No eel lizard in sight, but five fish in the bag

Wild Appetite

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
tdn kahawai stand
Matt with one of the kahawai he caught on day one of his attempt to live off the land for 12 days.
Wild Appetite - day one
Day one was spent ledge fishing and then long-lining at Mokau with Steve McEwen

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There is nothing wrong with five.

For starters it is bigger than one, two, three and four and on top of that it is also the number of fish I caught on the first day of 12 living off the land in Taranaki.

Of course it's not really fair to say I caught them because the expertise was Stratford's Steve McEwen.

The one-time nightclub owner, former competitive bodybuilder and practitioner of short minimalism met us just north of Tongaporutu at 5.45am yesterday to guide us to a secret ledge.

"There's a guy already there," he said. "So let's get going"

After an urgent scurry we arrived to a sight of some beauty. The full moon hung on the horizon like a polished button, the sky went from steel blue to pink and Mt Taranaki stood in all its majesty across the water.

It was a beautiful spot that was for sure, but we weren't there to get all emotional about it and Steve quickly got five rods in the water. Disappointingly the fish were not appreciative of our efforts.

"It was going off yesterday," Steve said.

"Not as good as we hoped today. Fish are a bit like women in that way."

Nevertheless, when we left for lunch at his friend Heidi Preston's we had two kahawai and a gurnard in the bucket.

"So you're the one that can't eat bacon," Heidi said when we arrived to see her cracking eggs into a pan and readying a tray of juicy bacon and crisp hash browns.

Uncharacteristically I stayed true to my task, munching on fried gurnard in tortillas I made the night before while everyone else gorged on bacon and eggs.

After lunch we headed to Mokau beach to put the long line out.

Just as Steve began guiding the torpedo to take the line though the waves, Mokau resident Gordon Burton arrived on his quad bike to tell us we should have put it out in the another place.

With lots of other helpful tips to impart, the retired Tarata farmer stayed around to make sure we got the most out of what he had to offer.

Unexpectedly this included a description of a snub-nosed monster living in New Zealand waters.

"Captain Cook wrote about it. I don't know what you call it. It's like a cross between and eel and a lizard," Gordon said. "Take a big fat eel. Put some legs on it and a top fin and you've got the full deal."

Unfortunately we were unable to catch an eel lizard ourselves. But we did get two more gurnard.

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Today: Honey collecting and pig hunting.

Tomorrow: Cheese making and inner city foraging.

- Taranaki Daily News


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