Captain Cook, on first sighting Banks Peninsula thought it was an island. It was not until thirty-nine years later, in 1809, that the sealer, Captain Chase was to discover Cook’s earlier charting error. When viewed from a distance it is easy to see how Cook made the mistake. The low-lying Canterbury Plains seem to disappear below the horizon.
From the point of view of the Canterbury land-based angler, Banks Peninsula is indeed an island, in what would otherwise be virtually 200 kilometres of unrelieved featureless coastline.
To my mind the greatest advantage offered the angler by Banks Peninsula is the ability to fish its leeward side in almost any weather. Should you wish to fish at Birdlings Flat, for example, it is best to do so when the wind and swell are from the northerly quarter and have been for at least a couple of days.
Likewise, when powerful southerly storms pound this area, it is possible to find a sheltered spot to the north, such as Taylors Mistake.
Sadly, this doesn’t apply to boat fishing. Anything other than light winds makes boating any distance from the coast a hazardous exercise, particularly as there are no outlying islands from which to seek refuge.
One of my favourite destinations, on the southern side of Banks Peninsula, is Tumbledown Bay. The area is so isolated that on several occasions I have spent the whole day there without seeing anyone. The fishing is first-rate, with most of the southern fish species represented.
The eastern side of the bay offers the best access to rock, shelves and ledges running almost it’s entire length.
A word of warning: although the low rock shelf at the eastern point is most inviting to a committed kingfish seeker it is incredibly dangerous. At high water and in calm conditions it is just covered by the tide. However, when the sea is making the sheer rock wall behind you affords no safe retreat.
Although the bay itself has a sandy bottom, the sea floor around the headlands is foul and over ten meters deep; therefore a good supply of sinkers is essential. The beach is a good place for the kids to play.
If you haven’t been to Tumbledown Bay before, your best bet is to take the long way via Kinloch Road from Little River. Although it is possible to drive directly from Birdlings Flat up over Bossu Road, this is not recommended. Such a course would take you across the shingle spit which blocks off Lake Forsyth from the sea. Here the treacherous loose shingle has seen many a car buried to its axles. From Christchurch to Tumbledown bay is a distance of about 70kms.
Banks Peninsula has so many good fishing locations that there is always somewhere new to explore even when the wind is blowing the wrong way. There are many other bays around Banks Peninsula that are ideal for launching a kayak. Members of the Canterbury Kayak Fishing Club fish all around Banks Peninsula with moki being the main target species along with crayfish, rig, elephant fish and kahawai. A kayak makes fishing these isolated areas possible and productive.