Reader Story - May 2012

Putting the challenge back into fishing

Last updated 14:09 06/05/2012
Back to the future. Frank and Gibbo’s tackle selection, showing the ‘refinement’ of the rods and reels from vintage Olympic spin reels (bottom) through to the totally creative combos at the top. Note the hooks and sinkers constructed from scrap and other bits and pieces lying around the workshop.
Hooks made out of the thicker wire did not have the penetration of their finer-gauge counterparts.
The proof is in the catching. The Mark I tackle produced this nice school snapper, among others.
The Catch!

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Putting the challenge back into fishing

Fishing in the Bay of Plenty had been up to its usual level of awesomeness.

After yet another sunrise kayak excursion a few kilometres out off our local beach, my mate Gibbo and I were back on the beach by 8am with as many snapper as we chose to keep and a hell of a lot more released to fight another day. (It should be noted that we keep only a small portion of our catch, and give the majority away to people who can neither catch it themselves or afford to pay up to $39 a kilo for fish caught in their own backyards.)

As we dragged our 'yaks up the beach, passers-by out for their early morning beach strolls gathered and marvelled at our catches, and as we casually answered their excited questions, it hit us that we needed a bit more of a challenge in our fishing lives. Perhaps we should give the fish a bit more of a chance of beating the odds, which are usually so heavily stacked against them when up against our assorted dazzling, precision-made gear, all armed with chemically-sharpened hooks?

The following week, while at work, a small Norfolk pine caught our attention, and it was agreed that we were to each produce a rod made from a branch of said tree, along with insulation tape and wire.

Reels were to be two, almost identical, very old Japanese Olympic 98 reels purchased off good old Trade-Me for around five bucks each.

After manufacturing our rods in strict secrecy (to avoid any risk of copying), about an hour later, two very different designs emerged.

While I elected for a very traditional spin-type rod, albeit short, heavy and without any trace of flex or bend, Gibbo cunningly went for a design based on the old poacher's rod, but probably ended up with a lot more flex than he'd like. I would be praying for him to catch a large kingie, barracouta or (if my prayers were really to be answered) a nice fat bronze whaler shark!

So, armed with our vintage Japanese reels (white headbands were considered), branch rods, wire and tape, the scene was set. (We did allow ourselves the luxury of standard sinkers and hooks this time.)

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Any trepidation about the performance of our equipment while paddling out under the early morning stars soon faded after good-sized snapper started filling the bins.

While our rods had their own very distinct characteristics, particularly flex traits at their extremities, they and the old Olympic 98s were very much up to the task, resulting in good-sized trevally, kahawai and snapper up to around 3.5kg being landed, plus rat kingies that were caught and released. (Where were you, Mr Bronzie, when I really needed you?)

So here we were, back on the beach with our catches around 0800 hours once more, with the same spectators, same questions and a lot of additional explanation around our fishing equipment. So we decided even more of a challenge was required.

Take two: same rules for the rods, but the reels had to be home made, while hooks were to be constructed from wire, and the 'sinkers' selected from our scrap metal bin. We would go out before work in my Mac 360 and fish for one hour.

New branches were selected - the tree needed pruning anyway - and the heart of the reels had to be discarded plastic line spools. Two similar looking combos were produced, although Gibbo's had a definite Rastafarian look about it. Both had very slow 1:1 retrieve ratios, with one turn of the handle retrieving about 10-12cm of line, so fishing in our usual 20 metres of water was going to be interesting. Also, there was no drag, anti-reverse, or other luxuries we now take for granted.

Hooks consisted of wire bent into in a variety of shapes and thicknesses (with a distinct lack of barbs); as for sinkers, they were no problem, with nuts and bolts being the obvious choices.

After a short jaunt up the river and over the bar, we motored out to sea about two kilometres under the stars, anchored up, and were fishing by around 6.45am.

'Dropping' the lines proved to be problematic, with the solution being to wind backwards all the way to the bottom.

Once there though, results were instant, with Gibbo catching and releasing the first snapper of around 32cm. However, despite my thicker-hook rigs being nailed immediately upon hitting the bottom, I was for all intents 'feeding the fish'. Then, what was clearly a larger fish took my bait, but by the time I managed to stop the handle wildly rotating, gaining a few hard whacks to my knuckles in the process, it was gone.

A change to a finer-gauged wire hook saw improved penetration and immediate success, with a solid snapper secured. This signalled the start of a fruitful hour that produced snapper, trevally and kahawai - but nothing of significant size to truly test our gear.

So with the proceeds of our catch distributed amongst our workmates later on, we were left pondering what our next challenge might be...

Watch this space. 

- Fishing News

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