A bunny's guide to surfcasting

Off the beach

KEVIN COUTTS
Last updated 14:14 08/08/2011
bunny1
Lynn the Ruthless shows her prowess in the surf.
bunny2
A bit more drag should sort out that snapper, Lynn...

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If you know the slightest thing about the surfcasting, stop reading now and flick through the pages until you come across an article by Basher or Kemsley. You’ll probably learn something.

As the title suggests, this is for those who – like me – profess to know bugger-all, but want to give it a go anyway, and maybe, just maybe, put an occasional feed on the table.
Up until a couple of years ago, all of my fishing had been from boats. There were many, including my old mate Morrie from Ngapuna, who said I knew bugger-all about that, too. Being blessed with twenty-twenty hindsight, he may have even been right.
Morrie actually used to catch a lot of fish, but I tended to shy away from closing off bays and estuaries with two or three nets tied together, or herding trout up a spawning stream and dealing to them with gaffs and pitchforks.

I went with Morrie once, but didn’t take up the offer a second time, after being shot at by an irate landowner who apparently had a lucrative deal with a professional fishing guide. And, I also found out later, he had some reasonably reliable evidence that Morrie was conducting an illicit affair with his wife during the calving season. It would appear that the part of his waders he left on the top strand of the barbed-wire boundary fence – while decamping rather hurriedly – was the bit with his phone number written on it.

I’m not entirely sure if it was the gaffing of the trout or the affair that upset the owner, or whether it was Morrie indignantly informing him of the illegalities of charging for fishing rights.

Anyway, netting, gaffing trout and sordid affairs with other men’s wives has got bugger all to do with surfcasting, so lets’ move on. (Having said that, this particular farmer’s wife wasn’t all that hard on the eye if I remember correctly... But, as I said, let’s move on.)

As mentioned, a couple of years ago I decided to enter the ranks of those who sat on the beach, drank beer and pulled their limits of snapper off various Bay of Plenty beaches. Articles in this paper by those earlier mentioned, Basher and Kemsley, really inspired me, to the extent I rushed out and, with the assistance of my total lack of knowledge and ignoring the advice of the salesman, purchased a 14-foot fibreglass surf rod.

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I raced off home and smuggled it into my garage before my wife of more years than I care to remember (from here on known as Lynne the Ruthless) spotted it, and began to get the feel of it by swishing it around, delighting in the extremely sensitive tip-section’s action. As early as this, I learned a valuable lesson: a garage is not the ideal environment to swish a 14-foot surf rod with a sensitive tip.

The following day, after getting the tip section repaired, I re-smuggled it back into my garage and fitted a Penn Spinfisher reel onto the butt end. I did this again by ignoring the advice of the salesman, who had been rabbiting on about the reel being wrong, due to its lack of spool length. Fortunately, I knew better. He also recommended I load the reel with six- or eight-kilogram line, so I put on 10kg and was ready to go.

Filled with enthusiasm and knowledge gained from my years of boat fishing, I headed off to the coast. Being a bit of an anti-social type, I found a stretch of beach devoid of other anglers (which should have told me something) and proceeded to set up my gear.
Conditions were ideal: no surf to speak of, bright sunshine and plenty of daylight left. I can’t remember which way the tide was going.

I had been told to use decent-sized hooks with a short running trace or a dropper rig. Anyone knows a long trace gets more movement, so I put one on about five feet in length. Since the fish aren’t that big off the shore, I decided a 3/0 hook was about right. I read the writing on the side of my rod, which said it would cast a 3-5oz sinker, so put on a 4oz. At least I got something about right.

I then gave the outfit a huge heave, expecting it to fly toward the horizon, only to bloody-near crap myself when the line snapped. On my next cast I remembered to put the bail arm across, and was quite pleased with a distance of about 60 metres. So I put the rod in a beach spike and waited.
That afternoon spelt the beginning and almost the end of my surfcasting. I did actually get one bite. I knew it was a bite due to my rod tip violently crashing down about a half an inch. My bait was gone when I wound in as well.

I went home and put my rod in the shed, not at the time giving a rat’s a**e whether Lynne the Ruthless saw it or not, and forgot about surfcasting for a a very long time.
Elephants are said to have the greatest memories of any living thing. That’s a fallacy. Lynne the Ruthless has a better memory than any bloody elephant I’ve ever met.

Totally out of the blue one day in March, a couple of years after my first attempt, she says, “Why don’t we go over to the beach and use that surfcasting rod you bought a couple of years ago?”
Without missing a beat, I said, “No worries, I’ll pack the wagon,” but at the same time telling myself to be more bloody careful. If she saw me put a surfcaster into the shed, who knows what else she’d seen over the years and just stored away in that evil little memory bank only wives seem to have.
At the time all this happened, Nigel Wood was alive and doing a fair bit of beach fishing, so I had a bit of an idea where to go.

The first place we tried was ‘The Sandpit’ (which has got a proper Maori name, but since I can’t spell it, we’ll stick to The Sandpit), which is roughly between Maketu and the Tarawera River. When we got there, it was about two o’clock in the afternoon, the tide was about halfway in, and there was a bit of a swell hitting the beach.

Since my first abortive effort, I’d skipped over a few articles in this magazine and had a few chats with Nigel. In the process I became a bit intrigued about ‘reading a beach’. But don’t interpret ‘intrigued’ as ‘understood’. I had absolutely no idea what they were on about. I even had a sniff of Nige’s tobacco, but it seemed legal.

Consequently, I started our session beside the truck and looking at the water. Lynne the Ruthless asked whether we were going to start fishing. I told her to be patient and that I was reading the beach. She gave me one of those looks and got back into the truck, where I saw her sniff my tobacco. She then got out, told me this spot would do, and carried the chairs and chilly bin down the beach.
I got our single rod off the top, put on a slightly shorter trace, clipped on a sinker, baited up with a bit of mullet, and heaved the thing as far as I could into the white water. There was some calmer stuff out a bit, but I couldn’t cast that far.

I had barely sat down when Lynne started yelling that the rod was bending over. I had a quick look and established she wasn’t imagining things – I actually had a fish on.

Then, with heaps of advice from Lynne the Ruthless, I started winding, and within a few minutes dragged my first-ever beach-caught snapper onto the sand. After a couple of “holy shits”, a “bloody hell”, and a few others, I picked up a fish of about 30cm.

That afternoon we landed perhaps six more of about the same size. Admittedly there were a couple of minor domestics when Lynne had a go and dropped her first one through not following instructions. I had always been reasonably sure of my ancestry until then.

Not to be outdone, I came to regret suggesting that learning to wash and iron properly should be higher on her priority list, rather than coming to the beach with the sole purpose of pissing me off.

Next month: yes I did survive, so I’ll tell you how to still be a bunny, but a slightly more knowledgeable one. Catch you then.

- Fishing News

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