You’re an avid fly fisher and your family has voted that this year’s trip will be to sunny Hawaii! “Sure,” you think to yourself as you quietly bemoan the fact that here are two more weeks you’ll be away from your beloved mountain stream especially when your spey casting technique is just a few throws from perfection…
Don’t forget to pack your fly fishing gear!!
Hawaii fly fishing is definitely under the radar when it comes to fly fishing destinations but those willing to give it a try will find in this unlikely place is some of the best fly fishing to be found anywhere. First off, you’ve got more choices than many locations, and access… real easy access, to spots with good prospects for near shore game fish guaranteed to strip your reel!
Fresh- and Saltwater Fishing Options
Albeit very limited, Hawaii fly fishing options do include opportunities for freshwater fishing. But, hey, you can do that at home! There are only a few rivers throughout the island chain and the streams are virtually devoid of anything large enough to take a fly. A few of the reservoirs and rivers offer some good prospects for the likes of bass, tucanare, perch, and others. You can even find a couple spots with trout. But those bodies of fresh water which offer any fishing prospects all require a license which while quite inexpensive and easy to obtain still mean an extra step, right? And, anyway, since some of these areas require a lottery or limit entry to certain times, most folks simply gravitate to the easiest fishing grounds of all, the ocean!
Requiring neither a license nor special access privileges, Hawaii’s beaches offer almost unlimited opportunities for fly fishing or any other fishing venue for that matter. And, especially suited to fly fishing are the sheltered waters of harbors, bays, and reef areas where bonefish, trevally, barracuda, and other shallow water predators patrol.
A drive around any of the islands will yield a number of spots where the bottom and water conditions will appear suitable for fly fishing and chances are if it looks good, it probably is! Unlike freshwater spots where the fish are either there or not, Hawaii’s shore fishing grounds are visited by fish which roam quite liberally and what might be a dead spot on one day could very well be a hot spot the next.
Since you from the mainland know a heck of a lot more about freshwater fishing fare than we could ever hope to learn here in the islands, this article will instead focus on Hawaii’s saltwater fly fishing prospects!
Reefs & Flats
As you travel around the islands you’ll notice a number of beach locations where the water depth is quite minimal and the bottom is a mixture of coral and an occasional patch of sand. These grounds are conducive to game like bonefish and trevally, along with assorted goat fish, wrasses, and barracuda all of which are capable of giving you a real run for the money! In fact, a little known fact is that Hawaii bonefish frequently run in the double digits making Hawaii one of the best kept secrets as a trophy bonefishing destination!
You can walk these shallows working your fly/popper into the sand pathways that you’ll notice and that fish use as trails in between the deeper and inshore waters. Remember that Hawaii fish are more inclined toward fast or erratic action and are very savvy in taking advantage of the sharp coral to cut lines and disappoint anglers.
A number of areas like those shallows that have sediment deposits from rivers would offer a less appealing bottom to the anglers but are nonetheless attractive to hungry trevallies (papio), bonefish (o’io), barracuda (kaku), and ladyfish (awa awa). All of these will give you a fight that you will remember all of your days!
If you don’t like walking in the water, areas near harbors and river mouths, breakwaters, and piers, will generally give you access to these same fish. And, if you’re really bent on success (vs. the simple enjoyment of working your line) there are a number of guides that you can hook up with who can take you out and increase your chances tremendously of getting the fly fishing tale of your life!
The deeper waters of Hawaii’s bays and harbors are also the spots for seasonal game like big-eyed scad (akule) and their juvenile siblings, halalu. When these are running close to shore, you’ll notice scores of anglers casting into congregating schools near the shore and getting a spot that will allow you some room to work your fly might be a bit tricky… but it certainly is worth trying to work the outer perimeters of the crowd in search of the roaming fish or the larger predators lurking in the hopes of preying on unsuspecting school members!
Hawaii is one of those spots that also offers the opportunity for deep sea fly fishing. And although the threat of lines being cut on rocks is non-existent when you’re angling from a boat, the size of the game is really something you have to consider when presenting your stream- or river-appropriate gear. Out in the deep, should you decide on going on a charter boat, the targets are dolphin (mahimahi), tuna (aku and ahi), wahoo, sailfish, marlin, and anything else that has contributed to Hawaii’s reputation as a world-class sport fishing destination.
Just Do It!
Whatever type of fly fishing you think you might try here in Hawaii, keep in mind that unless you hook up with a guide you won’t find a lot of others, if any, on your ventures into Hawaiian waters. However, do know that there are a number of anglers who are pursuing the sport with a vigor matching the most ardent fly fishers from the shores and river banks of Alaska to the flats of Florida and everywhere in between.
Hawaii is probably the next place to explode in popularity on the fly fishing circuit as it offers serious fishing opportunities along with attractions for the rest of your family. So get out of your depression in looking for luaus and fire dancing shows and start prepping your fly fishing gear and doing some really enjoyable research.
Your trip to Hawaii might just be the biggest fly fishing experience of your life and one even most local folk have yet to discover!
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