Maybe this is all just some cosmic in-joke, I think, as we wade out into the heart-stoppingly cold waters of the Arabian Gulf at a brisk 7am. After all, ours is a career where we spend much of our time shoving grub into our gobs. Maybe it’s time we actually put our money where that mouth is, and go out and catch some of our own.
To explain: this morning we have been invited by The Ritz-Carlton Dubai hotel, in JBR, to be the first to try out its new Catch & Grill combo.
The idea is simple. Head out on a boat in the morning with Gus Saade, president of Seawake Leisure & Watersports, to catch some fish, and then head back to the hotel’s stunning beach restaurant Palm Grill, where chef Eric Meloche will fillet and barbecue it to perfection. Catch, eat, love, in other words.
When we arrive at the hotel we first bump into world-renowned golfer and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who is in town to play the Dubai Desert Classic but whose preparation presently is having a crafty smoke out the front.
After a quick breakfast, we head to the beach. The boat is a beaut, a 31-footer equipped with some appropriately serious fishing gear and with enough welly that we're soon powering our way out into the ocean, swooping by the Palm Jumeirah on our right and leaving the iconic structure of Atlantis quite literally in our wake.
We are told to keep our eyes peeled for birds on the surface of the water, a sure sign that big fish lie beneath. “The big fish chase the little fish to the surface,” explains Gus. “The birds come down to get the little fish just under the surface. The rule is: if you see bubbles on the surface of the water, or you see a bunch of birds on it, then stop. You are going to have a good morning fishing. The big fish will be there.” Which all sounds great, except there isn't a flippin’ (flapping?) bird in sight.
With precious little in the way of avian assistance, we head across to one of Gus’ favourite spots and are each given a hand-held reel of line with multiple hooks down its length. The rods will come later. I stand there, expectant, continuously peering over the side, convinced I'll be able to see the mammoth beast I'm about to catch as he munches on my silver lure. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
“Bob it up and down a bit,” advises Gus. “The more you move the lure in the water, the more the fish will be attracted to it.” Twenty more minutes pass. Still, I am fish-free.
The truth is, I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. And, honestly, I am entirely unable to differentiate the bobbing of the waves from an actual bite. Constantly I find myself drawing the line back up, sure there’s something on the end of it. Constantly I’m then having to drop it back in again, hoping no-one has noticed my seafaring stupidness.
There’s a scream to my right and I turn to see Chloe Macgaw, the Ritz-Carlton’s assistant PR manager, hauling in not one but two barracuda. By hand. Macgaw, it soon turns out, either has the best beginner’s luck in the business or is an actual ringer. Come the end of the trip, of the 11 fish we have caught as a group, she will have landed no fewer than seven.
I look at her like I’m not bothered, and secretly ponder a trip to McDonald’s.
And then it happens. The line tugs and I yank it up sharpish. And there it is – a stunning, foot-long barracuda of my very own.
The next half an hour is a flurry of activity and excitement. Rods are cast, lines are dropped and fish are caught on all sides. On the way back we even land a big old queen fish (other varieties often caught out here include orange spotted trevally, Ehrenberg's snapper and pink ear emperor).
Back at the hotel, I chill out at the swim-up bar (beach and pool facilities are included in the experience) as chef Meloche grills thin fillets of my barracuda on the barbie. Later, sat at my stunning beachside table they arrive two-ways: simply grilled and with a spicy crust. They are, frankly, absolutely delicious. Caught by an idiot perhaps, but grilled by a pro.
Dhs2,700 (for two), Dhs350 for each additional guest (up to a maximum eight). Sun-Fri. The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, The Walk, JBR (04 318 615004 318 6150).