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Fishing with Blue - Always a Bit of Humour

Blue is your classic New Zealand farming sector Blue.
A typical hard man raised on a farm in the back-blocks of Pio-Pio, deep in the heart of New Zealand's central North Island.

Tall, thin, big sticky-out ears matched to bigger feet, very long arms and with it all, gangly. Thin, but strong - immensely fencing-wire strong. The sort of hard man that formed the backbone of our rugby before money introduced a new breed. All this and bright red hair - which of course explains his nickname of 'Blue'.

Many think Blue is clumsy. Bits of his body do move in very mysterious ways. Limbs especially seem to take on a life of their own, not necessarily moving in directions recommended by his brain, or good sense.

Clumsy? They may be wrong. Blue is simply too enthusiastic for his own good - and the good of those around him. Once out and away from the mind and body numbing rigours of backcountry, high-country farming Blue drinks in draughts of life in barrel-load swigs.

Out-on-the-town Blue's enthusiasm takes charge completely. His body, used to the wide-open spaces, does not fit comfortably into the confined spaces of trendy restaurants in Auckland.

Blue always sits at the head of the table. No one risks sitting to his right or left. He does not talk much, but when he does enter conversations he does so with unabashed gusto.

His long arms flailing and swinging in tandem with his tongue, splayed glasses, cutlery and food in wide sweeping arcs. Unsuspecting waiters approaching quietly from behind risk, and often find, their tray-loads of food and drink deposited on the floor or on other diners.

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I like Blue. He is a great man to have around when fishing. His enthusiasm fills the spaces between fish, never flagging, always busy, always just one fish away from a great day.

Even seasickness can not slow him down, and he does suffer from that malady. But guess who rises first in the morning to cook up a mixed grill, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and pork chops, with greasy potatoes, eggs and fried bread?

"Gives you a good base for a decent spit", he says.

And spit he does. Not a meek draping over the gunwales, not lying heaving into a bucket. No, not for Blue.

He marches up to the transom, places his hands firmly on his hips, arches backwards - then thrusting forward, emits a coughing yodel - propelling breakfast in a loping arch out over the stern. A definitive chunder.

Stomach cleared, he ambles down to the galley and fills up the newly vacated space with thick slices of bread separated by a large slice of cheddar, liberally moistened by chutney and pickles.

"Just in case I need to fire another salvo," Sam rumbles, wiping the remains of the sandwich from around his smile.

Some forms of fishing preclude Blue. Once I made the mistake of taking him out in my 13 foot aluminium boat, the tinny. Just once.

Getting into the boat was a disaster. Both arms and most of his torso made it over the gunwales, but only some of one leg - the rest of that leg and it's foot caught under the boat.

The other leg operating completely out of synchronisation with the task at hand swung around and connected with the front coming. The torso and arms now without any support rolled forward, propelling the shoulders into the other gunwale.

This part of the body came to an abrupt halt causing the rest of the body to jack-knife over the now stationary part. The trapped leg came free and the tinny lurched over driving the far gunwale deep under water.

Blue's arms and hands now coordinated under the stern orders of self-preservation found the gunwale and pushed back springing his submerged head out of the water. Unfortunately his legs - still operating independent of rhyme or reason - failed to halt the upward thrust, so the other gunwale now sunk below the surface.

Blue made for the car to dry off and put on some dry clothes, while I bailed out the boat.

Eventually we made it out to the spot, and without thinking I asked Blue to toss out the anchor. In one swooping movement he picked up the anchor and whirling in an arc threw it over the bow, his body following the course of the anchor.

His feet did not initially follow this course but eventually submitted to the pent-up centrifugal force and followed Blue's body. Fortunately Blue's nose found the anchor cleat and bought further movement to a halt.

Liberal applications of cotton wool and Band-Aids soon slowed the flow of blood, and we baited up.

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Blue lifted up his rod and swung it into the cast. I ducked - far too slowly - and felt the thud in the middle of my back as the hook-laden bait smacked into my vest that doubles as a life jacket. The rust stain still testifies to the part of the hook deeply embedded in the vest after we had to cut away the rest.

Finally with baits in the water we settled back to wait. Suddenly Blue's rod bucked and the tip dived under the surface. Blue reacted immediately and heaving back on the rod, wound the reel like a demented dervish.

In the shallow water the kingfish soon came into view, and with one sweep of the rod Blue simply swung the 12 kilo (25 lb.) fish over the side and into the boat. The whole process lasting less than 10 seconds.

The kingi lay very still for about 2 seconds and then went, as they do, utterly ballistic. Tackle boxes crashed into the bottom of the boat, spilling their contents, which the kingi then spread throughout the boat. For a few dangerous moments the gaff flailed about until a slash of the tail sent it over the side.

Then I saw a new side of Blue. One of his hands found the club and in one swing smashed it down on the kingi's head - dead centre between the eyes. The fish shuddered, then froze, turned white and its lights went out.

Blue smiled. "Bit of sport, eh?" he drolled. I could only shake my head as I contemplated the carnage in the boat.

Every year for ten years Blue and his farming neighbour, Dick, fished for two weeks in search of a marlin. Neither had yet gained that prize.

Dick is a huge man, well over six feet tall and very 'generously' proportioned. His white hair and very pale skin made his nickname - 'Moby' - a foregone conclusion.

Moby is also extraordinarily strong. Rumour has it that a steer once charged him from behind, hit him and then wandered off with legs wobbling. Moby had not moved an inch. Just a story? Probably.

The inevitable happened on the tenth trip.

Moby hooked up. On 37kg (80lb) stand-up gear, a huge drag-setting, and Moby's strength, the striped marlin soon sulked behind the boat - far too soon.

The double was on the reel but the leader lurked just out of the reach of the novice deckhand, whose courage was sorely tested by the sight of this still very fresh, big fish now facing directly away from the stern.

Up stepped Blue.

His long arm reached out and grabbed the leader. The marlin decided it was time for off and with a massive flick of the tail headed away. Blue hung on, and on. Right up to the transom.

There something had to give and it did. One of Blue's size thirteen big grips on the deck lost its adhesion and his leg shot right up between Moby's legs, and on upwards.

A scream indicated that Blue's leg's progress had crashed to a halt. Moby's thighs clamped together locking Blue's leg in place.

Now firmly anchored, Blue's strength awaited a stern test. The number eight fencing wires he used for sinews popped up as he hung on. The marlin slashed at the water spraying the cockpit.

The force of the fishes struggle against the immovable leader lifted the marlin out of the water. Up and up, till finally it crashed over onto its back then rolled onto its side, where it lay quietly beside the boat.

Blue, his leg now freed from Moby's crotch, stepped back driving his heel onto Moby's instep. Moby screamed again.

"We go'na let it go?" asked the skipper.

Moby could only nod his agreement, his testimonials still lodged in his throat making speech impossible. Maybe he did not even get a good look at the fish, his eyes were still streaming. Besides he was doubled over trying to hold his injured foot.

"Bit of humour, eh?" said Blue, watching the fish swim away, "feel like a beer?".

"Jees, you're a clumsy bugger," croaked Moby.

"Yeah," smiled Blue, "good fish though, eh? Do ya want a Lion Red or a DB Natural?"

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Next year was Blue's year and his day and it was a perfect sod of a day.

A stiff South-Easter blew a vicious chop across the face of a big to large northeast swell. Sea conditions that tested the hardiest of stomachs.

Blue's tender tummy was no match for the conditions. His mixed-grill breakfast departed over the stern very early in the piece, followed by several regularly spaced editions of his family-sized cheese sandwiches.

The conditions were rough enough for some to suggest that contemplating the water from the veranda of the Bay of Islands Swordfish Club bar might provide better sport.

Blue would have none of that. Lucky choice.

Late in the morning and just after downing yet another cheese sandwich a marlin jumped on a lure in Blue's turn. He grabbed the rod and settling himself into a stern corner got stuck into the fish. Twenty minutes of heave and plenty of ho saw the leader just off the rod tip.

"I'll get this one," said Moby, elbowing past the rest of the crew and in front of Blue.

Blue spotted the mean gleam in Moby's eye and took two long-legged steps back behind him.

The fish and Moby were about equally matched at 140kg (300lb) each, so it proved a keen contest. But the foul sea conditions played a hand. The boat reared on top of a chop - on top of a swell - and fell into a hole.

Moby's gargantuan stomach popped over the transom and the sudden change in weight distribution started to topple him over the side.

Blue stepped up grabbing his friend's jacket, but slipped as he moved and his right knee drove up between Moby's splayed legs. Moby yelled but pain made his hands grip tighter. Blue hung on to Moby with one hand, the rod in the other. The marlin decided enough was enough and retired hurt.

The pressure off, the deckhand stepped in and released it, as Moby slumped into the game chair clutching his parts privy.

Blue took a look at the departing marlin, lost the horizon, and rearing back flung his body forward tossing his latest sandwich into the wake of the now unseen marlin.

"Ton of laughs, eh?" gloated Blue, "wanna beer and a sandwich?"

"Clumsy bastard," moaned Moby.

"Yeah," answered Blue, "didja want a beer?"

Blue and Moby have asked me out on their next trip, and I jumped at the chance. These days there is just too much blandness about. Political correctness and right-speak do not help. Life's true characters are getting fewer and farther between. But good sense and self-preservation must prevail. The first things I will pack will be hard hat, flak jacket and cricket box. Still, could be a bit of humour, eh?

fish illustration by Bish

Article written by Tony Bishop

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