Hawaii Bonefishing

My wife, Liz, has wanted to take a vacation to Hawaii the last few years. In the recent past we’ve been pretty good about finding vacation locations that appease her desires of relaxing, kicking back in some sunny weather and eating good food, yet offer some of what vacation means to me as well… Fishing. To me, a vacation without some kind of exciting fishing adventure is like going into an ice cream parlor and walking out with a bunch of celery.

Earlier this year when the topic of Hawaii came up, I was far more interested in the idea. For many years it has been known that Hawaii has bonefish, and BIG bonefish at that. However, not a lot seemed to be known about the who, what, when and where of the whole deal. Over the last few years, though, a few dedicated guides have put in the resources to figure this deal out. Most noteworthy is a guy originally from our neck of the woods, Coach Duff.

Coach Duff is a former northwest steelheader, college football coach, and your typical Seattle fly fishing maniac that decided to take the plunge with both feet and moved to Hawaii to guide for trophy bonefish. He has put in the hard work to learn the local waters well so that he can guide his clients to a challenging, yet exhilarating shot at giant bonefish. He has also spent the big dollars it took to get a customized flats boat shipped over from the mainland and is one of only a couple guides that has a suitable boat for this type of fishing.

Liz and I met Duff at our hotel near Waikiki and after a pit stop at his house to pickup the boat, we were off to put the boat in. It was a short run to the first flat and we were spotting fish immediately. Actually, Duff was spotting fish immediately. I was simply responding to, “Michael, see those two fish at 9:00? They are big and cruising left. Cast 60 feet now!” At first, I couldn’t see those fish to save my life. After a couple hours I was finally beginning to see the “glowing green” color Duff was trying to get me accustom to looking for.

One of the first encounters we had a big bone at the fly. The line came tight, I pulled back, felt the tension, and “BOOM” it was over. We were fishing 20-pound fluorocarbon tippets and that fish popped that tippet like it was 7X. After a little ribbing from Duff about my hook set and a little return ribbing about the tippet knot we agreed that something simply went wrong and we lost our first shot at a bonefish of eight or nine pounds!!

We didn’t worry about it too much because we were quickly spotting more fish and throughout the day we were consistently getting casts at numerous big fish. In fact, one big “glowing green” monster came close enough to the boat that we estimated it at 11 to 12 pounds! That is a true trophy, once in a lifetime fish by anyone’s book.

It took the better part of the day to hook another fish. This one ate the fly 70 feet from the boat and took 100 yards of backing in an instant. Duff warned me that the flat we were now fishing was a hard area to land fish because of the amount of coral “pillars” that were in the area. Sure enough, this fish had the line wrapped around about five of them in just seconds. Duff was immediately in the water.

and delicately removing the line from one coral snag and then the next. We had one last coral snag to get around and we were home free, but the big bone spooked in the process and snapped the now tattered 20 pound tippet easily. We were all heartbroken to say the least but it was beyond fun while it lasted.

We had a few more shots at fish and then finished the day trying for a Giant Trevally that was chasing huge mullet on an open flat. We would have gotten destroyed on our 9-weight rods if we hooked that fish but how can you not?!?!

What a great day. No bonefish to hand but absolutely a blast nonetheless. I will be back. I will be back.

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, call Duff and book your bonefishing trip. You won’t be disappointed.

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