Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Our rugby gods go at it with rods

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Anthony Boric and Ali Williams pulled in two of the biggest snapper.
Photo / Paul Thomas
Anthony Boric and Ali Williams pulled in two of the biggest snapper. Photo / Paul Thomas

What do you do when you want to get away from the pressures of World Cup rugby and public adulation? In this country, fishing is a pretty good option. And the idea of celebrating rugby success on a large boat with a few like-minded friends makes for an even shorter discussion when putting together plans.

So at the end of the week when the parades and functions had all been ticked off, it was time to relax with a fishing rod and some of the senior team members boarded a large launch at Westhaven for a day on the water.

"I've really been looking forward to this," said Richie McCaw as he stepped aboard. It sounded as if the pressure from the public to celebrate the Cup victory was almost as great as the pressure on the team during the tournament. But they wouldn't have it any other way. The whole country owns them.

When heading down the harbour, strange speed rules are observed, and although the official reason given is to reduce wave action from boat wakes on the foreshore, the huge ferries that ply back and forth are immune.

But once past North Head, the hammer goes down and Waiheke Island beckons, where there is a scheduled stop to pick up an important member of the team - the coach.

There was a small patch of bird activity about a mile off Waiheke, but the gannets were circling as if waiting for something to happen so the engine revs didn't change. But, four miles north of Gannet Rock, things looked more promising so the sea anchor was tossed out and secured to a rail on the corner of the cockpit, and rods were rigged with simple ledger traces - a teardrop sinker of 6 ounces with two recurved hooks on short loops on a trace long enough to grab the 20kg trace, not the 8kg main line, when lifting fish over the side of the high transom on a big boat.

When the boat is drifting, it is important to use sinkers which will go down quickly and stay on the sea bed as the boat moves. If too light, the sinkers will lift up and not only will they keep baits away from the fish but lines soon become tangled. With about eight rods in use, all should use the same weight sinkers to avoid tangles. Baits are cubes of pilchard which will stimulate the bite as snapper compete to attack them, so disperse fragments and juices to create a miniature berley cloud under the boat.

Like everything these boys do, fishing becomes a contest and when the first baits were dropped it was all on. It soon became clear that kahawai were swimming all through the water column and, even though they were large fish in superb condition, after a dozen had been caught and released they became a problem. The only solution is to increase the size of the sinkers and try and get baits down through them quickly.

Pointing the rod at the water so the line runs out with no angle at the rod tip also helps.

Soon snapper were joining the kahawai coming over the side and the competition increased. Andrew Hore wondered what all the excitement was about when winding in another fish, but he is more accustomed to pulling in blue cod.

Graham Henry was certainly more relaxed with a rod in his hands and concentrated on the task at hand. Fishing has always been one of his escapes from the pressures of the job and, with a holiday home at Waiheke, he is well placed to do more of it in his tinny. Some of the best summer fishing in the district is just around the corner and there is no shortage of kingfish also. It seems this will be much higher on his agenda now rugby is taking a lesser role.

With such keen blokes wielding the rods, it takes only a few hours to fill two fish bins with enough fish to feed all the families. A few fillets go into the frying pan and the barbecue produces scotch fillet and lamb. Somebody opens a bottle of wine and the stories flow. From footy to fishing and back again.

Plans for the summer are mentioned, but next year's rugby season is a long way away. There is a lot to do; in the hills with a rifle, on the water, relaxing, some overseas travel or just giving the body time to mend. And so the day winds down.

It is easy to forget that about 1.3 million people are living a short drive from a launching ramp in the city and a day out on the water is just another reminder of what a great country this is. We don't just have the best rugby team in the world, but we also have the best snapper fishing. An unbeatable combination.

Best fish of the day - Ali Williams with a snapper of 6.4kg. Best clay target shot - same bloke.

- Herald on Sunday

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