Gone Fishing

Spend a Day on the Water Contemplating the Zen of Trawling

An edited version of this article appeared in Abu Dhabi Week magazine in May 2011. It no longer appears online.

As the boat speeds atop the sparkling blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, we can’t help but think there are worse ways to spend s stunning Wednesday morning. Ready to get out of the office for awhile and soak up the gorgeous weather while it’s still balmy, we’ve booked a private fishing excursion with our good friends at the Sheraton.

Our cameras can’t get enough of the scenery as we cruise between the Corniche and Lulu island – we especially love the water side view of the circular Abu Dhabi Theatre perched on the tip of that strip of land opposite Marina Mall – then with a wave to the coast guards we round the end of the breakwater and find the splendour of the open sea lying before us.

There’s a gorgeous breeze blowing but we’re ready for a little sun. Thanks to our recent fitness programme, we’re marginally less squeamish about being in a bathing suit outside our bedroom these days, and the breeze feels fantastic on our shoulders.

In the distance we see other working vessels, some big and grubby, others ancient like the dhow fishermen who are carrying on with business as usual the way they have for centuries. Watching them work, we feel (almost) guilty considering what a good time were having.

Taking one look at our pink floral flip flops and glittery silver beach bag, our capable captain Damith rightly estimates just how handy we’re likely to be at sport fishing. Baiting our hooks with artificial lures, he rigs three poles and sets the boat to a trawling speed. There’s nothing left for us to do but eat the lovely smoked salmon sandwiches the Sheraton has provided for us and wait for the fish to come to the party.

As it turns out, early May isn’t peak fishing season in Abu Dhabi – the best time to go is November to April, but our captain assures us we’re still likely to catch fish.

“By trawling we can get the big fish,” Captain Damish tells us. “Last week I caught a lot of fish – I caught one a few days ago that was 16 kilograms.”

Today the sea is a little rough and we’re all a smidge green around our own gills. We dip into the ice chest full of drinks that has been provided for us and a round of ginger ales helps settle our stomachs. Everything – from provisions to gear to towels – has been supplied, making this jaunt about as easy as fishing gets. All we’ve had to bring is sunscreen, hats, bathing suits and patience.

Having grown up with fishermen fathers (of the leisure variety), we understand that most of fishing involves sitting in quiet contemplation of nature. As the boats bobs along, we enjoy the breeze that keeps the heat at bay and soak in the view of the skyline in the distance. Though we’re dressed to swim, none of us gets hot enough to dip into the alluring turquoise water – but it’s nice to know it’s an option.

We’d love to say that at last we heard the whining scree of the line running away, that Captain Damish helped us muscle our own 16 kilogram prize specimen into our boat, that we took home fresh fish and grilled it up for dinner, but the truth is more serene.

Our journey – the simple act of sitting on the open water with friends and food and camaraderie – became our destination. As is sometimes the way of fishing, after hours of watching and waiting, our scaly prey eluded us and lived to swim another day. Our patience was rewarded with nothing more than the memory of a great day at sea and as we pulled into the flat, calm waters of Sheraton Bay, we reckoned that was more than enough.