There’s an art to casting a fishing rod — it’s not easy and can take years of practice to perfect. It also takes mental fortitude, passionate dedication, and strong arms to reel in the big one.
Coromandel-based Dave Lenden is a man who loves to fish.
“My dad took me fishing when I was about nine and I think that hooked me for life. I’m over 70 and I’m still fishing,” he said.
Despite facing his fair share of challenges, the 74-year-old is still reeling them in.
“I’m that old, I still get excited to go fishing the next day and often I don’t sleep that well that night because I’m going fishing. It’s pretty cool.”
The right-handed fisherman was never going to let the loss of a limb slow him down.
“Well I’ve had my arm off for over 50 years now, so if I’m not going to learn how to do it, nobody’s going to do it for me.”
At the age of 24, life took an unexpected turn for the Thames local. Following a helicopter crash in the Vietnam War, Lenden sustained injuries resulting in the loss of his right arm.
“I’ve got an artificial shoulder in here as well, got a steel plate in my head and I lost all my teeth in the same accident.”
Lenden now sports a prosthetic arm with a clasp resembling a hook at the end of it, inspiring his nickname.
“I’ve had the nickname of ‘Captain Hook’ for probably the past 50 years. I think it’s pretty apt and I tend to believe it’s a term of endearment.
“Hell, I’ve got a thick skin so you’d have to call me something worse than that to get offended.”
‘Made me a better person’
Doing it all himself, Lenden baits the hook, casts his rod, and reels in the fish. Almost every day you can spot him somewhere along the Coromandel coastline attached to a fishing rod.
“When I lost my arm as a young man, I was a pretty angry young fella and I found that fishing helped me chill out. It’s very therapeutic and it’s good for the soul,” he said.
“I think it’s made me a better person. If you don’t give up you can’t beat that person, so I’ve never given up.”
It wasn’t just the physical aspects that Lenden worked on with his recovery.
“After the accident, I studied and ended up with a Bachelor of Engineering in civil, I have a PhD in maths, a Masters in maths and a PhD in psychology. Again, if you don’t give up you can’t beat a person.”
And, where better to apply this knowledge than to his love of fishing?
“DaSinka is probably the best bait delivery system around at the moment.”
Lenden has designed a surf caster that’s easy to bait, casts further, and attracts more fish through its clever design.
The new system helped him catch more than 1500 snappers in one year. Too many for him and his wife Connie to get through for dinner.
“I tend to take the fish home, fillet them, gut them, skin them, bone them, put them in packs, and go around and give everybody some fresh fish.”
While Lenden fishes the day away, Connie bakes up a storm in the kitchen.
“I cook a lot of cakes, muffins, desserts and cheesecakes,” she said.
The two of them set off together with their packages of fresh fish and baking to deliver to local pensioners in their neighbourhood.
As Connie explained, they “don’t really eat much fish, maybe once a month. It stays in the freezer and if someone needs it we give it to them.”
So despite his challenges, Lenden continues to look after others who can’t get to the beach to cast a line.
“Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door and give you what you want. You’ve got to go out and get it with both hands. Grab it, hold on to it and don’t let go. Go for it,” he said.
“I can’t hold on with both hands… but I can at least hold on with one!”