Sting in the tail for angler who set out to catch his supper

“The second most likely thing that you will catch is a shark,” Tim offered as he strode up the beach. “If you do, just grab its tail.”

Now we don’t encounter many sharks in the Nidd or the Wharfe. However, I was quite a few miles away from my usual stomping ground, on Great Barrier Island, 20 minutes flight from Auckland.

We had landed on the island the day before.

There are few shops and very little space in the nine-seater aircraft. If you need food then you must catch it yourself. We were here for four days, so we needed to start filling the larder.

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David, Tim’s dad and my fellow hunter-gatherer, seemed comfortable with his son’s advice. After all he has lived in New Zealand for 42 years, an expatriate Yorkshireman. I was just a bit apprehensive. My wife simply settled herself in the sand dunes.

David and I were at the end of a bay of golden sand, on a spit of rock reaching out into the South Pacific. The rising tide gently lapped at our feet, feeling like a warm slipper bath. Just a bit different from a paddling at Filey in February.

We cast our baits into current created by the flow of the tide, propped our rods in a crevice and waited. The waiting allowed me to take in the majestic splendour of my surroundings. Lush native bush extended to the edge of the undulating dunes, from whence erupted the almost deafening chirp of a thousand cicadas. A small stream meandered across the beach, leaving behind delicate ripple marks at its flanks. A rocky island stood off shore in the centre of the bay, its domed top adorned with spiky trees resembling an unruly hair do.

Three sets of foot prints defiled the otherwise unsullied, tide-washed sand, the gently breaking waves gradually obliterating this intrusion into Paradise.

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My eyes struggled to distinguish sea from sky at the elliptical horizon. The warmth of the sun upon my back had a soporific effect upon senses already dulled by 24 hours of flying.

Just as my eye lashes were about to lock, there came an exclamation from my right. I exited from my reverie in time to see David grappling with a fishing rod that was determined to disappear into the briny. In the nick of time, he grabbed the handle.

His intervention was rewarded by severe bruising as the rapidly revolving reel handles rapped the knuckles.

This elicited an expletive that has its roots in a Yorkshire mining community. Something was determined to make off across the Hauraki Gulf.

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We both tottered off our rocky platform, David making his way onto the beach while I hovered in the edge of the surf, Tim’s advice about sharks resounding in my brain.

Gradually, the angler began to gain the upper hand and I could see a rather angry blue grey shape thrashing the water.

I carefully advanced through the waves; I had no intention of grabbing a shark by the snout.

I hesitated, and then extended my hand to reach for the blunt bit that most closely resembled a tail.

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As I did so, to my horror, a long strap-like appendage reared up through the water. This was not the lemon shark I expected, it was a stingray. As I recoiled and sat down in the water, the line thankfully broke.

Grabbing that tail would have hospitalised me for the rest of my stay.

Roger Beck 01439 788483. Mobile 07711 833433.