My Life in Restaurants: Until you’ve gone mano-a-mano with a deep-sea bonefish, don’t tell me that fishing isn’t exhilarating

 
Mark Hix

This month I’m off on my annual fishing holiday to Andros Island in the Bahamas. I go every year with Robin Hutson, the founder of The Pig Hotel chain, and we’re going to be targeting bonefish, which are often referred to as “trout on steroids”.

The first time I hooked into one, I got a major adrenaline rush – non-fishers don’t understand the exhilarating side of the sport. When you have one on the line it’s a real primal battle between you and the fish. For those few moments, nothing else exists, it’s just you and your dinner, in a struggle to the death (for the fish, hopefully). If you’re not a fisher, I implore you to give it a go, you’ll be surprised how physical and exciting it is.

We always stay at the Bone Fish Club on Andros, and last year we were joined by a party of eight Americans, all fishing nuts who talked about nothing else, apart from the odd bit about the election (I imagine they’ll be a bit quieter about that this year).

They looked dubious about these two Englishmen cooking for a bunch of hungry yanks, but we had a good day’s fishing and ended up banging out five courses of mahi mahi and wahoo – that shut them up!

One morning Robin and I fancied a change so we went into the deep water in search of the sporty bigger fish. We told the Americans – who had no idea what we did – that we’d be cooking dinner tonight. They looked dubious about these two Englishmen cooking for a bunch of hungry yanks, but we had a good day’s fishing and ended up banging out five courses of mahi mahi and wahoo – that shut them up!

This year I’m going to take some pre-mixed curry spices and a few other essentials so I don’t have to get the skipper to call his wife every 10 minutes to send over new ingredients each time I pull a new fish out of the sea.

Robin and I fish wherever we can, as often as we can. Adrenaline aside, it’s a great way to escape from the hotels and restaurants for a few days, even if it does entail standing in a river in waders with water up to your chest. The season is starting up again in the UK, including in the nearby River Axe, so hopefully I can celebrate a better season on home waters than last year, which was dismal. I caught more fish on a 24 hour trip to Iceland than I did all season at home. That’s fishing for you – it’s not all about catching fish. At least that’s what I tell myself when I come home empty handed.

Anyway, part of the fun is planning our sophisticated riverbank feasts. These can consist of anything from a kilo porterhouse from our farmer friend Peter Hannan in Northern Ireland, cooked over wood, to a vegetarian mezze from Robin’s walled kitchen gardens at The Pig Hotels.

When we get back from Andros I’m going to have a long celebratory lunch with Soho House’s Nick Jones at his newly-opened members’ club in the City, The Ned. That could well go into the hours of darkness as we don’t get out together much. I look forward to boring him to tears with stories about all the stuff I caught in the Bahamas.

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