I RECENTLY gave my old mate Capt. Billy Billson a hand with a special marlin charter.
Chartering the MV Viking II were Rod and Tracey Templeman from Fairy Meadow in NSW. The couple have an interesting history, having met in 1984 and dating for six years before parting for 20. The pair got back together and married in August 2011.
In October 2011 Rod was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Rod has always had a dream of being in a fishing tournament and catching a marlin, so where better place to do this than Port Stephens, and who better to do it with than Capt. Billy Billson? So Rod and Tracey were entered into the NSW Game Fishing Association's 50th Anniversary Billfish Challenge.
The day before the tournament Rod and Tracey chartered Viking II to find out what marlin fishing is all about, and Rod released three. When the fourth fish came along, Rod was still recovering, so he gave Tracey the strike. She handled it well.
Day 1 of the Billfish Challenge and within the first hour we had a large black marlin (for this fishery) take a switched bait. Rod was hooked up and it turned out to be a marathon fight. Rod took breaks from time to time due to his condition, but what he lacked in fitness he made up for with dogged determination.
Eventually, and miles from where we hooked up, Rod had the fish within tagging distance. It was successfully tagged and Rod collapsed in the cockpit from the effort.
An exhausted but obviously happy Rod takes a breather....
We gave the "moshpit" of boats sinking baits a miss, and continued to switch baits until another was taken. Tracey went on to fight a tiger shark for the next 20 minutes - I'd obviously forgotten the bananas, which I actually believe are good luck on a boat, despite all the stories...
Day 2 dawned and we knew we had to do something to make up ground as we were 4 tags behind the leaders. So we relented and joined the other boats sinking baits, using Billy's own signature twist... It worked and we were soon smoking one marlin after another. Then Billy marked two fish 10m under the boat and we had a double hook up as both fish shot off in opposite directions. One out of two's not bad....
Unfortunately the fight times were killing us as we were averaging 50 minutes a fish with the exception of the last - a striped marlin that took off in a northerly direction. Billy skilfully put Viking II ahead of the fast high flyer and Tracy was winding the reel faster than I have ever seen one wound, while at the same time screaming abuse at the fish!
At the end of the day we had five tagged marlin, one banana (tiger shark) and two of the biggest smiles I've ever seen.
On behalf of Capt. Billy Billson and crew, good luck for the future Rod, we were very happy to make your dream come true.