A few weeks ago, and after many years of hearing about this rather unusual animal, I tried for the first time Varo fishing. Accompanying since my young age my father, a great lover of fishing passionate about the sea, I was not exactly a beginner in the field of lagoon hobbies. But Varo fishing has proven to be very different from what I had tried before.
It was in Tetiaroa, that I had the chance, curious and enthusiastic, to try this new experience. It is there that Pa, native of the island of Raiatea and undisputed Varo expert, offered to show me the strings of his passion.
On that day we begin our mission in shallow waters that reached our knees. This surprising fishing always starts with some tracking. Indeed you need first of all to detect the burrows where the Varo are. Not to be confused of course with the holes of the multitude of crabs and other amazing little creatures in the same perimeter. In other words, needless to say that it took me a little while to find my first nest of Varo. Concentrated, I still managed to spot two burrows and marked their location with bamboo stalks. Pa then shows me in more detail his equipment he meticulously prepared. He had hung his bait (which he made me promise to keep secret) around a long hook (as I had never seen before) which was in turn hitched to a line he kept with him in his bucket.
Then is the time to start. In turn, Pa and I look at the areas we had marked. He tells me that it is always the male who comes out first, since he takes care of feeding his partner. We slowly slide the hook into the burrow and it has hardly touched the ground that we feel a solid grip on the other side of the wire. Tough little guy! This is the most delicate part, and everything plays out at this precise moment. You need to pull the wire strong enough not to let the hook loose, and at the same time you have to keep a certain flexibility. Following Pa’s benevolent advice, and after a few minutes of suspense, I managed to bring our magnificent Varo back to the surface. I finally see more closely this superb crustacean of about twenty centimeters, with its striped coat and its impressive clamps, prized by enthusiasts.
Of course it doesn’t always happen so quickly. The female for example (they live in couple) gave us some sign of life only after about fifty minutes. In these moments, it’s the fisherman’s patience that makes all the difference. And that’s also the beauty of it.
What an experience…! Even more than by the fishing itself that he is fond of, Pa was also fascinated and clearly appreciated as much as I was to face this beautiful animal.
It was for my fishing companion and I, a beautiful and sunny Sunday in Tetiaroa.