French Pass full of delights

00:04, Jan 21 2011
Cherie Howie
Fish feed: Reporter Cherie Howie prepares to eat her freshly cooked catch (yes, there is fish in the sandwich)

They appeared like teenage pop sensation Justin Bieber – surfacing fleetingly to a reception of clicking cameras and high-pitched squeals. However, it wasn't Bieber fever that descended on the waters of French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds last Friday, but rather dusky-dolphin fever.

Infected beyond all hope were a dozen Taiwanese tourists I had joined on a half-day fishing trip with longtime tour operators Danny and Lyn Boulton.

The tourists' enthusiasm was contagious.

I enjoyed watching their delight almost as much as seeing the dolphins surfing the bow wave of Danny and Lyn's boat, Spirit of D'Urville.

It is a feeling shared by the couple, who have made a living from the nature that surrounds their home since they moved to French Pass 20 years ago.

They run a smorgasbord of tours, including swimming with dolphins and seals and outings to fish, dive or watch wildlife.


In the summer, they are out on the water almost every day, but it has done little to dull their enthusiasm.

You never get sick of it, or stop learning, Danny says.

"Nature's the best teacher you can have.

"The ocean's like a big carbon sink. Every breath you take, you take from the ocean."

He is passionate about conservation and doesn't miss a chance to take aim at the Government for not keeping a promise made under Labour that 10 per cent of fisheries would be in reserve by 2010.

The figure remains less than 1 per cent, but to be really effective, marine reserves need to account for at least one-quarter of New Zealand's fisheries, Danny says.

He backs the blue-cod ban, which does not extend south of the pass, but new rules introduced on April 1 will introduce a daily bag limit of two cod per person.

That was more than enough for us on Friday.

The tour is designed to show off the scenery and wildlife of French Pass and give guests a chance to catch their own lunch.

Fishing is a new experience for the Taiwanese tourists, none of whom have taken a rod and reel in hands before.

They approach it with the same enthusiasm they showed towards the dolphins earlier, and there is great excitement when the first fish is landed, followed by screams as it flaps about.

Could it get more exciting?

Yes, actually – soon after, one new angler hauls up two fish at the same time.

More screaming.

As an occasional angler in my childhood, I let the visitors have the experience of catching a fish before I drop my own line.

A fish hooks almost immediately and I begin reeling furiously.

I'd forgotten how exciting it is to catch your own food – it must be something primal.

It isn't a huge fish – it won't win awards or turn heads – but it's mine, and I couldn't be prouder about my contribution to lunch.

The Marlborough Express