Blokes and Their Boats - October 2012
Kaitaia's Rod WatsonSTEVE RADICH
Taller than a 44-gallon drum, it was over two metres long and fat as. They fed it to the pigs, which was fun to watch.
Rod was four years old and it was his very first fish. He later found out that the eel in question had been the previous landowner's pet. Oops! The place: the new dairy farm at Kaingaroa near Kaitaia.
Born in Napier, Rod's dad had been a commercial fisherman long-lining for 'puka and netting flounder. One night the anchor dragged and he almost found himself on the rocks. @#%$! So he gave up fishing and went farming, hence the move to Kaingaroa in the Far North.
Dad Watson wasn't too interested in taking the family fishing out of Napier, but they did get into spearing flounder after moving north. Those nocturnal adventures have remained vividly etched in Rod's mind: the smell of the kerosene lantern, the over-the-shoulder sugar bags sewn up with bailing twine, and the homemade spears of ti-tree shafts with sharpened No 8 wire spear tips. They even built an underwater electric lamp powered by a backpack motorcycle battery. He reckons he quickly discovered the tricky light-bending characteristics of water. His curiosity piqued, the phenomenon encouraged him to later pursue a career as a high school science teacher.
Rod's first boat was a 14'6" (4.42m) Sea Nymph powered by a Johnson 85hp outboard. Rod recalls the Sea Nymph as a great little sea boat, especially in a following sea, but found the motor a bit of a gas-guzzler.
Instead of replacing the motor, he decided to opt for a totally new Fyran 440 with a smaller outboard.
Joining forces with mate Kevin Dean, two new boats were purchased from Marine North in Whangarei.
"Got a really good deal - there's always more bargaining power with two," Rod recalled with a knowing grin.
The boys then worked together afterhours in the school's tech shop to build a couple of galvanised trailers for their prize tinnies. Rod describes the Fyran as very user-friendly - easy to launch and retrieve off beaches, and stable, safe and reliable.
With the skills and technology close at hand, Rod modified the side benches to carry dive bottles and his favourite 7-foot (2.1m) casting rods. Lifting the ply diaphragm set between the hinged wooden seat and the alloy bin, Rod employed a jigsaw to increase the size of the access hatch. The original plastic trim was returned to the cowling to cap the abrasive edges of the cut alloy. The boat now carried two safe and secure bottles per side.
One Xmas the boys had some special T-shirts printed. One was marked 'Captain', another 'Anchor W****r' with a 'Tiller Tart' and 'Winch Wench' for the ladies in the crew. Wearing these same T-shirts, they called in at Whangaroa's Kingfish Lodge one day for a drink.
"And which is your launch?" asked a patron with plum in mouth. Attempting to mimic the pommy accent, skipper Rod pointed to the tinny hanging off the lodge jetty.
"Ahem," came the swallowed reply.
Rod's current vessel is a Marco 550 powered by a 90hp two-stroke Mercury. Compared with the competition, Rod liked the Marco's chequerplate floors and underfloor storage. Choosing the extra locker over the walk-through transom option, Rod uses the extra space for spare fuel and oil. And with his trusty jigsaw once again in hand, he's cut holes at the front ends of both open-side lateral storage pockets to fit his favoured 2.1m casting rods. With a ring of split garden hose to protect the rod tips from the abrasive aluminium, he can now carry three rods a side with ease.
High-speed beach launching and retrieving is a key element to Rod's boating. He says he's seen too many 4WDs down to their axles on a rising tide. Beaching his boat and then driving the trailer under the boat, Rod reckons the rear wobble rollers on his Marco's trailer are a big step forward. He claims that with his son at the helm, he can leap over the side and have the boat on the trailer in less than a minute. And with all wheels moving during the retrieval process, there's no time for any to settle or sink.
Memorable nautical moments include a 45lb (20.4kg) kingfish speared at Danger Rock; Rod reckons the fish took off like a submarine and dragged him about for at least 10 minutes. On another less auspicious occasion, Rod won a slab of two-dozen beers from the Oakura tackle shop for his biggest fish of the week.
Stowing the beers in the garage, Rod stoked the barbeque out back to feed his mates. By the time his thirst required quenching, the beer had vanished, nicked by a cheeky opportunist wandering the sleepy streets of holiday town Oakura.
Then there were those double strikes of 20kg hapuku off the Sugar Loaf whilst fishing on board a charter boat out of Tutukaka. He recalls that the three anglers fishing from the bow of the boat caught most of the fish, while the rest of the team was busy bucketing water out of the bilge at the stern. Apparently the skipper had left a stopcock open, but was too embarrassed to call Coastguard for help. When the bailers later divvied up the catch, they kept all the midsections and gave the catchers the heads and tails.
"The mean bastards - so much for bloody mates!" recalls a then surprised and now much wiser Rod Watson.
Best of all was a five-day trip to the Three Kings Islands on board charter boat Shiraz. Adrift for the duration of the trip, Rod landed his first beaky, a 70kg striped marlin. They also caught and released 20kg+ kingfish beyond count, landed their share of 'puka, tagged and released four marlin, saw heaps more, and kept one.
As much a diver as fisher, even now in his 60s, Rod still loves to dive. He especially likes winter diving because the water is so incredibly clear and the crayfish more plentiful. Despite the changes in fishing technologies, his favourite method remains stray-lining whole pilchards over the foul. He reckons it works best with a bit of current and a decent berley trail. He especially enjoys fishing with wife Laurel and son Michael, who also love the water and have landed some very good fish over the years. Rod's secret passion is to fish after a storm has drawn snapper in to feed on the smashed mussels and kina - he reckons it's hard to beat.
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