We had been thinking of and reading about giant trevally (GT) for some time, without ever having fished for them seriously. Dave caught one during a trip to The Maldives and that experience, plus what we had read on a couple of fishing forums that were devoted to the species, had really whetted our appetites. After reading reports of monster fish that could break rods, reels, line, hooks, lures, swivels and occasionally people, we decided to book a few days fishing off the Musandam Peninsular. Dave had already bought some appropriate gear but neither Terry nor I had got much in the way of suitable equipment, save a few poppers and stickbaits that rejoiced in names such as "Surface Bull", "GT Mania", "Skipjack" and "Wahoo". Fortunately, the guys at Ocean Active with whom we had booked our 4 days fishing, had plenty of quality tackle. We were able to use their rods and reels throughout, we were given some 200lb test twisted leaders by a generous, departing angler and we had our own poppers and stickbaits rigged with suitably strong Owner trebles.
On leaving the harbour at Dibba, we were told to sit back and enjoy the ride by our skipper, who powered the purpose-built boat at 50 knots through a relatively calm sea towards the top end of the Musandam Peninsular. An hour later, we stopped about 100 metres away from a large rock surrounded by a reef and made our first casts. We didn't raise any fish but we got a pretty good workout, casting our poppers 60-80 metres towards the rock and retrieving them with a high speed "pump and wind" action that creates a substantial bloop (pop) and surface commotion, intended to represent a wounded or fleeing baitfish. From the sea, the peninsular presents a continuous though irregular landscape of steep sandstone cliffs. The drop-off into deeper water is often immediately below the cliffs and this is an area GT patrol, especially when the tide is running hard along a particular stretch. The irregular nature of the peninsular means that local knowledge is essential to understanding when and where the best tides will occur. It was in one such area that Dave's popper was engulfed by a big GT. I knew how tight Dave had set the drag on his reel and listening to line screaming off as the GT hurtled away from the boat was wonderful and disconcerting at the same time. I have no idea how long Dave played that fish - but it powered off several times when we thought it was, or should have been, beaten. When we finally got it aboard, we were quite simply awestruck and we began to understand why so many anglers rate this species as, pound for pound, the hardest fighting fish in the sea. Our skipper was quick to unhook the fish, I took a quick shot of Dave holding his prize and, after helping the fish to recover by immersing it facing into the tide, our skipper released it to fight another day.
Next day, I caught a small GT of 5-6kg before Terry hooked into a monster. He was already suffering from a bad back caused by repetitive casting/retrieving the previous day and this fish didn't help the situation at all. He was, at various times during the fight, standing, crouching, near crawling, sitting down, all of this to unsympathetic hoots of derision from Dave and me. Like all good anglers, he waved away offers of assistance and refused to be beaten, eventually bringing the fish to the boat. It was the biggest GT of our trip (estimated at well over 30kg) and Terry's bad back was momentarily forgotten as he posed for a quick pic before the fish was returned.
We lost a day's fishing to the weather (I have been blown off every Indian Ocean destination I have visited at one time or another) so by our penultimate day I still hadn't hooked into a big GT. We headed for a favourite spot for big GT - a huge rock around three parts of which was shallow reef but in front of which was a deeper area with, close to the rock itself, a massive submerged rock that provides an ideal ambush point for predatory fish. Terry and I cast our poppers at the same time and watched open-mouthed as several big GT emerged from behind the submerged rock and hurled themselves at our poppers. We were both hooked into fish within seconds. Terry's played nice and headed for deeper water, mine decided to charge off towards the shallow reef. With Terry's fish under control, our skipper's attention switched to mine - "you have to stop him before he gets to the reef or he'll break you". I already had the drag set tight enough to virtually pull me out of the boat so I clamped my hand against the spool and held on. The sound of 100lb test braid snapping was quite explosive. Of course, I should have wound the clutch even tighter before going to that extreme but a mixture of excitement, fear of losing my first big GT and inexperience all combined to create the disaster. Our skipper's terse - "now THAT was a real monster" - did nothing to aid my frustration. Terry brought his GT to the boat and I got a nice shot of him holding the fish with the rock in background.
Our last day - and my final chance to catch a big GT. We began fishing around the rock where we had first cast our poppers on Day 1 of the trip - the osprey was still there. We had only been fishing a few minutes when I had an explosive take just as I worked the popper over the edge of the surrounding reef. I was by now fishing with a drag so tight that Dave and Terry could not pull line off the reel when one of them held the rod and the other yanked on the poppper. Our skipper helped matters by easing the boat further away from the reef and into deep water. From then on, I just had to pump and wind continuously, never allowing the fish to rest until, with me exhausted and much relieved, I had my first big GT beside the boat. In a matter of a couple of minutes, the fish was unhooked, photographed and returned. But the fishing gods were to be even kinder to me that day. Our skipper took us away from the relatively sheltered waters we had been fishing and headed for a rocky outcrop inhabited by hundreds of gulls. Glancing at the sea and the terrain, Dave expressed the view that he wasn't sure he wanted to hook a big fish there. A view somewhat hardened by the fact that an enormous king mackerel charged his popper, its momentum sending it crashing into the side of the boat. I then launched a long cast almost up to the rocky outcrop and, after only a couple of pops, was hit by a big fish. A rocking boat, a running tide, choppy seas and a big GT all combined to make this a much harder fight than the first. But I had got the monkey off my back by then so, though exhausting, it was all great fun for me! My second big GT proved to be the last fish of the trip.
We returned to Musandam later that year but didn't fish as much due to a combination of sandstorms and the Red Tide - an algae bloom that messes up the fishing. We did have a couple of clear days and we made dawn starts to get in as much fishing as possible. Luck was certainly on my side during that trip. I began by catching what turned out to be our only sizeable GT - on a Wahoo stickbait. We then had another go at the rock where Terry and I had hooked big GT at the same time, only to find that the area was being patrolled by huge king mackerel, some of which could be seen leaping clear of the water as we approached. Our 200lb test twisted mono leaders were repeatedly bitten clean through as these fish launched themselves at our lures from below, often clearing the water by several feet. After I had lost yet another popper to a savage take, Dave suggested I have a go with his second rod that he'd rigged up with a Wahoo stickbait. Needless to say, I had a hit almost immediately and the fish raced off just below the surface. I assumed at first that it was a small to medium-sized GT because, after its initial run, it couldn't handle the amount of drag I had set. I got it to the boat in a matter of minutes and our skipper was suddenly more excited than I had ever heard him - "go careful, it's a f***ing huge king mackerel!". I have no idea what the fish weighed but our skipper put it at 30kg plus and maybe 35kg plus. I do know that it was longer than I am tall and it had the most lethal set of teeth I had ever seen.
Our last day was memorable more for what we didn't catch than what we did. We caught a few small GT during the morning before heading to a tide race that was sweeping past a cliff. I cast out my now favourite Wahoo stickbait and got a hit close to the cliff. Line screamed off the reel as though I had no clutch at all as the fish raced downtide. I pumped and wound for what seemed like hours without ever being able to draw the fish to the boat or the surface. The temperature was over 40 degrees c. and to say I worked up a sweat would be a massive understatement. Dave, of course, thought this was hilarious and took great delight in my grimaces and mutterings as the battle went on. I really didn't mind because I was sure I had hooked into one of the legendary Musandam monster GT of 5okg plus. Eventually, I did manage to get the fish to the surface - and it was a bloody shark!! Even worse, I couldn't get rid of the fish and had to go on playing it and sweating for another half hour or so. I hauled that shark to the boat another 4 times before, to my great relief, the braided line parted as it rubbed across its back. We did get one blurred shot of the shark in the water but the skipper saw it clearly and reckoned it would have gone 200lbs. I cannot imagine what we would have done if the line had not parted - nobody wanted the shark in the boat!
We had some wonderful times in Oman and this is where our love of fishing for GT began. It is not a sport for the impatient, the faint-hearted, the unfit, or those who measure success purely in terms of numbers of fish. But if you like to work for your fish, hook into something that can smash your tackle and fight the fish standing up in an open boat, you will become addicted if you give it a try. A word of warning - GT have probably been responsible for breaking more fishing tackle than any other species; you do need a rod, reel, braid, mono, swivels, split rings and hooks that are "man enough". If you want advice and/or wish to buy suitable tackle, I suggest you take a look at the websites I have listed below. I am sure you will find these guys as obliging and useful as I have.