IT had been a productive day and the crew was pleased with the evening's haul of two weighty groupers.
The sun was just setting on the fairly breezy dusk and the men were hoping to keep going until the next morning, when the wind abruptly died down.
That's unusual, Chow Chee Yan thought, I could have played badminton against it just seconds ago.
Some 15 minutes later, the wind picked up again, far more strongly this time, and sent the waves 3m high into the air and crashing violently around and into the fishing boat.
As the panicked captain steered the boat to an island 500m away, Chow, looked around frantically for a flotation device.
He would have to latch on to it if the boat went under.
As feared, the thrashing vessel disappeared into the waters just 15m from land as the crew plunged into the ocean and waded to safety.
It was a close shave but to angling lovers like Chow, a fit and lean man of 57, these freak storms are not uncommon and a calculated risk they readily take.
As Maxis Bhd senior vice-president and head of internal audit, family man to his wife and three children, and leader in a church in Petaling Jaya, Chow's plate is full but he makes time for weekly fishing outings to a commercial fishing pond in Klang.
“For the peace and quiet, but sometimes I have peers join me,” he says.
Framed photos of his kids with him and their catches line the top of the desks and cabinets in his office.
Among them sits a palm-sized plaque with a protruding head of a marlin, a souvenir from his participation in the 2009 AGFA Labuan International Game Fishing Tournament, where his team pulled in at number five.
Thirty participating teams of five would spend a week in the ocean; sailing 18 hours from Labuan to the designated zone and angling for the six heaviest fish of various species they could find.
The sport requires a reasonably strong level of fitness as some catches like the giant grouper can weigh up to 100kg.
Angling lines are in place at all times and the crew is on standby to haul in their spoils, which is a herculean task that usually takes about half an hour.
At night, they work in pairs or more as snared fish can thrash so violently that it might tip the lone angler overboard unbeknown to his snoozing company.
Competition preparation is an exciting time, says Chow, whose father was also an avid fisherman and often brought his son along.
Fishermen would start oiling their boats and lines the month before and organise the rest of their equipment.
“And then by the third day in the open waters, I question why I have left the comforts of the hotel for the choppy sea. We don't see land for seven days,” Chow recalls with a smile.
But in the still of the night, watching the arresting glow of the underwater jellyfish as he lays on the deck beneath a sky of twinkling stars, Chow feels a sense of perspective.
“It's humbling to be so little in the midst of such expansive greatness. It reminds me to never be arrogant,” says Chow, whose career in the financial sector has taken him to many places around the world.
With relocations, there was much angling to enjoy in each locale.
Chow relishes the experiences of ice- and fly-fishing where he would wade into the lake with an artificial insect bait at the end of the fishing line in Denver, Colorado, during his years with an oil and gas company.
He holds up a photograph, where he is lovingly guiding his then three-year-old eldest daughter Rachel as they hover over a drilled hole to fish in the middle of a frozen lake.
Then there was the time in River Kenai in Alaska, where Chow and his friends camped by the river mouth with their nets, prepared to snag dozens of salmon during the summer run.
As the schools rushed upstream, the “Red Salmons”, as the Americans termed them, were ensnared, smoked and devoured the very same day.
The rest would be zip-locked and frozen, lasting the catchers a good six months.
Most of the fish were pregnant with roe, which was mostly thrown out due to the sheer overwhelming amount.
Chow's wife Geok Suan is missing from his fishing photographs.
“Boat rides and fishing don't bode well with her,” he says with a smile. “At any rate, our fishing trips make excellent family time all the same. My children enjoy following me to the waters.
On Chow's bucket list is an exciting ambition: Catch a 1,000-pound marlin in New Zealand by his 60th birthday.
Did you find this article insightful?