Its midnight 30 nautical miles off the East coast of Malindi, and dead quiet other than the drone of the diesel inboard, more felt through your feet than heard as you putt along at a measly few knots. Visually, a challenge lies ahead that evolution did not prepare you for. Your eyes want the comfort of either dark or light, but you need to charge the phosphors embedded in the wing material of the fly in the PVC light tube while watching the dark ocean. The charge might not matter to an animal evolved to live beyond pitch black, but it will matter to you when the aim of your cast counts. More potent than caffeine is the adrenaline caused by this anticipation. A drug gifted from our time lower down in the food chain, but as effective in chasing the prey as it was in outrunning the predator.
A creature from a different world spent its early evening chasing the darkness from half a kilometre below, and is now meters below the surface using its arsenal of senses to a hunt its prey. A bubble chain, a vibration, a hint.
On the stern of the sport fisher, you stand on the shoulders of the pioneers before you. Men like Jeremy Block & Richard Moller who learnt that teasing and switching in no light was a possibility in the search for Broadbill Swordfish, in another time but in this very place. On the snap of the breakaway rig a shout comes from the flybridge “fish on the long teaser, tell us if you feel her”.
Your heart beat is almost audible at this point. Don’t fuck it up.
The darkness lowered your visual expectations, but humble algae is about to ignite a light show nothing on land would prepare you for. With every slash of the bill, a burst of flouresence, bright enough under the dark moon to illuminate the neon flanks of the sword. Not like your heart needed the additional adrenalin brought by this spectacle. Instructions are processed almost automatically and the fly finds its way out the light tube and in front of the fish. Another flourescent burst, but nothing. The only light that remains is embedded in the heads of the squid teasers beside you. You continue to cast into the black, feeling with every strip, hoping for a pull. With every cast it seems less likely, until the call is given to reset the spread.
First light is only hours away. You hope that wasn’t it. Morning comes and with it the shout for the Marlin teasers. Never did you think those words would bring about such disappointment.
JD Filmalter and I have spent a few evenings on the banks of the Breede river dreaming of these fish. The scientific name alone is enough to raise my heart rate- Xiphias Gladius.
So little has been written about the hunt for Broadbill Swordfish on fly because so few have tried. The aforementioned scenario was colourfully illustrated to me by Craig Thomassen in front of a fire, as he recalled a single evening in Kenya attempting to catch a Broadbill Sword on fly -and it absolutely ruined me. I had the wrong mental picture completely, the absence of the visual.
To many, billfish on fly brings no excitement, and it didn’t for me either until a quick hand-line Panga tease off Farquhar brought a billfish to arms length. In reflection all I can remember are the colours. It was a neon I had not thought possible. Not on a thousand Bluefin Trevally. The presence, the drama, the colour. A landlocked human with even the most colourful imagination would not come close.
If anyone has pictures of Fouad Sahiaouis fish, I would absolutely love to see them. Also Kenya.