In 1932 I went back to New Zealand after finishing my book. I looked after the business while Geoffrey was away but we were still suffering from the effects of the slump, and there was not much doing, apart from some more planting, and a few land sales going through. I had changed, and had lost a good deal of my desire for action and adventure. I read a lot, and became a fanatical fisherman.
I was introduced to trout fishing by an Englishman. He showed me what to do and I went off by myself for the day. On the first day I caught no fish. My friend, who was an experienced old hand and was not unhappy at my failure, had some good fish. The next day I went out by myself. I began to catch some rainbow trout but they were only two pounders and I returned them to the river, rather ashamed. Then I came to a big pool where another river joined, a wonderful place, a great pool of dark water overhung by the evergreen forest trees, with a white rush of water where the rivers fed into it; a mysterious beautiful solitary spot. Here I caught three fish which totalled 14% lbs. I carried home those fish somewhat diffidently, because my friend was such a tremendous expert and knew such an awe-inspiring amount about fishing. Now it seemed easy. I had no idea that I would never again in one morning meet three fighting trout like those, and have such thrill and excitement as I did on the day I caught them.
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For four years I led an easy life. In the fishing season, I used to go off every evening after work to fish dry-fly for brown trout. I suppose it was some of the best trout fishing in the world. Part of the attraction was the wild, lovely, country that the fishing took me to. Once I joined an expedition to an uninhabited island. A distinguished geologist, Professor Marshall, had discovered a new rock-forming mineral, and the expedition was to look for the parent reef. Having no technical value I joined as cook. I had to use an open fireplace between some boulders on the beach, and I fear the culinary standard was not high. One day I grilled some steaks from a 150 lb swordfish; I must admit that they were pretty tough: we had two professors in the party, and they had a dispute; one of them got so angry that he picked up a loaf of bread to hurl it at the other. He was so furious that when he drew back his hand to throw the loaf, it flew out backwards; when his hand came forward there was nothing in it. I thought this was the funniest thing I had seen for years, and doubled up with laughing. Whereupon they both turned on me, and said that it was entirely my fault and that my bad cooking had upset their livers. Apart from this the expedition was a great success. The parent reef was located at the bottom of the extinct crater which the island was.
In England, Hamish Hamilton, the publishers, offered a prize for a new book. David Garnett was to be one of the judges, and as I had had my best review of Seaplane Solo from him, and as I admired his writing, I got the idea of competing. I built a one-roomed hut at the top of the hill on our property, about 900 feet above sea-level, and retired there to write my masterpiece. Seaplane Solo had not sold many copies, so I thought that this new book must be made more attractive, like putting ordinary old chocolates in a gorgeous box with satin ribbon. As literary adviser I enrolled Marjorie Tweed, who had an impressive artistic bent. The first thing we did was to put the end of the book, the crash in Japan, at the beginning; there was a vogue for this kind of thing at the time. Then the book had to have an inspiring title; the final choice was Ride on the Wind. Not only did this book not get a prize, but even some of my best friends admitted that they could not read it.
One day I was visiting Flora and Frank Herrick, some friends of mine who lived on their sheep station on the east coast of North Island, and I persuaded Frank that it would be great sport to fly home to England across Siberia. He agreed enthusiastically, and it was arranged that he should provide the aeroplane, and that I should pilot it. We bought a secondhand Puss Moth, a high-winged monoplane, with a Gipsy Major engine. It was nearly five years since I had flown, and I started off with several hours of solid landing practice. The Puss Moth was a delightful aeroplane in many ways. It had a comfortable cabin with a splendid view under the wing in level flight. It cruised at around 100mph and did 20 miles to the gallon. Its only drawbacks were that anything circled was hidden by the tilted wing, and it had a bad reputation for tearing off its wings, which had led to several fatal accidents. I accidentally discovered the cause of this. I was flying in to