By Jerry Brady, TSPS member with photos from Masayo Wertheimber Saturday, August 18, 2012 9:45a.m.
I’m 15 minutes into a battle with a marlin, and I am losing, damn it. Sweat streaming down my face, clothes soaked right through, arms cramped and cramping. I’m receiving instructions tersely delivered by Diva’s Captain Francis. Masayo is mopping my brow, and Vassili is at the helm enquiring politely whether the fish is still on the line. Yes the fish, the bloody fish, is still on the line, and it’s going on yet another run. His eighth I’m pretty sure. I switch hands to give my cramped left arm a brief respite. I’m exhausted. Then my mind begins streaming questions as the battle renews… “Why is this fish making it so difficult?” “Why doesn’t it just give up and give me and my arms a break?” “Should I ask Francis if an Automated External Defibrillator is aboard? “How about we janken (rock, scissors, paper) to see who wins and call it a day?” “Hmm. Can a marlin show only ‘paper,’ or can it curl a flipper into ‘rock’? “What about that A.E.D.?” “How did I get here?” “Who was the wise guy that once said, ‘If you don’t want a fight, don’t slap a bear.’”
This all began two weeks ago when TSPS member Francis Wertheimber and his wife Masayo invited another TSPSer Vassili Ermakov and me to go fishing for marlin off the coast of Chiba before the start of theTSPS barbecue and fireworks party at Velasis Marina. I figured physically this would be a cake-walk. In years past, I considered myself an athlete. I played many sports including snowboarding, scuba diving, rugby, racquetball, and did some physically demanding commercial tuna fishing in Vietnam. I’d always thought physical activities were easy. I’d do anything, regardless of difficulty, and then drink beer and talk about it later. That was until a few years ago. Training didn’t seem important when I retired from rugby, so I hadn’t worked out in ages. Oh, silly me. Aboard Diva I was about to be worked over by a fish, a 170-kilogram taskmaster of a fish, but a fish nonetheless.
When the marlin took the hook, I was told to take a seat in the fighting chair. We strapped the rod and reel to the chair and listened as the line sang off the reel as the marlin ran out more than five-hundred meters. We watched as it then engaged in fish aerobics by jumping clear of the water several times. Clearly this fish had been working out. Bah! Show off! I reeled it in, but then it took off on another run. This was to be expected and so the fish and I did this several times in succession; it would get close to the boat, take one look at me and then bolt on another 300 – 400 meter sprint. Can’t blame the fish, really. I had quickly lost my usual saintly expression and and was fearsomely grimacing in shades of red and blue. The battle continued and I was losing hope of landing the marlin, but just when I was thinking of cutting the line the fish decided to stop showing off and instead ambled over for a visit. I was ready to offer my nemesis a congratulatory beer, but then remembered marlin are big-game fish loaded with machismo and prefer stronger drink.
Masayo took a load of pictures, and exchanged family photos with the marlin as I mentally prepared to deliver the coup de grâce. In spite of my respect for the fish, I was looking forward to eating it, dining on barbecued marlin steaks with coconut milk and lime juice. Francis got out the boat hook, stepped to the stern and then paused to take a long look at the fish. He then slowly turned to me, Masayo, and Vassili and told us that even if we provided one steak each for the thirty-five TSPS members at the barbecue, we would consume only a quarter of the fish, and that since nobody had any way of transporting the leftover meat, we would have to pay for the rest of the carcass to be commercially disposed of.
Reluctantly, we all agreed to release the fish. But as it slowly swam away, it turned on its side exposing a raised flipper. Did that fish just flip me the bird? When we headed back to port, my arms were so tired that Masayo could have beaten me in an arm-wrestling match. For some reason, I was reminded of something a friend once told me. We had worked together on a construction site in New York before I moved here. He’d said, “When I was younger, I was a real bad-ass. Now that I’m older, I’m just an ass.” It took a fish to drive the point that I was out of shape home. I vowed to myself that I would resume training this month so I would be ready for the next fishing trip. You know… pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, squats, the whole home-training routine. But today, meh… It’s so hot and I’m so tired that I’m going to default back to my usual training regimen; fridge sprints, speed email finger work outs, and flip-fop curls.
Yeah, better to start training in September. It’ll be cooler then and the fish will be smaller… Many thanks to Masayo and Francis Wertheimber and Vassili Ermakov for a truly unforgettable experience.
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