LEISURE LETTER 65: KONA - A FISHING STORY PART II
Having slipped so far into reveries of Cook’s landing, perhaps too far, allow me to retrace my steps and divulge in finer detail the patient, persistent motions of fishing the beautiful waters of Kona. There was the slow and steady trudge to South Point, the end of the world, where the lava meets the shimmering sea. The way is marked in blasts of briny mist, the ocean surging up against the island’s jagged edge so far beneath the mouth of the volcano, Pele’s supernal abode.
Having reached South Point, fishless, the Alii Kai was turned nearly all the way around, west-northwest, now moving slightly along and slightly away from the island, the bow set for Tokyo. The sun was then reaching its zenith, high above our heads, and from there it beat down relentlessly. I had no choice but to submit to this barrage of radiation, making a seat of a pillow on the deck. There was going to be no sunscreen today. Today I would cook and that would be that.
And so our dreams of catching Ono were put on hold as we made way for deep waters in search of Yellowfin, the elusive Ahi. “Look for the birds” I heard Vinny yell above the engine. The birds – Terns and Albatross – usually indicate the location of roving schools of baitfish, and thus the bigger fish who hunt bait. So far as I could tell there was nothing in the air, not a plane, not a speck, only the perfect blue sky to match the blue sea.
Sometimes it is the very expectation of catching fish that prevents us from catching them. With this in mind I sat there on my little pillow in the sun, eyes closed, expecting nothing. I sat there for what could have been hours, with a mind as empty as the sea. When I finally opened them again I wasn’t prepared for what I saw: a bird, and then another. This, of course, sent me flying to my feet: “BBBBIIIIRRRRRDDDSS!” I shouted blind into the wind. And birds there were, an impressive squadron, whirling and diving, whose numbers increased the closer we got. Even Hitchcock wouldn’t know what to do about all of these flying freaks. I stood on the bow waving my arms and shouting like a lunatic as we drove straight into the maelstrom.
But still no fish! Not a splash . . . not a bite!
We followed this feathery tornado for a few miles before giving up. It turns out the birds were as lost as we were.
Finally we did get a bite, on the approach to Keauhou Bay, where we had set out earlier in the day. With screaming lines it was all hands on deck, fools bumping into fools in a scramble to get at the reels. I got there first , and in all of the confusion I managed to disengage the drag, effectively sending the line into a frenzied tangle. The fish got away. Absolutely tragic. When all was said and done and the lures were brought in, we were able to verify from the bite marks on the line that the fish we had on hook was, in fact, an Ono. And what an Ono it must have been, for the bite marks suggested a mangled mouth of razors, more dinosaur than fish. That was it, we went in.
You’ll never guess where Vinny and I went for dinner that night . . .
. . . Sam’s Sushi. A legendary joint . . . We ordered everything on the menu. I was particularly taken with the scallops, which I typically loath. They were garnished with a sprinkle of dried lemon peel. When it was time to leave Old Sam insisted we have a plate of his famous hamachi belly. I was stuffed, but there was no way I could refuse. The belly was so good I could have eaten several more, as stuffed as I was.
For the rest of the trip I wandered up and down Ali’i Drive, dropping into the kava bar for cups of the muddy root water that gave me such strange dreams. On the very last night, one of the cruise ships offloaded a football stadium of eager tourists. I observed all of this from the lava rocks, watching them flood into the bars, the restaurants, the two-bit trinket shops. The Dj’s music poured out of the second story of Lavernes, onto the streets and out to sea, along with beams of lasers and thick plumes of party fog. All of this made me weary. I finished my kava cup and retired home. That night I dreamt of volcanoes and big dangerous fish. I dreamt of Pele dancing beneath the full moon – she carries a jug of murky gin as she dances wildly before the flames. Finally she extends a flaming hand toward me, lava burning in her eyes. Ouch! I woke up at sunrise and flew back to Oahu, feeling as light as a cloud.