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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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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Red Water Bones

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.

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O.P.B.’s

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Ed hunting triggerfish

If Ed Tamai is Oahu’s most venerable bonefish guide, then Makani Christensen is the Island’s most energetic and ambitious. Both men are dedicated professionals and I can tell that spending time on the water with them has started to push my fly fishing game to the next level. Continue reading