I took a bite of my granola bar and as I raised my gaze to the sea, it leapt out of the water – I saw magnificence in hues of silver and blue, I hung on to my heart, my jaw dropped in awe of the power before me; a pirouette on air before it crashed through the ocean’s surface, back into the depths leaving behind an empty hook and an infected soul.
What I witnessed was the moment that changed my life and perception of angling entirely. The enchanting Sailfish of Kuala Rompin, Malaysia.
This was our second attempt at catching a Sailfish in Rompin, the first was unsuccessful and a painful memory to recall – one that I chose not to share. On the 16th of March 2016, at 12.25 p.m, our planned trip to Kuala Rompin for Sailfish began to materialise as Tessy started a Facebook group finalising and confirming all booking. Tessy and her husband Victor along with Elaine, Edwin and us -embarking on our Sailfish adventure on the 27th of August – booked almost 6 months prior.
Not wanting history to repeat itself, we kept excitement on a low just days before the trip, Naweshad and I knew that we wanted to make the most of this trip with our angling friends regardless of the outcome – our goal was to have fun; of course a Sailfish or two would be delightful. The drive to Rompin took a little over four hours, as we headed out nearing sunset, most of the scenic route was engulfed in darkness however the sense of beauty that surrounded us somehow came through; maybe it was just the silent excitement within us coming through, but the drive to Kuala Rompin along narrow winding roads was enjoyable.
We arrived at Uncle Hock’s chalet past 10p.m, welcomed by Tessy and gang as they arrived earlier. We were then introduced to two interesting characters, our Captain, Charles Lee from Hook On C Adventures and his brother Gerard, visiting from the U.S. who will be joining us as more than just a deckhand. Listening to Charles and his experience with Sailfish fishing was captivating, calling us Sailfish Virgins, he promised that we would land ourselves a Sailfish by the end of the trip. How? We did not know, but there was something about Charles that made you belief you could too.
We were raring to go at sunrise but not before Charles took us for an authentic Nasi Kerabu breakfast; rice cooked with butterfly-pea flowers turning it a natural blue, served with pickles, herbs, salad, dried fish, fried chicken and/or a side dish of your choice. Naweshad and I had to opt out from trying as we were being cautious of surrendering to sea-sickness therefore we stuck to the granola bars and fruits we packed prior for the trip. As most of them were busy savouring, Charles bought takeaway lunch for the boat, another authentic local dish known as Nasi Dagang; rice steamed in coconut milk served with fish curry and a variety of side dishes.
It was finally time to embark on the adventure we have been waiting for, gears and essentials in hand, we took a walk to the jetty, just opposite Uncle Hock’s chalet (talk about location!) We were all in high spirits as we sped off through thick haze, we soon passed it to the view of endless seas. First stop, sabiki fishing for bait. We took turns, the livewell was filling up however not fast enough. As we were maintaining a momentum, Sammy our boatman exclaims, “Sailfish!”, he spots a sail and without wasting any time, we sped off on a chase to the ideal spot for Sailfish.
Only four lines were allowed out at once, Charles and Sammy kept an eye out for signs of birds flocking around or Sailfish activity, though we were waiting, there was an intensity in the chase that we could not ignore. The wait did not require patience, instead there was a sense of urgency and focus on the water, the line, the bait, the birds. As four rods were out, the rest of us continued adding on to the livewell with more bait, anytime we caught something bigger, the smaller ones were released.
I decided to take a break and have a granola bar and that was when it happened. The moment that took my breath away. As Sammy was holding on to my rod, a Sailfish caught on to it, leapt out and escaped back in… spitting the hook. Every bit of that moment replays vividly in my mind, I could not believe it. This was not National Geographic, I have just witnessed the first Sailfish jump of my life and I was lost for words. I kept looking out in utter disbelief, such magnificence! If landing one was not written for me that day, the captivating sight of that Sailfish was enough to make me happy.
With a few lost, including a brief fight once more on my rod, the afternoon brought with it a decreased momentum. Tessy caught on to a beautiful Garfish which was released, I caught my first juvenile Mackerel which we kept for sashimi, Victor caught and released a lovely small Grouper, Elaine caught a Barracuda which was kept as bait and Naweshad caught on to a juvenile Barracuda which was released. We travelled further out for our hunt and stopped to catch some squid as an alternative bait option for the Sailfish.
Suddenly, the winds changed and we were once more on that hunt. Some of us were alert whilst others succumbed to the tranquility of the seas with a quick snooze. Naweshad’s rod was finally out with a live bait to increase probability of catching, we trolled around slow and steadily when Naweshad exclaimed, “I THINK I HAVE SOMETHING!”, his line was running on free spool, gaining momentum- Sammy stepped in, held on his line, flipped his bail closed with style, ensured the circle hook was secured, nodded his head and passed the rod back to Naweshad … Let the battle begin.
“I LOVE YOU SAMMY!”, Naweshad exclaimed and UP goes the Sailfish, into the air, time stood still, adrenaline heightened, what an acrobat! More jumps, from both Naweshad and the Sailfish. As I was trying to maintain composure, another Sailfish jump caught the corner of my eye, I turned and asked urgently, “Whose rod is that?!”, bending down for a better view, I saw my Ugly Stik GX2 in the hands of Charles who was ensuring the hook was set, I lost my mind and ran for it.
Naweshad’s Sailfish leapt out of the air and got closer to the boat on every jump, I remember wondering if it would jump directly into the boat, oh the horror! What a showoff, somehow it knew we were the Sailfish Virgins and showcased an amazing display of its beauty. As I hung on to my rod, I was taken aback by the sheer speed of this magnificent creature, forget the jumps, I was hanging on to the F1 of the marine world and my reel was heating up. I could tell it was ready to leap once more, I looked up and was amazed at how tiny it was from where I stood, it was miles away.
Coincidentally, Naweshad’s Sailfish decided to battle it out alongside mine, we were standing side-by-side, influenced by euphoria and adrenaline. I wish I could put more into this article, in words, at how amazing it feels like to battle the Sailfish alongside my husband, but no amount of words could do justice to that feeling. The entire moment was perfect, it was poetry and we were both hanging on to our Shakespeare Ugly Stik rods, the only brand of rods we trust- it too came through for us.
Having good people around was key, our friends cheering us on, Charles guiding us as we hung on and Gerard and Elaine who were capturing the moment on one of our cameras each. As my Sailfish began slowing down, I was able to pull it to the side of the boat, the sight of it took my breath away- I could hear people talking, but all I said was “you’re gorgeous” to my stunning Sailfish, continuously. We opted to tag our Sailfish, if recaptured one day, we could get useful data on it. As Naweshad was still battling his stunner, we had to quickly work together for a photograph. Excitement,fear, joy, you name it, I felt it. I sat at the back of the boat, Charles and Sammy swiftly lifted the Sailfish onto my lap, I hung on and Victor kindly took quick photos, Elaine even adjusted my hair during the process. Ten Seconds, and we had to release the beauty back. I did not want to say goodbye, I wanted to marvel at its magnificence, but we needed to, quickly- and my husband had another Sailfish on the way.
I tried hard to shake it off, took over the camera from Elaine and focused on Naweshad’s battle. I could not feel my legs but knew what this moment meant for Naweshad too. We cheered him on and as his Sailfish was brought to the side of the boat, we understood the process, Charles tagged it, passed Naweshad the gloves and we readied ourselves for the photo. His expression was priceless, I saw the 10-year old in my husband emerge and it was a delight. His Sailfish was bigger, understandably, the battle took longer on a heavier rod.
As they released his Sailfish, Gerard helped in taking underwater footage of it (and he did so for all Sailfish on this trip too!). When it was all over and we had to get back to reality, Naweshad and I looked at each other in disbelief and broke into uncontrollable laughter. We thanked Charles for the amazing, life-changing experience. Nothing else mattered at that time… except, catching more Sailfish for the rest of the Sailfish Virgins. We indulged in the moment and got back to business.
It was getting late but all eyes were glued to the sea, we kept looking out for signs. Naweshad held on to my GX2 rod, Edwin, Charles and Elaine held on to a rod each too- the next Sailfish was for Edwin and the one after, for Tessy. Naweshad exclaimed once more, “SOMETHING ON MY LINE!”, he quickly passed it to Sammy and with the same style, Sammy ensured the hook was set and passed it over to Edwin.
Scream goes the PENN Fierce 5000 reel, Edwin hung on as his Sailfish did flips upon flips and shot across the ocean, full speed ahead. The entire boat lit up in excitement once more, Edwin’s Sailfish continued to awe us with its magnificent display of acrobatic stunts and we were distracted by another jump to our right. Elaine caught on to a Sailfish on the rod she had, as we exclaimed for Tessy to run for it, the kind lady that she is rooted for Elaine to continue on with the fight, unfortunately, that Sailfish spat the hook bringing our attention back to Edwin.
It was important for all of us that Edwin land the Sailfish, he made a trip from Thailand specially for it; and his Sailfish was not giving up without a fight. Within 15-minutes, the weather took a change and we got news that a storm was approaching, however his Sailfish still had enough power to take us into, and through the stormy weather if it had to! Edwin fought hard, we cheered him on, and after another 20 minutes, Edwin landed the last Sailfish of the day for our trip. On the boat ride back, Charles whipped out his fillet knife and prepared fresh Sashimi for us all; what a way to end the trip!
At dinner, we were evidently drained by the excitement, however still all smiles and high from the trip. The next morning, Charles took us for an amazing breakfast of Malaysian Roti Canai with Curry then for a short drive around Rompin before we bid him and Gerard adieu and made our way back to Kuala Lumpur, still smiling.
If our spectacular trip has inspired you to try your hands at landing your first enchanting Sailfish of Kuala Rompin, there is only one man we know that could make that dream come true like he did ours. Charles of Hook On C Adventures; book a trip with them for the next opportune Sailfish season in 2017 and make your way down to Kuala Rompin, Malaysia for great food, amazing company and even better fishing! For more information, visit Hook On C Adventures.