Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: There's always more to learn

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When it comes to separating fish from their watery environment or tracking down a shy deer in thick forest, we are always learning.

As in much of life, the acquisitive tendencies we exhibit contribute much to our success. Although there was one occasion which defied all such conventions, involving an elderly gentleman who approached following a robust public discussion on suggested improvements to fishing techniques, thrust out his hand and declared: "I didn't learn anything. In fact I know all there is to know about fishing."

One is instantly humbled in the presence of such fishing experience and magnificence, and the instant response was: "Well, I would certainly like to shake your hand. I have never met anybody who knows everything."

But that was an isolated incident and remains firmly in the memory simply because of its rarity, because we lesser mortals take much satisfaction from observing those who constantly hold bending rods and are forever netting fish and either consigning them to the ice bin or carefully putting them back in the water. And so it was last week when we caught up with a charter fisherman who has moved from the Bay of Plenty to the Far North.

Lionel Korach was returning home to his roots when he made the move north, and now operates his charters in conjunction with other operators on both coasts - off 90 Mile Beach and out of Houhora Harbour.

"There are so many options here," Korach said. "It doesn't matter what the weather is doing, you can always find fish."

For many years Korach has been developing his skill in lure fishing, a style which is prevalent among anglers in the United States and Australia but something which Kiwis are still learning.

Through his Memorymakers business, Korach specialises in putting visiting Asian fishermen in situations where they can cast lures to kingfish and snapper.

"They will fly in from Taiwan or Japan, get in a rental car and drive to Kaitaia, go fishing that afternoon and fish hard all day for three days then drive back and get on a plane to go home. They are extremely good fishermen and have taught us how to fish - particularly with jigs and stick baits for kingfish."

We were looking forward to seeing how Korach fishes softbaits for snapper.

This is not the best time of year to find kingfish near the surface so snapper become his main target.

"The lure fishing all around the Far North coast is unbelievable," he said, as he cast a softbait out in front of the boat which was drifting over a shallow reef a short distance off the cliffs which line the rugged shoreline. North Cape punctuated the sky a kilometre away, and as the launch drifted in the brisk westerly wind he wound the fine braid line slowly on to his small spin reel, just keeping the line tight so he could feel any change.

"They are just mouthing the lure, and the take is very soft so you have to strike them hard," he said, lifting the rod at the same time to set the hook. But the line went slack, so he kept winding, occasionally lifting the rod tip to jerk the lure as it crawled over the rocky seabed towards the boat. When the line came up short Korach lifted the lure and cast out again, sending it flying a good 50m from the boat.

The key to this style of fishing is to move the lure slowly, keeping in touch with it to detect any hesitation which may signal a bite, and striking firmly with the rod raised while winding at the same time to keep the line tight.

Unlike bait fishing which is passive and the snapper will hook themselves, this is active fishing where the angler has to hook the fish.

It has been likened to hunting as it involves continually fishing new water, moving around while searching for fish, and trout fishermen who cast a fly rod adapt well.

When a pocket of fish is located the bites will taper off as the boat moves over new terrain, and the process can be repeated by motoring back to the start point and repeating the drift.

With a dozen good snapper lying on the salt ice and an equal number of smaller specimens returned to the sea after only two drifts it became clear why this angler is so successful, and how he adds to the store of knowledge we are continually accumulating.

- Herald on Sunday

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