Fruits of a Kiwi adventure – and a close encounter

HOME THOUGHTS: Roger Beck on more familiar territory fly fishing in the River Rye in North Yorkshire.  Picture: Simon Hulme.
HOME THOUGHTS: Roger Beck on more familiar territory fly fishing in the River Rye in North Yorkshire. Picture: Simon Hulme.
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In far distant waters Roger Beck meets a big shark from a very small boat

Only part of that is true; Joe is most definitely Italian, but he’s not mad. He is a delightful, affable and generous man. He’s also a friend of Russell, who shares all Joe’s attributes apart from the Italian bit. Both had conspired to arrange a fishing expedition for me on Joe’s boat.

Early morning found us gently drifting along, catching snapper. Grilled fresh snapper is a fine gastronomic experience. Joe and I were completely distracted, putting the world to rights, adding the occasional fish to the on-board cool box. My new friend suddenly glanced over my left shoulder. “I think we go”, he announced, “nasty squall on its way”. Indeed it was, hence our hasty retreat across the bay, as the rain and wind caught up with us. I was never in any doubt about our safety; Joe is a fine and experienced boatman.

My wife was watching from the window of our apartment at Waikawa Bed and Breakfast, operated by Russell and Shirley. Apparently, the sight of a small boat bobbing around in a choppy sea is rather alarming. When we disappeared from view around a headland and failed to appear at the boat mooring, she obviously decided that we had both perished in the briny.

Meanwhile, back at sea, the squall had passed, the sea had calmed and the mariners had resumed their wide-ranging conversation, fishing rods in hand. We had added another couple of snapper to the box. We were very relaxed, content with our morning’s endeavours. Suddenly, line screamed off my reel and the rod bucked in my hands. There was a bit of conjecture about what I may have contacted. That’s when the shark suddenly thrashed on the surface about 20 metres away from the boat, my hook clearly visible in its rather toothy jaw. I reckoned that the beast was about two metres long and seemed rather angry.

“We not want him in the boat” insisted Joe. Bears and woods sprang to my mind but I remained silent and concentrated on not being pulled overboard. Inevitably, the line eventually grazed one of my adversary’s gnashers and it was gone. “Perhaps we go home now” Joe suggested. “Enough excitement for one day”.

I shook Joe’s hand and bid him goodbye at the end of the lane. “Not goodbye” he insisted. “You come back sometime and we go fishing again” I wish. I walked towards the apartment, our evening meal of snapper in my hand. My wife greeted me, amazed to see me returned from my watery grave.

Russell materialised from his office and disappeared with our supper, returning minutes later with beautiful white fillets. “I’ll heat the barbecue whilst you change” he declared.

Shirley arrived, insisting that she would find new potatoes and fresh herbs from her garden to grace our platter of fresh fish.

It did take a little time to convince my wife that I really had never been in mortal danger and that the whole small boat in big sea scenario looked far worse than it really was. When we ventured outside, the barbecue was hot and a beautiful dish of salad, potatoes and fresh herbs had appeared. I produced a bottle of cold Sauvignon Blanc and we enjoyed a superb feast courtesy of three wonderful, generous, delightful people who live twelve thousand miles away and who I had met less than twenty four hours earlier. Thank you to Joe, Russell and Shirley.