Sharon Salmons was relaxing on a deck chair on a Golden Bay beach when she picked up her binoculars to check on her husband Mark.
She could see him fly-fishing out some distance in the water at Pakawau, but he suddenly dropped in to the ocean.
After about 20 seconds he briefly came back to the surface before disappearing again.
Sharon knew something was amiss and ran out to help Mark, 49, who was miles out in the water, near his waist.
Their friend was out fishing with him and noticed he'd gone missing and also waded over to help.
Sharon said it took her about 15 minutes to reach him but knew he'd likely been in the water too long.
A personal locator beacon was triggered and they frantically dragged him back to firm land to carry out CPR.
The local rescue helicopter was in the area and was diverted to the scene, arriving on the shore before they'd made it back with Mark's body.
They got out the defibrillator and checked his vital signs, but he had gone.
Sharon told the Herald they were only four days into their long-awaited holiday with friends when tragedy struck.
"Mark went fishing again and they go out for miles and miles, about waist deep, so he was out fly fishing which was his passion.
"I was sat on the beach in a deck chair and I got my binoculars out just to watch him and see if he'd caught anything because he'd been out there a while and ... I saw him fall over."
The couple had just bought a new house in Te Anau. They were making the move so Sharon could take up her new job as Destination Fiordland's regional tourism manager.
However, they'd already planned their much-awaited holiday with friends so decided to head off on their adventure before going back to Queenstown after New Years.
"We bought a house on December 18 and instead of moving in, we had planned a big holiday, so we came on holiday. We were supposed to be moving in when we got back which was the sad thing."
She was informed by the coroner the cause of his death was drowning, however that would be tough to accept as he was a strong swimmer and she knew it wasn't water misadventure.
He had suffered a heart attack aged 30 and they both knew that he wouldn't make retirement age but his death was still a big shock.
"For me, I'm glad I was there. I was able to see what happened because as a hunting wife you always wonder 'is he going to come back?, 'what happened?', and it's that wondering but at least I could see what happened.
"He had a previous heart condition but that didn't stop him living life to the full. He was a builder so he was very fit, a keen professional hunter.
"I think when you have a heart attack at 30 you reassess life. He knew that he might not reach retirement which is probably why ... I knew this was coming, I knew he would go a long time before me but I didn't quite expect it so soon."
Originally from the Bay of Plenty with family in Tauranga, Auckland and Australia, Mark Salmons had spent most of his life fishing, was passionate about hunting. The pair had been in Queenstown for many years and both were heavily involved with the Southern Lakes Deerstalking Club.
Sharon said Mark died doing what he loved.
"Fishing was life. When we found him he still had the fishing rod in his hand.
"He went in the most beautiful place doing what he loved and he wouldn't have wanted it any other way."
The couple met internet dating about nine years ago, before getting married three years ago.
Sharon said she still intends to take on the new job and move to Te Anau - where they first met - as it was something her husband would have wanted.
"It will keep me focused in an area that I am passionate about. It will probably be just the cup of tea for me, and the new house that unfortunately we didn't even get to move into. We've got the keys but we didn't even pick them up."
Salmons is currently organising a funeral in Queenstown however a date is still to be set.