Fishing with Bruce Duncan
Having travelled a fair bit of the world I often stop and look around New Zealand’s coast and think how lucky we are to live in such a great country. Everything to do with the water is so close and achievable to all and you don’t have to have a big ‘flash Harry’ boat to enjoy it. Not a week would go by without someone telling me I was a lucky bastard as I was always getting out on the water and having fun. It was not that long ago that I was fl at-arse broke (some things never change) trying to meet a mortgage and build a house yet it did not stop me going fishing. In fact it was probably a good thing in that being boat-less for a while got me back to basics and helped retrain me to think more as a hunter gatherer and open up my eyes and mind to other opportunities.
Over the winter months I would be constantly watching the weather windows so I could see how it would affect the sea state around the coast. It was this that determined where I would be heading. If you stop and think about it, no matter where you live in the country you are generally not more than an hour or so away from some fishable part of the coast. In the worst case you might be forced to go to fresh water to catch a mud fish. The big advantage of exploring around the coast is that you find yourself climbing over some rocky bits of shoreline to fish. It is very different to fishing from a boat in that if the fishing is slow you will move to another spot but with rock fishing you tend to stay put. To be totally honest it is very rare when rock fishing to arrive at a spot and instantly start to catch fish. You find that while you are waiting for a bite, and as the rod is jammed in a rock, you become more aware of your surroundings.
When spending a fair bit of time wandering around on the rocks one becomes aware of the type of kelp clinging to the rocks, what is growing on the rocks such as mussels, kina, etc. This is all part of the food chain and will often determine what fish will be lurking about in the area. The down side to rock fishing is that you go through a heap of terminal tackle as often it takes a while for you to work out where not to cast. Now this can be turned from a negative into a positive as the more you learn about the area the more skilled you become at looking for and reading the signs. The reefy bits will be indicated by the way the swell will lift or the wave pattern will change over the run of the tide.
Even up on the rocks and in the rock pools there are signs at different times of the year that would make you stop and realise that this place has more than just fishing potential. There are a number of places I have fished from the shore (close to the big smoke of Auckland) where I have found the occasional cray leg or discarded crayfish shell. It has inspired me to take mask and fins as well as fishing gear. When the fishing was quiet I would jump in the water and go for a bit of a ‘look see’ and every swim was well worth the effort. On more than one occasion I found a few crays and the odd legal paua. The lesson I took out of all the snorkelling around the rocks is that ‘habitat is where it’s at’ in other words if the right conditions are in place there should be crays and fish to be had. What we all tend to forget is the basic rule of fishing which is to fish your feet first (the area close to you). I often have a laugh while straying back into the rocks when someone climbs down the rocks and starts to cast his baits to where I am anchored. So many people today are under the illusion that to get decent fish or crayfish you have to go miles away from any town or city to have a chance. If you stop and think about it everyone heading out are probably going for the same spot anyway.
Rock fishing would have to be one of the cheapest, most achievable ways of getting your fishing fix and yet has so much more to offer. If you just take time out and be aware of your surroundings it is a great way to spend time with your mates or family. You don’t need to invest a fortune in fancy, fl ash, big surfcasting rods when all you want to do is to flick a bait 10- 20 metres off the shore. Any of your basic stray lining sets are very capable doing the job. Too many people seem to mystify rock fishing with fancy rigs etc. If the conditions are not too rough or windy I won’t bother setting up a trace or use a sinker but just simply tie a hook to the line bait it and cast it out. This is the same stray line rig I would use from the boat as what I want to happen is for the bait to fl oat naturally down to the bottom. It will be far more tempting to a fish than weighted bait being quickly dragged to the bottom. Another good reason to take your snorkelling gear is that you can jump in and see the type of territory you are fishing as well as breaking up kina which is the best burly to bring in and hold snapper close to your baits. With a little luck you could also find a cray or two.