At a sports shop on Riccarton Road, Christchurch the shopkeeper said, "These wiggly jigs will catch salmon." We bought jigs and spinners and spare tackle amongst huge stuffed wall fish and hunting gear.
While driving to Omarama I remembered, as a Chelsea Drive boykie, when John the Zulu house painter dossed in our Durban North khaya. Mom said, "John keeps skebenges away." Outside John's khaya I watched John scaling shad he'd caught at Rocket Hut beach.
During weekends John got drunk. On work days John cycled Durban North with ladders tied to his bike, looking for paint jobs. In his khaya John placed bricks beneath his bed legs. "Bricks keep Tokoloshe away," said John.
One day a khaki uniformed cop with squeaky shoes peaked cap and gun knocked on our back door. "I'm arresting John. He hasn't gotta pass madam," the cop said. "You're..."
"Suck eggs!" said mom. "Go away!"
Near Omarama, Luke and I saw monster hydro-electric dams - Benmore, Aviemore, Waitaki. At Ruataniwha, Luke and I watched scullers training on the lake, and dogs rabbiting in the pine forest, then we looked at the salmon farm near Ruataniwha Dam and Ohau Power Station.
At Twizel, Luke clambered over a giant bowl-scraper and a behemoth bulldozer and a juggernaut haulage truck, commemorating former canal diggers.
We watched turquoise waters surge below lake Pukaki High Dam into Pukaki-Ohau Canal. We tested our Jarvis-Walker rods on the east bank of the canal - so wide, we couldn't cast into monster-swirling waters. Luke caught a rainbow trout in a nearby pond. I lost my jigs casting into overhanging trees. Luke was a better fisherman than me, more patient, and his knots were better.
I drove past tourist buses at Aoraki Mount Cook lookout. At the salmon farm on Tekapo-Pukaki canal, we bought fish-food pellets. We fished from both canal banks, chucking pellets into sungold glistening waters, casting jigs and spinners till our backs and shoulders ached, our fingers numbed and we became wind-burnt.
Other fishermen in camouflage gear, sporting 4x4 vehicles, also failed. Tourists and Taniwha made salmon very clever. At the pond above two penstocks sluicing Tekapo waters into Tekapo B Power Station, we saw a rotting monster salmon someone had dumped on the bank.
A salmon jumped in the middle of the pond. A trout cruised amongst rocks, ignoring our lures. Luke caught a salmon, briefly, before it vanished with Luke's tackle. "Taniwha's not giving us salmon," said Luke.
I drove back to Christchurch, where we found Taniwha had given us squitters.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.
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