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Hunting Giants by Dylan Tomine, Photos by Tim Pask

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Hunting Giants by Dylan Tomine, Photos by Tim Pask Hunting Giants by Dylan Tomine, Photos by Tim Pask

Oh, sure, you can sharpen hooks, double- and triple-check your knots, buy the biggest rod you can cast, practice throwing huge flies into the wind. But you still won’t be ready. Not by a long shot.

There's  REALLY NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREPARE YOURSELF.

Oh, sure, you can sharpen hooks, double- and triple-check your knots, buy the biggest rod you can cast, practice throwing huge flies into the wind. But you still won’t be ready. Not by a long shot.

The first time you actually experience a giant trevally on the flats, the experience will be so startling, so mind blowing, you will inevitably grasp for absurd comparisons: Godzilla in downtown Tokyo; the young, devastatingly efficient Mike Tyson in the ring; or for that matter, the later, wild-eyed, ear-chewing, venom-spewing, berserk version as well. A carnivorous 55-gallon drum flying open-end forward onto the flats...

Shortly thereafter, as you watch a 70-pound GT power up into kneedeep water and absolutely pulverize the fleeing reef fish in churning, vicious subsurface explosions, you will look down at the puny 12-weight rod in your hand with sudden doubt. You are hunting grizzly bears with a slingshot. And it will occur to you just how far from Sir Isaac’s English chalkstream fly fishing has come. You may also feel something else: Fear.

You won’t be the first angler to suddenly backpedal for the boat when confronted by a frenzied GT in full search-and-destroy mode. As the fish, now looking bigger than a Volkswagen, makes a sudden half-turn and heads for the bonefish cowering behind your legs, you will wonder who’s hunting who.

 

 

And, hey, you haven’t even made a cast yet. Or should I say tried to make a cast yet. Did I mention the first rule of hunting giants? Things go wrong. Let me repeat: Things Go Wrong.

On a full-moon floodtide, the great Christmas Island guide Timon stands next to you, slapping the surface of the water with his hand. Unsatisfied, he begins to use your bonefish rod to churn the surface wildly. "Won’t that scare the fish?" you ask. He laughs.

Your brain cooks in the heat. Sweat drips down your arm. Your eyes burn from squinting into the glare. And then, suddenly, it’s happening. A frighteningly big shadow torpedoes up onto the flat throwing a wake like a jet ski. Big fish. Huge. Enormous. Giant. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for all day, all week. Maybe all your life.

You let go of the fly and begin to work out the line you’ve so carefully coiled around the fingers of your left hand. Two false casts, and Timon shouts "Now!" You reach back, stop the rod hard into the wind, feel the line straighten behind you, and as you make your haul, the fly bounces off the back of your head, hooks the line and collapses in a heap at your feet. The giant, now full of two-pound bonefish, drifts over the edge of the reef and disappears. Things go wrong.

Knots you c h e c k e d seven times u n r a v e l under pressure. Four-piece rods magically transform into seven-piece rods. Fly lines get woven through coral heads and snap. Two hundred yards of gel-spun backing blows up into a knot the size of your head. Reels overheat, seize up and literally explode. The mayonnaise on the sandwich you left in the sun seemed okay when you ate it…

Or let’s say you’re actually landing a giant. Your first one ever. Amazingly, miraculously, nothing has gone wrong. (Of course, later you will understand that to even think this last thought is an open invitation to disaster.) As its enormous bulk tires in the shallows, you reach out to grab your prize and suddenly jerk your hand back. "Tim," you say to the photographer, a guy who has probably landed more giant trevally than nearly any other fly angler. "Do these things bite?" He laughs, and demonstrates how to grab them ahead of the tail. "You just have to be careful because they have spines back there, but nothing to worry if you do it like…AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" Blood spurts from his fingers. Things go wrong.

Or maybe you’re standing on a soft sand flat and Timon is explaining that the bonefish come to eat the two-foot long silver sandworms that live here. The giants come to eat the bonefish. Makes sense. Then he says, "We eat the worms, too." You gulp. But wanting to be an enlightened traveler and part of the island food chain, not to mention one with your prey, you pursue it further. "Sometimes raw," he continues, "but we also dry them like jerky. You can try the dried one."

The next morning, a small crowd of locals has gathered to watch you eat the worm. Something deep in your brain flashes back to a long-forgotten Mezcal debacle, but you proceed anyway. This particular worm, in its salted, smoked state, appears to be relatively harmless. You close your eyes and gnaw off a small bit.

"Oh," Timon says quietly, "I forgot—the first time you eat the worm, you will get red bumps…" Immediately, the small bite of leathery, dried worm flies out of your mouth like a missile. Much laughter (not yours) ensues. Things go wrong.

At some point in your quest for giants, you will have a good day. A great day even. This particular day has been epic. You have made decent casts. Your equipment has not undergone what corporate disclaimer lawyers refer to as "rapid disassembly." You have swum across channels with your rod in your teeth to avoid being spooled. You have watched Timon dive into the coral heads to unhook your line and, miracle of miracles, found the fish still connected. You have gone two for five and landed one pushing 90 pounds. 90 freakin’ pounds! And you have photos to show the 7X-tippet-using, micromidge-casting, drag-free-drift-making, 10-inch-trout-catching weenies back home. You are on top of the world.

But all of this has taken time. Lots of time. And now you are racing the falling tide to get back across Nine- Mile Flat before all the water is gone. That, and it’s getting dark. And there’s a complex maze of boat-eating coral heads and shallow channels between you and the comfort, safety and drinking water of camp. You suddenly regret even thinking that "top of the world" bullshit. And then, when completely out of the blue, the outboard sputters, hacks and comes to an abrupt stop, when the silence is louder than anything you ever imagined, you understand: Things go wrong.

Of course, as the pictures here attest, it is entirely possible that things can go right. You may stalk, hook and fight the biggest, most incredible fish anyone has ever landed on foot. Your tackle may hold up to the strain. Your body might survive unscathed. Hell, you may even find yourself smiling out into the sunshine and clear, blue South Pacific distance, satisfied beyond belief.

But don’t count on it.

Dylan Tomine wants to emphasize that none of the ridiculous misadventures or embarrassing scenarios recounted in this story actually happened to him personally. He did not attempt to eat tropical sea worms, blow any "casts of a lifetime" under pressure and is certainly not afraid of any fish. In fact, he has been at home with his family, stalking the eel-grass flats of Puget Sound with daughter Skyla and son Weston, pioneering the elusive, topwater flounder blitz.



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