My trip of a life­time

Cer­tain fish­ing trips can stand out in an an­gler’s mind for a num­ber of rea­sons. Kirsty Hill re­calls a spe­cial char­ter out of Man­gawhai ear­lier this sea­son that re­sulted in each of the three ‘mar­lin vir­gins’ catch­ing his or her first bill­fish…

NZ Fishing News - - Reader's Story -

The lambs had been drenched and dipped, the cat­tle sorted, the ex­port lambs loaded for the mar­ket, the crops drilled... It sure had been a crazy and busy lead-up for the staff at Wai­whenua, the family-run farm in Hawkes Bay. So a trip was booked with old friends Tony and Bea Or­ton from Off­shore Ad­ven­tures, based out of Man­gawhai.

I’d met Tony at the Icast trade show in USA sev­eral years ago, and knew that on his re­turn to New Zealand I would have a game­fish­ing char­ter with him. Favourable moon dates were se­lected, with a two-day win­dow booked to al­low for a lay day and/or bad weather. Our goals were to catch a mar­lin and learn from a master.

We ar­rived late at night af­ter a quick flight from Napier to Auck­land. Man­gawhai is a 1.5-hour drive north from the air­port – al­though rush-hour traf­fic and a burger stop in Pon­sonby for the boys turned it into a three-hour trip.

We were pumped … not! It had been quite a build up, but the three mar­lin vir­gins were ex­hausted from a big week on the farm. How­ever, we man­aged to get on the wa­ter at Tony’s sched­uled de­par­ture time. The weather looked mar­ginal, but we were all hardy an­glers, so the ad­ven­ture be­gan.

The boys – my part­ner Gary Holden, son Rob­bie Hill and Wai­whenua’s stock man­ager Johnny Groves – were im­pressed with Tony’s well set up Ex­treme Game King 850 Walka­round, and fi­nally the ex­cite­ment be­gan to build – we were go­ing to be out do­ing it, af­ter not even be­ing near the wa­ter all sum­mer back in the Bay.

The brief­ing was brief but thor­ough, the bar was okay, the livies were ac­com­mo­dat­ing – fairly jump­ing onto our rigs – and we were off to blue wa­ter out wide.

The rou­tine was sim­ple: get those lures set, ob­serve, ob­serve,

ob­serve, and hold tight. (Amaz­ingly, this was Tony’s first mar­lin char­ter for the sea­son, as he’d been solidly booked by crews want­ing to catch king­fish.)

The im­pres­sive-look­ing G-force lures were new to me; each crew mem­ber was given a crash course on set­ting them, along with the re­trieval drills – and then, only 15 min­utes af­ter set­ting the gear, whammo! We were hooked up!

The strike was ob­served by all; adrenalin started pump­ing, the re­main­ing lures were cleared away, and Tony be­gan chas­ing down what was to be the first stripy of the day – we’d barely had time to get or­gan­ised!

The crew worked like clock­work, and our first mar­lin was tagged and re­leased in 15 min­utes. Wow, did that re­ally hap­pen so fast – our first mar­lin vir­gin sorted al­ready? By this stage, the guys knew that Tony re­ally did know his busi­ness!

With mas­sive bait schools show­ing on the sounder, we con­tin­ued to work the area, with Tony’s will­ing­ness to share his knowl­edge mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence even more en­joy­able and ap­pre­ci­ated: he’d put us right on the money within a cou­ple of hours of be­ing on the wa­ter.

We turned out to be the most for­tu­nate crew, with three of us even­tu­ally catch­ing, tag­ging and re­leas­ing beau­ti­ful mar­lin on the first day. A dou­ble strike saw one tagged mar­lin for me, while the other was lost at the boat.

Never in our wildest dreams had we ex­pected this out­come. The pas­sion and ex­cite­ment gen­er­ated from all these amaz­ingly beau­ti­ful fish caught, tagged and re­leased, made the ex­pe­ri­ence ex­tremely spe­cial for us all.

It was there­fore an ex­tremely sat­is­fied crew that cel­e­brated with a few bev­er­ages and a leg of beau­ti­ful Hawkes Bay lamb, pre­pared by Bea, as we re­flected on our won­der­ful day.

So, know­ing that there was an­other day on the wa­ter ahead, we had a great night’s sleep at the lodge – al­though there was some un­fin­ished busi­ness, with one of the crew miss­ing the tag­ging and photo op­por­tu­ni­ties.

OUR SEC­OND DAY com­menced with a nice Man­gawhai sun­rise. We were still a bit shell-shocked from the pre­vi­ous day’s events, but also brought back to earth some­what by Tony as­sur­ing us that we’d be most un­likely to en­joy a re­peat in New Zealand’s coastal wa­ters.

Not un­ex­pect­edly, the morn­ing was very slow, as Tony sus­pected the bite time was go­ing to be in the af­ter­noon. How­ever, the workups were amaz­ing, with gan­nets div­ing in all di­rec­tions through mas­sive bait schools of jack mack­erel. And, sure enough, time and per­sis­tence in work­ing the pre­vi­ous day’s area re­sulted in Gary fi­nally tag­ging and re­leas­ing his first stripy.

Af­ter that we had one more strike, which was bill-wrapped and dropped af­ter a ten-minute fight, be­fore the day ended.

We’d en­joyed an amaz­ing nine mar­lin hook-ups, with five fish tagged and re­leased over two days – an ex­pe­ri­ence we’ll prob­a­bly never du­pli­cate. Also, with so much ac­tiv­ity in such a short time on the wa­ter, our skill lev­els had grown mas­sively.

So no more mar­lin vir­gins on this farm – but it does beg the ques­tion: what do we do next year?

The writer gives an­other striped mar­lin a quick pat be­fore re­leas­ing it.

A mar­lin vir­gin no more. Johnny Groves about to re­lease his first bill­fish.

An­other mar­lin cherry popped – Rob­bie Hill with his first bill­fish.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.