SUDDENLY, the tip of the rod lunged downwards and the reel began to scream. Metre upon metre of nylon line was being stripped away, scorching the ferrules before plunging down into the ocean. Our skipper, Antoine, leapt into life. While bellowing at the boat boy to cut the engines, he began furiously yanking in our other lines. The last thing we wanted now was to be snagged. As instructed, I donned the special vest. Special because it would be strapped to a chair which in turn was bolted to the deck. You take no chances when your quarry is the blue marlin. More than one fisherman has been given an unceremonial dipping by a fleeing fish, thanks to inadequate precautions being taken. Both the rod and the reel are also anchored firmly to the boat. Losing them would set you back several thousand dollars. By now the rod was out of its rest and in my trembling hands, bucking and bending double as an invisible but astonishing force some 100 metres away on the end of the line battled to escape. Spray from the waves flecked me as I strained unsuccessfully to control the creature. Now I knew why the sport of deep sea fishing so enraptured Ernest Hemingway. It was the sheer thrill of pitting yourself against a wild creature less cunning but more powerful than you and at home in an entirely different medium. I heaved the rod up in what I expected would be the long and arduous task of hauling the struggling fish in. It has taken five hours or more to bring a marlin in particularly if, as could well be the case, it weights 10 times the breaking strain of your line. The trick is to let the fish exhaust itself before it exhausts you. ''Pull the rod up, reel in the slack, pull the rod up, reel in the slack,'' chanted Antoine encouragingly. The fish had been on the line for about five minutes and showing no sign of getting tired when there was a sudden and sharp tug. Barely 50 metres away a 140-kilogram blue marlin leapt glinting into the air, rolled over and hit the water with a tremendoussplash before disappearing into its aquatic home. It was a magnificent spectacle, decidedly one for the photograph album of the memory. And a memory was the closest I got to it. The acrobatic ploy had enabled it to sever the line with its sharp proboscis. The rod now lay lifeless in my hands, the line slack, the ocean untelling. Still, no hard feelings. I don't think I would have enjoyed being the author of the demise of such a splendid specimen, the shimmering blueness of which was so stunning. Our fishing expedition was in the Indian Ocean off the Mauritius coastline, a famed stamping ground for the Blue Marlin. We were staying at the Hotel Paradise in the southwest of the island, a venue which prides itself on being this ocean's biggest beachresort. Apart from deep sea fishing expeditions, there is a professional diving school, an equestrian centre, an 18-hole golf course of international championship standard, organised mountain biking, wind-surfing, snorkelling, sailing and water-skiing. The hotel is set on a private peninsula of 150 hectares at the foot of Le Morne Mountain. There are an amazing seven kilometres of secluded beaches fringing a delightful lagoon, three excellent restaurants, two swimming pools, a casino and cabaret bar. In one of the restaurants, there hangs a stuffed marlin which weighed 650-kilograms when it was caught nearby. It is about the size of a small car and would have moved a lot faster. For about HK$2,500, you can hire one of the hotel's nine boats, the skipper and his assistant plus all the tackle are thrown in. The cost can be cut by taking along friends. The technique most commonly adopted is trawling. About five rods are baited with rubber octopuses which possess vicious hooks hidden among the tentacles. These are dropped off the back of the boat and towed at anything between 10 and 100 metres away. The marlin, which only takes what it believes is live bait will, if you are lucky, strike at speeds of up to 112 kilometres per hour. It is simply a matter of ploughing up and down the water waiting for one to bite and then bringing it in. If you do catch one, it goes to the hotel kitchen for preparation and then to the restaurants that night so you can enjoy the fruit of your labours. And if you don't, well you have still had a nice day out on one of the world's most stunning oceans. Mark Hughes flew with Air Mauritius.