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Rod & Rucksack - Panama

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Host Guy Elson gets a feel for the dangers he might face freediving and spearfishing in Panama Host Guy Elson gets a feel for the dangers he might face freediving and spearfishing in Panama

The third episode of Rod & Rucksack saw host Guy Elson travel out to the tropical paradise and sport fishing heaven of Panama. With plans to learn to spearfish and hunt a yellowfin tuna, all did not go strictly according to plan!

The Panama trip was the last  trip we filmed and was the 'wild card' of the series! The premise was for me to train (under the supervision of my two guides) in the art of Big Game Spear fishing. This would take place in the Pearl Islands offshore from Panama City. With these new skills I would then venture further south to the Hannibal bank ( a very famous big game fishery). Here I would live on a desert island and attempt to spear a huge Yellowfin Tuna! Now I must at this point stress that I had never raised a speargun at a fish in my life and these waters where packed with sharks! First call was Contadora, one of several isolated islands offshore from Panama City. When we arrived I was immediately hit by a wall of humidity, sun-bleached sand and an azure ocean. Paradise!!! The following morning we got up early to head out. What had been clear blue skies was now changing. We motored out and I practiced breathing techniques, then into the drink to try for my first fish. I immediately began to feel quite green, the water wasn't the millpond I had experienced the previous day and the light levels where average. There was nothing to focus on and the sea had churned up silt into the water.... I was rapidly becoming sea-sick. Rod and Rucksack Panama Trailer from gassProductions on Vimeo. Occasionally I would float through a school of fish, but nothing big. My guides would disappear into the abyss for 1-2 minutes, sometimes coming back with a snapper, but still nothing of any size. My frustration levels were rising... If I couldn't even see the fish how was I supposed to attempt to spear them.... I got out and wished I had a fishing rod with me! The next few days where a repeat of the first. I controlled the nausea with medication, but still I hadn't even caught a glimps of anything worth spearing.... Very annoying. My bottom time improved until I could stay down for over a minute..... Not great,  but enough to start to get some opportunities... And eventually I speared a cubera snapper, again not huge at 5-6 lb.  Whilst on the Pearl Islands I did manage a bit of normal fishing. I caught a few dorado whilst trolling, a fish which had somehow evaded me prior to this trip. I also had a chance to go popping with mixed results. I caught some reasonsably sized snapper and broke a very expensive rod on a big rooster fish on camera....  The last day spear fishing in Contadora I eventually saw a good sized fish. I was crusing over a canyon, the visibility was poor and I saw a large shape cruising below. I aimed and shot..... Completely missed and thank god I did as a 5 ft reef shark bolted off! The next stop was Isla Montuosa. This Island is 60 miles offshore on the Hannibal bank. The island is uninhabited except for a solitary howler monkey and a lot of scorpions.  The weather had properly closed in and it had a drastic impact on my ability to fish. The continental shelf drop off was 5km from Montuosa.... But the weather was inhibiting safe spearfishing offshore. We opted to fish a sea-mount just off Montuosa. The first dive we did on this mount, my guide Pete disappeared for a few minuites then returned to tell me that a huge 10ft + bull shark was directly below us.... I felt pretty uneasy! For the next week the weather continued to be awful... And I moved from mildly frustrated to complete dispair. Brief breaks in the weather allowed a few shots at spearfishing, but we where unable to get to the drop off where the tuna were located. I was able to take a few fish from the pinnacle near the island. Sharks were always a worry for me and I had several close encounters. They were always there and on several occasions they followed me up after spearing a fish. On one occasion 2 big bull sharks came up behind me and began circling me. luckily Pete my guide was a professional spearfish man from Martha's Vineyard (the home of Jaws!) and these sharks didn't bother him. He swam straight at them and in a daring game of chicken he shoed them off! Eventually our time was up and we had failed to even see a tuna let alone spear one. I left the island defeated. On the way back to the mainland I managed to get a spot of fishing in and like some divine intervention I managed to catch a few football sized yellowfin tuna. Not nearly the size we were going for but still a welcome change of fortune. All this said I fell in love with Panama. My experience was mired by poor conditions, but lurking under the surface  I could see an amazing fishery which in good conditions would be absolutely world class!   Tune in to the rest of the series on Quest!   Freeview - Channel 38 Sky - Channel 154 (+1 on 167) Virgin - Channel 172 (+ 1 on 173)   Showing in the UK prime time at 09:00 on Thursday evenings from the 11th of April to 9th May 2013.   Episode 1: Canada – 11th April Episode 2 Mongolia – 18th April Episode 3 Panama – 25th April Episode 4 Bolivia – 2nd May Episode 5 Australia – 9th May Rod and Rucksack Trailer from gassProductions on Vimeo.Panama

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rod and rucksack, guy elson, panama, spearfishing

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