When one thinks of Angola, the first thing that comes to mind is the armed struggle for independence that was first fought between the colonial ruler Portugal and indigenous Angolans (1961-75), followed immediately by a brutal civil war that lasted 27 years (1975-2002).
This provided a constant picture in our minds before arriving here for our jobs at Luanda International School.
Make no bones about it, Angola is by no means anyone's idea of a must-see destination, but as our time here passed, we started to realise that what lurks beneath the ocean may well just be enough to encourage the odd Kiwi die-hard spearo and/or big game fishermen to visit these productive waters.
Three years ago, four blokes - two Kiwis and two Irishmen - decided that it was time to pick up their rods and see what all the talk was about.
Our first year on the water (August 2009-'10) was an extreme learning curve, as none of us had any big game fishing experience. We were quickly shown the ropes by Cam Nicolson, an English bloke who had been living in Angola since the age of 18 and knew the waters well. Time spent on the water was the key, and before long we were well adept at the Bimini Twist, had the lure spread sorted, and dropping back ballyhoo (similar to our piper/garfish) was common practice.
Dorado (mahimahi) proved to be our target species early on, with most trips delivering plenty of action. Fish tallies varied from week to week, as did the weather, with water temperature and rainfall playing a considerable part in results. Early in the season, September-November, the water is cooler and the rains haven't started, so there is limited weed in the water for the dorado to hang around. November to February, the rains begin. By that, I mean six to seven days of sporadic rainfall, which causes the Kwanza River South of Luanda to spit out large quantities of weed. February-July, the fishing is steady with increased water temperature, more weed around and baitfish more prevalent.
Our first year on the water in Luanda provided us with mahimahi, snapper, barracuda, amberjack, kingfish and yellowfin tuna.
One trip in 2009 stands out in particular: the Sailfish Classic event, which is one of the qualifying events for the IGFA World Championship.
The event is spread over three days, which is hard on the body due to 5am starts, and hard on the liver with midnight finishes.
Day one was missed due to our work commitments, but Saturday morning had us in the water at 7:30am and fishing in 250 metres of blue water by 9:30am.
The morning was relatively quiet until about 11am, when the fishing went crazy. Double and triple strikes were a rarity, because we were getting all four lines hit at once. This lasted for about two hours, and by that time we had a boat-full of fish, despite releasing numerous good-sized mahimahi.
Then the last day of the competition was upon us, and with little action during the afternoon of the previous day, we were hoping to get something early. Before long we were 18 kilometres from the port, the stereo thumping along with our heads, when the left long line snapped from the rubber band.
Before we knew it, we had our first marlin on the line. The top-shot stripped off in what seemed like seconds, and the braid was disappearing at an alarming rate. Rory was first up - and was preparing himself for a day's waterskiing judging by the way the massive blue marlin was behaving, putting on a show beyond anything we had ever seen before. Unfortunately, as tends to happen in such instances, the beast played around with us for around 10 minutes before becoming tail-wrapped and vanishing into the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean.
A lot of water has gone under the hull since then, and we have now added sailfish and blue marlin to our species list, but those tales will have to wait for another day.
- © Fairfax NZ News