The bonefishing has steadily improved with the onset of summer in Hawaii. Two weeks ago Ed picked me up before sunrise and we headed out to look for tailing fish. We found those, and a bunch more. The conditions were almost perfect and we had the flats almost completely to ourselves. I hooked seven bonefish that day, and Ed must have hooked eight or nine.
Despite the fishing excitement close to home, the real perk for me recently was sneaking away one afternoon during a work trip in Texas to look for carp.
It has been a busy Spring for me and fishing time has not been abundant. The scarcity has reminded me of the importance of play, which can apply to anything you enjoy doing, not just to fishing. It is easy, at least for me, to let my mind get captured by the idea of “progress,” of achieving goals, but I think that real enjoyment comes not from accomplishment, but from the doing itself.
Back in January, after several intense weeks at work, I finally got out on the water for my first full day of fishing of 2022. I really wanted to catch my first bonefish of the year, and I did. It was a 3-4 pound fish that bit my small mantis shrimp fly on the edge of the flat. But before that, something crazy happened!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We paddled out to look for bonefish on a nice day in January. I couldn’t get any bonefish to eat, but on the walk back to where the SUP boards were anchored I spotted a barracuda, lurking hungrily on the reef.