There are many reasons why travellers like to visit Amsterdam - the history, the culture, arts and music, the tinny or "coffee" shops and some even like to study red lights. But who goes there for the fishing?
Well, one would be surprised at the fishing to be found in the main river which flows through the city to the sea. It is wide and brown, and as the main thoroughfare it carries a continuous stream of long, flat barges packed with coal, oil, petrol and other materials which feed the pulse of western Europe.
So when the younger generation revealed that my Father's Day gift was a trip out with a local professional fishing guide it was with considerable trepidation that we stepped on to a sleek aluminium boat about 5m long. It was well set up, with an electric motor on the bow, a 60-horsepower four-stroke on the stern and a couple of plastic seats on high pedestals for the anglers.
"You know vertical jigging?" asked our guide, Tjeerd, as we bounced in the wash of a passing barge. As this happens every few minutes you soon ignore the wavelets. Like a mother duck with her brood, the barges were trailed by craft that resembled the pages of a book on marine designs over a hundred years all suddenly come to life. And as it was a sunny Saturday with the mercury nudging 32C the occupants sported shorts, bikinis and occasionally a gentleman with cravat and captain's insignia. It seemed as if the maritime history of this great country was on display.
And so we dropped braid lines on slender carbon-fibre rods with tiny spin reels. On the business end a length of mono ended with a pencil-shaped lead weight, and a single hook about 40cm above it was tied directly to the trace. Our guide produced boxes and boxes of what looked like soft baits. "Lots of lures," he quipped. It is the same the world over. You have a thousand lures, but usually only use a couple of the tried and true.
"We are after zander," he explained as we dropped out offerings to the river bed 7m below. This is a predatory fish which is very popular and apparently quite common. Tjeerd maneuvered the electric outboard with a remote control, holding the boat stationary against the current while dodging the barges. We drifted past cafes on promenades where coffee-drinkers raised their eyebrows at the three strange blokes jiggling rods. "We try another spot," announced our guide, and after motoring upriver we dropped lures right beside the main ferry terminal, on about the busiest waterway in Europe.
"Okay, we troll for perch now," he said a bit later, handing us another spin rod with a beaked, wobbling lure which vibrated madly as we followed the river bank in only 3m of water. The rods pulled and jerked as small fish attacked our lures, and then son-in-law Mihkel pulled in a small, bright coloured perch; exactly the same as those inhabiting our Kiwi waterways, except this was their native environment. More perch followed, and were slipped back. "Do you eat the fish?" we asked. Tjeerd laughed and replied : "Not from this water!" He expertly dodged lines angling out from set rods along the bank, where hopeful anglers waited for a zander to scoop up their dead baits. Just like surfcasting really. They like their fishing in Amsterdam, probably throughout the rest of The Netherlands also.
Then Mihkel hooked the bottom. Our man backed the boat and we tried to break it off by jerking the rod. Suddenly the bottom started moving. "It's a fish; a big one," shouted Tjeerd. Mihkel struggled, line zipped from the reel, and a giant tail wallowed by the bank. "Easy, easy," we suggested. "Use the rod, lift and wind down, keep it smooth. Small fish can be wound in, but you have to use the rod and reel in harmony on a big one." He did well and we followed the monster until finally a black shape appeared by the boat. "It's a pike," yelled our guide. He could hardly talk he was so excited. A broad, flat head at least 25cm wide looked up at us, and the net was hopeless. It covered only the head, and the huge body hung there, until one of the treble hooks stuck in the net and the other pulled from the lips below sharp fangs and the fish slid slowly out of view in the brown water. Our man was still trembling. "That was over a metre, probably one fifteen or one twenty," he bubbled.
The pike is the ultimate predator in lakes and rivers throughout Europe. The one which made our day memorable would have been about 15kg. And right in the middle of Amsterdam
Anglers fishing on Lakes Tarawera, Rotoiti and Okataina today, which is the first day of the new season, have a chance of winning $10,000. They just have to catch one of 10 specially tagged trout released into each of the lakes, over the next nine days. The tags are green, and if a tagged fish is caught by an angler who has registered online (at Eastern Fish and Game) the tag number will be compared against the prize list which comprises 29 prizes of $200, and one of the big cash prize.
Tip of the week
When trolling for trout different lures work best at different speeds, and this can be checked visually by watching a lure close to the boat. Most, like tobies and Tasmanian devils, should wobble actively rather than rotate. The action of lures can also be affected by driving with the wind, or against it if the boat idles too fast, and by adopting a winding course rather than a straight line.
Bite times today are 12.50am and 11.15pm, and tomorrow at 1.35am and 2pm. These are based on the moon phase and position, not tides, so apply to the whole country. More fishing action can be found at www.GTtackle.co.nz