Outdoors: Surprise toby it's ray on line for you

By Geoff Thomas

Rare hooking proves fish can flip script on most veteran angler.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There is a trout lure called a toby which has been around for generations, and like many top lures it originated in Scandinavia. But, as with most fishing experiences, one is often surprised at how the fish change the rules or do the unexpected.

And nothing was more unexpected than the fish which swam up from the seabed and ate a toby the other day.

It was during a fishing expedition in Fiordland where an experienced boatie and angler, Peter Blackwell, had taken his 20-metre launch, Azraq, which is well known in Auckland game-fishing circles. The launch was on a two-month cruising experience, visiting the various sounds between Milford and Stewart Island. Divers brought up crayfish virtually at will, and the northern angling techniques proved deadly on the variety of species in the cold, southern waters.

Albacore tuna snapped up lures while cruising off the coast, and when anchored at the head of a sound where tanin-coloured rivers poured from the steep bush-clad mountains baits were dropped through the surface layer of brown fresh water to the clear salt below.

"We might be 30 kilometres from the sea, and we were catching groper [hapuka] in 15 metres of water," said Blackwell. Large tarakihi were welcome for the frying pan, and blue cod were common. But the red gurnard were a complete surprise.

"The first one was nearly 2kg, then we did catch a 2kg gurnard while jigging a Betabug lure for groper," said Blackwell.

One morning Steve Devine and Blackwell launched the 2m inflatable and puttered over to a river mouth where Devine cast a toby on a delicate spin rod with 4kg line, hoping to hook a brown trout.

What rose up and engulfed the toby took them by surprise. The powerful fish took off and Blackwell had the tiny motor at full revs while Devine battled to keep the last spool of line on the reel from breaking off.

"I thought it might be a kingfish," said Devine. But after half an hour they glimpsed the broad yellow shape of a ray, which as they got closer materialised as a leopard ray. A gaff carefully inserted in the skin allowed the anglers to remove the hook and set the fish free. These fish are common all around the North Island. But to hook one on the surface in 10m of water where a river is running in had them stunned.

Fiordland continues to surprise visitors. It is wild and untamed, and the dreaded sandflies live up to their reputation, fiercely attacking any unprotected skin. But the fishing is like going back in time to when hapuka were common all around the coast.


Deep trolling is going well on the deep lakes, with lead-core and wire lines along with downriggers doing the damage. And one of the best lures is the black and gold toby, along with the Tasmanian devil in Christmas tree colours.

Tip of the week

Try using tobies when trolling for kahawai and kingfish. The light trout hooks can be replaced with stronger saltwater hooks, and the larger sized lures work well on kingfish. The lures are lightly weighted so a sinker is needed to get them down under the waves, and a ball sinker can be added above a swivel about a metre in front of the lure. Or, use a lead-core trout trolling outfit with about five colours out (5 metres). More fish will be hooked at the deeper depth than on the surface.

Bite times

Bite times are 9.50am and 10.10pm tomorrow, and 10.30am and 10.55pm on Sunday. These are based on the phase and position of the moon, not tides, and apply to the whole country. More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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