We went to Malindi, and, of course, the reason that I?m writing about it, is because of the fishing. We were quite lucky with the weather because the rainy season has just begun, and as far as the fishing is concerned the monsoons have also begun, but although we had one or two showers, on land at least we had pleasant weather. Many of the boats are out of the water by now, but Kingfisher ? the outfit that I usually fish with ? decided to keep a few boats in for the late Easter break, and I?m very pleased that they did!
This time we did not stay at the Driftwood Club, because it was booked up well in advance ? just about the only place that was. The rest of the coast, apart from Mombasa (and perhaps even Mombasa) suffering from a major drought in tourism ? the scares on terrorism and war in Iraq being responsible for that.
We stayed at a place that has been recently re-opened called the Kingfisher Lodge, which is a very small lodge with only 4 chalets, around a pleasant swimming pool and in pretty grounds with a variety of trees and birds. There was only one other couple there as guests. It is a very secluded place, which suited us very well, but it is not actually on the beach. At first we thought that we would not be too happy about this, but in the end we found that it had many advantages ? mainly extremely peaceful surroundings, and away from all the hubbub that goes on if you are on the beach.
Having said that, Malindi has become much better about the problems with the beach boys and all that, and have done their best to stop them. It is not perfect but it is a great deal better than most of the other coastal resorts on the Kenya coast. Sadly the people that are really guilty of continuing to encourage the beach boys and the beach trade are the newly arrived tourists ? usually plump and pink English girls, with their hair ethnically (but somebody ought to tell them, unattractively), done in braids, in skimpy bathing costumes. Or else anorexic Italian girls, also with their hair in braids, but often topless. You?ll see them haggling with the locals right under signs that say ?Do not conduct business on the beach?.
One of the main advantages for me, though, is that the Kingfisher Lodge caters to the whims of fishermen, and even arranges very reasonably priced fishing packages, in conjunction with Kingfisher boats. Hans and his wife Di, who run the Kingfisher Lodge, understand fishermen, Hans, himself, being a keen fisherman.
We did go down to the beach, which is actually very easy because the lodge will run you down any time that you want. So? we were pretty happy staying there, the food was excellent, the drinks were not rip-off prices, and it was all very reasonably priced. Belinda managed to read dozens of books and I went off fishing.
I am still trying to catch a Marlin and so I was planning on one long day, on Good Friday. Sadly though there are not many Marlin around at this time of the year (I have been advised that the end of July is best and so I?ve already booked in then). I had booked a boat with Kingfisher, whom I think are excellent and very reasonably priced. They were totally up front about the fact that there weren?t any Marlin about, and they were not too convinced that there were many fish at all. Neither did the conditions look good for anything except being seasick. The sea was extremely rough and there were some quite heavy rainstorms. Certainly many of the boats were out of the water. Nevertheless, Angus, the captain of the boat and his gallant crew decided that we ought to give it a go and off we went to an area just north of Malindi, that, in the past, I have often fished for Sailfish, sailing through mountainous seas and some heavy tropical rain.
I sat at the back of the cabin fearing that at any moment I was going to rapidly release what little breakfast that I had had. We were in the right area by about 7 a.m., had the baits out by 7.05 a.m., and hooked our first six fish by 7.10 a.m. These were all small Yellow Fin, who, nevertheless gave us a pretty good work out. What made it even more difficult is that it was extremely hard to stay upright in the rough seas. Once we had got those fish in, the baits went out again and about two minutes later we were into more fish, this time two Yellow Fin and two Felussi (Swahili name for Dorado). Well? it carried on like this and by midday we had caught 50 fish, mostly Yellow Fin and Dorado, but also a small Shark, a Kingfish, and two large Garfish.
I?ve never seen such large Garfish ? they were both about 10 lbs each, and they played quite well ? a lot of acrobatic leaping. The activity died away a little after that, but by 1.00 p.m., we had caught another 8 fish and we decided to call it a day ? a short day. I was completely knackered anyway ? being the only client I was playing most of the fish. I was also feeling particularly queasy, although, fortunately, as soon as I was playing a fish, I seemed to forget all about it. I also did a fair amount of gaffing for the others ? all on a boat where we were either pointing up at the skies or at the bottom of the trough of a giant wave or rolling from side to side. So I was happy enough when we decided that we had caught enough fish for one day. Also, because they were only going to charge me for a short day ? and a very cheap price, I reckoned that I may be able to convince Mission Control to let me go out again. When I got back to the Kingfisher Lodge, she hardly noticed that I had returned or that I was missing ? she was already engrossed in her second or third book of the day. It was rather pleasant to have the rest of the afternoon by the swimming pool, watch the bird life and then get stuck into a good dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant nearby. That is one of the things that I enjoy about Malindi ? that one can go to a variety of good restaurants and one doesn?t feel trapped in the same hotel.
Well? I spent the next day with Belinda, mostly down on the beach, although we didn?t go diving, as originally planned, because Belinda reckoned that it was too rough. I was happy with this decision. Fortunately she was not unhappy about me going out fishing again, and so I fixed another short day with Kingfisher and what was even better was that they were going to give me extra discount for going out two days. This time I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to take a fly rod and trying to catch some fish on a fly. The fish were taking near the surface or on the surface, which is one of the things that made it such exciting fishing. You could see the fish following the baits through the crystal clear waters and then taking them. The only problem was, that in my dozy state at 6.00 a.m. in the morning, having carefully set aside my fly fishing tackle, I completely forgot it ? somewhat to Mission Control?s irritation ?why have we dragged the fishing rods all the way down here, etc?
On the second day, the sea was not nearly so rough, the sun was shining, and I didn?t feel in the least bit seasick. We headed off to the same area to see if there were still some fish around there, and we were fishing again by 7.00 a.m. By 7.15 a.m. we still hadn?t had a touch and saw no birds or any evidence of fish moving, things were looking a bit slow ? but by 7.20 we saw a large Dorado leap out of the water and a second later realised that it was on the end of one of our lines. These are hard and spectacular fighters, playing near the surface with a lot of jumping. Some amazingly high jumps too, the high jumpers of the oceans ? actually Kingfish do some pretty extravagant leaps as well. I had forgotten what incredible colours the Dorado are ? bright greens and yellows. From then on we started hooking single Dorados for about an hour, but we realised that there were plenty around, because every time we hooked one we saw lots of others following it. How I wish I had had the fly rod. We wouldn?t have boated nearly so many fish, but it would have been terrific sport. It was a bit like a day we had, at Kiwayu further up the coast, catching the Koli Koli. After about an hour we started getting multiple strikes with Dorado leaping all over the place. It got somewhat chaotic at times with several hooked Dorado zipping to and fro, around and across the boat, and weaving the lines into complicated cats cradles. Furthermore, the action was constant ? we hardly had to wait for more than a couple of minutes after putting the baits back in, before we were into more fish.
Quite often we saw Yellow Fin moving on the surface, and birds diving, and we would always move to the spot where we had seen them. But they must have been surrounded by the Dorado, because every time we got near where the Yellow Fin had been, the Dorado took the baits. We did catch a few ? they normally took the deeper baits and despite their relatively small size, nothing over 15 lbs, as usual, they fought like bulldogs ? not that I have ever caught a bulldog on a fishing rod. These Yellow Fin were like peas out of the same pod, nearly all the same size, and all getting fat quickly on the Mantis prawns that continue to abound in the waters around here. Fat as pigs, the Tuna are.
All the old local fishermen are saying that they have not seen anything like it for years. Every twenty years or so they have seen a few of these Mantis prawns, but never anything on the scale of this, and not for so long. They have now been off the coast of Kenya for about 3 years. When I first saw them, back then, you could almost walk on them they were so thick in the water. It is considered that they are here having been swept up from the South, because of El Nino, which seems to be the excuse that is used for virtually all strange meteorological happenings ? as well as any peculiar animal, fish, insect and any other swarms, plagues and other happenings. The Mantis prawns seem to have their pros and cons. On the one hand the Yellow Fin and some other fish like the Dorado seem to thrive on them, but on the other hand we have hardly seen any Bonito, which according to the experts is the favourite diet of the Marlin around here.
On this second, short, day we once again decided we had caught so many fish that we would pack up early, and by 1:00 p.m. we drew in our lines, after catching one more Dorado and headed back to base, and fresh Dorado, and a good white wine for supper. It had been a terrific days fishing, and although I missed my fly rods, it was still great fun on the normal tackle. I caught one big Dorado of over 30 lbs which gave me a really spectacular fight, but that was about the biggest fish. Nevertheless, when you add up the total weight of fish it was the equivalent of catching a heavy Marlin. We also caught quite a large variety of fish. The total tally for the two days was:
53 Yellow Fin ? biggest 20 lbs
54 Felussi (aka Dorado) biggest 30 lbs
1 Barracuda (about 5 lbs)
1 Shark (about 15 lbs)
2 Garfish (both about 10 lbs)
1 Kingfish (about 10 lbs)
Total weight 784 Kgs
One cannot complain about that sort of fishing, especially at the end of the season when we weren?t really expecting to catch much at all. The Marlin is still to come.