We even flirted briefly with the idea of mastering freshwater fishing. But after some dinner-party debate, we dismissed pond-, lake-and river-fishing as not chic enough. Jargon weighed heavily in our decision. Much of freshwater fishing is done from a "bank," while shore-bound saltwater anglers cast their lines into the "surf." I ask you, which sounds more romantic? No, we were saltwater girls proud and true, nurturing a hope that perhaps the future would see our passion elevated to the level of a semiexclusive but ultrafashionable sport along the lines of court tennis or polo.
As vacation time rolled around we discussed a group getaway. We had shopped Europe together after college, spent theater weekends together in New York and pretty much exhausted the bargain holiday destinations of Mexico and the Caribbean. A reunion fishing sojourn was inevitable. The more exotic the locale and the quarry, the better. We had already caught our lifetime limit of redfish and were on a cordial basis with practically every speckled trout on the Texas coast. Weekend angling for us was getting to be like baseball for Bo Jackson—just not enough. So we decided on the only adventure big enough and bold enough for us now: a big-fish safari to Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula.
We were the only visiting fishermen wearing sundresses at the Giggling Marlin on our first night in Cabo San Lucas, and for that fact alone we received enthusiastic attention, plenty of free drinks and sincere warnings along the lines of "You little ladies don't know what you're gettin' into here. Takes years of practice and lots of muscle to bring in a marlin. Yes, ma'am, fishing for these brutes is a macho sport...."
There were multiple offers to share boats with fishing gurus who could "show you little gals just how it's done." We accepted all the gratis cocktails and gentlemanly attention lavished upon us but decided not to accept the lessons on How It's Done.
No thanks, gentlemen. We five career girls set out all alone at the crack of dawn to face the mighty marlin—all alone, that is, except for Lino, our captain; Manuel, our mate; our gourmet lunch; and 10 live mackerel that wouldn't survive the day.
We were shocked and appalled to find that none of our hard-learned saltwater secrets would be called upon. Our tackle boxes and fishing vests were superfluous. We were superfluous. Only "deflated" can describe our spirits when we discovered the reality of big-game fishing: Lino handled the boat, Manuel spotted and hooked the fish, and we did not have to do a thing except apply suntan oil, snack, chat and fight seasickness until a fish was hooked and ready to be landed by the backing down on it in the boat, accompanied by a little light reeling. Manuel even opened our beers at lunch.
Disappointment pushed us into a sort of submission: We hung our heads as Manuel fished. All around the Sea of Cortez, aboard sportfishing boats like ours, captains and mates were also doing the fishing for the same braying "pros" who had warned us about the roughness of the sport. Macho, indeed!
That evening at the Giggling Marlin, we resumed our places as the belles of the angling ball. As agreed to beforehand, we described in great detail how our guide had failed to show up that morning and how we were able to land three enormous marlin despite his absence. Our banter was matter-of-fact when we reminisced about the world-record marlin Betsy landed in Kona. The gentlemen were mesmerized by our oh-so-casual account of Jackie's having fought a bluefin tuna for eight hours just last spring. Yes, we admitted, the blue marlin were mighty tough, but at least they didn't yank us overboard the way one of their 1,500-pound black marlin cousins did Shawn, near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Our audience was silent. Hushed in awe and wonder, they stared slack-jawed at the fishermen they had earlier dismissed as "just girls."
You see, we girls had finally learned that the greatest test of an angler isn't the weight of her trophy, her knowledge of the prey or even the expense of her equipment. No, the final lesson in fishing is learning how to tell an artistic fish story with the proper �lan. Doing justice to a tall tale—now that's what the sport is really all about.