Winter Fishing Blues

I used to get a bad case of the Winter fishing blues every year. I could usually make it to February without going too crazy but eventually I’d bundle up and go looking for something to catch, which was usually nothing at all. For many fishers (especially the carp on the fly variety) Winter is a tough time of year. Even in Hawaii the storm fronts start to roll through weekly and the water temperature falls just enough that the fishing slows down noticeably. This year has been a little bit different. This year, my fishing blues are of a different kind.

 

 

 

I haven’t been fishing a whole lot this Winter, but all things considered, the fishing has been pretty good.

We took advantage of some calm winds and made a five mile paddle along the East side. Papio fishing in Winter is usually hard work, covering lots of water with very few bites. On this day I brought along my light tackle and managed to catch a couple of fish. We hit a deep sandy channel where the swells were pumping and I stopped to make a few casts. It was a pretty uncomfortable place to stop, and Tara wisely paddled on to calmer water, leaving me to my fate, but I quickly hooked a nice papio.

As soon as the weather started to turn cool, my friend Ed Tamai got grumpy about bonefish. “I’m not even going to think about bonefish this winter!” he would grumble. Of course, being a professional guide, he doesn’t have much of a choice, and probably spent ten times as many hours fishing for bonefish this Winter than the rest of us. But when our days off coincided, Ed was excited about catching Kona crabs.

Kona crabs (AKA Spanner crabs) live in about 30-100 feet of water over sandy bottoms. They are caught with simple flat nets that tangle their spiny legs when they crawl towards the bait in the center of the ring. Here in Hawaii only the male crabs, with shells that measure at least four inches from the base of the tail to the head of the crab, can be kept. I had never even heard of Kona crabs before this Winter, but I was stoked to learn about them and, yes, they are delicious!

The bonefish too, have been around this Winter. Any time we get two or more days of calm sunny weather the water seems to warm up a bit and the fish come into the shallows. They seem to be hungry too. I fished with Makani Christensen last week and we found some fish early out near the surf zone. We both had bites but our fish escaped. Later, the fish moved in with the rising tide and I tricked one of them with a small mantis shrimp pattern.

On my next weekend I spent the morning puttering around the house, taking care of some chores, but when the weather cleared up in the afternoon, just in time for a very low tide, I decided to run down to the beach. The conditions during the first part of the day are usually best, when the Trade Winds and the sun are both at an angler’s back. Because I was heading out late in the day, I decided to start from the opposite end of the beach and wade back into the wind. The spot I chose requires low tides, with the best fishing being within casting distance of the beach. It is also popular with beach goers, and their dogs, which can easily ruin the fishing. So I wasn’t expecting too much when I waded into the shallows, halfway between a couple playing fetch with their pooch and a bunch of keiki splashing at the waterline. Not five minutes later I spotted a pair of cruising bonefish, bright green in the afternoon sunlight. I cast my poofy shrimp and it landed a bit short in a patch of sand. If the fish turned seaward, they would miss it, but they seemed confident in their path, so I left the fly where it was. As the first fish passed off of a bit of reef and onto the sandy patch I made a long strip. The fish turned to give chase and with two more quick strips I was hooked up.

I had my drag pretty tight so the fish couldn’t get out to the big coral boulders I knew were in the distance, but it made three strong runs before I got it in close. It was a good sized fish, maybe six or seven pounds, and I was just about to land it when my rod tip snapped. The fish stayed on so I made a quick in-water release and watched the fish dart away before stopping to assess the damage.

My trusty TFO BVK 8wt had broken cleanly about halfway down the first section. The rod had probably been compromised by an impact, most likely with the lead eyes of a fly on a poor cast, that damaged the veneer and created a weak point. So my afternoon of fishing was cut short and it may be a month before I get my rod back from Temple Fork Outfitters. (Thank goodness for their lifetime warranty!) So these are my Winter fishing blues – a broken fly rod.

I can’t complain too much though. After walking back to the car I dropped by Makani’s house and he loaned me his spare Sage X!

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