly which sounds pretty challenging for a beginner but should be good fun given the company.
On this particular excursion, Lucas brought along a variety of top of the range fishing equipment and after picking out a rod that was light enough for me to handle, demonstrated how to cast a line far out into the water, wait about a minute to bait a fish and then quickly reel it back in. Of course there are certain techniques to this sport (such as keeping the line in the right position or sweeping it from side to side) which one is able to hone over time. It is easier when you are standing, but given how choppy the water was, I didn’t want to risk toppling over and serving as live bait for sharks or any other super gigantic man-eating ogres lurking underneath the mysterious surface (ah, I always did have a flair for the dramatic)!
As we tried casting a couple of times, changing the bait as necessary, he explained that one of the joys of sport fishing was being at total peace out in the water, thinking of nothing else other than fishing. Completely lost in the moment. The possibility of the catch (or thrill of the chase if you like) was also enough to keep one going back.
Having had no luck yet, we tried trolling for kingfish. Answar helped hook two lines with tuna and these were then hoisted on the back of the boat and dragged through the water as we started heading back towards the camp. The lines had outriggers to keep them from tangling, and downriggers to keep the bait at the right depth. Altogether, we were out for about 2 hours but luck was not on our side.
Verdict: Yes, I do see the thrill of it. Would I recommend it to newbies? Heck yeah. Do I see myself taking it up? I have no strong inclinations at the moment but given the right company, I could probably grow to love it.
If you’re keen on fishing in Lamu, stay at Mike’s Camp Kiwayu.