Single Variable Fly Selection

There are several important variables when it comes to choosing what fly to use: how heavy, and how the fly is weighted, the size and shape of the hook, the size and profile of the fly, and color. In my experience, the actual fly pattern is probably the least important variable when it comes to catching bonefish. The final variable I consider in my fly selection is confidence. Even the best fly will falter unless the angler is fishing it with confidence.

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The Pictures We Take

I have been fishing almost every week recently. Most days we have gone out, everyone has hooked something, so it’s fair to say that the fishing has been good, but it hasn’t been great. If you asked, I would say that nothing particularly noteworthy has happened. But when I sit down and start to look through photographs from the past few months, I see that a lot has happened. Nothing noteworthy, perhaps, but a lot of really wonderful details. Things that are in danger of being overlooked.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

My motivation for fishing is manifold. I enjoy the physical and mental challenge, the aspect of exploration, and developing a relationship with my natural surroundings: the weather, the winds, the water, and the fish themselves. While I am usually a catch-and-release type of person, once in a while I am also motivated to catch fish in order to eat them.

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Feels Like Summer

There are some places on the flats where big fish regularly feed, but they are crazy-difficult to catch. When I see these fish I go directly into stealth mode, with lots of crouching low to the water and slow-motion steps. Most of the time, no matter how stealthy I am, the fish turn and swim away as soon as I make a cast, sometimes even before my line touches the water. When I do manage to put a fly in front of them, they usually look at it with such scorn that it’s hard not to take it personally. As they swim away I can almost hear them laughing, “you call that a mantis shrimp?”

Early in the year, I tied some flies specifically to fool these big, smart fish. I went with a subtle tan body made from some puffy EP fiber. I attached some matching rubber legs, but I tied them in parallel to the hook shank. My idea was to fish the fly very slowly, like a small crab crawling sideways. I tried it out this spring, and was able to get a couple of big fish to follow it.

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All-In

I remember reading somewhere that human beings are more likely to return to something over and over if the outcome is uncertain. We quickly lose interest in the sure thing, perhaps because it’s a sure thing. I don’t remember where I read that, but I believe the point was that we are psychologically hard-wired to enjoy activities of chance, which goes a long way toward explaining why gambling is so popular.

I have never enjoyed casinos, cards, slots, sports betting, et cetera, but I think that I can see how gambling could be addictive, even and unfortunately to a pathological degree. Trolling for big fish is usually boring. Makani and I spent a recent afternoon cruising around a seamount and chasing seabirds. We did not even have a hint of a fish, but the sunset was lovely.

I went out again with Ed this past weekend to fish for ono, more commonly known as wahoo. Regardless of the target, all trolling is essentially the same. There is definitely an element of knowledge, where and when to go, how fast to drive, what lures to use, but once the lines are set, it’s basically just a boat ride. The engine growls and vibrates, the hull slides and bumps along. The weather, no matter if it’s wind, rain or bright sun, becomes more intensely noticeable from the lack of activity.

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Loose Ends

I think we can all agree that 2020 was not the best year, with a smorgasbord of tragedy and disappointments, globally, nationally, and close to home. Looking back however, I am slightly stunned to realize that 2020 was, against all odds, a pretty good fishing year for me personally. I have written about most of the highlights already, but here are a few things I left out:

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Spotting Bonefish (in Hawaii)

This post is an attempt to answer an important question that was posed in the comments on an earlier post. The question was about how to spot bonefish while wading. When I mentioned this to Tara she replied that the best way to learn is to have someone point the fish out to you. That’s probably true, but we don’t always have someone to fish with, or sometimes the other person is relying on us to help them find fish! Bonefish are fast and elusive, but spotting them is what sight fishing is all about. In this post I have tried to collect enough thoughts about finding and seeing bonefish that a relative newcomer to the flats of Hawaii will stand a decent chance of spotting some.

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Pow Pow!

Ed picked me up early and we marveled at the clear sky and calm conditions on the ride to the boat ramp. The weather was ideal. “Why can’t every day be like this” we kept asking each other. The marina parking lot was mostly empty and we rigged up the fly rods and launched the boat in record time.

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Lucky Number Six

We had about two weeks of cloudy and rainy weather in Honolulu but, fortuitously, the clouds parted and this weekend was forecast to be sunny and calm. My two most reliable fishing companions had been missing in action for part of the month. Ed’s boat had some engine trouble and Makani had taken back-to-back work trips to Hawaii Island, so I was stoked to get a call from Ed with an invitation to fish.

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