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 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:
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.
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.
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.
The past few weeks have been a mix of fishing on foot, from a boat or from the SUP boards. I’ve had a bit of success with each, but nothing has happened that has compelled me to write about it, until this week.
Many of the bonefish flats here on Oahu include mangroves. In some areas, the mangroves line the shore and in others they have grown up around small, sandy islets. The mangroves are not native to Hawaii, but they are happy here and have spread steadily over the past decade. Recently, the government made the decision to remove the mangroves from one of the main fishing areas near Honolulu.
A lot of fishing naturally necessitates “social distancing”, and fly fishing even more so, what with the flinging of sharpened metal hooks to and fro. This weekend, I found myself fishing the same flat at the same time as Makani and, alone together, we enjoyed a sunny morning within shouting distance of one another.
One morning I caught a ride on Makani’s boat. He was taking a client out, but was kind enough to drop me off on the flat to look for bonefish. On the ride I noticed a baby gecko struggling in a small puddle on the deck, so I reached down and scooped it up.