That has got to be hard work, although I have no doubt that he had pretty hefty tackle to cope with the beast. Looking at the television programme I was also looking at Kayís hammerhead shark, which I mentioned last month, as a photograph of it stares at me from atop the television set. As doubtless Mattís white shark is the largest fish he has ever caught it gave me an urge to write of my largest shark, a hammerhead, not in the same league as Mattís monster, but as it was taken on light tackle it was a long battle.

It was October 1976 when three couples were on holiday in the Canaries. They were two very well-known anglers, the late Leslie Moncrieff and John Goddard, their wives Dora and Eileen, and Kay and I. Apart from Kay, the girls had decided it was a nice place to holiday, and we anglers, including Kay, were hoping for tussles with predominately big-eye tuna, which Les and John had caught from other venues, big ones too, but the Canaries boasted very big fish, in fact, a new record big-eye tuna had been caught the month before we arrived. Over 400lb it was, and also there was a chance of a big bluefin tuna or marlin, as there were runs of those past Puerto Rico, the port from where we would fish off the island of Gran Canaria. Without going into long details of the trip, although we caught plenty of fish we did not succeed with any of the big game species, and the only largish fish to be boated was Kayís hammerhead, and as I mentioned last month, as it was years before I caught one, it was a source of much banter between us.

Twenty-two years later, after many holidays with John Goddard, we were with him and other friends of equal fly-fishing persuasion, in the Bahamas, mostly for the bonefish. As I also mentioned last month, Kay and I get fed up waggling our arms about all day for a single species, and liking variety, get out after the sharks that come within the reef. Of the several species we catch, only once did we get a hammerhead, and, thank you Lord, it fell to me, probably because on the day in question Kay did not fish as I was due to take one of our friends sharking who had never fished for them before, and there isnít really room in the little boats for a fishing threesome. The year before I had taken the friendís son out, and he had raved on about it being the best fishing day he had ever experienced, and so now John, his father, wanted the same treatment.

As always when I have a guest angler and I have only taken one set of suitable tackle with me, the guest has the first crack at it, and it wasnít long before he had a mackerel shark around 100lb as I recall. My turn then and I hooked something I didnít recognise, but was a big shark, maybe a couple of hundred pounds, but in spite of my long wire leader and longer double line, it rolled and rolled until the double line parted. Johnís turn again and he had fun with another acrobatic missile when he was suddenly yelling, "Thereís a bloody great shark after my shark". As the one he was playing was in excess of 80 or 90lb. I told him it was doubtful, but it was probably curious about the commotion, and more interested in the chunks of bonefish we were using as chum. We released his lively shark and I was really chuffed to see the big boy was still hanging around, and it was my throw. On went the largest bit of bonefish we had and out to the shark it was lobbed, and was instantly taken Ė then the fun started.

On the occasions in the past that I have shark fished in the Bahamas, the guides have never taken a buoy out with them so that they could easily release the anchor if a big fish had to be followed. As they are reluctant to pull the anchor if they are in a good area, in case they donít find it again I guess, it means that you have to fight a fish to the boat instead of getting after it. That lost me a big lemon shark the year before when I fought it to the boat but it went under the anchor rope. We passed the rod through OK, but perhaps there was a little slack as the big fish came unhooked. I appreciate that as we had also touched the leader, in some quarters that would count as a capture, but I donít consider it a conclusion to the fight unless I, or a guide, removes the hook or cuts the trace. On this trip out after sharks I had insisted that we take a buoy with us. They didnít get one, but they took out a couple of old petrol cans, which were adequate.

Line was pouring off the spool of the multiplier, and our guide was instructed to get the makeshift buoy over the side pronto, (tied to the anchor rope of course!) get the engine going and get off after the fish. I had better explain here the tackle that I was using. The rod was 20/30 class, coupled to a TLD50 loaded with several hundred yards of 30lb. nylon Ė or so I thought! We gradually gained line Ė the shark was by then a hell of a way off, but my only fear was that the bait might have run up the trace onto the line after I hooked the fish, and that could cause the line to be bitten through by another shark grabbing the bait. I use over-sized swivels to try and prevent that from happening, hoping the bait wonít pass the swivels, but with fast moving and lively fish jumping or thrashing around, or both, it still sometimes happens that a bait gets up the line. Fingers crossed? Difficult when you have a big bend in a rod!

After travelling halfway across the ocean it seemed, we caught up with the fish, and on a reasonably short line, and with the bow pointing directly in the direction of the line, I gradually braked down until the shark was towing the boat, and the guide cut the engine. Iím not sure, but I think the boats are Makoís, about 18ft. in length. They are standard in most places for bonefishing, so anyone familiar with that fishing will have an idea of the boat and may find it remarkable that line under 30lb. b.s. is strong enough to pull an 18ft. boat, with three people in it. The problem was that if the fish deviated slightly in direction, or the breeze caused the boat to veer slightly off course, I would again be losing a lot of line and the engine had to be started, and off we would go again to chase the fish and regain the lost line. This game went on for an hour, two hours, and the guide suggested that the shark was making for a gap through the reef. That was the last thing I wanted, as once through the reef and over deep water, if the fish sounded, I doubted I would ever get it up on the tackle being used. But it never got that far. Apparently the guide had timed the battle, and although I personally had not got a clue how long I had been with this shark, when we finally got it to the boat, and my friend John got a rope around its tail, three and a quarter hours had passed and we had travelled over ten miles.

What to do? All three of us wanted to know the weight of this hammerhead shark, especially the guide. John and I didnít want to kill it, but as we were now much nearer to camp than our fishing spot, we decided to try and tow it back to base very slowly, as we would be towing it backwards Ė not a good idea. The trace was cut, and we slowly made our way back, keeping an eye on the sharks breathing. It seemed to be fine, and when we arrived at the camp it was still very much alive. Not for long. There was a buzz of activity and then five or six people were dragging it up the ramp. They did not want a shark of that size within the reef as people occasionally get bitten!

Unfortunately there was no way of weighing it either, so we could have guessed its weight and released it. The guides guessed it at 500lb., but I think that was over the top, although it was very fat, and I have seen pictures of sharks, 450 Ė 500lb. that didnít look any bigger. I will stick my neck out however, and claim 350lb., and when I tested the line, and it consistently broke at 20lb. b.s., whatever that shark weighed, it wasnít a bad effort!!