My introduction to fishing was not your typical father and son weekend at the side of the local river. In fact I never had any interest in fishing until a large, jolly Fijian on Waya Sewa island offered to take a group of us out on his friend’s boat to catch dinner ”traditionally”. Having dived amonst the islands comprising the Yasawa chain, northwest of central Fiji, I was well acquainted with the colourful life below the surface and was a little reticent, but it was a way of life amongst the islanders and I found myself waiting at the pier.
Eventually a small, rusty looking motor boat approached, stalled, and floated the rest of the way to the mooring. The captain greeted us with a toothy grin and a garish floral shirt, and we jumped aboard noting both the lack of fishing rods and the lack of bait. The boat sparked into life and shuttled over to the other side of the island, skimming over the coral beneath the water’s surface. Stopping, the captain dropped anchor, grunted approval and slid a brown woven bag out from under his seat. From within he pulled out a beautiful (deceased) parrotfish and a crude, gnarled machete and proceeded to ruthlessly carve the scales off the sorry fish and cleave it into pieces, driving the knife into the wooden seat when finished. He then handed pieces out to each of us, along with nothing more than a length of wire with a wicked, curved barb at the end. This was fishing, Fijian style.
The idea was to poke some parrotfish on to the barb, and drop the line down to the bottom. If you felt a bite, you simply had to pull the wire up as quickly as possible. We sat for a while, occasionally pulling up the line, having lost a tussle with an unseen fish. An hour in and without success, the captain was getting tetchy, when all of a sudden my line went taught. With excitement he shoved me out of the way, grabbed my line and hauled it up with superhuman speed. I – or rather he – had landed a (tiny) snapper. The fish was quickly and unceremoniously put into the sack, and swung down against the floor of the boat with a thud. Truly no nonsense. He grinned.
That was the only fish caught that afternoon, but it wasn’t the only catch. Within moments of the snapper incident, my girlfriend got a bite. Again the captain took over, but as he reeled in the line he pulled up a thrashing, hissing moray eel. Chaos ensued as the captain rushed to cut the wire and release the moray, everyone backed away and one of the other fishers fell overboard in panic. Once we had all recovered, we decided that was that and the captain steered us back to Waya Sewa. He docked, jumped out and strode off without a word, taking my one measly fish off with him, grinning.