After a long dry spell the papio fishing has finally picked up a little bit. As Spring temperatures start to warm the water, the bonefish are more active too.
I don’t see big schools of bonefish in Hawaii very often but there is one place I know they can be found. Under the right conditions, smaller bonefish, “rats” as they’re affectionately known here, will congregate and swim in lazy loops, waiting for the tide to rise just enough for them to swarm onto the flat. Today I found them just where the flat began to break up and sink into deeper, sandy channels. Perhaps twenty or more fish were schooled up and swimming slowly. I could see flashes of silver as the fish rolled and turned, behavior that feeding fish rarely exhibit.
There were more fish, too. Smaller groups of three or four that were pushing up out of the channel, perhaps testing the depth of the water. These were the fish I wanted. In the Springtime, huge groups of carp will gather in the shallows to spawn and many anglers will, out of curiosity or ignorance, focus on the group and catch nothing. Instead, one should watch for small groups, or even solo fish, to break away for a snack. Just like Spring carp, the big school of bonefish wasn’t feeding, and I didn’t want to disturb them.
Instead I cast in front of four or five fish that were cruising towards me. I counted long enough to be sure my fly was on the bottom and then made some short strips. One fish accelerated and then the competitive instinct kicked in and the whole group rushed forward. I felt the line go tight as the lead fish grabbed my fly and turned towards open water. I cleared about fifteen feet of line and then… nothing! The fish was gone. After losing my last bonefish to a bad knot I was furious with myself – what had I done wrong this time? Apparently nothing. My line was fine and the fly was still tied securely to my tippet. I had just gotten things back in order when I spotted another trio of fish headed my way. I made an easy cast, well in front of them, and this time the rat was hooked.