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.
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.
In the course of some internet research I found a link to Hawaii’s Mike Sakamoto Presents 101 Fishing Tips on Google Books. The relevant section was “The Omilu’s Strike Zone” and I clicked on it excitedly. Mike Sakamoto was one of the most recognizable faces in Hawaii for his long-running television show, Fishing Tales. He also wrote several books on fishing in Hawaii and I was very interested in what he had to say about catching big trevally. Continue reading →
On a calm, sunny day we packed the inflatable boat into the car and headed to a spot I had not been to in years. We paddled past boats and buoys and one curious sea turtle and pulled onto the flat at dead low tide. Continue reading →
I have been chasing a lot of tails lately, bonefish tails mostly. Using my new light tackle reel and rod I have been spending a lot of time refining my flats fishing technique and the current evolution has proven effective. I have managed to catch nearly all of the reef fish species that hunt on the flats, though my last four bonefish have come infuriatingly un-hooked (there is no consistency in these loses so at this point I am chocking them up to bad luck). I have also had some pretty epic wildlife sightings – after twice spotting a big shark cruising the flats, I had a close encounter with a Hawaiian monk seal. I have seen monk seals hauled out and sleeping on land but have never spotted one swimming in the wild. This one was swimming slowly in about four feet of water, well inside the surf zone, and was close enough that I could make out it’s whiskers when it poked it’s nose up for a fresh breath of air. It may have been hunting, reef critters like octopus and lobster are among their primary prey. From the size (big!) I suspect it was a male. According to the Waikiki Aquarium website there are only about 153 of these endemic and endangered mammals in the main Hawaiian Islands so I feel extremely lucky each time I encounter one.
I was inspired this morning by a NerdFitness blog post to try something new. Last time I went fishing I had some success but access to the prime spots was limited by deeper water and waves. Today I decided to pack extra light and bring along an old boogie board to help keep my rod out of the water if I blundered into a deep hole or needed to swim across a channel. Things were going pretty well at first. The board was definitely helpful in getting out to the reef and I started casting at a likely looking spot. I had the board fastened by a 6 foot cord to my belt and it would tug slightly when a wave came through. Pretty soon the tugs got a lot harder and I noticed the board was foundering a bit in the passing waves. Then this happened:
The board broke in two. One half was still tethered to me but the other half was floating free in the waves. I couldn’t in good conscious let the big chunk of Styrofoam drift away but I was not ready to admit defeat. So, I splashed after the piece, broke it into smaller chunks, shoved them in my shirt and kept on fishing! When I graduated from the academy in October, a friend and former co-worker gave me a fishing themed lei and attached fishing lures to it.
I don’t know if it was coincidence but these are one of my favorite papio lures and this was my first chance to try them out. I waded/swam my way along the reef with my broken board in tow. I stopped at any spot that looked promising and eventually found myself on an unusually shallow outcrop right in the surf zone. A perfect place for papio. Sure enough, on the third or fourth cast my little squid lure got hammered and I pulled in a nice fish.
Our good friends in Hawaii just got married. Tara was the maid of honor and I agreed to play photographer. Needless to say we were pretty busy but I managed to fit in a few days of fishing between wedding related activities.
I met up with my friend Kirk early one morning and we waded out to fish for white ulua along the edge of the reef. We had some success, a couple of whites, one bluefin ulua and a big cornet fish:
A few days later we went out for o’io (bonefish.) We often fly fish for o’io but Kirk reported that the fish in this particular area are very difficult to hook with a fly rod. Instead we headed out early, at low tide, to catch some crabs:
With our bait in tow we made our way to the edge of the reef. The hope was that the bonefish were waiting in the deeper water for the tide to rise so that they could safely enter the flat in search of a meal, like the delicious crabs we had just caught. We cast our bait along the drop off and waited patiently. Within ten minutes Kirk had a nice fish on his line:
We spent most of the day on the water. Kirk landed one more fish and I hooked one but lost it. We saw many fish though, some quite large. Kirk says that he has seen o’io in the area that are probably bigger than the world record. I can’t wait to get back out there!