David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Greatest NZ Stories: Fishing at Spirits Bay

From Cape Reinga to the Bluff, the New Zealand Herald's epic roadtrip has begun! To celebrate the Herald's 150th anniversary, we're on the hunt for your greatest stories.

Ian Ross abandoned Tania Norden-Ross with a cup of soup about 6.30am today. She stayed in the van, parked up at the Spirits Bay camp ground, while he set off with his fishing rod for the beach. There was an unmistakable curl of the lip when he reported back with a kahawai. Smoked is okay, she says.

"She's spoiled," said Mr Ross. "Too much snapper, hapuka, scallops, kingfish." The fishing has always been good for Mr Ross, it seems, but it got better since they moved from Auckland to Paparoa. Don't tell anyone, but the Kaipara Harbour is amazing fishing if you know what you're doing.

For this couple (he's 43 and she's 49) the happiness they found outside the city is the story which bubbles out, almost without prompting.

"You look at the Auckland market and think 'we would have made a huge capital gain," says Mr Ross. "But measure it against how happy we are...".

That's not to say they were unhappy in Birkdale, they say. Mrs Norden-Ross says it was great. Then "we found a piece of paradise".

The couple have 10 acres and Mr Ross, a carpet layer by trade, "started off as a townie and end up a semi-farmer". Their two children, Cory (22) and Dayna (18) still live in Auckland.

"It was just a change and we decided if it didn't work out then no harm done," says Mr Ross. It's been brilliant. "People are friendly. They have the time of day for you. In the city, people don't."

The couple have got away from lambing and have a week checking out Mr Ross' former fishing haunts, from younger wilder days with mates. It's more than a decade since he's been to Spirits Bay. Mr Ross recalls "all my old haunts form when I was a youth, charging up here with a fishing rod". "I've been hearing about it for years," says Mrs Norden-Ross. "I thought I better come and check it out."

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