Leg­endary co­in­ci­dences

Matt Wat­son, the fish­ing guru of ITM Fish­ing Show fame, has a new se­ries on Prime this month: ITM Hook Me Up!, where ev­ery­day New Zealan­ders as well as house­hold names ven­ture out on quests to ful­fil their fish­ing dreams. Wat­son is pic­tured aboard the Alm

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - A Day In The Life -

“I’d been on The Late Show, and David Let­ter­man said to me: “I hear you’re go­ing to catch a mar­lin off a surf­board.” I’d never said that. But it was my first live in­ter­view, so I just said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m go­ing to do that this sum­mer.” When I got home, I rigged my surf­board up with a rod holder on it and hus­tled up some mates and more or less went out and did it the first day. A guy who owned Zane Gray’s old boat had been in touch with us – it’s the Alma G, which is still based in the Bay of Islands. Gray was the god­fa­ther of game fish­ing, and a fa­mous Amer­i­can nov­el­ist and movie maker. The New Zealand Tourism Board brought him to New Zealand in the 1920s. He wrote a book called The End of El Do­rado, about his voy­age to New Zealand. When he got here, there were no game fish­ing boats but there was an old whal­ing boat called the Alma G and he con­verted it into a fish­ing boat.

The owner of the boat had re­stored it and of­fered for us to go out and fish on it. He said the peo­ple at the Russell Mu­seum could get some of the vin­tage clothes from that era for us to wear.

Be­fore Zane Gray left New Zealand, he gifted his game fish­ing reel – ba­si­cally a one-of-a-kind pro­to­type – to the skip­per of the Alma G, a 19-year-old called James. And now James’ daugh­ter – a wo­man named Mrs Ar­lidge – had it. The Alma G’s owner of­fered to ask Mrs Ar­lidge if we could use it for the shoot. It’s a price­less bloody an­tique which hadn’t been used for over 70 years. And she said: “Yeah, sure!”

We turned off all the elec­tron­ics and fished as they would have – no lures, we caught our own bait.

When we were catch­ing our bait, we saw a mako shark try­ing to eat a pen­guin. As soon as I saw it, I thought: “That’s what Zane Gray wrote about in his book!” It was the first mako shark I’d seen right in­side the bay, feed­ing. I thought: “Wow, that’s a bit of a co­in­ci­dence! The only other time I’ve heard of this hap­pened is in Zane Gray’s book!”

We headed miles off­shore once we’d caught our bait and there was only one other boat out there, called Ote­hei. It was the Alma G’s sis­ter ship – they used to go out in pairs be­cause there was no ra­dio con­tact in those days. It’s based in Tau­ranga and here we were, out of the Bay of Islands, and by pure co­in­ci­dence the Ote­hei was fish­ing along­side us.

We were tow­ing along an old teaser and up popped a mar­lin. I threw out the bait at­tached to this an­tique rod and reel, and it ate it. And, just like what hap­pened to Zane Gray, when we were fight­ing it, the reel got ripped off the rod and we tied it back on with twine. Any­one who’d read the book and watched the episode would have thought we’d man­u­fac­tured all those things.

I’m a big pro­po­nent of tag and re­lease but we were do­ing it as they would in those days, so we took the fish in to be eaten, man­aged to get Mrs Ar­lidge’s reel back to her in one piece, and filmed a lit­tle bit of his­tory, I guess. Britt Mann

ITM Hook Me Up! screens Mon­days at 7.30pm on Prime. The episode Wat­son refers to can be viewed at ul­ti­mate­fish­ing.tv.

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