Honolulu, Hawaii, August 10, 2014
Eric was frantic and if his eyes weren't covered by wrap-around polarized glasses I think I would have seen his eyes popping out of their sockets.

"Come here! Come here quick!" he shouted. "Go stand on that flat rock over there and get ready to cast. There's fish all over the place!"

I pushed my way through the water, rapidly pulling line off my reel, and stepped up on the low rock that was just outside a shallow sandy channel studded with low coral heads. As I prepared to cast, Eric was going wild with enthusiasm.

"There's fish coming in right now! Look, right in front of you," he said as he pointed at several shifting grey objects that I swear weren't in front of me a moment ago. The bonefish were coming but was I ready?

Heading out
Eric and I arrived at the flats early, gearing up in the parking lot as the rest of the island was getting ready for their daily nose-to-tail commute into downtown Honolulu. We assembled our 9 weight rods and tested 18 foot-long leaders before tying on our fly choice and heading off for a long walk down the deserted beach. SteveL was supposed to meet us but he sent a text message and said he would join us later.

Dawn was just coloring the sky as we waded out through the dark water--shallow at first then almost chest deep--before stepping up onto a coral shelf and walking another 100 yards to reach the starting point of our fishing expedition.

We spread out and began casting. The tide was slowly falling so I stayed a bit inshore and fished slowly out towards the edge of the reef hoping to catch a bonefish feeding in shallower water. Eric had moved seaward and was 50 yards in front of me and a bit to my right when I picked up my first fish of the day on my fourth cast.

After releasing the fish I moved further out to the left and Eric continued fishing down the coast to his right and soon we were separated by a couple hundred yards. In the distance, as the sun began to climb into the morning sky, I saw the silhouette of SteveL as he waded out onto the flats.

Fishing for nothing
I fished a couple of deep cuts in the reef but got no tugs so I moved further out onto the flats, found a good rock and climbed up to survey the scene. By standing on the rock I went from waist deep to shoes barely awash and it afforded a great view of the surrounding area. Everything was visible in the clear water--coral heads, deep spots, open channels and moving fish. I glanced down the coast and saw that Eric and SteveL had also found rocks and the three of us were standing a bit above the water, spaced just about evenly apart, and were watching the water for movement.

I stood there for quite a while. The tide had just about bottomed out and was about to go slack but I saw no movement other than some juvenile wrasses and a few pipefish. I had a follow and a couple of nibbles by a microscopic juvenile Jack that tried several times, and failed, to cram the fly into its mouth. However when I looked towards Eric I could see he was hooked up and fighting a fish that was pretty substantial judging by the bend on his rod.

There was nothing fishy happening around me so I jumped off the rock and tried tossing the fly at a couple of other places that usually produced fish but had no luck. I thought it might be the fly (
never the angler) so I switched to something a bit brighter and slightly bigger and fluffier but that didn't help either. I looked towards Eric and he was hooked into another fish and was following it across the flats as it made a strong run towards the open ocean.

Eric landed and released his fish as I moved closer toward him. I hauled myself onto another rock and fished the area around me but drew a blank. I looked over at Eric and he was hooked up to something again and watched as the fish took him in a complete circle.

I left my lousy rock and waded towards Eric after he released his fish. He was retying his leader and motioned me to join him but two anglers in one area would make for difficult fishing. I motioned that I intended to pass well behind him as I headed for my favorite rock. I glanced further down the coast and saw that SteveL had abandoned his rock and was wading away from us.

The rock I climbed up on was always good to me. I caught some big bonefish here, and lost many that were way bigger, and so have others who have fished on it. As I adjusted my footing and recoiled the fly line into the stripping basket I noticed Eric had hooked up with another fish and was charging off across the reef.

Nothing. I stood on the stupid rock for almost 30 minutes and although the water was clear and I could see 60 yards or more in all directions there were no fish around. I was getting desperate. The tide was turning and there should be fish here, right here, right now, but the water was empty. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that Eric had hooked up AGAIN with another fish and was watching the backing disappear on his Lamson 3.5 reel as the fish headed for the breakers. I reeled up my line, jumped off the rock and headed for Eric and his hot spot.

Cast right NOW!
As I approached, Eric insisted I step up on a flat rock facing a sandy cut in the reef and get ready to cast--like right NOW!

"Right there, right there in front of you! Five fish just swam up. Do you see them?" he shouted.

"Yes. No. Where?" I replied, unsure where to look or what I was seeing.

"Right in front of you! They're all over the place. They've been coming in one after another--one, two, five or more at a time," he said. "They're right there--a big school right in front of you," he said as he pointed to an area that was suddenly alive with grey, shifting shapes just below the surface of the water that was maybe three feet deep at most.

I stripped line off and got ready to cast but couldn't quite figure out where to put the fly and Eric was getting anxious.

"Fifteen yards at ten o'clock, put it between the two dark rocks," he barked. "Cast, cast, cast!"

I laid out the line in the general area as Eric watched the fish from the rock on my left.

"Strip. Slow strip," he said. "Ok, it's turning. It's coming. It's coming. Stop. Don't strip. Wait. Wait. Ok. Ok. Now! Now! HIT IT NOW!"

I felt a sudden weight on the fly. It felt as if it was stuck on a rock. I gave a strong strip and something pulled back. Suddenly the line was slapping the sides of the stripping basket as it flew through the rod guides. A silver rocket blasted off for the breakers trailing a bright line of orange backing.

But the fight was a short one. The fish was smart and it wrapped me around several coral heads within a few seconds, shredding the leader. As I waded out to untangle the mess Eric was casting to another school of bonefish about 15 yards from where I was standing and told me for the past few hours this area was a bonefish super highway. He had hooked nine fish but was only able to land three of them due to the size of the fish and the many coral heads in the area. If he could turn them to the left he had a chance, since the area was relatively flat. If the fish ran to the right there was almost no chance to land it unless you followed it and wound in line like crazy to prevent it from tangling on the coral.

I tied on a new fly and set myself up on a rock about 30 yards from Eric, parallel to the cut where the bonefish were travelling. SteveL arrived from the seaward side and I motioned him to join us but to avoid walking through the deeper section of the cut. As I was explaining the situation to him he suddenly pointed right in front of me.

Fish on
"Look, look! Coming towards us! It's a school, a whole school is coming," he yelled. "Cast! Cast! Cast!"

I turned away from SteveL and looked in front of me. A large group of greenish grey torpedoes were heading straight for us--ten yards away and closing the distance fast. I dropped the fly and tried to load the rod with just the leader out the tip but when I dumped the line the bones were so close I bonked the lead fish on the head with the fly, scattering the school. Damn.

I needed a bit more room to prepare for a cast so I found another rock that put me between SteveL and Eric and we stood there for a few minutes, rods and line ready for the next fish.

A few individual bones swam past but I didn't have a good angle on them. Then SteveL warned me that another school was heading towards me. I saw the school approach from my left then stop in front of SteveL, who then called out range and casting directions. I loaded the rod and fired a cast that plopped just in front of the lead fish.

"Too close," said SteveL. The bonefish had startled from the splash, but they quickly circled back and several headed for the fly lying on the bottom.

I left the fly alone and watched the fish. I saw several circling the fly and when one dipped its nose down I felt a sudden weight on the line. I gave a strong strip and held on.

The line went flying out of the stripping basket. ”Fish on! Fish on!" I yelled as the reel drag buzzed loudly. I could hear the rapid fire click, click, click as the fly line flew off the reel and the backing knot rattled through the guides. The bonefish was headed for the reef edge and the open ocean. Unfortunately, just like my other fish, this one soon wrapped me around the coral heads and escaped, leaving behind a shredded leader and a hook bent open.

We stuck around and fished the area for a bit longer but the action died out as the tide began to rise steeply, forcing us to abandon the area. It was great while it lasted.
EQUIPMENT: We used rods in the 6 to 9 weight range rigged with floating lines, long leaders and very strong tippet. We fished with an assortment of custom-tied flies from 1/0 to size 10 developed specifically for use in this area.