I apologise for the delay. I have been fishing. I also have a stinking cold and I am typing under the influence of Beecham's finest.
I joined Eloy at the crack of dawn. It was probably before dawn as it was still dark. Under the eerie half dawn/half moonlight I handed over dollar bills wrapped in an elastic band. It must have looked like a drug deal. The analogy isn't far off. Fishing is something, I need, crave, want. It keeps me up at night. It distracts me during the day. I get withdrawal symptoms. It affects my mind and controls my life. Well, sort of.
His fishing shed was filled with all sorts of junk. I worried that I might be given another horrible rod. I was wrong and I held the light flexible 10ft rod.
Baby Girl, what are you wearing on your feet?
You need something better, wear these.
He handed me a pair of rubber soled shoes. A pair of cockroaches crawled out of the left one. I prayed they hadn't been mating in there. I kicked myself for not wearing the surfing shoes my dad got me. They were new, clean and shiny and not a haven for amorous insects. I thought we would be on a boat.
We were for a bit. He moved out to an area between the islands, a shallow, calm area of sea.
I cleaned my shoes before popping them on and hopping out of the boat. Eloy crouched low. He pointed at nothing. He somehow managed to whisper aggressively.
Cast baby Girl. Cast as far as you can, to that spot. Cast like you might die if you don't hit the spot.
It seemed a little dramatic. I cast. It wasn't far enough. I had no idea what I was casting too. Eloy explained that he was looking for glinty, silver flashes, the tails of feeding bonefish. They are very shy and you need to cast for miles to get them.
I felt very weird and a little under dressed for fishing being in a miniskirt, loose shirt and string bikini. Baby nurse sharks swam round my ankles. It felt a little alien. However, as I got into the rhythm of wading through the sea grass, crouching low, casting hard I realised I was stalking. It was just like sneaking along the riverbank under the cover of high reeds and nettles to cast to a fat brownie. Nettle stings and bramble scratches were replaced by sea leeches and the salty line cutting though my fingers as I retrieved.
Now Baby, baby, Now!
I cast, I struck. I had got one. Wikipedia tells me that pound for pound they are the fastest fish around. In the shallows, they can't go down, they can only head out. It zipped like a rocket, pulling my line out. It was cartoonishly quick and strong. It fought and I won. Eloy pulled it out. It seemed to me to be a silver-white sea grayling. It was the prettiest fish I had ever seen.
We headed in. Eloy headed out again with two member of the group to go spearfishing for a barbecue supper. This was the idea of Tim, the Australian and a German called Ike. Man, he was a horrible piece of work. I spent the afternoon lazing in hammock on a jetty sipping beer and trying to get my boyfriend to understand why it was so exciting. My soporific haze was broken by the noise of their return. It was all very macho and uncivilised. Ike came back and boasted to me, saying.
How many did you catch?
Just one. It was beautiful though.
I shot lots, I swam, and you just shoot and shoot, red ones, I didn't care. It was so cool.
I lost it with him. I shouted. He was showing off about killing for fun. This was totally unacceptable. In my view it was pure unthinking evil. As an angler, I have total respect for what I catch and deep love for where I catch them. If I kill, I kill quickly and cook it with love. If I return a fish it is with total haste and care. He was slaughtering for fun. What was worse was that he was totally unapologetic for it.
It doesn't matter, it's just a fish. Why do you care?
My boyfriend (now an ex) dragged me away, crying, stopping me before the situation got any worse and before it got Fawlty Towers. It was one of the few occasions that we were in total agreement. Ike was an utter shit of a human being. I didn't speak to him for the rest of the holiday. I am not sure why I reacted so badly, and got so emotional. Maybe it was the contrast between the image I had of reef fish being speared and bleeding red everywhere and the memory of caressing that bonefish, so pure somehow in its whiteness. The image of poor wounded fish sinking to the ocean floor and my bonefish fleeing freely with a quick flick of its powerful tail and puff of white sand.