Prince Frederick joins anglers on their Sunday sojourn on ECR. And at the end of the day, he gets hooked... on their hobby, of course!
My body protests at being dragged out of bed at 5 a.m. on a Sunday. But, I have no choice. My colleague from the photo department is already on the road to Covelong, where I have asked him to join me for a day of fishing.
Mind you, we’ve never held a rod in our hands before; a team from Anglers Club, India, will initiate us into the art of angling. When I reach Fisherman’s Cove at six, the anglers are getting their stuff ready — they begin by threading the line through the eye of a hook and knotting it and tying leads to the line.
The lead weights enable the hooked end of the line to be cast far into the sea. Venky, who has volunteered to procure the baits, is returning with live prawns. Already, a bunch of grey mullets have been filleted.
The anglers are going to target bream and jack — these fish like mullet and prawn. Says team leader Dhananjai: “The bait varies depending on the fish. For instance, will a vegan relish bacon? Fish are like humans. Each sticks to a certain diet.”
As kingfish and catfish also have a taste for grey mullet and prawn, we can expect them to go for the bait too. The photographer and and I don’t make any special demands on these anglers’ time. It is common for them to have a newcomer in their midst every Sunday. Today, Bala, a software engineer from EDS, is casting the line for the first time. As Dhananjai and the others instruct him, we pick up a few tips too.
An angler has to study the waters before casting the line. Today, the sea is slightly rough and this means three leads are required. When the sea is gentle, one will do. The anglers have come prepared with hooks of different sizes, including triple hooks.
Lures belong to a different category. Shaped like spoons, a set of lures tied to hooks, refract light and attract fish. A special lure, shaped like a fish, is called the ‘deep water diver’. When it dips into the water and comes up, it resembles a real fish. Lures are targeted at predatory or big fish. Lures are mostly used when anglers venture into the sea on motorised boats.
As I hold the rod, and wait for a fish to bite, I begin to think I know everything there is to angling. Just then, Dhananjai demolishes that assumption. There can be a tug at the wire for various reasons; even the drift of the water can cause it. But, there is a subtle difference between this tug and the one caused when a fish bites. Based on how a fish attacks the bait, it is slotted into a category. There are nibblers, slurpers and gropers. And then, there are the big fish.
Our session is interrupted by enthusiastic shouts — Bala has hooked a bream. Beginner’s luck? His face is wreathed in smiles, as he is congratulated by Dhananjai, Anjan, Venky and Shiva Shankar, all seasoned anglers.
There is a huge element of luck in angling. Despite the best preparation, sometimes, you return empty-handed. But even on such days, angling is satisfying, say the anglers. “You are close to Nature. You can bond with your friends as you wait for the fish to bite. Angling is more than hooking fish.”
Some young fishermen, who use hand lines and triple hooks, are more successful than the anglers. In quick succession, they bring in two koduva fish.
Dhananjai says, “They have to go all out to get the fish. It is a matter of survival for them. They can’t return empty-handed, unlike us.”
Soon, in a bid to better their chances, the fishermen clamber on to the rocks and cast their lines. Among the anglers, Bala delivers again, this time drawing in a koduva. Talk about beginner’s luck!
As we pack up and prepare to leave for a well-deserved brunch, Dhananjai says with a smile: “The fish that Bala hooked has actually got him hooked on this hobby. He’ll realise it soon.”