Rat Island, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 12, 2008
Before man arrived to claim the islands there existed a small group of sandy islets off the southern coast of a volcanic island that would eventually be named Oahu. These wind-swept piles of sand were unihabitable, with no source of water or food other than what you could forage off the reef and sand flats. After Western civilization dropped anchor, these islets eventually became home to fishermen, who lived in ramshackle shanties, and colonies of large European rodents who had hitchhiked across the Pacific on whaling vessels and bulk cargo carriers. Both man and rodent happily coexisted and although nobody can pinpoint the cause, this peaceful relationship suddenly turned sour.

Perhaps it was man's social repulsion towards the rat or maybe it just got too crowded. Whatever the cause, the conflict erupted into full scale warfare between the two species and fighting escalated from poisoned food and wooden traps to flamethrowers and automatic weapons versus a quick reflexes, pointed claws and razor-sharp teeth. The carnage was horrendous. The body count astronomical. In the end, humans yielded to the rat.

The shanties are gone but the rats remain---watching. But rats don't like salt water and the numerous barracuda cruising the shallow water keep the rodents landlocked, which is good for anglers because the flats and mangroves surrounding these islets are also home to gorilla-sized bonefish and if you're looking to catch a trophy fish, this is the place to do it.

SteveT and I set off on a day trip to one of these islets and as we approached I could tell that it was as promised---bonefish country. Wide, shallow flats in knee deep water surrounded tiny islets overgrown with mangrove trees and at the edge of the flats the reef took a sudden plunge into deep channels where oceanic bonefish would swim up on a rising tide looking for an easy meal.
We quickly set up our fly rods and headed out to fish the edge of a drop off. The tide wasn't the greatest and we tried to get casts into the channel but the water was just too deep for us to make a successful approach so we broke off the hunt in the deep water and turned to the flats and mangroves.

This was a totally different game. At the deep water it was blind-casting to select areas. On the flats and in the mangrove trees it was sight casting to large cruising bones in shallow, gin clear still water.

SteveT outline the plan--separate, move VERY slowly and always watch the water. Bonefish could be just around the next bunch of mangroves. And he was right.

I was only a few feet into the really shallow water, a little over ankle deep, when this grey-green shadow was approaching me head on. A nice bonefish. I lined up the cast and dropped the size 6 Charlie 10 feet in front of the oncoming fish. It swam on, right over the fly and continued to cruise about three feet past me on my left. I pushed deeper into the shallows. Another bone. Larger than the first. It was huge. Too close--it was six feet away. I tried dapping the fly slowly into the water but it was an ass shot at a departing bone. I gathered myself up and took two steps then the dang fish comes back around a small mangrove heading in the opposite direction. I try a short cast but lined the fish.
After gathering myself together I move into a wide sandy area with a few mangrove trees sticking up. I have a good view of a school of bones approaching. I make a cast and one of them peels off and rushes the fly. It stops. The tail goes up, the nose goes down. Small strip. Nothing. Fish circles the fly. Tail up. Strip strike. Fish takes off and the others split with it. This goes on for the next 30 minutes as single bonefish or small schools march past my position.

I meet up with SteveT and he reported no bonefish, just a barracuda. As we're standing there talking two bonefish approach us, coming head on. I take the cast and land it 10 feet in front of them. They swim right over it, not even stopping to look. I take another cast. Again, no stopping. My third cast lined them and they take off in a puff of sand.

The tide is now getting really high and the wind is really picking up. I also have a dinner party in town so it's time to leave. As we push off the reef I can't get rid of the feeling that we're being watched from shore by hundreds of little beady eyes.

EQUIPMENT: We used 8 and 9-weight rods and floating weight-forward lines. We used an assortment of crab and shrimp flies from size 2 to size 8.