I flew to Lombok via Silk Air. It's a direct two and a half hour flight that whizzed by pretty quickly. Sahil picked me up at the airport and we went for lunch at a local eatery which served fried free range chicken and soup with rice. I had to remind myself to go easy on the chicken doused in chilli! It was so good. But i felt like i was eating a mynah bird or something as the local chicken are petit in stature.
After lunch we began the long journey of getting to Sumbawa from Lombok. We had to do a Land-Ferry-Land transfer that took us close to 7 hours before we reached the last town before our fishing village. There we stopped for a quick dinner of more fried chicken. This time i had three types of chilli to choose from! We proceeded to the village after that and i was pleasantly surprised to see that there had been some upgrades to the village.
The accommodations this time were a little better. The mayor of the area had built some guest houses to accommodate government officials when they came to visit the area for infrastructure planning for the village and i was lucky that they were vacant. An air conditioned room with a queen sized bed with an attached bathroom that was very basic, was a welcome sight for the weary traveller. I quickly unpacked and plugged in my devices for charging before taking a quick shower and hitting the bed.
I must have dozed off as soon as i got in the bed. I was awoken an hour later by a commotion outside. I opened my eyes to absolute darkness. We had a power outage. So much for the creature comforts. Fortunately, the air con had cooled the room down to a reasonable temperature and i drifted back into sleep until my alarm went off 4 hours later. The power was still out. We had a simple breakfast of noodles and rice with a fried egg and headed to our fishing location.
Fishing was frustrating. Not that it was bad, i was hooking up every few casts and they were sizeable fish. But because we were fishing from a traditional boat with in shallow water with structures beneath. I had to rely solely on my tackle and my experience. But even then, it felt like i had brought a knife to a gun fight. The fish were simply too powerful and would cut me off on the rocks despite my best efforts to stop them.
The drag on my Saltiga Expedition 5500H was already fully locked. I lost almost $500-$600 dollars worth of Japanese Poppers! I had only brought 10 poppers for the trip and I was down to my last 4 poppers in the first 3 hours of fishing. To make matters worse, stickbaits were totally ignored by the fish. I was a little perplexed as i retied my leader for the 6th time. Sahil suggested we try fishing at a sea mount which was located at a deeper area and we set off to it after a quick lunch.
As we approached the sea mount, i saw a school of bait fish. I decided to go with a handmade Indonesian popper as a precaution and was pleasantly surprised to see a GT smash the popper on the first cast! The fish tried to dash down into deeper water but i managed to get it under control and landed the fish without incident. It weighed in at about 20kg and was released after a quick photo.
Sahil managed to get a decent Blue Fin Trevally that was stalking the same bait fish school. But that fish was gaffed and sent into the ice box for dinner so i don't have a photo of it. And then it went quiet. The next hour or so didn't yield any significant takes. We had some follows of some smaller 1-3kg GTs which were caught and released without much incident. Then heart break.
As i was trying to get my popper away from these little nuisances, i worked my popper at a faster tempo to get the lure out of their strike zone. The popper was smashed as barely two meters from the boat. In fact the fish smashed the popper with such force from below the boat it hit the outrigger! I was totally unprepared and just set the hook out of pure instinct as the fish dived below. My Hammerhead Faube 78ML was in a wicked bend and i was just hanging on! I regained my composure and applied everything that i had been taught by my mentors.
The fish was stubborn and held deep. I could occasionally feel it trying to shake of the lure. I maintained the the tension and gained line slowly as and when i could. Little by little i managed to get the fish to within 20 meters or so from the surface. As i was in the front of the boat alone, i spotted the fish first. We knew it was a big fish. As Sahil came next to me he realised that he could not land it alone and called out to our boatman who scrambled over.
We were taken aback by the sheer size of the silhouette below us. Sahil was comparing it to the another GT that they had landed with another team which weighed in at almost 50kg but to me it seemed a little bigger than the 131cm GT i landed in the Maldives with Capt Ibrahim of the Seagal earlier in the year. And then Sahil exclaimed. "Only one hook!". The fish was hooked on the jaw by the rear treble hook on the popper only. No sooner had these words passed from his lips. The popper separated from the fish barely 3 meters from the surface and the fish sank momentarily before slowly kicking off.
I was livid. It was easily the biggest GT i had caught and lost right before my eyes. The silence on the little boat was deafening. Sahil, who inspecting the lure saw that the hook was bent and tip of the hook was broken. He placed his hand on my shoulder and consolingly said, "You did everything right, It's not your fault. Today the fish did not want a photo." I could only attempt a feeble smile.
I did not know if i should be angry at myself, or the hook. I just sat there staring at the hook. The only reason i had these hooks on was because my employer at that time had just taken over distribution of BKK hooks. In hind sight, i should have backed off the drag once i had stopped the fish from running. My emotions were running high and i could almost feel myself on the verge of tears. It was a bitter pill that was very difficult to swallow. (I could not bear to use those hooks again the whole trip.)
To take my mind off the loss of the fish. Sahil moved the boat 5 minutes away and told me they wanted to catch some fish for dinner. I nodded as i sipped my drink and still trying to make sense of what had just transpired. Sahil and the Boatman were on a fish as soon as the jigs hit the bottom. Long Nose Emperors. Sahil came over to me and handed me his light jigging set up. I took it and began jigging and landed a Green Job Fish before passing it back to him. I simply could not distract myself from what had transpired.
We went back to the sea mount and continued popping. There was nothing to show for after two hours despite the multitude of bait fish in the area. We had to head back soon after as the journey back to the village would take two hours. Once we arrived at the village, i told Sahil i was not in the mood for dinner went back to the house. The power was back on. I took a cold shower, re-tied my leaders swapped out all my BKK GT Rex hooks and put on my trusted GT Recorders from Gamakatsu. (I just could not bear the thought of something like that happening again.) I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next morning i was woken up by the knocking on my door. I had slept through my alarm! I told Sahil to give me a couple of minutes as i washed up and got ready. Over breakfast, i was informed that Mount Agung in Bali had erupted. We did not know if this would impact our fishing. As we headed out we realised that the local boats were not heading out. When we asked them, they simply replied that they would go out later in the day as fishing in the morning would not be good.
Those words came to haunt us as we did not register a single hit for the first 3 hours of popping. We could not spot any bait fish schools either. We had a shorter time today to fish as we were heading back to Lombok on the same night to catch my flight back home the next day. So Sahil decided to take me jigging instead. The sky was overcast and the current feeble as i dropped my jig to the bottom. After a couple of tries i hit a Long Nose Emperor. We managed to fill up the box with an assortment table sized fishes in the next two hours. I was feeling better and enjoying the light tackle action.
After lunch, i told Sahil that i wanted to pop. We went to a couple of spots but there were no takes. We had to start making our way back slowly, and we squeezed in casts between spots that we were passing. Nothing at all. Sheesh. We get to one last spot before we were going to head back and a little guy comes to say hello. I was getting desperate and casting dangerously close to the rocks as i tried to draw a bite. After about 20 casts Sahil tells me it's time to go. I asked him for last three casts and i start casting in between two huge rocks that are protruding from the water. Nothing on the first two casts.
Resigned to going back without a significant catch, I launched my last cast as close as i could to one of the rocks and proceeded with a slower pop and stop retrieve. Imagine my surprise when something smashed the lure on the third pop. I set the hook a couple of times and tried to steer the fish away from the structure. This fish fought differently, and i thought for a moment that i had hooked on to a big Red Bass as we had seen a few smaller ones follow the lure earlier. As the fish got closer to the boat. I thought i saw something yellow. I got the fish up shortly after that and realised i had a Maori Sea Perch (also known as Blubber Lip Snapper i think). A prized catch indeed to end of a difficult day of fishing.
We got back to the village, packed up and showered before we left for the ferry terminal. We stopped on the way for a late supper of nasi goreng. We arrived back at Lombok at almost 2am. By the time went to the hotel and checked in, it was almost 4am. My flight was at 11am the next day and i was knackered. Afraid i'd oversleep, i did all my packing before i went to sleep.
The next morning i awoke to the beeping of my phone. My wife was on the line telling me that my flight had been cancelled. I told her that i had not heard from the airline yet. Then she asked me, "did you buy insurance?" My heart skipped a beat as i realised that i had forgotten. This meant that i had to bear the expenses for the remainder of the trip until i flew home. The airline office in Lombok was unable to give me any concrete details and i was stranded.
I called Sahil and he was already on his way to pick me. He had a friend who works for Silk Air and he was trying to arrange for me to get on the next flight out. There was nothing else we could do, so we went for a nice lunch and went to see Sahil's new Speedboat while awaiting any updates. Sahil's friend responded an hour later saying that he could only get me on a flight on Friday. (It was Monday) As we made plans to find cheaper accommodation, my wife called and said that she got me on a flight on Wednesday. Despite all the drama it seemed like a blessing in disguise as I had one more day to fish. :)
The next morning we set off to fish with jigs in the sea around south Lombok and the day started off with a little Red Ruby. I was jigging in 200 meters of water. With Ruby Snapper caught in deep water it's difficult to let them go. So even though it was a smaller specimen, it had a ruptured air bladder and so we dispatched it and put it into the cooler. I lost a bigger one mid fight and then the school ran away.
The spots in the south were not nearby each other. We had to travel quite a bit between spots. So i got to nap a lot. We were also jigging in deep water. At times up to 200 meters deep. Just before lunch we ran into some Amberjacks. (Some might say Almaco Jacks. What do you think?) These were pretty fun and after the first one, we didn't bother with any more photos because we were all too busy fishing!
The day ended for me with a massive Spanish Mackerel. Probably the biggest i have ever caught. The 200g jig came back "C" shaped because the fish absolutely smashed it! Then we realised we didn't have a gaff on the boat. We had forgotten and left it back on the beach. Sahil grabbed it by the tail and pulled into the boat and it began thrashing about as we scrambled to avoid the toothy jaws. This one was going back to Sahil's place. It weighed in at almost 16kg. Another fight to remember as we thought it was a Dogtooth Tuna initially.
The trip came to an end after that and i really can't wait to get back out there again. Sahil's Speed boat is ready and will really reduce travel time. He has kitted the boat out to the brim. He has a generator, pressure pump toilet, sleeping area and even an induction cooker on board so that we can go even further to more remote locations to chase the bite!
Update: I have been appointed as the official representative for Lombok Fishing Adventure in Singapore. So if you are keen to try the fishing there drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and i will help you make the arrangements for your groups requirement. Cheers!
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