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“Big Fish, Blue Water” an expedition

This is an excerpt from Dan’s new book, “Sportsman’s Quest.”

This is a story of a really big fish, travel and luck, as are all good fish stories.

It begins in the small fishing village of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, an easy four-hour flight from Houston, Texas. I was there to visit friends, get caught up on some writing and of course relax a little bit with a rod in my hand while dragging some metal and rubber through warm blue Pacific waters.

It was late spring, but the warm tropical weather was already showing signs of serious humidity during the afternoon. This meant working in the morning, then spending some boat time as the day warmed — not a bad life.

I was fishing with my good friends, Jorge Aguilar and Dr. Leandro Chamorro, and we were picking up some nice Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Rooster Fish and jacks, as was our usual routine. Also, as usual we were dragging a couple of heavier lines hoping for a nice sailfish or marlin.

As happens occasionally while fishing, fortune smiles. The outside line was hit, took off like we had hooked a freight train, causing us all to “jump to,” grab the rod and frantically bring in the other lines.

It ran for what seemed forever, pulling the 80-pound test line from the reel. Then Jorge told me quietly, “Hit him.” I could feel the solid connection to the train and I set the hook again, and again. At this point we knew it was a big marlin as it headed for the depths, unlike a sailfish which will stay closer to the surface and fly.

From this point and for the next two and a half hours it was a matter of holding on. I would gain some line as the skipper said, “Reel, reel, he’s coming up” and then he said, “He’s coming around.” My arms were aching, numb, and heavy all at the same time; they felt as if they were just mechanical rope-like extensions of my body attached to the rod, and to the beast who was clearly getting the best part of the fight.

He would take line at such speed and duration that the reel would get hot to the touch and Leandro would douse it with buckets of sea water, cool it down to keep the line from melting. This was a first for me, as were the impromptu dousings I received.

For the next hours the sun beat down, slowly cooking all on board. The dousings of fresh seawater mixed with the pouring of sweat from my reddening forehead, but it all seemed to dry quickly as if poured on a hot stone.

Leandro assured me the fish was tiring and we were gaining on him, but I was not entirely convinced as my arms alternately screamed and went numb. All I could do was hold on and reel frantically when told to do so, letting the rod and reel’s drag system do their job. My thoughts went to Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” and the movie version where Spencer Tracy is talking to the fish, striking it when it seemed immovable lying in the deep. “Take that, and that,” I said as if inventing the words. I found myself thinking of whole passages from the novel and uttering some as if they were my own, realizing once again, Hemingway got it right.

I’m not sure if it was the Marlin getting tired or its curiosity, but twice it came to the surface, never jumping, and circled toward us. It would then dive deep, putting the line straight over the side and make a long run, stealing the line I had so painfully gained. I waited, reeled, ached and sweated some more as Jorge poured more seawater on the reel, and me.

After two and a half hours, which seemed a very long time (I was told to expect a four-hour fight) the fish came up and around; it seemed I could now gain on him and bring him closer. As he came on the surface, all hands prepared to bring him aboard. He came closer and closer and we could see his size and mass, and then he made one more dive for the bottom and we heard the unmistakable, “snap” and the line went slack as the rod straightened. I sat back and didn’t move. All was silent as I heard myself saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, we had him.” He was released, but not as I had planned.

The old-timers on board then began recounting the fight and getting excited at this largest marlin of the season. Measuring his length, compared to the length of the boat, they estimated he was seven-and-a-half feet long and weighed 450 pounds. Not Hemingway’s 1,000 pounder, but the biggest fish I’ve ever caught and the beginnings of a new passion for marlin and sail fishing.

So, in this case, the fish and I were both lucky.

This story is still being told around San Juan del Sur, along with many others, and there will be a next time.

What’s New

A great gift for all of your hunter and fisherman friends or family.

The hardcover book “Sportsman’s Quest,” with 56 stories, 164 color pictures and 137 wild game recipes, is available. It will take you to places you remember, and places you dream of going. The backdrop is hunting and fishing adventures, and you will meet extraordinary people whom you will get to know on a first-name basis.

There is Genoval, an Amazon native who was raised in the jungle, but became the well-known river pilot of the Amazon Queen. You will meet Chris Klineburger, who is a pioneer in exploring and opening new hunting regions, introducing the world to international hunting as we know it today — He was the first. There’s “Buck” Bedard, a Marine Corps General who, along with his sons, is a passionate conservationist and sportsman, or the lady librarian who has an extraordinary passion for bow hunting. They and many other friends are exceptional individuals; you will join them, as they hunt/ fish and explore not only the world, but what it means to share in man’s heritage and traditions. They also share with you many of their favorite wild game recipes which they’ve enjoyed around the campfire and in the kitchen.

It’s available at the Pahrump Valley Times office, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., at a special price. To order, or for more information call Dan Simmons at (775) 727-9777.

Upcoming Events

It’s THAT time of the year again! Conventions and Banquets abound. There is something for everyone who enjoys the great hunting and fishing traditions. I know I will be attending as many of these as I can. It is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and to learn about some of the newest innovations in the hunting and fishing world. You can also find great travel deals on trips of a lifetime.

January 9 – 12, 2014 The Dallas Safari Club hosts Convention and Sporting Expo with Sports Afield at the Dallas Convention Center. For more information and reservations call 1-800-9GO-HUNT or go to www.biggame.org

January 14 – 17, 2014 SHOT SHOW at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. As the brochure says this one is - Too Good To Miss - for more information on this event go to www.SHOTSHOW.org.

January 22 – 25, 2014 Reno will play host to Wild Sheep Foundation’s The Sheep Show 2014 Convention and Sporting Expo at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. This is considered the Premier Mountain Hunting Exposition in the World. Contact www.wildsheepfoundation.org for more information on this event.

January 25, 2014 the Nevada Sportsmen Unlimited will hold their banquet at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino doors open at 5:00pm. There will be guns, ammo, hunting and fishing equipment, and an excellent meal. Bring the whole family there will be a kids raffle also. For tickets call 702-558-2825.

January 29 – February 1, 2014 Grand Slam Club/OVIS Hunter &Outfitter Convention also in Reno, NV they too will have great exhibits, auctions, seminars and raffles. More information can be found at www.wildsheep.org or www.superslam.org.

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