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Re-enactment of a classic fishing tale
  |  First Published: March 2012



A lot of my ideas come from bouncing them off mates – normally in my shed during a few coldies. As you can imagine they are all winners on the night but once the thumping light of morning comes round only the good ones stick.

This is how one of my cooler adventures came to be when discussing the possibility of reliving a few of the pages in Zane Grey’s epic novel, The Anglers Eldorado. Could I catch a marlin the way these pioneers used to? I have to admit I’m not a big reader of novels; I can actually count on one hand the number I’ve read. Magazines, DVDs and movies are more my thing, but every angler in the world needs to read that book, with perhaps a side of The Old man and the Sea and Royce Royce the People Choice thrown in.

Just like many of my ideas, this one quickly blossomed into something that would put coincidence and irony to the sword. I was already a big step towards achieving the goal with my good mate Darryl Honey owning the actual boat that Grey talks about in his book, the Alma G.

Through Darryl’s relationship with the original owners I was also able to secure the use of a genuine Tanikaha rod and reel and a few more calls later we had period clothing to go with it. So there I was, dressed to kill in tweed and cotton on the Paihia wharf with a 100-year-old rod and reel, set to go old school marlin fishing. I boarded the Alma G and we headed out to try and make some more history.

From there the coincidences with the book got very weird. We were using the revolutionary advice Grey imparted in the book by towing fenders as teasers, we had live baits ready to go and we were in good-looking water. The next thing we see is a penguin surface just off our stern being harassed by a mako shark. There are pages dedicated to the exact same scene playing out for Grey nearly 90 years earlier. Not long after that the Otehi, the sister ship of the Alma G comes into view and it was the first time these two boats had been together in decades. Weird. Are we starting to see some divine intervention here?

We’d got the boat, the circumstances and the timing about bang on, and then all hell breaks loose as we hook up to a rampaging marlin; it’s now that I am really put to the test. With only a leather harness, no Tiagra hydrothermal drag system to help me out here, basically no drag at all, all I could do was hope for a miracle.

I’m starting to get a bit of line back and loading up pretty heavily on the fish when there’s a sudden jolt through the rod and I am blown away to find that the reel seat has broken – just like in the novel. Some quick thinking from the crew had the reel whipped back onto the rod in short order but when I reached for my first wind since the explosion I had another problem.

The shock must have over stressed the reel and it was no longer functioning. I turned the handle but nothing happened. Here I am, re-living one of the most-read fishing tales of all time – re-living it a little bit too well as it turned out.

An old bit of advice occurs to me and I decide to take the reel out of gear and then put it back in again and success, we’re back in the fight. I would win some line only for the fish to take some back – the Alma G was roaring back in reverse then steaming ahead at full speed. I was in the midst of a great marlin battle.

Eventually I managed to get the fish to the boat to secure a gaff shot and it will go down as one of the more memorable marlin captures I’ve ever experiences. Better yet it rekindled the thrill I used to get from marlin fishing years earlier. By evening out the odds a little more the win just felt that much better, and to walk a few steps in Grey’s shoes was a very humbling and enjoyable trip.

I have to say, I appreciate my Tiagras and Stellas just a little more these days and sometimes catch myself thinking about how far a simple thing like a fishing reel has come in technological advancements. The old gear did the job but I reckon I put one of my favourite sayings to the ultimate test that day – I’d rather be lucky than good and I think I was very lucky that day.

The episode forms part of our new series starting on Turbo Max on Foxtel later this year and I’d love to get your feedback on our Facebook page.

Keep ‘em tight.

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