Operation Cocoa (The hook up)
So this trip was really inspired by yesterday’s result in spite of it being the rainy season and despite this being a regular op.
Nigel had asked for a super early 5.30am meet up time but at 5am it was pushed back to 5.45am. So I reached his place at about 6am.
Feeling not entirely convinced with our luck due to the completely different weather from yesterday, I stopped off at Esso and bought a pack of fags.
We took a slow walk to the spot and quietly moved in and reached the spot at about 6.45 and I eagerly set up the longer of my 2 new rods, a 6ft Eupro X-Power with some leftover pre-tied xZoga 20lb camo leader terminals. We proceeded to cast at L1 and despite more surface activity than usual, we got no hits.
Just before 7am, we both decided to try casting at L2. Nigel was the first to go over as I was still getting a feel for my new rod on changing lures. He aimed at 1 of 4 Toman fry schools. The moment his $3 pencil lure hit the toman fry school, he had a massive take on his flexible Shimano basstera. He fought it for over 5 minutes over a distance only about 20 metres long.
When he finally brought it to shore, I had trouble trying to squeeze his boga into the fish’s mouth. That fish was a fighter and started trashing around everytime I got near.
After about a minute of tries and from all three hooks on the treble hooked in it’s mouth to becoming just one, he steeled his hands and grabbed hold of his braided line and yanked it out of the water and clear onto the shore.
You could see the excitement in his eyes and in his super wide grin. We did the initial customaries and he almost lost the fish when it came free of both his hook and his boga but alas my skills at football (the stopping the ball part, not the kicking… there was no kicking) saved the day. Sort of.
We continued on with the photoshoot.
When we finally released it back into the water, the fish was upside down. It twisted itself like a snake and then slowly backed away before turning and heading for the river mouth. Unfortunately, if it followed that trajectory it would have swum away from its young. Hopefully it got its bearings back.
Now it was my turn. I casted out and the moment my $3 pencil lure hit the same school, I hooked up with an estimated 4Kg+ Toman. This was probably the dad. Unlike Nigel’s fish, my guy wasn’t trying to swim back to the school, he was swimming in every direction except to the school and to me.
Before I could react, he swam underneath a fallen tree (which had not been there before) and quickly wrapped itself around what I believe was branches. I repositioned myself a few times to try and gain leverage but the xZoga 20lb camo leader gave way yet again. Within seconds, the trashing had stopped and my lure floated up to the surface. The leader had been bitten through the loop knot itself.
Nigel skillfully retrieved my lure with his own while I retied my terminals, this time using Nigel’s 60lb leader (between us, we had nothing else as I had left my newly purchased 30lb xZoga FC leader in my vehicle). I also made my leader about a foot long instead of my usual 5 inches.
Nigel received no more hits at either spots during this time. With my newly tied rig, I casted out at L2 a few times and then at L1. After a few tries, I got bored and decided to try out a 4’6″ rod that I had also bought the day before.
I retied everything.
On my first cast out with my 4’6″ rod, I felt a short sharp pain in my back before feeling a general numbness in that area. I immediately knew that I had hit myself in the back but I was unsure if I was hooked. I slowly pulled the rod back to release the tension on the line and opened the bail arm. I asked Nigel to see if anything had hooked me.
As he played with the first hook, I told him that that one was “clear” but before I could finish that sentence, he had moved to the second and immediately I said “fuck”.
As he attempted to pull at it even further I told him to stop. I put my rod on the ground and asked him to check how deep it was. I was wearing a black dry fit shirt so it was hard to tell. When he tried pulling at it more, we both knew that the barb had gone in. Upon closer inspection and using guestimation, he too had virtually confirmed that the barb was well in.
I immediately took out a fag with my left hand and lit up. Analgesic, calming or just psycho symptomatic, it took my mind of the seriousness of the situation.
Without being very clear about what he was about to do (which in hindsight was a good thing and also thankfully was the right call) and my missing even the slightest hint of what he was about to do despite my asking all the right questions, he proceeded to push the hook further in to loop it out of the skin, like a fish hooked well and good. I had no idea what he was doing of course as all I felt was a sharp pain in my back. After about 45 minutes and some manly and I’m proud to say very controlled groans of pain (with a slightly bruised love handle caused by strong squeezes from my hand) but limited progress, we retreated to a shelter nearby…. after I reminded him to cover up the other treble with a treble cap.
I asked him to take a photo of my back but he ended up switching the cameras on my phone and took a picture of himself! lol.
Despite being unable to move my arm without causing pain and only being able to keep it in a position as if it was in a sling, I was still in good spirits as having been in a relatively similar but unrelated incident before, I knew I could either skip to the funny or look solemn. The only problem was that the adrenaline had not kicked in fully yet. Nigel managed to block out my groans of pain surprisingly well which was good for me.
We mused on our options including A & E, a clinic recommended by Nigel and continuing on with the “pull through” (although, at the time, I still had no idea that that was what he meant). Nigel also mentioned how he should have brought scissors as he was still flying blind with my black shirt still covering the injury. We were about to move off and walk back to my vehicle when I remembered that I had brought some knives with me (ironically for safety) so we set our things back down (or rather Nigel set everything back down as he was carrying all our stuff including rods) while he searched for it.
When he found it, we tested it on the front of my shirt. The kitchen utility knife turned out to be useless so he moved on the chopper. The chopper was only slightly better but feeling we had no choice, he used that to cut a heart shaped hole in my shirt. He swears it was unintentional. He also swears that it was because he had to cut far enough away from the injury site to stop me from feeling any pain. When I saw the photos later I tried to keep my mouth shut but I couldn’t help it and teased him for it. wahaha.
When he had gotten a clearer view of the situation, he informed me about the depth of the hook and once again very unclearly told me about what he going to continue doing. About 10 minutes later he apparently had managed to pull the hook and barb out of a freshly made hole in my skin. Again, I had no clue that he had well and truly hooked me like a fish and I only found out as we were halfway to my vehicle, after first asking him why if the barb and sharp point were out was the lure still hanging from my back.
We walked past morning people going to work and mused about the benefits of private transport in a situation like this (as opposed to public transport and appearing on stomp – a guy with a heart shaped hole in his open backed polo tee with a hanging lure) and we eventually reached the vehicle.
By now I had smoked about 5 sticks. I’m not saying they helped or that such a large amount of fags had helped more than a “normal amount”, but they definitely kept me distracted.
By now I was well aware of what was happening. The plan was to get a strong pair of pliers from his house to cut away the sharp end and pull the remaining part of the hook back out through the original hole. As we were loading up the vehicle, I remembered that I always carry my fishing gear with me and that I had a pair of strong Surecatch pliers. Nigel, who is normally Surecatch-phobic, had also commented on the apparent quality of the pliers only a few days ago.
All the gear was in the back and having a hatchback, I had to drive forward. As it was a tight parking space and being unable to squeeze myself into the drivers seat, I told Nigel to release the handbrake while I pushed the vehicle. He had some trouble releasing the handbrake so I gave it a go…. with my left hand… from the passenger seat. I found it extremely difficult but since I was intimately familiar with it, I managed to release it after some fidgeting. We both pushed it forward and when it had reached its desired mark, I pulled the handbrake.
Nigel took out the pliers and tested it on a similar lure that had similar hooks. The pliers appeared to work well although I suspect the barb was pushed back in to my skin at some point. I positioned myself while he attempted to break off the tip. After some effort, he managed to do so and I immediately could feel a weight of my back as he pulled the lure free. My arm remained in that sling-like position for a short while after, until I realised that the pain would no longer be present.
It took a while before the next photo was shot as we both consecutively triggered the one and only bug on my custom android rom… a bug which required a reboot.
Two small blood filled holes were all that remained. It was very undramatic, as Nigel was quick to point out, but thankfully so.
The Chronicles of Nao Hia, the pliers, the barb and the lure.
Nigel then showed me how deep the hook was in before he managed to free it from me.
After a quick smoke and Nigel browsing through the photos on my phone (we both had forgotten to bring cameras) of both his massive Toman and my 80Kg human, I dropped Nigel back off at his place and drove back home to rest.
In the middle of the day, I heard from Nigel that he wanted to go back there again tomorrow so I signed up for revenge….
Known lures used:
Yozuri Tobimaru (Floating) – Orange
$3 Pencil Lure (1 hit but lost by me, 1 hit and landed by Nigel)
Eupro X-Power 6Ft ($77)/Some 4’6″ Rod + Ryobi Zauber loaded with 15lbs Jerry Brown Industrial One.
Shimano Basstera by Nigel.
xZoga 20lb camo leader with non slip mono loop/xZoga 30lb FC leader with a knot that I appear to have made up (can’t seem to find this supposedly common knot online) at swivel and snap ends.
Sasame 47Kg swivel to join main line and leader and Angler’s Pal Snap at the end of the leader.
Shawn started fishing in 1994. He caught his first fish (an Ah Seng) on that very first trip to Changi Carpark 4 (before it was barricaded). He built up his fishing knowledge and gear over the years but still keeps his old gear, just like the memories.