If you believe horror movies, ghosts lurk in the dark halls and stairways of old manor houses. There they wait, ready to lurch out and scare the living daylights out of an unsuspecting visitor. Some wait to remind the perpetrator of their foul deeds and sins.
My ghosts have none of this movie magic, instead they lurk in the stark black and white type of the fishing stories and books I have had published. They wait, ready to leap out and make me pay for some of the content of my stories past.
Many fishing magazine writers, myself included, try to incorporate into their tomes, some of their fishing knowledge, techniques, and how-to's. A recurring theme in many of my articles over the past five years has been the need to attend to the details of fishing, before fishing.
Check, and double check before you go out on the water, has been something of a catch cry for me.
The ghouls and demons of these pieces of advice haunt me often. Too often. How come I ignore my own advice so often? The adage, 'do as I say, not as I do,' springs to mind.
My family's piece of Xmas holiday Northland, NZ, Summer paradise has appeared in my articles, and books, before. This day Eddie the lad and I were sitting in the tiny tinny, bobbing in the swell and backwash from an offshore rock.
In the middle of all this bobbed two balloons being further bobbed by the frantic manoeuvres of a couple of live baits. The live baits could see the kingfish, and so vice was versa.
The balloons did not bob for long. One, suddenly dipped deep, the restraining cotton broke, and the balloon floated free. My line went tight and then tighter as I buttoned up the drag to strike force.
Eddie reeled in his line, clipped a buoy to the anchor warp, started up the motor, threw the anchor warp over the side, and the dance began.
Much huffing, puffing, grunting and groaning later, the kingi came into view. It was big, perhaps very big.
"Grab the gaff," I tiredly mumbled to Eddie.
"What gaff," enquired Eddie?
"The gaff that is always in the boat," I replied. Well, nearly replied. For the sake of delicacy, my reply has been more than a little sanitised.
Eddie's look said it all. The day before he had gone out in another tinny, and 'borrowed' the gaff. It did not require the brains of a whitebait to work out where the gaff lay.
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What followed is now politically correctly called a 'full, frank and meaningful exchange of views.' In fact, to err on the side of honesty, what followed was a full and frank explosion of my views.
It transpired that fathers never forget gear, sons do. More specifically, sons forget father's gear. Sons it appeared, forcefully put, are irresponsible, with no thought for others, especially Fathers.
The discussion became even more wide ranging, if not particularly pertinent to the original point. It included dissertations on the state of the bathroom after son uses it, the state of the bomb-site called son's bedroom, and similar. All highly germane to the problem of the forgotten gaff, you notice.
Young Eddie mumbled an enquiry as to whether fathers knowing so much about son's behavioural characteristics, should have checked on the whereabouts of the gaff prior to leaving the beach.
This question was met by the full verbal assault that fathers keep in reserve for overpowering sons when there is some remote chance that sons may be at least partially right.
While this pantomime played out, the kingfish drew much needed oxygen from the water into its muscles, and refreshed, dove for the bottom. Once there it knitted some fine macramé around every rock and weed in the immediate vicinity.
That was that. Another ghost risen, again.
There is a small river, about an hour's drive from Auckland, that holds good numbers of smallish trout. This water is close enough to allow for a mid afternoon bolt for a few hours fishing till dark.
Great for those times when the brain needs some panel beating from the dents and dings of city life.
My routine had become just that, a routine. A quick trip home, grab the vest, fly rod, and waders, and off to the river.
On this trip, the routine varied very slightly. On a previous expedition I had noticed a large shape lurking at the far side of a very deep slow moving pool. There was a chance this might be one of the rumoured large brown trout. So I made sure there was a spare spool containing a sinking line in my vest.
I arrived at the river, and from my car park on the bank of the river I could see a good trout, a brown, working the weed line along my bank.
I was instantly out of the car, into waders, rod assembled, the spare spool out of the vest, and my hand grabbing for the reel.
Oh no! No, no, a thousand times, no! Not now. No ghosts, please.
A frantic search of the inside of the car, my vest, and around the car, revealed no reel.
The brown swam on, leisurely picking up whatever he was picking up from the base of the weed. I drove off, homeward, to find the reel right where I had left it, on the bench.
A week or so later, another opportunity arose for me to play truant. With the vision of the brown in my mind I drove home, grabbed the vest, waders, and with my attention focused by bitter experience, carefully patting the vest to ensure the reel was in its usual pocket, and then off to the river.
Down at the river, at much the same time, and exactly the same place, and incredibly there he was, again. Up and down the weed bank he meandered at a regulation lope, pausing often to inhale some delicacy.
The play began again. Out of the car, into waders, rod assembled, the reel on the rod. Yes, the reel was there, but not the spool.
The trout, perhaps frightened by the vibrations caused by the ferocity of the staccato burst of obscenities that poured from my mouth, swung out into the middle of the pool.
It faded into the depths disappearing for all the world like a ghost into the gloom. I never saw it again on subsequent trips.
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There we were drifting along close to The Dog Rock, just off Cape Brett, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Mark Kitteridge and I, with the Dean of Kingfishing, Ross Davy. It had been a long day. Despite the collective 'wisdom' on the boat, the day to-date had not been interrupted by a kingfish.
We were well prepared.
Mark and I had spent the previous evening, tying knots, setting drags, having a few beers, telling stories, some true, others nearly true. Usual night before stuff. I even went to the trouble of stripping the reel I was going to use, oiling and greasing the parts that needed it.
It had to happen. One of the jigs we were dropping to the bottom, and winding back again at full flank speed, got knobbled. The kingfish took off, and line fairly tore off my reel. On and on it ran. A long way for a kingi.
This run was accompanied by the usual yahooing and screeching that seems mandatory for an angler on what he thinks is a good fish.
"Did you set the drag on that reel," gruffed Ross, in his own laconic way?
"Yes," I confidently replied, "I stripped the reel last night."
"There is not a hellava lot of bend in the rod," Ross observed.
"This is a real brute of a rod," I replied, but with just a smidgen of doubt invading my previously authoritative confidence.
The rest was over quickly. The kingi, tired of this silly game, swam around, over and through the rocks and weed as kingis do, and that was that.
Testing the drag, revealed about 2kg (4lb) on 15kg (30lb) line. Both Mark and Ross suggested that setting the drag after stripping a reel was a good idea. Any reputation for pre-fishing thoroughness I may have had, became a mere ghost of its former small self.
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Ghosts are great travellers. Weightlessness has a lot going for it. They can reach the Three Kings Islands, 80km off the Northern tip of NZ, in the blink of an eye, which is about how long it took to haunt me yet again.
The lure was a sure fire, dead certain marlin catcher. I had waited some time for this particular head shape and skirt colour combination. The obliging Mr. Pakula, of lure making fame, custom built it for me.
I let the lure out over the side, ensuring the hooks were riding up at 60 degrees in the approved Pakula way, and reassured, let the leader slip through my hands.
The lure slipped back, and back, and then it was gone.
Between screams of derision one of the crew asked if you were supposed to clip the leader of the lure to the main line.
My enquiry as to whether his parents had ever managed to get around to getting married, became lost in the babbling banter that followed. The howls and cackles from the demented hordes of all the hounds of hell could not have drowned out that lot.
Mark Kitteridge and I had been fly-fishing near Taupo, and come home-time, I, in my lazy habit, pulled the rod in half and laid it, still with the line through the guides, on the back seat.
A couple of miles homeward, and suddenly the rod on the back seat bucked and jumped off the seat, for no apparent reason. Muttering about poltergeists and "Taniwhas" (Taniwhas (tan-ee-far) - Maori name for demons who live in underground caves and rivers), we continued on our way.
A couple of clicks down the road, the same thing happened. The rod jumped up off the floor and banged into the door. Strange, but still unexplained.
Twice more on the journey, the rod danced to its own tune. Strange indeed. A rod with a life of its own and the back seat of the car you are driving in, is the stuff of late night movies.
On reaching the motel all was revealed, but no ghosts were included in this revelation. A leader trailing out from under the door, had intermittently wrapped around the rear wheel, causing the rod to buck and heave. I lost about 3 metres off the fly line. I was lucky I did not lose the rod.
The list of these, oops, could go on. It could include the lures that have been run with the hook covers still on, or the shackle-rigged lures run without the hooks. The waders grabbed in haste and discovered to be Eddie the lad's pair at riverside. The new tackle box filled with everything, but hooks.
Mr. Samuel Johnson, of Shakespearean times put it well. "The art of memory, is attention to detail." The ghosts of Sam's words haunt me too often. So do mine.
Article written by Tony Bishop (Bish)
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