Honolulu, Hawaii, August 25-29, 2011
As I stripped the fly across the narrow sand channel in front of me the line suddenly stopped and for a very brief instant it felt like the fly had hooked a rock. Suddenly line went ripping through my fingers. It was jumping around in the stripping basket, throwing huge loops in the air and making a slapping sound as it hit the rod and guides as it followed fly and leader on a quick trip towards the breakers about 50 yards away.

The drag on the Tibor Riptide was cranked down to Tarpon setting but line was vanishing off the spool. The rod bent deeply and I heard the rapid tick-tick-tick sound as the knot attaching fly line to backing zoomed through the guides. The reel drag buzzed louder and the rod bent into a U as I put on the heat, attempting to keep the fish away from several large coral heads and the open ocean. More backing disappeared out the rod tip. I pulled hard and the fish pulled back harder. Suddenly the line went slack. When I reeled up I saw that the 30 pound tippet, and most of the leader, was shredded. I had my butt kicked, again, on the second day of what would eventually be five days of intense fly fishing while perched on a large rock out on the south shore flats of Oahu, Hawaii.

I had been fishing the flats since August 11 and during a trip with Eric I stumbled across a series of rocks that were located in an ideal spot--along a deep channel that led onto the flats from the outer reef. This was a main highway the fish used to transit between the supermarket of invertebrates, crustaceans and juvenile fish in the shallows back to their sanctuary in the open ocean. Although there were several rocks in this area, only one was position in the sweet spot.
It began with a bit of experimentation. You could tell which rocks might be productive after standing on them for a bit. You went from waist deep water to less than ankle deep with one giant step up. By studying the reef you could figure out where the deep spots were and where the choke points would be--spots where the fish would funnel when moving through the channel. I fished a few of the rocks and caught some fish, but only one rock was exceptional.

The Rock was the biggest of the bunch and located closest to the outer reef line but it also put you in the best position to cast to a slightly deeper cut in the channel. Most folks couldn't tell the difference in depth, but if you look for that slight color change in the water it becomes quite obvious where the fish will probably be.

But I was also armed with a secret weapon. Several prototypes of SteveL's newest fly he tied the night before.

I hooked seven and landed three bonefish. The ones I landed were small 2 pound runts. I don't know what the other four fish were because I never saw them but they hit hard and ran fast and busted off 20 pound tippet like it was 6x material. In one hour I was down to one SteveL fly and one shredded leader. When I got to the parking lot I called SteveL and pleaded for more flies.

Ass kicking. Upgunned to 30 pound tippet and more SteveL secret weapon flies but the same results. Several massive takes followed by screaming runs and shredded leaders. Thirty pound tippet parted like thread. I called SteveL for more flies.

Spanked like the baby that I am. The action was slower than the previous days but just as frustrating. Because it was slow, I became distracted by the scenery and when the strike came the fish nearly tore the rod out of my hands. After a brief fight the fish threw a couple of loops of leader around a coral head and broke off. I told Eric that one day the fish would make a mistake and not run for the open ocean, then I would have a chance to stop it and land it. I did some begging on the phone and SteveL dropped off more flies.

The fish led me around like a dog on a leash. I cranked down the Tibor Riptide close to dead stop. We usually keep a light drag on but this was a different fishing situation. I retied a new leader, using a 50 pound butt graduated down to a 25-turn 20 pound Bimini Loop tipped with 2 1/2 feet of 40 pound tippet. I got another massive strike and fought it past the coral heads. I jumped off the rock and went charging after the fish in chest-deep water. It got hung up but I could feel it on the other end of the line. I pushed through the water towards the line of breakers, winding up line and still feeling the fish on the other end. Just when I saw the leader appear the line went slack. I pulled up the rest of the line but the fish was gone. At least I got the fly back.

I went out with the same setup only this time I knew it was my last shot before leaving the islands later in the evening. Eric and I each caught a 3 pound bonefish as a warmup leading to The Rock and the main event. It did not disappoint. I got a heavy, solid strike and the line went flying out of the stripping basket followed by backing but this time the fish made a mistake. The fish ran to the left instead of heading out over the reef. I had my chance. The drag was cranked down and I got down dirty on the fish. It ran all over the place but I stayed on the rock and kept it away from the coral heads until Eric got close enough to grab the leader and the fish. It turned out to be a very fat 24-inch 7-plus pound bonefish. Although I had landed a very nice fish, a great way to end my stay in the islands, in the back of my mind I knew that this was not really one of the big ones that I had fought against for the past week. It was close, and not to be ungrateful to the fishing gods, I graciously accepted the generous gift. But now I know the monsters live there--passing down that sandy highway every day. Wait until next year.

Fly fishing Hawaii slideshow