A tale of a lost rod, a recovered fish, getting very lucky and then not so lucky. Fortune favours the bold but can equally take the prize away.
It happens so easily. The first time was at Lake Tarawera during the holidays. As a 12-year-old boy every day was spent trolling up and down in front of the bay, rowing the old dinghy with two feet firmly planted on the cork handle of the shiny new split cane fly rod which doubled as a trolling outfit. The green fly line disappeared into the depths and the zed spinner sent out its thrumming vibration. Suddenly the rod bucked and was pulled over the stern before panicked hands could grasp it. The disbelief was shattering. The rod was a Christmas present.
The first fly rod.
A treasure beyond all measure.
It sank quickly. A trout jumped 30 yards away. A frantic row back to the boat-house, grab the green hemp handline used for catching eels when tied to a snag and left overnight, grab a handful of sinkers and a couple of long-shanked eel hooks.
Tie a bunch of sinkers and hooks together to make a crude jag and drop it where memory suggests the rod went and the trout jumped. In theory the line would be stretched between. Endless drops and sweeps through the weed 60 feet down. Sun-burned arms, tears, yet another bunch of oxygen weed hanging from the hooks. Then- what is that? A glint among the green strands. Yes; it’s mono leader! Gently grasp the leader and pull tentatively. The weight is there. Arm over arm, up comes the trace, the long green fly line, then the black cotton backing, endless as the reel unwinds. Praying that the knot on the spool is a good one then, yes, slowly the rod materializes in the green water.
What boundless joy!
Since that memory, which is still crisp, there have been other rods that went over the side.
The next incident also came unexpectedly, as they do.
We were trolling off Red beach, under the mountain on Tarawera again. It was in the days of professional trout guiding and an American client stood up and turned, knocking a deep trolling rod from the rod-holder. Over it went. Turn the key off, tear off glasses, take three quick steps to the stern and dive. The rod was sinking fast under the weight of the large plastic reel, dragged down by 100 yards of lead-core line. Dive deeper, reach out and fingers just manage to grab the rod. Swim back up and pop out triumphantly. Received a good tip from those clients.
Then there are the rods you hook up on out of the blue and haul up. One was off the end of a jetty, also on Tarawera, just this season. It was a broken spin rod and the reel was badly corroded, even in fresh water. It looked suspiciously like one which had gone off the end of the same jetty two seasons previously. Something to do with Opening Day celebrations and fooling around.
The gear does not last long in seawater, and a rod picked up in the Motuihe Channel one day was well and truly past its use-by date. The ledger rig hooked up on some tangled mono line, and when pulled up there was a snapper rod and reel still attached.
It was so badly corroded it was well and truly dead.
In some stories there is still a fish attached to the end of the line. But that is stretching things a bit far. Only once have we lost a rod to a fish, recovered the rod and the fish was still there.
The rod was a short spin rod which was resting on the floor of the boat with the tip sticking up. Suddenly the tip bent over and the butt did a virtual 360 as it flew up and over so quickly there was no time to grab it. The trout must have been swimming fast when it took the lure - a globug. As usual, the trout jumped not far away.
“I’ve done this before,” I told my mate. “The line will be stretched out between where it jumped and where the rod went it. All we have to do is make up a jag and hook the line. Quick – let out some anchor rope.”
Which he did.
The jag was similar to my eel-line model of 30 years ago and as the boat drifted gently around we dropped it and hauled up patches of weed time after time. Sure enough, the mono line sparkled in the sun, caught on a hook with a bunch of dripped weed and as the line was pulled in the rod surfaced. All of the line had come off the reel but when it was wound on the line tightened and a 3kg trout also surfaced. It was pretty stuffed and easily came to the net. True story.
Then as my mate pulled in the slack rope and we tightened up on the anchor he asked: "Where are the fish?”
The trout we had already caught were on a short rope off the bow to keep them cool in the water. It had been a good morning, and we had five lovely rainbows of 3kg-4kg.
Then the penny dropped.
“Bloody hell, I think I let the rope go when I let out extra anchor rope. It was on the bollard on top of the anchor rope!”
The trout line had sunk straight down in about 12 metres of water.
“No worries, we’ll just jag the line and pull it up.”
This was a short line of only a few metres and had gone straight down. It was not stretched out between two points like a fishing line.
We dragged and dragged and dragged, and dragged. And dragged.
We had recovered a rod and hooked fish, but it cost us our catch for the day.
It would be nice to report that the jag hooked up the tethering line, but it was not to be. The eels living in the weed which had swallowed our bag of trout would be living high on the hog for quite a while.
Looking back, it would not take much to amend the story and add a happy ending, but that would stretching the truth, which is tempting. As they say: Trout fishermen are all born honest; but they get over it.