The lure of game fishing is pretty strong at Fiji's Mango Bay, discovers Nicholas Jones.
Off Fiji's Coral Coast big fish are hunted with the help of sea birds. About 16km out to sea, our captain Ronnie scans for diving birds -- a sign fish are about. The distance from the bird to the surface before it dives is roughly the same depth of the fish below, information that is then used to set our lures.
The sunshine of the past few days has abated, which is bad news for us as mahi mahi, or common dolphinfish, are easier to catch when it's sunny, and we're up against the clock with only a couple of hours on board as opposed to the usual half-day trip.
The few birds spotted are, like us, gliding without luck. One swoops in to have a long look at the boat, as if to put the onus back on us.
Still, the setting means the trip won't be a waste regardless of the catch.
A dolphin swims with the boat as we near the edge of the reef on our way out and, once we're motoring on the open ocean, flying fish skim the waves alongside the boat, gliding for what seems like an age.
We're on the Mango Princess, one of the boats that can be chartered from the Mango Bay Resort, which is where we're staying.
Set up by ex-Sydney-based owner Danny, the resort is one of many on the Coast; however, its low-key charm makes it a standout. Bures dot the 4.85ha grounds that centre around a restaurant separated from a white sand beach by a pool and the tallest coconut trees I've seen.
When the fishing trips started about 1998, the resort had the first game fishing operation in Fiji making it a primary draw for Mango Bay.
Depending on the season, catches are yellowfin and skipjack tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi and the odd marlin and swordfish (released unless there is a special occasion in a nearby village).
Fishing remains an attraction for Mango Bay. While we're at the resort a couple of Australians, back for one of their twice-yearly holidays, send around the day's considerable catch to other guests at dinner time. Another night, a spear fisher emerges from the water with a huge fish, enticing guests to turn their cameras away from another postcard sunset.
However, the relaxed and personal feel of Mango (many guests staying there during our visit have come on the recommendation of friends) also attracts travellers who aren't interested in fishing or anything more than a bit of snorkelling.
Other guests spread a few activities out over a week -- surfing trips, horse riding, Suva shopping excursions, massages, diving, kayaking are just some of the options.
Those who do choose game fishing stand a good chance -- four or more mahi mahi were usually caught in half-day trips during our visit.
But it looks grim for us until one of the rods off the back suddenly bends.
I slowly reel the line in and when a medium-sized mahi mahi draws to the side Ronnie is ready and gaffs it through its side and into the boat.
We had been warned to step well back during a catch, and the boat's floor is soon splattered with blood as the fish puts up its last fight for life.
It's a cleaner process back on shore. The mahi mahi is whipped off to the resort kitchen. Now, all we need to do is have a swim and a few beers and await its perfectly cooked reappearance.
Getting there: Air NZ flies daily from Auckland to Nadi. One-way fares start from $309.
Online: See fiji.travel for more information.
The writer travelled courtesy of Tourism Fiji.