My buddy Shane just sent me a picture of his big Geet from Christmas. I think he’s still there, but he managed to send me a picture of him, smile stretching ear to ear, holding up a big GT. Pretty cool to see. Very happy for him.
It was a year ago I was in Christmas Island with him and I was looking for my own GTs. I caught a small one (a giant trevally the size of a small trevally), I lost a mid-sized GT to the coral at the Korean Wreck and I cast at and failed to catch a big one.
That last fish I can recall pretty well even now.
It was the last day and we were on our last flat. The light was fading and the water reflected a silvery gray making it almost impossible to peer into the water even a few feet ahead of us. I thought the guide was just running out the clock and I didn’t blame him. We’d been looking for GTs and we never seemed to quite be where the fish were. He’d put in a good shift, but we just hadn’t done it.
Then the guide points.
A fast moving bulge of water, 80-90 feet out, heading our way, pushing water like a snow plow. I made a good cast in front and beyond the fish so I’d pull the fly in front of its nose. The guide was in my ear yelling “FASTER! FASTER!” and I was stripping as fast as my top gear could manage. I swept the rod to add some speed as I’ve done from time to time with cudas and you could see the fish light up on the fly. He was close and you could see the open mouth and see the eye and the water sheeting over his back.
In my mind I was thinking “THIS IS IT! LAST FLAT! LAST DAY and damnit, it is going to HAPPEN!”
Except it didn’t. The fish saw us and just turned off and away and that was the end of it. I was just left there shaking, wondering how this crescendo somehow managed to fall flat. I had seen the fish in my hands, but it had only been in my imagination, a brief projection of what success and joy would feel like.
Shane had that look on his face today in that picture. It isn’t a great quality picture (he’s going to send better pics when he gets a chance as he’s still there), but you get the point, don’t you? Victory. Success. A dream realized.
I was going to skip my annual saltwater trip this year. The beating that Grand Bahama and Abaco took kind of hollowed out a piece of me and it didn’t seem there’d be much “there” there anyway. I got a new raft and figured maybe I’d head to Idaho for that week instead.
However, after watching the trials and tribulations of the folks out there via social media (Cindy, I’m looking at you) I had another thought… maybe this is when I actually should go to the Bahamas. Maybe this is where I should spend that money and time. The Bahamas has maybe never really needed me, but, maybe now they do.
So, this May I’m going to head to Abaco. Probably over Memorial Day weekend with most days falling the week before. I’ll look at getting an indy guide and maybe trying to convince a few others to come along.
Marsh Harbor was hit very, very hard, but the further south you go, the better the island starts to look. Power and water are a concern in lots of places, but not in the south. I’ll be able to crack a cold Kalik at the end of the day and enjoy some Bahamian grub. Flights are starting to come back on-line and if you go, you’ll be taken care of and your business will be appreciated.
I’m happy to share details if you are interested in making the trip yourself, or if you’d like to come along with me as I try to figure out this post-Dorian trip.
First off, I didn’t expect that much traffic. I was staying at the Aulani with the fam for Thanksgiving and needed to get to the airport flat to meet Kenny at 7:00 AM. I thought 40 minutes would do it. I was wrong.
The bell staff were also wrong that it would be “about the same cost” for a taxi and a Lyft… it was, in fact, not about the same cost at all. It cost me $128 to get to the flat (vs. $38 to get back) and I got there 15 minutes late. I hate being late.
The flat, when we got out there, was glassy clam. No wind rustled the mangroves or the water and it took about 10 seconds to see my first tail waiving at us to say good morning.
Now, it must be said, these fish are kind of assholes. They are so very, very spooky and they’ve seen some stuff, man… they’ve seen it all. They were super skittish in the sheet of skinny water and Kenny let me know it wasn’t ME they were rejecting, but more an overall disposition. Having an almost teenage daughter, I understand the mentality.
We worked hard and didn’t have too much to show for it. I had maybe 10 shots through lunch and I had maybe another 5 after lunch. The shots decreasing as the wind came up and the tails stayed down with the changing tide. I hooked one nice fish that must have run around one of the many, many coral obstacles and cut me off. It was good to feel the tug, but I was still off the board.
The day was waning. My dinner reservations were on my mind as well as questions about exactly how much traffic I might have on the way back West. I told Kenny that, ya know, if it wasn’t going to happen, we didn’t need to keep after it. Kenny said he wanted to try one more spot.
The breakers weren’t being totally blunted and so the ride out on the last flat was a little wild, a confused jumble of swells from different directions meant everyone had to hold on from time to time. To make it a bit more challenging the water was both a little deeper and the bottom seemed to be the EXACT color green of a bonefish. I was seeing phantom fish everywhere. Luckily, Kenny was seeing actual fish and had me cast toward a fish he had picked out.
“Strip long again.”
Tight to a fish and it was lightning, streaking across the flat. Backing exposed and recovered. Smiles all around. When I saw the size of the fish I wondered if I had hooked it in the ass, but it was just a strong, ocean-side fish. Not the 10 pounder, but the right species in the right place and sometimes you just need to take what the fishing gods give you.
It was a day saver and we were both pretty relieved.
You can find guide Kenny Karas here, and I recommend a day on the water with him. He’s good people and knows his stuff. This is a solid recommendation, not an ad.
I got to visit DWC a few years back and can attest to how nice the place was. The facilities and the guides and the boats were all top notch. Such a lot of history has come through that little island on the East End.
You may have seen the story… a fly fishing trip that ends in a double murder. If you had told me that happened in the Keys, I would have thought it was a matter of time. Tell me that happened in Belize and I’d call you a liar.
A 53-year old cardiologist on vacation with his wife and three kids gets caught up in some crazy gangster/drug BS and ends up dead, along with the intended target, his guide.
The Trump Administration recently announced some expanded travel restrictions for Cuba, because, ya know… they are super, super, super duper a threat to our way of life and, also, he’d like to keep Florida red in 2020.
I talked with Kristen Tripp, Program Director for Cuba at Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and I asked her what the impact of this latest news would be on their program.
First, Kristen expressed her frustration and sorrow for the people of Cuba who have been through a lot, make due with very little and are certainly being hurt by some of these very backward looking policies. There’s a shortage of just about everything in Cuba, including chickens, and people really are being put through unnecessary harm.
Second, Kristen explained that things have changes since I went to Cuba back in 2012. The whole operation has worked hard to make their trips legal (read, not just sneaking in from Mexico). This new policy makes that harder, but not impossible and they’ll be trying very hard to maintain above-board Cuban trips this year and into the future. Trips are still being booked to Cuba and any already on the books are grandfathered in. Still, there will be changes and the exact fall-out is a bit still to be worked out.
Cuba was a fantastic experience for me… one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was pretty obvious how bad the Cuban people were hurting back then and it hasn’t gotten better since. It is all a travesty and I hope some intelligence seeps into our Cuban policy that doesn’t revolve around Presidential politics.
For the latest developments, there are few people better suited to answer your questions than the folks at Yellow Dog and Kristen in particular.
I’m not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea. So does Foreign Policy (that liberal rag). The Guardian thinks sanctions don’t work. Fortune seems to think it is a bad idea.
It is bad policy… a failed policy that didn’t work for 50 years. Let’s get past this.
Sounds like these got dropped off in Eleuthera recently and are being distributed around the island.
Eleuthera is a DIY location for the most part. Guides are scarce and many anglers have been heading there for years to ply the waters on their own.
A permit there would be hard to come by (I guess you go to Tracy Auto Parts?). The process isn’t exactly working, really anywhere, and there’s no real sense of who is enforcing this sort of thing. If there IS enforcement for this, why not for gill-nets?
We fly anglers love our gear. Some (I’m looking at you Aaron) use a trip like this to load up on new rods and reels. I tend to try and make due with what I have, although even I brought in some new tools for this trip.
I brought 5 rods with me and used 3. My 12 weight never left the rod tube and my back-up 10 had a similar fate. Both of those rods were the Redington Predators that I’ve been very happy with for years.
I brought one loaner rod with me and that was a Sage Salt 10 wt.. This was my go-to GT rod and the rod I used to horse up Milkies and Bluefin Trevally. It’s a solid rod and it cast well. Fast action and easy casting. Sadly, I have to send that one back, as it was a loaner, but it would earn a place in most saltwater quivers.
My go to bonefishing rod for the past few years has been my Orvis Helios 2. I’m just comfortable with that rod. We’ve seen things together. Just yesterday I cast an H3 and it felt like a totally different rod (which I didn’t love). I’ll keep my H2 until I snap the thing.
I used a “trigger” rod for part of the trip, a rod rigged up with a crab fly and 20# tippet. This was my Redington Predator 8 wt. that I picked up last year. I’ve been pretty pleased with this rod, which is on the lower price-point side of things. The first trigger I landed in Christmas was on this rod and I had to put the stick to the fish to keep it from heading back to his rocky, coral-lined home. This is the fish that then bit the rod. I am happy to say the rod is in fine shape, which is pretty shocking, but is true nonetheless.
I ended up using two new reels on this trip.
First, I had the Redington Grande, which is a machined version of their Behemoth reel, which I also own and have liked. I had the Grande on the 10 wt. and actually got the larger version of the reel, a 11/12, so I could dump more backing on it. I wish I would have caught more fish on this, but what I saw out of the reel was all positive. I made a mistake with the reel on my reef-lost GT in that I should have locked the drag down, but I didn’t and the line ended up getting a bit roughed up on the reef. That spelled the last action for the Grande as I moved to the back-up reel which had a new line on it.
The back-up reel was the Sage (the SPECTRUM MAX). Solid reel. I had no issues with this reel and it did well when pulling those milkfish up from the depths.
The bonefish reels I used are the ones I’ve been using for years now. There an Orvis Mirage (the earlier version) and a Lamson (a lightspeed, I think) which is similarly no longer in production. I used to really like Lamson as a reel maker, but they’ve made a succession of odd choices in the past few years.
The only lines I used that were really new to me were the RIO GT lines. I had no complaints about these lines. I had made the decision not to monkey with the factory loops and so I should comment that I did have to swap reels because the factory loop on the first reel got pretty messed up on the coral. I can’t think that is the fault of the loop though. The loop to loop connection seemed to be the place on the coral that the line got stuck and the loop was partially cut through in a couple of places. That said, it still held, it was the leader that ended up getting cut. Also, if I had made my own loop the profile would have been even more pronounced and it would have caught even more. I still stand by my decision to use the factory loop. The factory loop held on the milkfish just fine. People land huge GTs on the factory loop. I’ve seen the pics.
Other Key Bits of Gear
I ended up getting a pair of Simms flats boots because I was told the booties would not stand up. The boots worked well. I got a pair that were a previous year’s model so they were fairly cheap. That said, a guy on our trip had a pair of the booties, same Simms booties I have, and they stood up to the coral just fine.
The Patagonia sun hoodies are all I wear these days. They are just hard to beat. I now have three pairs of that shirt.
The Simms sun mask is my go to now. Love the holes which reduce the feeling of breathing through someones hand on my mouth and it also reduces the fogging up of sunglasses.
Earplugs. My roommate for the trip very much suffers from un-diagnosed sleep apnea. I never got a solid night’s sleep. Someone on the trip gave me a pair. That was very, very important for how the whole trip went down for me.
Body Glide. Nothing would mess up your trip faster than your inner thighs being rubbed raw. Body glide is the answer. I use it proactively pretty much any time I’m spending time in the salt.
Antibiotics. Turns out my health plan has a travel clinic. You tell them where you are going and they’ll write you a prescription for what you might need and they’ll also look and see if you need any vaccines. I didn’t get sick on this trip, but I would have been in good shape if I had.
I needed a big, waterproof bag and I didn’t want to break the bank. Enter the Outcast AK Duffle. This thing is HUGE (no, I was not over weight). I could fit my rods IN the bag. Really pleased with this thing.
Anini… a pretty cool place and one of very few places in Kauai where folks target bonefish. I’m not hot-spotting here. If you couldn’t put those particular topics together your Google is broken.
So, yeah, my 12 year old daughter and I made our way to camp at Anini for her Spring Break. We’ve been doing these Dad/Daughter trips for the past couple years and it has been some top shelf memory making.
A few things to know:
Roosters. Roosters start doing their thing about 3:15 AM. Ear plugs are mandatory equipment.
It is cheap… $3/day per adult. Cost us $9 to camp.
There can be a lot of people there. There were, roughly, all the people when we were there.
The North Short of Kauai means rain. Sometimes, that could mean 50″ in 24 hours. On this trip it meant some rain at night and on and off during the day.
Mixed in with the rain and the wind will be stretches of wonderful beautifulness.
The bones there are, ya know, kind of scarce. I saw one on foot and I saw a few while paddle boarding.
You’ll need a car to get around.
The Bubba’s in Hanalei is now a salad place.
Camping means bringing camping stuff. For the two of us it was 4 bags. I’m sure if you are a really awesome camper you can do this with less stuff. We tend to bring a lot of stuff and that meant four bags.
The BEST thing we brought with us was an inflatable SUP. Worked very well and the beach at Anini is such that I had no worries about letting my girl take it out and paddle around. There is a coral head that takes all the oomph out of the waves and you are left with a pretty calm flat.
I managed to catch some trumpet fish in the cuts. Trumpet fish are dumb. Simple as that. I caught a couple on gear and three on flies. I didn’t catch anything else. It wasn’t really a fishing trip. It was a trip with the girl and in that regard it was pretty wonderful.
If you are looking to go catch a Hawaiian bonefish, well… go to Oahu and go out with Kenny. If you are looking for a pretty awesome place to do some very unique camping, check out Anini.