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My Life In Boats: Sir Michael Hill's fishing adventures on board The Beast

24 August 2023 • Interview by Grace Trofa

Catch and release is the way forward aboard the New Zealand jeweller’s 39-metre The Beast, as Grace Trofa discovers...

The first big yacht I had was VvS1, which was slightly smaller than The Beast but a monohull. It was a great boat, and I enjoyed the experience, but I couldn’t do what I wanted with it. My captain, Andy Grocott, has been at sea a great deal and knows what makes for a great sea-keeping boat. 

We built The Beast with certain specifics. At 453GT, she is below the restrictive ship classification, and is a catamaran. With that tremendous width, I was able to dream bigger. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a beautiful seafaring game boat on the back deck? We did just that, designing our boat with a width of 43ft [13.12 metres] and a great bow. I think we hold the record for the smallest superyacht with the largest tender.

I love fishing. One of my favourite fishing spots is in northern New Zealand. It’s virgin land, with no houses, squeaky white sands, crystal-clear waters, and amazing fishing. My crew is exceptional at knowing the appropriate lure for every type of fish, marlin, bluefish, whatever.

At the tip of New Zealand is a beautiful beach called Spirits Bay. It’s a very sacred place and off that beach is some of the best fishing I’ve ever experienced. Another place we fish, for giant snapper, is off Parengarenga Harbour. On an outgoing tide, right outside the breakers, is probably the best snapper fishing.

I don’t kill fish unless we are going to eat them. I think it is dreadful to kill a beautiful marlin, hang it for a photo opportunity and collect a prize. If we are not careful, our children will not see fish anymore. We also now tag fish to track where it has travelled. We caught a beautiful striped marlin last year, tagged it, and not four days later, someone caught it and hung it up. I felt really bad about that. It’s not a good call anymore, those days are over.

I recently caught a 27lb snapper, it would have been about 50 years old. My God, you have no idea how much trouble we went through to put it back in the water. We had difficulty reviving it because it was exhausted and quite bloated from the pressure coming up from the bottom. We researched how we could relieve the pressure, and after three attempts at inserting a needle, we managed to release the air without harming the fish and then held it under the water until it could swim away.

When we fish, we use very light gear; we cast out a four-inch artificial bait with a floppy tail that seems to attract the big fish. At Three Kings Island, past Spirits Bay, we catch enormous kingfish and even marlin, using a balloon lure with a baited line about a yard below the surface.

Spirits Bay, at the tip of New Zealand
Credit: Getty Images

Soon I am going even further afield, to the Wanganella Banks, just outside of New Zealand’s territory. Where we were at the top of New Zealand we were the only boat, and when you think of the billions of people out there in the world, here you can be completely alone; I find that an enormous privilege.

I love the fascination of being on the water and the sense of adventure. We’ve been as far as Tonga and Fiji, which would be a couple of thousand miles from New Zealand, and fished some amazing bays along the way. You can play life safe but then there is no thrill in it. It’s been a whole life of adventure and it just keeps getting better.

Read More/Inside the 39m camouflage catamaran explorer The Beast

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