The Quest Channel’s Robson Green ‘Extreme Fisherman’ series crew came down to Guatemala and had chosen Panamax Sailfishing for their show and went out on the Que Vela! for a Guatemala style sailfishing adventure. And that it was.
The crew came in a couple of days early and stayed at the lodge to rest after some hard days of shooting in Venezuela and Ecuador. We ate some Dorado, drank some fine Guatemalan Zacapa rum, told stories and got to know each other a bit.
The fishing offshore here had been pretty good lately and the sailfish were holding in some nice blue water about 35 to 40 miles out so it was looking good, if we could get out there…
The day of the shoot the film crew was at the dock early setting up GoPro cameras on the boat and hauling equipment down to the boat. Robson came and he was filmed walking down the dock, then he went through some dialog. Robson then interviewed me on the Que Vela! and then again he went through some more dialog.
Clock ticking…… Then another boat carried the film crew and shot some scenes from some distance with the volcanoes in the background with Robson standing on the front deck. Clock ticking…. We got the crew back on board and we were off. After almost two hours we were getting close, and Louis, the director, asked to slow way down for some more dialog for the camera.
Clock still ticking…. Four hours of running to and back from the fishing area would already leave a narrow window of time to fish, now this window was getting smaller and smaller! We finally got out to where the fish were and the lines went into the sea. Not more than 30 seconds go by and we hookup a gaffer Dorado! We bring it on board and wash the blood off for the camera and yep, more dialog, camera angles, etc. The sailfish clock still ticking….. Lines went back out and in 15 minutes another Dorado! By this time the pressure was on and I mentally tried throwing a blanket over the clock as it’s ticking grew louder in my head. Lines out again… 30 minutes go by and suddenly a sailfish comes into the spread. Victor, the mate, leapt catlike to the rod where the sailfish had come to the bait and deftly made a quick hookup. Robson with a screaming reel and bent rod in hand is on!
Stop that damn mental clock! Whew!
We land the sail and Robson has it on his lap for what I call the “money shot!” All good. Then the Louise says “Ok, with the next sailfish I want to ….” Robson looked at her and said “That’s the first time he had a director so confidently say, “so on the next sailfish…”. Ok, clock restarted and pressure still on… Well about 45 minutes go by and I see some birds picking at the water and soon Victor again with a smooth drop back and hookup. As the lit up sailfish was getting close to the boat it leapt one way and then it leapt again this time toward the boat. Lindsay, the asst. producer, was taking some still shots and was in a vulnerable position next to the console if it took one more leap facing us. I grabbed her and threw her behind the console seat just in case one more leap was in the cards. It wasn’t thankfully and we landed it and Robson got some great dialog going with sailfish #2. Lines back out and Louis the director said “We need another.” Lines out… Not long after I spot a few sailfish finning ahead with their sails in full extension and completely out of the water. We were able to film them as they folded their sails and darted for the spread, a double hookup! Not exactly an easy thing to do with supposedly one person fishing on the boat, so only Victor could hold the other rod as I cleared the lines and Robson spoke to the camera. Then Luke, the two time Emmy award winning cameraman, jumped into the water for some underwater footage. As Victor released the sailfish it swam right at him then veered away at the last second. Nice.
So after another Dorado and a fine Japanese style sashimi lunch we had completed the mission for the show. Louise said that’s a wrap for the day. But there were still sailfish jumping and finning all around. You could see the long face on Luke as we were about to leave such fertile fishing grounds. He has filmed tigers swimming in India and lions attacking in Africa but never has catching a sailfish come across his global life experiences. That “look” was long enough for permission to be granted to drop the lines for 20 minutes, it was getting late. Well, it only took five minutes as we had another double hookup! Luke and the soundman, Peter, both sailfish virgins are in the stern of the boat with bent rods and streams of sweat running over their elated faces. At one point both sailfish did an amazing duel simultaneous synchronized jump high out of the water right next to each other. We all realized that that particular piece of mother nature in fine form wasn’t to be captured on film with Luke on the rod. Oh well it’ll always be embedded in all our memories!
Wrap for the day! Smooth seas led to a nice ride back. Later back at the lodge, after everyone had some cool drinks and a dip in the pool and Jacuzzi I prepared a Nobu New Style Sashimi appetizer. Very tasty. Later we ate the rest of our catch and enthusiastically went over the day’s events. Oh, and yes, maybe a bit more Zacapa rum that was kindly gifted to me graced some of our lips….
The next day a helicopter was hired for some aerial shots. The Guatemalan pilot had 24,000 hours of flight time. Luke jumped into the helicopter with the camera and hung out the door less open side so nonchalantly that it seemed like gravity was something that couldn’t or wouldn’t affect him. So out to sea we went with Robson standing on the bow of the boat. I was driving and Victor was sitting on the transom. Louis was also up in the helicopter with Luke and Pete and she would relay down to me on the radio to relay to Robson to start his dialog as they hovered by. They did a few 360’s around the boat as we were cruising at 16 knots as Robson standing, sea legs working well, went through his lines. Across the radio crackled “We are coming in from behind for a close up.” Well that turned out to be a touch up so to speak. As the helicopter came in low above the Que Vela! it’s landing skid hit the outrigger bending it forward. As the rigger slipped by the end of the skid it popped back up right next to the tail rotor missing it by an inch! Victor dove under the T-top next to me, a thick plastic cutting board which was lying flat on the deck was wind whipped up and slammed against the console and… and the look on Robson’s face was incredulous. It was one of those moments that time slows down….early morning light, smooth blue seas, a ridge of volcanoes in the background, a few porpoise jumping in the distance….. and then your life flashes bye….. by one inch it didn’t.
The Quest Channel, a Discovery Channel affiliate had just bought the series last year and is currently airing it in the UK.
Robson told me it was the best fishing he’s ever had.