not very plentiful where we are going," he told me severely. For Hamish,
that was a screaming, derisive negative. But I rigged my halibut gear. If I was
going to be run down in the fog by a Russian trawler, it wouldn't be with
minnow tackle in my hands.
Mike was fiddling
with his gear also. "Halibut?" I called over to him. He looked up
furtively. He was tying on a set of small feathered pollack lures. He must have
sneaked through the fog over-to Sinclair's tackle shop when I was pulling my
boots on. "Right," I said, "I'll remember this. So much for the
Hamish knew his
way along the coast, I'll grant him that. We left the low harbor skerries
behind and punched into the wind under black cliffs that reared far out of
vision. Strange pillars of sandstone reared out of the sea. "The Old Man of
Hoy," I said, pointing one out to Mike and astonishing Hamish with the
extent of my local knowledge. "I saw it on television when they were
climbing it," I added, not wishing to astonish him too much.
An hour after we
left Stromness Hamish slapped the motor into neutral and declared that it was
here we would fish. When he saw me hooking on a small codas bait he said.
"You will catch nothing on that. And you will be beaten by a wee
He was entirely
correct, as it turned out. I fixed the bait so that it would drift a fathom or
so off the bottom. Big halibut swim along very close to the rocks and swing up
to take a bait. At least that is the opinion of myself and other experts, none
of whom have ever actually caught a halibut. Down there, I soon learned, were
jagged pinnacles of rock. I lost three sets of terminal tackle before I settled
back to watch Mike, the scourge of the pollack.
He was getting
them all right, three at a time, and Hamish would deftly unhook them and throw
them into his fish box. By lunchtime he was using my box as well, and by
midafternoon he had clearly passed the 120-pound mark.
Thereafter it was
going to be sheer strength of arm. Could Leith-Smith operate at twice the rate
of the redhead, who was undoubtedly out there in the fog someplace trying to
increase her lead? It was going to be a tense time at the weighing.
At 5:30 p.m.
Hamish announced it was time to go in, and by then I could see that the
sailfish king was slowing up, his face very red from the wind and his exertions
and the sweat running down from under the baseball cap.
just make it," I said. The two boxes, holding maybe 100 pounds of fish
each, were full, and there were plenty of fish in the spare sack also.
"Do you think
so?" said Mike eagerly.