On the Edge of the Ocean

First starts in surfcasting

No matter where you are in New Zealand right now, whether on top of Mount Cook or lost in backblocks Otago, you are less than 120 kilometres from the coast. Surfcasting, rock fishing, whichever way you go about it, there is plenty of opportunity to throw a hook into the sea and hope for something to eat.

On a dull day, two friends and I headed to our nearest patches of ocean. First we ventured out on to a narrow and slippery concrete breakwater, where an Assyrian taxi driver cast into the wind and crashing waves, oblivious to or perhaps just ignoring the danger sign behind him. At a nearby beach, we gave gear to the weed. Finally we went further afield, finding a bank of orange rocks that jutted well into the sea like a jetty. There we flailed at the ocean with our Warehouse surfcasters. We didn’t catch anything that day, but we did feel the satisfying slosh of waves breaking by our feet. We watched the sun disappear into the water, lighting up the troughs, peaks and ripples of the sea like the surface of a jewel. We went home happy.

It was a good reminder that fishing is foremost an excuse to stand by the water. To stare toward the sky and horizon, to talk to your friends when you want, to be quiet when you want. This way you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do feel something tugging at the line.

It’s not a convincing excuse without the right equipment. You need a rod of course. Something nine feet or longer will allow you to cast far enough from the shore. A spinning, eggbeater style reel is best for this kind of casting. The alternative, an overhead reel can very quickly turn your line to a mess of bird’s nest thatch if you’re not adept in its use. Line is sold by weight – this refers to the strain at which it will break. The breaking weight you want depends on the sort of fish you are after. For something heavy, 15 or 24kg might be needed, but for most fish 10kg should be enough. That said, you may want to tie your hook to a section of slightly thicker, trace line for protection from abrasion. There are dozens of varieties of sinker, but for a starter, the teardrop shaped tournament sinker is good for getting distance on your cast. Some bait - pilchards, squid or mussel – and that’s it, you’re set.

Choose your spot carefully, ask around. As a general principle, currents and sources of shelter are likely to attract fish. Keep an eye out for areas near points, rocks and wharves, or by weed and shellfish beds. Go at either dawn or dusk, and go often.