Fishing with a Manukau mate
This is going to be a pretty hard article to pen for a variety of reasons. Back in 2007 I was diagnosed with bladder cancer and, after long periods of treatment with chemotherapy and radiation, by 2010 there was no trace of the dreaded cancer in my system. I resumed my fishing activities with greater gusto than usual, making up for lost time.
Then in January this year I survived a heart attack to the main left stem. This seems to kill most blokes so, once I got over the initial fright, I was chuffed to be alive and looking forward to a long and fishing-filled retirement. Then I had my annual cat scan, as all cancer patients do, the results of which savagely deflated my euphoria. The scourge of cancer had returned to my bladder and, as well, had travelled to both my lungs, no doubt a legacy from my years of cigarette smoking.
I soon upgraded my will and tidied up a lot of loose ends in my life. Then came the huge task of sorting out my personal effects, where I either dumped or gave away a lot of the stuff one accumulates after a lifetime in an effort to make things much simpler for my dear wife Cheryl when my time is up.
With all of this sort of stuff sorted, I sat back and thought “where to from here?” While I may not be able to fish as often as I used to, I have so many experiences stored inside my head I figure I will have to draw on the old memory banks for stories. I have had the time to come to several conclusions, so for what it is worth, here we go.
A long life of fishing
When I was a young bloke we all smoked. It was just what we did back then and no one gave a thought as to what effect this habit had on our health. Even on Saturday rugby days when I was a senior schoolboy we openly smoked with our teachers at half and full time! If you didn’t smoke you were considered the ‘odd man out’ although, strangely enough, neither of my parents ever smoked. Thank goodness sanity has prevailed so that today harsh restrictions on smoking keep things at bay.
I still wonder to this day what took us so long to wake up to the major damage caused by smoking. When I was puffing away I used to hate being in the company of reformed smokers as they invariably lectured all and sundry on the evils of our ways. But if you are a young person and reading this story, I assume you are a keen fisho. When you have finally retired you will have earned the right to go fishing, duck shooting and scalloping whenever you feel like it (which, believe me, is most of the time). The issue of smoking all boils down to choosing between a long and healthy life or a premature death. It is really as simple as that. I just had to get that issue off my chest, but now let’s talk about fishing.
The indispensable fishing tool
Now, as a 72-year-old, when I look back on my long fishing life, one essential item emerges like a radiant beacon and, to my way of thinking, it is the most valuable asset any fisho can possess. All the money in the world cannot buy it and it is often spawned by sheer chance when you are not really looking for it. Once you get hold of it embrace it with all your might. Treasure it, foster it, love it because, in reality, the best ones are about as rare as moa shit. I am referring, of course, to a bloody good fishing mate. Not just the bloke down the road who likes fishing and goes out with you for company once in a while; what I am talking about is a mate who is as passionate about fishing as you are. I was ever so fortunate to have met such a person when I was young so that I was able to enjoy his company fishing for many years – that was until his untimely death at the tender age of 39. I am talking about the late, great master fisherman and rod building supremo Norman “Tiny” Coe. We met in the RSA totally by chance and quickly formed a friendship as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. We exchanged fishing notes and information, argued like hell over the finer points of the game, looked at every new bit of fishing information and gear and picked everything to little pieces before rebuilding them again. Such was our passion for fishing.
Tiny was perhaps the most honest man I have ever met. The old adage “All fishermen are born liars except you and me, and I have my doubts about you!” was certainly never intended for Tiny. If Tiny Coe said that he caught a 30kg snapper then you could bet your bottom dollar the fish was closer to 35kg. If you ever meet a potential fishing mate who seems to fit the bill like my mate Tiny, grab him and hang on tight.
We did a hell of a lot of fishing with another bloke, Butch Glover, and we established that he too possessed all the attributes of a bloody good fishing mate. After Tiny’s passing, Butch just seemed to mould seamlessly into the void left in my fishing life and the pair of us have shared some wonderful outdoor experiences since. I consider myself really fortunate to have had not one, but two bloody good fishing mates to share my time with. Just as an example of this fishing friendship, Butch rang me recently. I had not been fishing for quite a while, mainly because I was having some difficulty pulling up the anchor. I was feeling pretty crappy and weak at the time and I think my mate must have sensed it over the phone as he asked to speak to Cheryl. She hung up soon afterwards and said we were going fishing the next day and that was that.
The next day we launched at Kawakawa Bay on the east coast. Butch idled out for about 800 metres and then anchored up in three metres of water. He gave me a gentle nudge in the ribs with his elbow.
“Is this pretty chose to Tiny’s favourite shallow spot?” he enquired.
“How the hell did you know about this secret place?” I asked, but my cobber’s reply was just a boyish grin. We were indeed right slap in the middle of Tiny’s hot spot of old. Butch looked at his watch and proclaimed, “Any minute now.” I noted that the very gentle flood tide had just kicked in. These words had hardly left my mate’s lips when Cheryl was in to a snapper following quite a savage take.
This form of shallow water straylining has to be the most exhilarating and exciting form of fishing ever invented. A 2kg pannie snapper on light gear in the shallows fights well above its weight and you have to work hard for every fish. They will whistle braid off the spool very quickly indeed and they make you work to retrieve it. Following Cheryl’s fish all hell broke loose. The dinner gong had well and truly sounded for the hungry snapper and in no time Butch called for a count up. We were only three fish off our boat limit and I was in fishing heaven. Fishing in Tiny’s spot and creaming the fish after weeks of just dreaming about it was exactly the medicine I needed.
Join the club
I am so pleased to have been heavily involved in fishing clubs throughout my life. You certainly meet a vast cross-section of people from all walks of life who share in the one common denominator, and that is a passion for fishing. When we retired we dropped our pick in Waiuku. We didn’t know a soul when we arrived but now, after only three years, our address book is chocker and Cheryl and I have mates aplenty. This situation was solely due to the fact that we joined the ranks of the Counties Sport Fishing Club, where every single person we met was just so super friendly. Fishing clubs are like that – the caring and sharing of fishing related activities just seems to be second nature.
Sharing is caring
As a kid I had a devil of a job extracting good fishing bully from adults. A good portion of the fishing information published in those days (1940s and 50s) was a load of cobblers so whenever I discovered a good possie or fishing technique that really worked, I was busting my bum to tell someone. But, truth be told, no one seemed even slightly interested! Perhaps that is why I now have a penchant for spreading the good word about fishing whenever the opportunity presents itself.
If there is one thing about fishing that does stick in my throat and it is the outlook that some people have about not sharing fishing information with anyone else. When I first started writing for this fishing magazine all those years ago, my very first article (which I hand wrote and posted in to Geoff Thomas) was all about 10 fishing hot spots in the Manukau Harbour, where I went into great detail about how, when and where to catch fish. By and large the article was a hit with the readers, especially those who lived close to the harbour. A couple of months later, though, I was working at the boat show manning the New Zealand Fishing World stand. One old bloke lined me up and showered me with abuse for disclosing one of “his” pet gurnard fishing spots at Matakawau. He was of the mindset that hoards of fishos would blitz the carrot population to the point of extinction and he added, with venom, that the next time I showed my face at Matakawau the locals would lynch me, such were their bad feelings towards me. Charming! Needless to say, that never happened, and I was later invited by the Matakawau Fishing and Boating Club to MC at their fishing competition.
While I might not be able to get out fishing as much as I would like, I have vast reservoirs of precious fishing memories to fall back on and my plans are to keep writing for as long as I can hold a pen.
Tight lines everyone.