I have thoroughly enjoyed fishing with Chris Brittain in the past and
jumped at the chance to fish with him again. This trip was aboard the new and
luxuriously appointed Tagit, a 13.2 metre Alan Warwick design based in Paihia,
the Bay of Islands. Accompanying me on the trip was Brenda Knight, a super-keen
fisho. She was really looking forward to being out on the water again —
particularly on a boat as beautiful as Tagit.
As was the case last time, Chris welcomed our trying for the off-beat and
hard to achieve — a brave call for someone who was having his expertise and
service appraised, written about, and then read by the fishing masses!
This type of trip is prone to a high incidence of failure, but as Chris has
been responsible for catching a heap of spectacular fish for his customers in
the past, he’s only too aware that it’s a case of ‘nothing ventured, nothing
For instance, on our 24-hour trip the agenda went something like this: try to
troll up a marlin (nothing too special about this — except that this was the
middle of July!); park up for a broadbill drift (hard enough in the best of
conditions, but he went through with the plan despite 15-20 knot winds); try to
catch a kingfish the following morning, preferably on 1-4kg line or saltwater
fly gear or maybe try for a shark on fly tackle if conditions allow.
In the end, despite being most enjoyable and educational, the trip provided
more of the spadework that these missions usually require. Real achievements
don’t come easy! However, while bobbing around in the sloppy seas (surprisingly
comfortable despite 15-20 knot winds) and waiting for a broadbill to bite, I
managed to boat some truly mammoth squid. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch one that
appeared to be nearly a metre in length!
The next day, we fought our way through hordes of big hungry kahawai to catch
a dozen koheru, and then grew to love the sight of barracouta eating them all.
The cold snap had unfortunately served to sew up the mouths of our yellow-tailed
Around midday, I weakened somewhat and asked if we could do a little snapper
fishing. It turned out that this was probably what we should have been doing all
day. Although we only ended up with seven or eight fish to 2.5kg, the catch
excluded a couple of real monsters. These big fish raced away with my whole
koheru baits, tantalisingly ripped off line from a hard-set drag, and then left
me with only the crushed and mangled remains of my bait — and dreams. The trip
was a superb illustration of why I like fishing with Chris. The middle of winter
and he was happy to do the crazy things that Brenda and I wanted, with no
regrets at the end. We had all done our best.
Chris never backs down from a challenge (unless you want him to) and will try
for all types of sport fish on any class of tackle. This is a refreshing change
from game skippers totally focused on only catching fish with beaks on their
faces and encouraging the use of 24 and 37kg tackle (not that there’s anything
wrong with doing that!).
He’s also severely underrated. Chris needs a publicist because he’s not the
type of bloke to tell everyone how good he is and what he’s done. So I’m going
to do that for him — as his partner, Leonie Kai Patterson, has also been doing.
There is no doubt in my mind that Chris is amongst the top five natural
fishermen in the Bay of Islands charter fleet, and now that he has a boat to
match his talents, l predict that we will be hearing a lot more about this man.
Even now, Chris has achieved the kind of success that most good skippers will
not see in their lifetime. The ‘Contest Wins’ and ‘Record Fish’ sections are not
spacious enough for all the relevant information, so Chris has given me a few
examples. Here are a few of them: Woman’s World Record Blue Marlin, 326 kg on
24kg tackle (current); Men’s World Record Striped Marlin, 165kg on 15kg (by a 15
year old!); Pending Woman’s World Record Shortbilled Spearfish, 33.4kg on 24kg;
Woman’s World Record Yellowtail Kingfish, 26kg on 8kg (disallowed because the
line under-tested at less than 6kg!).
Contest wins include winning the Bay of Islands Light Tackle Tournament four
times in five years, winning the Houhora One Base in 1997 and coming second in
1999 — the list goes on.
The quality of fishing gear on board will help in the future, too. It’s a
healthy mix of Penn and Shimano, from big and medium lever drag game reels down
to the smaller, utility-type Jigmasters and Baitrunners. These, along with any
‘pets’ that you might wish to bring along, are kept secure and available in
Tagit’s 20 rod holders.
A quick check of lockers, cupboards and the hold, showed me that all
necessary gaffs, landing/bait nets and useful accessories were all present and
accounted for (a good thing as they’re often needed).
Californian angler, Art Lange, certainly found this out earlier this year,
having originally chartered Chris and Tagit on a kingfish and yellowfin
expedition. Almost immediately he boated an 18kg kingfish and was already a
well-satisfied man — but that was far from the end. Chris then took them out
wide to try for a tuna, but unfortunately only marlin liked the lures — first, a
stripie of 85kg, and later a blue of 190kg. Both were tagged and released. The
next day they went out again and tagged another stripie. Fortunately, despite
not catching a yellowfin, Art is booked to return next year!
About now, Chris will probably be wishing that I would get on to the rest of
the operation. Probably, the owner of Tagit, Graham Penwarden, is too.
Tagit is a lovely boat and it’s obvious that no expense has been spared in
her construction, or in the quality of the equipment on board. As a result, she
is surveyed to fish all the way out to the Three Kings Islands — a quick and
easy feat when you’re powered by twin Iveco 300hp Fiats, enabling her to
comfortably cruise at 18 knots.
What I particularly liked was that the charter price includes towels and
linen requirements (great to jump into a freshly made bed at the end of the
day), as well as all the food and refreshments — apart from alcoholic beverages,
Although Tagit carries the usual electronics, for navigation and
communication, I was interested and pleased to see that she also had a Kiwitech
plotter. The unit incorporates a computer that interfaces with weather fax and
tidal information, and has the capabilities to connect up to E-mail and the
Internet in the future.
Her saloon is comfortable and spacious, and very well set up for socialising,
with enough seating for eight or nine people. There’s a wine rack housed in the
table support, and the choice of either listening to music on the CD/tape
stereo, or watching a video or TV.
A four-burner stove sorts out the majority of cooking requirements; a
microwave oven sorts out the rest. No excuses for not eating well!
As for sleeping arrangements, Tagit has four single-berths aft, a spacious
double in the mid-section, another single up the side of the saloon and two more
singles up above. Fresh water showers can be found both in the bathroom and out
on the deck.
As you might have gathered by now, Chris and Tagit are an excellent
combination. They deserve each other and there are going to be a lot of happy
punters in the future as a result. Chris is easy-going, knowledgeable, versatile
and committed to whatever the charter wants, while Tagit is spacious,
comfortable, stable, fast and very, very well equipped. They are going to do