Lubna Agha - The Lady Angler

Many men, young and old, possess what appears to be a natural and instinctive interest in the predatory nature of angling. Although this sport is generally thought to be the domain of men, it is adventurous women like Lubna Agha who make us think otherwise. While most women are found at home or at work in the comfortable confines of their workplaces, Lubna is often spotted at sea, hooking big fish with expertise, struggling to pull out her latest catch or celebrating her day’s reward.

“It’s all by default”, exclaims Lubna, who can easily be mistaken for a model with her looks and height. “I am not a professional angler but I have a passion for this sport. I have always been athletic. Since childhood I have played hockey, volleyball, rugby, tennis and also took on roller-blading, ice skating etc. and did everything that is different and gives one an adrenalin rush. I started fishing nearly two and a half years back.”

Her love affair with the sport started due to a boatride. “My husband’s friend was selling his boat and we were all invited for a spin. Though I’ve always liked the feel of water, the first thing that caught my attention was the speed of the boat; it was a sports fishing boat which is usually high speed with a 200 horsepower engine. This experience with water was so dramatic that it got me hooked and I have never looked back since then.”

The first time that she went fishing turned out to be a bit apprehensive.” Earlier, I had been on the Keemari boats to the island called Churna, and I found the vessels to be rocky and dangerous. That had stuck in my mind, but being a go-getter I thought of giving it a shot. Apprehension faded the minute I went out to sea because it was lots of fun. I now own a boat which is a sports fishing boat called Wahoo. We keep it in full working condition and keep it loaded with gadgets like a viewfinder, alto meters, Global Positioning System (GPS) etc.”

Lubna’s association with the sea goes back to her childhood when she would daily commute to her school by a ferry in Hong Kong, where she was born and bred. Her father had a carpet business there and came back to Pakistan after China took over Hong Kong.

“We had never been to Pakistan before and so encountered a cultural clash here. Education here was not what I had expected. Here there are not many avenues for women. I started working out and finally had a gym set up in my own house. Later on my strength training and exercise paid off when it helped me with angling. I am now physically stronger than a lot of women because of my exercise.”

Having two children, a thirteen year old daughter and a four years old son, Lubna keeps very busy. Apart from helping out her husband (who also shares her love for fishing) in his business, she has her philanthropic work. She has also arranged some fashion shows and ventured into a lot of things and, of course, there’s fishing.

The first fish that Lubna caught was a huge tuna. It was one of the biggest fishes she has caught so far. “I was with a friend who has been angling for a lot of years. My friend nearly fell into the sea due to the weight of the fish, then my husband tried followed by my cousin. They were all struggling and then at the spur of the moment, I took the rod from them, hooked it in and pulled the fish out! And the best thing was that I wasn’t exhausted. Then I realized I had a lot of strength because of my physical training and exercise. Even the gentleman who was driving the boat was stunned.”

The ecstasy that follows when one achieves something that one is passionate about is worth more than the highest of laurels. What were Lubna Agha’s feelings when she caught her first fish. “Exhilaration! Remember that it was also my first fish! I was hooked to this sport from that day. It’s an addiction now. My biggest catch has been a 36 kg tuna. Then I caught a 20 kg queens fish but it slipped. I enjoy something that I have to put up a fight with for at least twenty minutes or even two hours. I usually catch tuna, barracuda, little reef fishes, mahe mahe and our local surmai. But right now I am trying to locate a marlin which no Pakistani woman has caught to this day.

“Now, the passion has turned into such an obsession that on any given day, if the weather is fine, I’ll make sure the boat is in proper working condition, and then I’ll say bye to the rest of the world and set off to sea. When the fishing season is on I go to the sea almost every week, in fact every third day.”

This sport does not have the exposure that it needs, except for what Aziz Agha –– a fishing enthusiast –– is doing for its promotion. We have no proper venuses to teach the newcomers or amateurs about the techniques involved in the sport. The professional fishermen who use the Keamari boats know much more than we do due to their experience

Describing a normal day when she sets off for fishing she says, “We go at five. We first go to the club where our boat is parked, board our vessel, punch in the destination into the GPS and head off. It takes us around four hours to reach the place where deep sea fishing is done. Throughout that period we keep in constant touch with the people at the club or those at the Keamari Tower, through our wireless and radio frequency for safety purposes. The latest I have stayed at sea is from four in the morning till nine at night.”

Lubna is the only woman angler who has gone for fishing regularly since the last six years. From October to December and February to March is considered the best season for fishing. However, the weather in these months is pretty rough. Bearing with the diverse weather conditions and the rough seas is in itself a turn on for those who enjoy fishing.

But says the tough lady, “Angling needs a lot of strength and will power. You have to put up with the heat, sun, sea water and most of all, the fear of getting tanned. It’s definitely not an easy sport.”

Angling, like any other sport requires finesse and expertise and these come with learning the technicalities that are involved. She is disappointed by the way fishing as a sport, and as an intrinsic profession, is treated in Pakistan.

“This sport does not have the exposure that it needs, except for what Aziz Agha –– a fishing enthusiast –– is doing for its promotion. We have no proper venuses to teach the newcomers or amateurs about the techniques involved in the sport. The professional fishermen who use the Keamari boats know much more than we do due to their experience.

I have learnt about fishing through my experience. You can learn through pictures and books but it doesn’t register until you actually catch a fish, feel it and see it for yourself. Over the period of time I have learnt the techniques of fishing, how to hook the fish, what poundage to use and can also analyze which fish strikes on which bait. There is a lot of technicality to it.”

Fishing, which started out as a means of subsistence for those living in the fishing village of Kolachi, has today turned out to be a thriving industry. Yet we find ourselves devoid of any resources to promote it as a sport which is now just limited to the rich. “It’s unfortunate that it’s an elite sport. You have to own a boat in order to indulge in the sport. Also the fuel and the equipment is very expensive which takes it out of the reach of the masses,” laments Lubna.

“The general public keen to go fishing has access to Keamari boats only which are slow, dangerous and not properly equipped. I feel scared for people around me. There are approximately 100 people who go fishing in these boats. The rich have access to American fibre glass boats which are foreign assembled.”

Commenting on the unparalleled natural treasures of our sea, Lubna philosophically explains, “We have an abundance of fish in our waters. People would be surprised to know that we have unspoiled, untainted waters unlike the West where the netting system is extremely high-tech and exhausts the natural resources. Here the species are replenished also because of cultural constraints which tell us to avoid fish in June and July. We can never run out of fish. Even the Quran stands testimony to this notion.”

June 17, 2005, by Lubna Agha