Earlier this year, I got a brief from a client to photograph a bunch of new spearfishing gear. The only issue: I’m based in Canterbury, which is not known for its great water clarity – most of the year I’m lucky if I can see the end of my fins. I insisted that we head north in search of big kingfish and some good vis. After signing this off with the client, a plan was hatched with Ollie Craig, one of the brand’s ambassadors from Auckland. We planned to base ourselves out of the Whitianga and dive the offshore islands for a couple of days.

Our first morning was an early one, with the boat in the water well before sunrise. The plan was to head out to the Aldermen Islands, where reports suggested some awesome conditions. On our way over we stopped at Castle Island: an exposed dot of land with plenty of current. As we jumped in, we were greeted by some incredible viz and a huge school of kahawai. The underwater scenes were stunning, and I got to work immediately – snapping the first stills of the trip. After half an hour in the water we had some great images, though only a few small kingfish had been sighted, so we decided to carry on to the Aldermens.

What awaited us was a South Island spearos wet dream – inky blue water with workups exploding all around us. We frantically flopped off the boat and were greeted with the best dive conditions I’ve ever seen in New Zealand. The bottom was clearly visible 25 metres below, and the bait fish were in abundance. We dived with the current, allowing it to drag us around the point as we dropped down repeatedly in search of kingfish. After 20 minutes or so, we drifted across a shallow reef and Ollie made another big drop. I positioned myself off his shoulder just as two solid looking kingfish swam into view. As the fish drifted past, Ollie extended his gun and plugged the front one just behind the head. After a quick tussle, he had it firmly by the gills. We were officially on the board for the day!

Back at the boat, I snapped a couple more photos, then we motored back up current for another dive. This time, we had some unwanted visitors. Half-a-dozen bronze whaler sharks had turned up, no doubt in search of a free feed. It’s amazing how much of a difference good visibility makes when diving with sharks, much better than a pointy snout suddenly appearing out the gloom a foot in front of you! A couple more solid kingies showed up, but we opted to avoid the inevitable feeding frenzy and instead focused on getting some cool footage of the sharks. I’ve hunted and dived all my life but swapping the gun for a camera in recent years has rekindled my love for these sports. Not only have I honed new skills, but I’ve also felt a much greater sense of satisfaction from an image captured vs. an animal taken.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, with a couple more incredible dive spots but no fish worthy of the chilly bin. On our way home, we stopped off at one of Ollie’s honey holes to try to grab a couple of crayfish and complete our seafood fry-up for the evening. The next day, a good friend of mine – Josh Coombridge – decided to join us as we headed out to the Mercury Islands on a launch. Unfortunately for him, a feral battered mussel the night before had inflicted a wicked bout of food poisoning, so he wasn’t in the best shape.

Our first dive of the day was fishy but lacked the stunning visibility of the Aldermen’s. Ollie plugged a nice 15kg kingfish and Josh slammed a much larger model that unfortunately ripped off before he could secure it. After a couple of hours, the call was made to hang up the wetsuits and head further out to sea for an afternoon of game fishing. I was more than happy to do this – after 8 hours in the water the day prior (and a couple of late nights) I was pretty stuffed. I wandered inside the cabin to join a very pale Josh who’d passed out on the couch. Less than an hour later we were awoken by an incredibly high-pitched scream. We rushed outside to find one reel spooling flat out. A pair of bright blue dorsal fins could be seen weaving back and forwards in our wake.

Then, suddenly, a second reel lit up. It was on! After clearing the rest of the rods, Josh and I (being the only marlin-virgins aboard) were quickly rigged up and told to start winding. The weight was unbelievable – certainly a step up from the southern blue cod I was used to hauling in. Miraculously, Josh had recovered from his mussel-induced misery and was absolutely pinging as he wound furiously. His was the first fish to the boat – a small blue marlin in the 70-80kg range. Unfortunately, in the subsequent carnage of trying to gaff the fish the lads made an absolute meal of it, resulting in the marlin spitting the hook and escaping  just inches from the side of the boat. After a serious debrief, along with some savage heckling, it was time for redemption.

My fish began to tire as I wound in the last 100 metres of line. Once I reached the leader, it was up to the boys. This time they got it right. With two separate gaffs in place, they dragged the beast aboard. I was speechless. The hulking blue marlin seemed massive to me, though I was quickly informed that it was a fairly compact model – just over 100kg. After a couple of photos, we got to work breaking the fish down and packing the fillets on ice. The steam back to Whitianga was one big celebration as we reflected on  what we’d managed to pull off in just two short days. To say the client was stoked with the images we delivered would be an understatement, though they were equally disappointed to have missed out on the action. Needless to say, we’ve already started planning our next “work” trip for next summer.