FORUM: Three-Over-Two

Concluding my morning walk along the fishing docks, I took the stairs to the second floor of the Point Loma Sportfishing building. I wanted to wish Lori, who runs the American Angler business office, a great morning and a wonderful day. The “Double A,” as anglers affectionately call the boat, is one of the celebrated long-range fishing boats in the San Diego long-range tuna fishing fleet. I stopped and stood outside the office because Lori was on the phone, so I would wait to be invited to come inside.

A man, younger than I and obviously tremendously strong, was also patiently waiting outside of Lori’s office—the “first in line.” I wished him an excellent morning, and he kindly returned my greeting. Introducing myself, I said that my name was Planet. He gently replied that his name was Charlie. I thought to myself, what a great name for an angler—my deceased mathematician brother named Charlie was my salmon and perch fishing buddy in Chicago…

The transient fog of my daydream lifted when I recalled the name of the AA’s legendary angler “three-over-three” Charlie, the only angler who caught three super cow yellowfin tuna (YFT) in a single trip.

A YFT weighing between 200 and 299 pounds is called a “cow.” Many excellent long-range anglers fish their entire lives and never catch a cow. Even more rare than a cow is a YFT of 300 pounds or more—a “super cow.” Many long-range anglers fish their entire lives and never even witness a super cow being caught. For those fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, the memories are indelible…

Suspecting that I finally might be speaking with the legendary man, I asked him: “three-over-three” Charlie?! He humbly admitted being the (only) angler who had (yet) caught three super cow YFT on a single long-range tuna fishing trip.

Like other legendary long-rangers whom I’ve known, Charlie simply sought to enjoy the long-range big-game tuna fishing experience, and hoped for success in catching. I enjoyed fishing with Charlie and other outstanding anglers on many long-range trips. Indeed, I was blessed to witness seven super cows being caught on the AA, each by a different dear friend with whom I’d fished many times. And, I was blessed to be first reel in a near-catch (bungled leader) of a super cow bluefin hooked late-night by a three-angler stand-up team speed-trolling an Atlantic canyon off New York. In my experience each of these events warrants an individual accounting…

A few years later I was aboard the AA on a 14-day trip heading to Clarion Island, 1,003 miles south by southwest from America’s Cup harbor in San Diego: a 4-day voyage there, and a 4-day voyage back. Clarion is the home of a thriving fish and bird ecosystem, rising from ocean aptly described as being the abyss.

I already had a dozen cow “notches” on big game fishing rods, and I was in peak physical and mental “big-fish” condition. The weather was perfect, anglers were talented, Crew and Captain were world class, and bait were healthy, large, and lively.

Almost immediately after fishing began a YFT bit my sardine. Ninety minutes later I decked a 230-pound cow. After the fish was tagged with my number, weighed, gilled and gutted, I went into the galley to get a glass of water, sit down, and take a break from the sun.

Normally I’d relax and check how other angler’s battles were proceeding. However, I felt very relaxed and strong, and so I decided to try my luck again. I got my second rod and after a few sardines I had another strong YFT on the run. An hour later I booked my second cow of the day, 212 pounds.

I returned to the galley, drank a glass of water, and sat down to relax. Bored being by myself I went back outside to encourage my friends tangling with tuna on the run. Soon there was first call for lunch, and I was hungry. The food, as usual, was stupendous.

After lunch I went out to the deck. The “noon lull” had come as usual—fishing often slows around noon and then picks up again later in the afternoon. This was the first time that I’d ever caught two cows on the same day, so I wasn’t feeling compulsive about maximizing my time in the water. Instead, I re-rigged my primary gear just in case the action picked-up again: one must be prepared for when opportunity strikes. Then I enjoyed speaking with buddies who were soaking a bait, waiting for action to resume.

Mid-afternoon arrived and the fish were hungry—anglers began hooking up. I cast another sardine and had a strong hit. The YFT ran 200 yards straight behind the boat before stopping and rotating to face me, just off the starboard corner. In that corner stood an angler who was experiencing a fishless day. He was leaning on the rail, holding his rod, line in the water—ignoring his spent bait floating motionlessly down-side-up. The angler refused to acknowledge/allow me into the corner (the norm), so I had to hold my rod at an oblique angle—which made it more difficult for me to apply pressure, subdue the tuna, and recapture my line.

My tuna went to the right a few feet, so I had to lift the rod to get my line over the head of the entrenched angler. Then the tuna went left a few feet, so again I had to lift my rod to get back over the angler. Then the tuna went right a few feet—déjà vu! Then the tuna went left a few feet—ach du Lieber!!

I decided it was time for me to pull the tuna for a change, so I reached my rod forward while reeling line, then pulled the rod backwards towards myself as strongly as I was able. I brought the tuna in about three feet! I reached my rod forward again while reeling in the slack, heaved back again, and the tuna came in another three feet!

I had a flashback to my training in Phase III cardiac rehabilitation. I would row for 45 straight minutes, wearing a nine-lead EKG. In time I managed to row at 19 strokes per minute (19 SPM), taking two breaths per stroke (2 BPS), and keeping my heart rate below 150 beats per minute (150 BPM).

I immediately decided that I would row this tuna in, so I continued this procedure. Mentally I began singing to myself: “Planet, row this fish aboard, Halleluiah!” The fish could not fight me whatsoever—there was never time for it to recover. The fish had NEVER experienced anything like this before, so I had the overwhelming advantage.

After ten or so such strokes, my dear friend Bill (nicknamed Father) came behind me and quietly said: “Hey Planet, there’s a giant vein sticking out of the back of your neck.” Continuing to row-my-fish-aboard, in-between breaths, I told Bill: “19 SPM” (stroke), “2 BPS” (stroke), “150 BPM” (stroke)—”it’s all good!” (stroke, stroke, stroke…)

Bill had no idea what I was talking about. He looked up at Captain Brian, who was standing on top of the bait well, and said—in a loud voice so everyone could hear: “Hey Captain, Planet is talking in tongues!”

Like Spiderman, Captain effortlessly leapt off the bait well onto the deck behind me. As he put his hands on top of my shoulders and began to massage them, he said: “Hey Planet, you’re scaring everyone. You need to go back to the nice calm way of catching this fish.”

I always obeyed the Captain, the Crew, and my fishing teacher BG, so I did as ordered. Bagged the cow, 201 pounds. Three-over-two, in one day.

 “There is advantage in the wisdom won from pain” (Aeschylus)


Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.

November 14, 2021

One thought on “FORUM: Three-Over-Two

  1. Such a powerful and inspiring story! As you so perceptively noted, there is indeed advantage in the wisdom won from pain. Three-over-two is an allegory for life itself. May you catch multiple super-cow YFTs each day and savor every minute to the max. Optimal wishes to you always.

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