TRM’s Night Fishing master class
This is an incredible story. If you ever wanted lessons in night fishing this is the man. He is Toni Marks from Roseneath in Wellington. Toni has been applying his special techniques of fishing on the Tongariro in a pitch black environment for the last 30 years.
He learnt all his tricks to apply during night-time from other old masters – firstly John Milner, who used to own “Anglers Paradise” in Turangi back in the good ol’ days. The number of ten pound plus browns JM landed down the lower Tongariro in the middle of the night is legendary. (I can already hear you asking “Which Pool?” We can reveal it. Dans Pool! The first real pool up from the Delta. I can safely tell you as – on last report – the pool has gone now.) The huge browns are still there every night feeding on Koura but you need to be able to feel your way in the dark conditions like Toni… But I digress.
Toni’s other mentor is Jim Gosman. Jim was the well known cop at National Park for many years and retired to become a fishing guide – particularly targeting the Wanganui (it didn’t have an “h” back then) and Whakapapa Rivers. Jim now lives in Turangi. Their contribution is major but what we need to explain is Toni’s special advantage. He has a distinctly almost unfair technique over all you other night anglers.
He achieves it by concentrating everything on “sound” and “feel”. As you can imagine on a dark night on the Tongariro it is like inside a coal mine – there is no other way. Any headlight or torch would immediately spook any trout to ruin any chance of hooking a BIG brown. So Tony has finely tuned his other senses to perfection to rely completely on ‘sound’ and ‘feel’.
i.e. One of the problems in the pitch black dark of night is to know where the other bank is or how far can one cast without snaring willows. Any over-cast results in the loss of all your gear tangled in the willows, blackberry, what-ever. Again Tony has refined his skills to re-tie on a new rig by ‘feel’ alone.
He is an expert at tying his flies – woolly buggers – in the dark using his tongue to guage the progress of the knot. Toni advises that the tongue becomes a magnifying device when tying flies in the dark. Try practising that with no light…
Tony commenced his trout fishing career in his mid-forties when his favourite pool for swinging a wet line was the Swirl Pool (they took it away from him – another famous pool that has now disappeared under the blade of a WRC – Waikato Regional Council – bulldozer when they gouged the canal from the Braids to the Reed Pool). The images now illustrate his latest favourite pool where the canal rejoins the main river at the top of Reeds Pool.
Another favourite is Major Jones – not from the beach but by wading way down where few mortals are prepared to venture almost joining the Island Pool. From there it is a long deep hard wade back up against the strong current but Tony manages it easily.
Toni is known as a particularly strong wader. At the Hydro Pool it was not uncommon for him to cast and swing his fly across to mix it with the lines of nymphers that used to gather at the mouth of the Mangamawhitiwhiti Stream.
Toni’s skill for fishing at night was proven beyond doubt on a fishing trip many years ago up into the Whakapapa Gorge. Night time arrived quickly while they were still trapped in the steep gorge, but Toni confidently provided the lead to his fishing guide and mates back out through the gloomy black gorge. He was quite unconcerned, using his unique navigation skills that make him one of the Tongariro’s favourite sons.
Photos above taken by his fishing mate Rob Irwin from Masterton (who is desperately trying to remain anonymous) during one of the coldest wettest days this winter. But that just added to the challenge for Toni. Rob reports he is the most companionable fishing mate with such a great sense of humour and endless perseverance. He never minds sharing a room and is the sort of mate who never minds if Rob wants to read late into the night.
There is an obvious reason which you might have picked up from the photos. A giveaway is to have a careful squiz at Toni’s “wading pole”. It is a special custom designed model with a curve at the end (fitted with a small sledge that has a memory – true) so that he can feel the bottom contours. Tony is completely blind…
So next time you are feeling weary or even think about complaining about the conditions and how hard the fishing is, just think of Toni!. He is the complete inspiration. If he can catch trout in such negative conditions, so can you.
Other fishos staying at TRM panic when they see an obviously blind angler probing his way to the fish cleaning bench to clean his usual limit bag. He does a better job than most sighted anglers.
Thank you Toni & Rob for choosing TRM and being such amiable guests. The other TRM inmates are in awe…
Image below taken by local fishing guide John Baker who noticed Toni playing this trout and offered to help without realising Toni’s skills (aka handicap?). He was in awe too…