Fishing for Calm

As a firefighter, some shifts are really tough. Sometimes the job is not just physically challenging but takes a mental toll as well. And at the end of one of those sets there is a need to bring things back down to normal before going home, one of my worst fears was always about bringing that mental grime back to my family environment.

One of the things I always used to do was take the longer drive home along the coast, even just being able to see the ocean gave me the calmness I needed to wind down.

After one particularly bad night shift I knew I couldn’t go home yet, so I went straight to the beach, got into my wetsuit and slowly paddled out into the surf. The sound of the water, movement of the surf, and the morning light as I pushed through the water was just so amazing. It was like the sea was saying; take your time, breathe, and share my energy.

For all of us (not just those working in emergency response) life is stressful and sometimes you don’t even realize that it is building up. It’s really hard to get rid of or even just bring down to a manageable level.

We are never really “stress free” so it’s all about getting the stress and pressure down to a manageable level so it doesn’t negatively affect you or those around you, especially family.

The mental peace we get from the ocean doesn’t need to be a full-on water immersion, sometimes just a walk along the beach, dipping your feet into the edge, or sitting and staring at the waves will make all the difference. When my wife was going through her year of cancer she would get me to drive her to the beach so that she could just stand in the water and stare out to sea – she said it gave her the strength to keep going.

The ocean feeds the mind and the spirit. For a lot of people as we think about coming out of national lock down, many are craving that connection with the ocean that gives them the mental space to cope with the stress in their lives.

I think that this lockdown has brought an awareness of this dependency on the sea for our mental health, and that we need to look after this relationship.

More and more people are now enjoying the sea on this therapeutic level, it’s not just about feeding our bellies but also our minds and spirit.

The simple take home message: we all need the ocean, so much more now than ever, for our mental wellbeing. Just one more reason to cherish our greatest gift.


I f**king hate cancer..a candid view from a support person.

I f**king hate cancer, it claimed both my parents, uncle, dear friends and recently my wife has been walking the breast cancer path. I hate it.
After walking alongside my wife through her journey I realized that cancer and what surrounds it is really awful.
On a social level it carries such a negative stigma that people are still afraid to reach out or talk to those affected.
They don’t know what to say or how to help, the downside is that this then looks cold and uncaring.

I call this silence “cancer awkwardness” – when people don’t know to talk to someone going through cancer so they don’t. They avoid or ignore the subject or resort to meaningless lines like “how are you going?”, “just let me know if you ever need anything”, or even “it’s like a new rebirth for you” or cry and want to hug. (Word of advice, hugging someone going through chemo is NOT a good idea, their immune systems are shot, the drugs kill white blood cells so hugging them exposes them to potential infection).
The other thing about hugs I’ve noticed is that some hugs make the sick person feel better, it’s like a transfer of aroha, and it’s amazing. Then there’s the other type intended to make the hugger feel good about for someone that’s sick, ask first (don’t be offended if it’s a no) and hug like you mean it.
I really hate cancer…, the crippling waits and uncertainty. Waiting for test results, waiting for appointments, waiting for surgery, waiting for phone calls, doctors, lab results, in hospital rooms, all the bloody waiting gives you way too much time to dwell on all the negatives. Add this to the lack of transparent information and a wheel barrow load of uncertainty and it’s a one way beating.
Then there’s all the pain, buckets of it, only differing in intensity when the multitude of drugs kick in. When the one drug doesn’t work they try another one, oh and then there are the side effects of the drugs! When they rare their ugly heads they give you more drugs. The side effects encyclopedia is the size of an old fashioned phonebook!

Cancer not only destroys the person physically but completely drains any mental resilience they may have left but for me, watching from close, it’s the soul wrenching loneliness that comes with trying to cope and for people going through it alone it must be unbearable. This loneliness crushes both the person going through the cancer, and the support person or caregivers.
As they sit there with the weight of cancer they watch the world carry on without them and feel like it’s just them going through it alone. This is when their world gets smaller and smaller and the confidence totally disappears.
Here’s an insight to the cancer walk.
When you get the “bad” news a million uncertainties cram through your head, as you come to reconcile some of them you start letting close family know and after a mental struggle you let a few close friends know.
Then there’s this mad rush of sympathy from family and friends, ( you get phone calls, messages, even food!) Because its news and its exciting for everyone.
However as time goes on and the roller coaster of chemo, radiation treatment and surgery gets rolling cancer becomes old news and people trail off…a little loneliness starts.
Then as hair falls out, eyebrows disappear, coughing, skin loses it colour people start to notice again and a little more sympathy trickles in. You may even get a visit or two.
At this point the person going through treatment feels like shit, looks strange and is usually in pain. Ironically, this is when you get the “how’s it going” or even “you’re looking well ” and hugs.
It kills me to see this point as they are usually putting on a brave face through the pain, while exchanging pleasantries.
This part is hard, it’s a long, slow, agonizing slog, filled with drugs, treatments, doubts, financial hardship and relationships are stretched thin and the loneliness is real.
This stage, sadly, you really know who your friends are as the rest have moved on with their own lives. If you still have friends that come around, just to chat or visit now, you have found gold, cherish them forever.

As the chemotherapy, radiation treatments or surgery finishes there’s a dreadful wait for the results. It can go either way here, good luck.
If you are fortunate, you start getting better but it still takes a long time to recover, especially from the chemo drugs and you even get a few side effects as souvenirs. Basically, no one is ever the same as when they started, physically or emotionally.
I really really hate cancer, its hideous and anyone telling you it’s not, they have no fucking idea.
If I was to take anything away from supporting someone going through this and talking with others, is that the human spirit is incredible, true friendship is very rare, (cherish it ) and love..well cancer redefines what love is.

Keep it real, honest, don’t glamorise it because there’s nothing glamorous about it at all. It’s a long slow painful fight, but you can do it, as others before have done and most off all you don’t need to do it alone.
If you are struggling, either as a support person or someone fighting cancer drop me a message. Sharing the load or a coffee really does help, and there is help available..

Targeting Kingfish Taranaki

I’ve been fairly lucky with catching and spearing kingfish in Taranaki and a lot of people have asked what I do to target these freight trains that give you a run for your money and can feed a family for weeks.

Taranaki has some incredible pinnacles and drop offs that these fish hunt and its just a matter of finding them.

The only way you are going to be able to do this successfully is to USE YOUR SOUNDER!

Our first sounder was an old Furuno that took up most of the room in our little boat but boy oh boy it lit up like a Christmas tree when we went over some kingfish. It took me a good 3 months to learn how to use it properly. I really recommend you take time and learn to use what you have, they are all a little different.

When I locate some interesting reef structure, I am able to drop down with the diving gear and have a good look around. This helps me identify what is shown on the sounder and what is actually underneath the boat, makes a big difference to my fishing.

Pretty much all the spots where we dive for crayfish have fish life and kingfish circling.

Once I locate the kingfish then it is a matter of what time of day and how deep they are, this will make a difference to what technique you use.

In shallow water use lures that look like yellow tail mackerel or have colors that are similar i.e. yellow, greens, blues, silver and troll FAST over the top of them, I think this annoys them and activates their chase reflex. In deep water drift over them and work the jigs.

Kingfish on Catch Fishing stick baits

For me time of day counts big time, in the morning they will pretty much take anything, lunch time they are full and usually hard to catch, then the evenings they are actively hunting again.

Some locations I recommend in and around Taranaki are..

When leaving the port take your time and tow a couple of lures around the end of the break water, kayakers always do this and its really effective.

Around the back of Motumahanga, use a pusher type lure and troll fast enough that the lure is making a splash and long bubble trail, deadly when the blue water is in.

Behind the Bell Block Reef and Ahu Ahu reef off Oakura (around the 20 metre mark,) early in the season I have dived with huge packs of kingfish here.

Oakura New Plymouth Taranaki

Off Fort Saint Gorge if you manage to get down that far, but troll from 12m out to 25m.

Once you hook the kingfish get the spearos get ready, when the hooked kingfish gets reeled up the rest of the pack will come up and see what is going on. Keep the fish on the lure and play it slowly and the schools of kingfish will stay around longer. This lets the spearos have fun as well.

Drop us a line if you have any questions about what types of lures, speeds, or any other queries.

Thanks Tran


I’m from a culture where hospitality is very important and when we invite friends or guests its really important that we provide enough food, that they feel welcome and enjoy themselves.

When I was little I used to think, whats all the fuss? Why is mum making such a big deal about these people, she hardly knows them, and she has spent all day in the kitchen cooking. I would resent all the time and effort she would put in for them, all the while thinking that they bloody well better appreciate it.

Our guest would arrive and there would be an selection of food and drink for everybody, and because mum was such an amazing cook the food was always incredible. Our guests would always have a great time, eat till they couldn’t move and leave raving about how mum was such a great cook and the food was amazing. Then we would help tidy up and mum would spend the next couple of hours cleaning dishes! The only good thing I could see was that we would have yummy left overs or the few days for school lunches. As far as I could remember my parents rarely ever got invited to others for dinner, even though through the years they put on incredible feasts for hundreds of people. I said to myself – I’m never going to do that!

Thinking about it now, with a few more grey hairs I guess, we were trying to fit into a culture where hospitality was novel and only those of certain backgrounds would really understand it or be able to reciprocate. My parent put in so much effort to stay true to our culture, and I guess they were puzzled when that hospitality was not returned. As the years passed I think they invited fewer and fewer people and ended up just cooking for family.

Somewhere along the line I picked up this itch to feed people and its always been a bone of contention between myself and my wife. She sees me going through all the time and effort to feed guests, and the pressure I put myself under, and thinks exactly the way I used to think. Why bother?

Tonight, we have friends coming for dinner and I thought I would outline how the day went for myself and a few of my own thoughts.

First was, do we have anything in the freezer? Then I think – no I couldn’t serve anything that wasn’t as fresh as possible, it isn’t right. I looked outside and the wind was calm and the sea was flat so I thought I would go out and catch something for dinner. We are pretty fortunate to live in a pretty cool place next to the sea, and it is summer, so its warm and catching dinner is something that is possible.

I loaded up my small kayak which doubles as a float boat and grabbed my free diving stuff and in a few minutes was paddling out into the sea. The water was still dirty from wind and swell so I had to find the edge of the reef, hoping for a little clear water to be able to see.

Its been a while and the kayak is rather small so it takes a bit of balancing while getting gear on. The good news was I could see enough to catch some thing.

With the limited visibility spearing a fish wasn’t really going to be an option, so I searched around and was lucky enough to find a mussel bed with some beautiful green lipped mussels. These are delicious fresh and won’t have sand in them as they were further out from the beach.

I was also lucky enough to stumble over a patch of paua, these are absolutely delicious, and opens up some great opportunities for recipes.


I was also able to find some crayfish (rock lobsters) to top it all off, so a very fruitful gathering session. After giving thanks to the sea and Tangaroa, both for the harvest and keeping me safe, I head back in.

Rock Lobster (Crayfish)

So dinner was coming together nicely.

The paua I minced, using an old fashioned hand mincer, and the added some of the mussels. The crayfish was split up and grilled with a glaze of parmesan, thyme and sweet Thai chilli.

Its a lot of effort, but its something that is important to me and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this for friends. So why all the effort…its taken a bit of staring at the ocean to figure is out but essentially, for me, this act of hospitality comes down to love.

In offering hospitality I anchor myself to my culture, honour my dad and his love for the sea and mum with her love for cooking. It also lets friends and guests know that they are valued, welcomed and loved in our home. Sharing food, for me, is as important as breathing. It is not the reciprocation that is important, I do this because this is who I am.

where does my love for the sea come from…

Some of my earliest memories are gently swaying in a hammock next to the diesel engine on my father’s boat as he chugged out to fish. The continuous rhythm of the engine and the sounds of the water on the hull instantly put me to sleep, (unless it was the diesel fumes or petroleum smells!). Fishing was what provided us with food, income and standing in our little village on a small tributary of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

My father was a very well respected fisherman, from a long line of fisherman, so it was always in the blood. We trawled the shallow beds of the Mekong for prawns, squid and just about anything that was unlucky enough to get caught. When the nets where brought in I used to drag a bucket of prawns or baby squid to the galley where they where quickly tossed into a hot wok, swished around and served with rice. The extra catch was sold at the local markets or traded for other commodities.

So the sea was intrinsic to our way of life, survival, and prosperity, life without it was incomprehensible….

However, when I was still very young my family escaped Vietnam by sailing on that same boat (crammed with more than 40 others) further down the Mekong and out into the Gulf of Thailand. After a traumatic journey that featured pirates, sharks and dwindling supplies our boat, the key to both our livehood and our identity as a fishing family, was confiscated in Malaysia. After a year in a refugee camp we finally ended up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand working on orchards, farms and in factories – a long way from the ocean we loved.

The little connection we still had, and we all loved as a family, was our weekend fishing trips down to the Napier wharf, on a great day we would bring home a kahawai, trevally or some parore. My favourite family memory was when we headed out to Whirinaki and picked mussels off the rocks, lit a beach fire, threw a corrugated iron sheet on top then cooked the mussels with Mum’s lemon, fish sauce and peanut salsa.

Then life got in the way again with university, family, jobs and kids and the sea moved further and further away from me.

It wasn’t until my wife and I and our young family moved to Taranaki that I really reconnected with the ocean again, it is such an amazing area and living next to the coast was like coming home.

Long before kayak fishing was even a thing I had an old plastic kayak that I paddled off the beach on calm summer days and chased the schools of kahawai and kingfish. Back then I couldn’t afford fishing rods so it was all hand lines, I have one incredible memory of a kingfish that towed me out to sea for miles. (I finally caught it but had to paddle back in the dark, my wife was not happy!)* The Taranaki coastline is incredible and I wanted to explore as much as I could, so I ended up strapping a 2hp motor onto the side of the kayak and zooming all over the place. People would always come over and see what I had strapped to my kayak and be amazed at what was caught, in the following years more and more kayaks starting showing up!

On beautiful warm summer evenings we would take the kids down and paddle a long line out off the beach, have a swim or walk and pull the line in, there was always a snapper, gurnard or kahawai to take home for dinner.

However, I wanted to explore further still so I convinced a friend to go halves in an old 12 foot tinny and we started launching off the beach, if you know anything about the west coast you will know how rough and unpredictable it is and beach launching is an adventure in itself.

We soon grew out of the 12′ tinny and updated to a very rough 16′ Fryan and the adventures continued, we have been swamped, stuck, rolled and smashed into and onto that beach more times than I can count.

After a few years my confidence grew and I got back into diving (I did my PADI dive in my 20’s) and to my delight found the quality of the diving to be incredible – I now have spots marked that rival anything I have found overseas.

In addition, in the last few years I have added sailing and free diving to my passions.

So I guess the love for the ocean has always been there but it was Taranaki that gave me a chance to reconnect and fully immerse myself…and so the adventures continue..

*Wife’s note – oh this was just the start of me being unhappy with the amount of time that was spent fishing………………………