Greenhorn – Miles Tam July 16

You know how you have them friends that when you catch up you always say ‘you should come fishing with us next trip’, then all of a sudden 3 years go by and at every party you repeat the same conversation? Well believe it or not, we finally came to a mutual agreeance to actually stand on the same together! And I’m still not sure after this day if Tamara and Robbie will ever come out with us again. Let me explain.

Everything was textbook, the weather lined up with a Sunday (my only day off) and we had a meeting time and place locked in. The plan was to make our way out off Townsville on a course towards Davies reef. But with new boaties and a 2 year old on-board we would break the trip up halfway and troll for a mackerel. Our first stop was a very popular mackerel location and I opted to troll a few hard bodies and a swimming gar. Not much really come of but just as we were about to leave rod 1 screamed off! I positioned Tam in the corner and gave her the crash course on how to pump and wind. I cleared the spread and noticed that Tams rod wasn’t really performing the way I would expect for a mackerel or similar. But that didn’t matter she was laughing and yahooing and getting the speed wobbles winding frantically!

Yep, just a nice mack tuna to open the account and a great sportfish for someone that hasn’t really fished much before. After a few snaps we pushed on. I love when you head offshore and the wider you go the water changes colour and clarity. After a while you can actually tell roughly how deep the water is just by looking at it! Upon arrival to our first deep shoal I come off the plane a few mile short to rig up and get organised. This choice alone paid dividends as we found a great show on the sounder which we soon worked out was a bit of a graveyard of patchy reef and rubble. ‘Ready guys?’

Four sets of lines were deployed and I was keen to see who would hit the bottom first and watch to see what type of bites they would get. Long, gentle curvy pulls usually gets me excited, whereas the machine gun rod tip bite tends to need a lot more patience before striking. We all hit the bottom and hardly had time to lock the reels in gear before everyone was battling something well worth a photo at least. All four of us had rods buckled over and OC was deep into a game on her iPad before she noticed the drama unfolding in front of her.

Here things went a little pear shaped. So in the blue corner we had Lou and Robbie fighting two sizable fish and in the red saw Tamara and myself racing to get first glimpse of what species we had. However, in all the excitement all of our lines got tangled… Big time. Now I’m not one to brag but I am a bit of a specialist when it comes to getting lines untangled. Fishing with girls and kids teaches you these unique skills! I told Tam to just keep her line tight and not wind up anymore line while I sort the other two out. Ok so 15 mins later Robbie and Lou’s lines were sorted first and they still managed to boat a big bludger trevally amongst the mayhem. I had mine wrapped around Tams line and I briskly untangled my mess. Now, at this stage Tam was still attached to her fish a good 20min after this all started and probably 5 nautical mile from where we hooked up.

Tam battled this fish up form 50m deep and it still had plenty of grit left in it. We laughed and joked thinking it was another bludger trevally or similar, but as I leaned over the gunnel to see what species we were dealing with I saw the colour that gets any angler cheering. Well I actually said ‘you have got to be kidding me’ and I leant over to grab a solid red emperor into the boat. First fish and PB straight up! And by 9:30am we were into our first beer of celebration!

As the morning progressed we only could pull a few odds and ends with no real substance and I thought it was a good time to visit Wheeler reef for a swim and some lunch. We arrived to wheeler reef and for all of us it was the first time at the cay. With the tide high we swam, snorkelled and ate lunch with view considered by most as a dream, but for us it’s our life and we were proud to show it off to our friends. The day couldn’t get any better, flat calm conditions, cold beer, great company and some fish for everyone to take home.

But my decision to take one more swim towards the coral cay, nearly cost me my life…

The guys were quite happy to chill and relax aboard Nauti Girls and I decided to have one last swim to the cay before we made our way home. The water was gin clear and the sandy bottom would only show my shadow as I swam towards the cay. I very slowly made my way toward the cay looking for any signs of life to entertain me, and in no real rush. I was three quarters of the way there about 30m, yet the cay was still underwater due to the big high tide.

All I could hear was the crackling of the reef and underwater and the water passing my ears. But very faintly I heard a wolf whistle. No-one does a wolf whistle when your swimming for nothing which prompted me to pop my head up look back towards the boat. As I looked up Lou, Tam and Robbie were screaming ‘SHARK!!!!!!’ To make matters worse I could see OC crying because of all the commotion which played with my nerves big time.

So how do I handle this? I’m in 1.5 to 2m of water, the water is gin clear with sandy bottom and I have 25-30m to swim back to the boat. Now at this stage this very large shark had apparently turned on a dime to track straight for me and in a hurry from about 50m out! I thought well if I’m gonna get tracked down by a shark I at least want to try and defend myself, so I paddled backwards with my head in the water watching for any movement whatsoever. I think I got 10m closer and the screams from the boat hit the next echelon, and the only word that could describe the sound was blood curdling. Lou was not only crying she was pleading…

I still couldn’t see anything but I knew it was close… I made the decision to turn and swim as fast as I could back to the boat. Just head down and kick and paddle as if it was my last. The moment I made my first stroke, the feeling of not seeing what was behind me or the feeling that I may be bit at any moment was beyond words. Remember the blood curdling screams were still coming thick and fast and got louder and louder as I neared the boat. It wasn’t long before I could see the ladder which happened to be on the other side of the transom, and the boat was anchored above dark rubbly coral which camouflaged any signs of life.

I got one leg on the ladder followed by the other and as I looked up I saw everyone leaning over my side of the boat armed with rods, sinkers anything that they could throw at it basically. I looked over the side and seen the shadow of what looked like a 4m tiger shark of glide right past me, a mere metre or two to be precise. I only had an eye on it for seconds until it simply disappeared into the colours of the coral below…

There were hugs all round and I was educated how the shark was first spotted and tracked, then described how it turned and fixated onto me. To think about it in their position is frightening. Then to look out and see how far out I was the task to survive looked near impossible.

But as we settled down and discussed the situation over a few beers we made the decision to call it a day and venture home. I think we made a fantastic choice, don’t you! I won’t be swimming again for some time as you can understand, but I will get back in there! I hope your next snorkel isn’t as exciting as mine!

Miles Tam