Met a white man some years ago,
walking back to camp with a bunch of rods in hand, a yellow tail protruding from the pack, long-haired, English.
The pursuit and challenge of landing his majesty from the rocks attracting him to this part of the world; walking the coast lines of the Coromandel, reading the terrain, the ledges, the currents, the winds.
The white man’s idea of a vacation is to stand on the rocks, gimbal around his waist, the popper rod on his side, bait fish caught swimming in a rock pool close by, the gaff might be too far away, but the live bait rod secured in his hands, and a pack of chips and canned tuna in his pack.
Eating chips from his pouch, he gazes at the balloon, at times more than one, he waits, he swears at the sea, at the seagulls, the wind, the rain, the misbehaving live bait swimming
left, right, too close to the ledge, into the foul, being attacked by anything else but his majesty, not swimming at all is the worst.
The white man theorises about where else he should be standing on the rocks at this moment; he makes unsupported conclusions: of course you can’t fish the same spot twice in two days, naturally, there are no big fish here, maybe on a low tide, but certainly not now, and if at all of course only rats, and in a swell like this all you can possibly catch are sharks.
We targeted his majesty, we fished ‘the ledge’, ‘goat point’, ‘little bay’, ‘dead man’s point’, ‘johnny’s spot’, ‘the northern most’, ‘sugar loaf’, ‘the pinnacles’, ‘stoney bay’, ‘the river mouth’, a few didn’t have a name.
We hiked, we climbed, we persevered, we are cautious, we talked kingi, we saw kingis, we hooked kingis, we landed kingis, we were amongst schools of frenzy kingis, we gaffed, we cut up and ate fish, we shared and thus met other characters.
Years have passed and these days, the white man and I fish new ledges looking toward the Coromandel. The white man arrived this year with a full beard, Usama-style, but he also brought with him some sort of white man’s disease.
He slept for days, he pissed in a bucket, he moved slowly and uttered about how he felt and how the cat abuses him at night. I politely disregarded it all. For when I put him on the spot, the guaranteed spot, presented him with a live kahawai, he was feeling well again.
It didn’t take long before he got played by a bunch of kingis, so I presented him with another live kahawai and, once told, he got his act together and landed moments later a kingfish.
I took a foto of the white man with his fish from the rocks and was picturing the headlines: “Homeless White Man Catches King fish Off The Rocks on Great Barrier Island”
After that, the white man and I endured unproductive fishing, well, we always caught a feed, but that’s not what it is about, we hiked to the headlands of the southern bays, we baked in the sun, we carried heavy packs up and down the hills, we depleted some resources from the local shop, we spent an adventurous day exploring the bays of Harataonga, cutting our skin in heavy bush, the sweat pouring, the back aching, the legs sore, the mind exhausted, one setback after another, resulting in my giving in.
I took a foto of the white man, 80 m high on the cliff, some 200 m away, looking back at me, Arid Island in the background, and ledges below us shouting: “… you will be rewarded.”
I got the white man to get up early a few days ago, unfortunately, it seemed that the main intention was not to get his shoes wet. The moderate swell made us feel uneasy, it started raining, the white man was not content: “You know where we should have gone today!”
After losing three rigs to the unsuitable terrain, I decided to move to my usual spot 100 m further south, despite it being hit harder by the swell. I deployed the berley, my shoes
were of course wet, this wave approached, I stood firm and got soaked, but at least we landed a handful of snapper in no time.
The white man was far away from the water, doing whatever the white man does when he is not in a good mood, I land this kahawai and ponder briefly of letting it go, but, after all, the white man is my dear friend.
He asks me to get his chippis, I also bring the gaff, the white man is in his element now, standing still, holding onto the live bait rod, gazing at the balloon, eating chips from his pouch, theorising about his majesty and swearing at the seagulls.
I notice a seal going for the kahawai, pondering whether to mention it; “Paul, there is a seal.” The white man retrieves the kahawai when the seal turns around and starts diving. The white man proclaims he will change the live bait, gets a more lively one from the rock pool, I’ve caught him 3 kahawai today, and tell him again to get his act right.
We observe a frantic kahawai, we see a yellow tail, heaps of splashing, the kahawai behaving like a flying fish, we follow these actions for a while closely, the white man surprises me, staying calm: “He’ll get it eventually.”
The White Man On The Rocks hooks into a kingfish, the balloon disappears under water, he increases the drag, waits for the line to tighten and strikes. A couple of meters of line peel off his reel, he fights the fish with more drag, I take the cork off the gaff hook and, watching the swell, move to the edge.
Less than 90 seconds have passed since hookup, I can see the colour of his majesty, it is so close to the ledge, can I?, yes, I can and I will.
His majesty is securely gaffed, I struggle momentarily with the weight, but carry it away from the water. The white man is remarkably quiet, so I shout for him.
It is still early but the tide is coming in, the white man doesn’t have to think what to do next, he nets another kahawai out of the rock pool and puts it out. I start packing my gear and call my friend, “would you like any kingi today?”
The white man on the rocks hooks up, a smaller kingi, still a meter long, again, it is maintained within a few minutes, it’s hooked in the gut, so we take the fish.
The white man looks at the third kahawai in the rock pool, but doesn’t say anything.
We take pictures, I insist on the white man getting wet feet on the way out, he compromises. Back at the vehicle, I give our snapper away to campers, a couple give me an audio CD in return. The white man theorises: “You know why the kingi didn’t go for a second run when I brought him in?, it must have been exhausted chasing the kahawai…”
We give a kingi to my friend, the white man admires another white man’s garden, we leave with a bag full of vegetables and eat a dinner consisting of local produce only. We tend to eat well, we drink similarly and talk fish. I stress how many people out of the local community enjoyed this haku, and we name all the fish we caught this season;
haku (kingfish), tāmure (snapper), ara-ara (trevally), hiwihiwi or ngakoikoi (kelpfish), hapukupuku (kahawai), arawa (shark)
On his last day on the Barrier, a meter and a bit of swell and 20 knots of head on wind, the White Man On The Rocks finally hooks into and lands two sharks, after watching me losing a kingi on light gear. I refrain from mentioning that even in conditions as we experienced this day, there were not only sharks in the water.
Well, I could write more about the White Man’s On The Rocks habits, for instance, it takes him hours to wash dishes but only 5 seconds to have a (French) shower, however, with impact in mind, let me finish with something new I learned this year. The White Man On The Rocks went to school with Prince William.