Hook, line and sinker

Liz Breslin with the best snapper caught that night. Photo: Brad Carden
Liz Breslin with the best snapper caught that night. Photo: Brad Carden

They say, whoever they are, that learning new things keeps you younger. Which has me hovering, this summer, somewhere in my heady 20s. Except I didn’t read the fine print that it’s your mind, not your body,  that rewinds. Still, I never did much care what I looked like on the beach.

Anyway, the edumacationaling. Take fishing. Yes, let’s. Can we? Since rekindling a love for the rod and the big blue, I’ve been wakingly and dreamingly properly obsessing over the thing (sport? activity? family-feeder?) in the same way that all the hills around town turn ski-runnable on my way home from the skifield of a winter (or, this summer) day.

In fact, skiing and fishing have a lot in common. Except the necessary equipment and the environments. And fishing and orgasms, because, well, never mind. And fishing and that "Where have all the flowers gone" song. And fishing and Hacky Sack, and fishing and fishing and fishing and fishing.

I don’t know a lot about fishing, other than that I love it every time I’m lucky enough to go. Memorable excursions include fresh sashimi on the side of the river in Oshima, Japan, with green tea and the art sensei from school. We were heavily chaperoned by a disapproving colleague because who knows what might happen at 5am on a rocky riverside? Then the Moeraki excursion that took up a good chunk of my hen weekend. And the one that got away and broke my rod in the process at Timaru Creek.

Henry David Thoreau never actually famously said that "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is fish that they’re after."

But whatever you’re after, fishing seems to be one of those magic wonders (like turmeric), that will provide it.

Want good mental and physical health? Go fish. Though the fine print says that walking on the rocks is better than sitting on a boat for the latter, but what the heck. Boats are ace. Need some family bonding time? Go fish. Want to promote relaxation? You’ve got it. Go fish for self-reliance, patience, immune-system boosting and, um, fish. Which are high in omegas and due to be low in plastic microbeads by next July, which can only be a good thing, because it’s not just, like, you are what you eat, but we all are what we consume and anyway, I’m not sure why it would take that long to get rid of the tiny beady things if Morocco can ban burqa sales in 48 hours. I wonder how that’s going for them? Did I mention that fishing gives you time to think?

This summer I’ve been exploring northern-er waters. Notable finds include a porae (otherwise known in Australia as a jackass, or is that a fishing joke?), a yummy snapper much bigger than what everyone else landed that day (although it’s totally not a competition) and something I thought looked exactly like a perch until I read the small print in the book and realised he would be a long way from his freshwater home. I’ve got an awful lot to keep on learning.

Anyway, it pays to read the fine print. And it usually, mostly, definitely always pays to consult the locals. So here is my handy 18-point guide to fishing, compiled from all the advice I’ve received while I’ve been lucky enough to be sojourning on  Great Barrier Island this summer. 



1. Always use fresh bait.

2. The three-day-old stinky squid in the bucket is fine.

3. The best time to go fishing is on a slack tide.

4. The best time to go fishing is on a coming-in tide.

5. The best time to go fishing is at sunset.

6. The best time to go fishing is at sunrise.

7. Don’t get your hook caught on the ocean floor.

8. Don’t call it the floor.

9. Roll your sleeves up.

10. Bait your hook through the skin side, in and over. Imagine a big fishy taking a chomping bite.

11. Always kiss your first catch and throw it back for good luck.

12. Rule 11 doesn’t apply if it is a really good catch.

13. Don’t scream with anticipation when you get bites. Or just, in general, don’t scream.

14. The hooks with the dancing blue plastic octopuses don’t need bait.

15. When the pohutukawa flowers, the waves come. I’m not sure what this has to do with fish.

16. It’s good to go fish on a full moon.

17. It’s good to go fish on a new moon.

18. It’s good to go fish. 

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