There is Always Two Sides to a Story - Rob's Version (1995)

Recently Rosa and I were honeymooning in this very place. We may be in the first flush of romantic passion but as we are not in the first flush of youth - we needed some outdoor activities to occupy our time. Planning for things to take on honeymoon required trips to specialist shops - you know the ones.

My favourite is the Fisherman's Loft in Christchurch, where I got some 1 oz (30g) ball
sinkers, a couple of packets of Black Magic hooks, a spare 600m spool of 10kg nylon
and some advice from Peter Hart: "Stay away from Talleys Wharf at Motueka. Apparently he had just spent his annual leave there and hadn't seen a snapper. A couple of Rapalas, a Stingsilda and a handful of salmon gear, which I was sure would come in handy. We arrived at our rented accommodation at about 10pm where my wife of three days - always considerate of my welfare - suggested we have a
nightcap and retire so we could spend a full day fishing the next day.

It was our honeymoon remember. We got up late and hired a motorboat from the
proprietor of the store at Portage and headed off to fish the mussel farm at Mills Bay.
After about three hours and only a few spotties we decided the birds we had been
watching all day must know better than us. We upped anchor and motored slowly over to
the raft of gulls and sooty shearwater sitting in the middle of the sound and eased our
way around the outside of them. No sooner did we arrive than the surface started to
explode with action from beneath. the birds falling onto the victims of the carnage
wreaked by the kahawai below. We spent about an hour collecting small kahawai for bait
and motored back to Portage to drop off the boat. 

The Portage is not only licensed to sell spirituous liquors but also has a pool table, so my
wife challenged me, hunter and breadwinner to a game or two. A few warm ups and a
couple of games later it seemed to me that my luck had to be better with the fish so we
went back to our temporary home for dinner and a glass of wine before heading down
our private track to the water about 200m below the house and our private tinny.

After forgetting to put the bung in and falling in the water. I climbed back up to the house,
changed, climbed back down and relaunched the boat. I sat and sat and sat, off the
mooring 100m offshore - but not a touch! We took a few days off and went over to
Blenheim for the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival where Rosa was singing. I had a
wonderful day experiencing the wine and food of the Marlborough region but that is
another story. Back to the Sounds. We had received all the necessary snapper catching
instructions from our land lady. Just row out 100m, drop your bait and sinker over the
side and row back to the shore. feeding out line as you go. Wait five minutes and the
simple approach.

It had taken me only six days to heed these instructions. The next day we made a start
at 9.30am (well it was still our honeymoon). Rosa and I got into the dinghy and rowed to
the beach adjacent to our own bay. We drop the bait about 100m offshore - "should we
measure it?" - and row flat out for shore. We waited five minutes. and reeled in a

"Well darling. it's pretty small"

"But it's a snapper and it's legal and it's our first."

"Okay, we'll kill it.""Don't hurt it".

"Aargh - it stabbed me with its fins!"

"It serves you right"

"Hey how come I have to bait up, kill the fish, and row the boat?" 

"Because you're so strong and brave, sweetheart."

Mumble mumble ... We repeated the process and wound in another snapper. I could
hardly believe my luck - there in front of us was 4.5kg (10lb) of fine Kenepuru snapper.
The locals said it was a small one but it was the biggest I had ever caught. ·
"Now darling" I said. remembering the previous night's games of pool. "that's what a real
snapper looks like!" 

We decided we'd rowed back to the ramp, hand the dinghy over to our house guests, my
niece and her husband from Canada who had never been to Marlborough before. Of
course, I had to have one last try before stepping ashore. 100m offshore, drop the
bait, row back, snapper ("Two!" said Rosa) was enough for the morning, wind in a
snapper." she had said as she handed us the key.

Armed with all the necessary equipment. I add "Wow that"s pretty big fish eh! " said
Gord, my nephew-in-law, the master of understatement. "Yeah there's a good meal
there said Leigh, my niece. The reel screamed again. I grabbed the rod, made the strike
and held on. Thump, thump went the weight on the end of the line. Pump, wind, pump,
wind, pump, wind. Give line, give line, pump, wind. The 2.2m Ugly Stick almost folded in half, but line reappeared slowly on the reel. The fish eventually appeared at the edge of the shallow water, all fins erect and spread, tailbeating the water. lt swam in an arc about 20m away, backwards and forwards on the surface, slowly, closer and closer. 

"Gord, please pass me the gaff - thank you" I said (although it came out as - "Quick, give
us the bloody gaff"). 

l took the gaff in my right hand and manipulated the loop_ over my
wrist while keeping the weight and most of my attention on the fish. I had heard of fish of
proportions such as this before, but I had only dreamed of ever catching one myself.
Slowly I drew the fish towards me. Although it was almost exhausted, I knew I could still
lose it through inattention, which was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. The fish
gave another lunge for freedom, but by strength of will, I managed to prevent any of my
notoriously poor knots from untying, or last year's mono from parting company where it
was nicked from the cracks in that tip ring I had been meaning to replace since the
beginning of the year before last. 

Gradually I regained control and eased the fish within reach of the rocks and the point of
the gaff, which I inserted inside the edge of its gill plate and lifted it clear of the water. I
had a spike with which to despatch the fish, but there was no mark on it to indicate the
optimum position of placement. I guess that somewhere above and behind the eyes
should do the trick and, sure enough, the fish flares its fins, quivers, then falls still.
Finally, it is mine. I have never found those scales which lurk in the bottom of
fishermen's bags to be as accurate as the manufacturers claim, and the ones of which I weighed my fish were no exception to this rule. As I lifted the fish the indicator began its

journey down the scale 5lb..10lb .. 15lb .. 17lb.. 17lb? 17lb, nothing! That's a 20lb
snapper if ever I saw one. I try bouncing the fish up and down on the scales, but no way
would it go any heavier than 17lb. Still, I can't complain. Never before had I caught a
snapper which even approached the weight of this one, so I was a happy man.
That elusive 20 pounder will have to wait till next year - but you can bet your boots I'll be
out there looking for it. In the meantime, I will be practising that kissing business - you
know, keep it simple, stupid!

October 1995 - Rob Clarke
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited