O'io Boy'o! - Bonefishing in Hawaii - Global FlyFisher

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O'io Boy'o! - Bonefishing in Hawaii



Hidden flats within minutes of Waikiki Beach yield suprising bonefishing opportunities



By Steve Schweitzer

Be sure to watch the companion video to this article.
1 min - 2.03 MB

 
Not many flyfishers think of Hawai'i as a flyfishing destination, let alone a bonefishing destination. But, Hawai'i offers the fly angler a vast array of saltwater flyfishing opportunity with nothing more than a shoreline drive and a walk out on the beach-bound flats.

But not every island in the Hawai'ian chain can offer this. In particular, Oahu is well-suited for bonefish, or O'io, as the Hawaiians call the powerfully sleek fish. The gentle sloping flats which start at shoreline extend for a mile at a time and in some cases over a mile out from shore. But there is no need to walk that far. I made a call to Hawai'i's only flyfishing shop and guide service, Nervous Water Fly Fishers. My soon-to-be guide and 2-day partner in sampling some of the islands finest Japanese and Sushi restaurants, discussed with me the details of what to expect. Below I share with you an incredible, untapped bonefishing resource, and more importantly, what I learned about the bonefishing in Hawai'i.

 

Why Hawai'ian Bonefish Habitat is Different
Before I go much further, let me explain why Hawai'ian bonefishing flats are different than typical tropical flats fishing. While Oahu has many flats, they all aren't sandy-pretty with a smattering of seagrasses. Oahu flats are littered with coral beds, some live, most rock-hard and sterile. Between the coral outcroppings lay the deeper sandy channels in which the bonefish travel, much like underwater "highways". Traversing the coral platforms and deeper channels requires balance and agility. It's not a walk in the park like typical sandy flats bonefishing. Yes, and the coral can be quite sharp and dangerous…I know first hand.

Comparing Bonefish Flats - Hawai'i versus Mexico
Hawai'i
(notice the coral, lack of sand)
Mexico
(notice the sand, lack of coral)

 
Gear to Wear
I'll warn you now: be sure to have some sturdy-soled flats boots. Simple diving booties just won't do and many of the thin-soled flats boots I have seen on the market would be a shredded pile of rubber after you traipsed over the coralbeds and sea urchins all day. If you don't have a pair, I suppose an old pair of high-topped tennis or hiking shoes will do in a pinch. The important thing is to protect your feet and ankles as much as you can, including preventing bits of coral and sand to enter into your shoe. And, don't forget the long-sleeve shirt and light-weight wading pants. They both protect you from the sun and underwater debris. Under your shirt, be sure to lather up well with minimum 15 SPF sun protection. Even during the winter months, the sun is fiercely intense.

Rods, Reels & Stripping Baskets
I was fortunate to not encounter too much wind, but I can see how the wind can be a force at times. An 8- or 9-weight rod with matching bonefish line will be more than ample. I do believe a 7-weight or less is too light. One fish I hooked bent a rather stiff 8-weight St. Croix Legend Ultra flyrod to the cork handle. I have never felt a stiff 8-weight bend in the cork until I hooked into Oahu bonefish!

Certainly, a wide-arbor reel with big-fish drag capabilities will help you slow down the fish and retrieve line faster, but any reel that holds 200+ yards of line along with the bonefish flyline should be adequate as a bare minimum. While I didn't use a stripping basket, it certainly would be a help, particularly when the wind kicks up and the tides are rapidly shifting, where both the tide and wind are drifting your floating flyline from you. in an uncontrollable manner. Also, if your line is worn or you suspect it won't float for a whole day's fishing, a stripping basket is the trick. My flyline started sinking after the second day...not good!...the flyline continually got hung up on coral heads. Suffice it to say the flyline (brand new upon the advent of the trip) was sandpapered and worn after only the second day of usage.


 
Leaders
The coral is SO nasty that it will snip a standard mono leader with just one brush-by. While my guide had eventually tied some of his own leaders for use later in the day, he came amply prepared with several tapered flourocarbon leaders from the shop. But these weren't just any tapered leader..these were very stout leaders capable of enduring the rigors of the Hawai'ian coral. Take my word on this: I lost 2 fish for every 1 I landed…all to the periles of the razor-like coral…I'm sure glad Kevin had an ample supply of flies and leader material that he gladly shared with me.

 Flies for Hawai'ian Bonefish

Flies & Action
Typical bonefish flies such as Crazy Charlies, Gotcha's and Reef Specials will all work just fine. According to guide Kevin, using tan colors is quite sufficient. Be sure the flies are weighted with lead dumbbell eyes as you will be fishing 2-4 foot coral channels and even sometimes channels up to 6 feet deep. You'll want your fly to get down within 4-5 seconds or so, before you start your stripping action. Chain-bead bonefish flies just don't cut the mustard and are too light. Size 2, 4 and 6 flies are just right…any smaller and the flies don't sink as rapidly is as needed.

While the stripping action of the fly didn't seem to pay particular mind to the bonefish, changing up the stripping action from time-to-time did seem to cause strikes upon the change, but it just may be my opinion and not fact. Guide Kevin changed his from time to time, so it probably pays to listen to the locals!

 

 

 

 

A Plethara Fish To Expect
There are plenty of surprises while searching for bones. One pesky and rather annoying catch was a nu-nu, or more worldly referred to as cornetfish. They lined up within a meter of my feet waiting for me to strip in my "shrimpy" looking fly, only to ambush it right at my feet. Without fail, I must have caught 20 of them during the course of the day. Again, thanks to my guide Kevin for ridding my hook of the pencil-thin creatures so I could cast quickly to more cruising bones. His ridding 'technique' was more aggressive than mine, but worked much better!

Stay Away Mr. NuNu!

I was fortunate enough to have caught a few trevally as well. In particular, I caught several Bluefin Trevally and White Trevally, also known as the Great Trevally. They put up a stringent fight, rapidly headshaking while trying to pull away, but an 8-weight rod is soon too much and will wear them down quickly. They sure are fun to catch and are not a dissappointment to a slow bonefish day. Guide Kevin told me that catching trevallies is ultimately a good sign as they eat what bonefish eat and travel in similar styles around the flats. So where there are trevallies, there are bones...and sure enough he was right.

Trevallies Galore!

Bones and more bones...

Finding Your Way to Hawai'ian Bonefish Flats
I'm typically one to study-up and research where I want to fish…but I am a mountain trout fisher, where topo's, tailwaters and run-off's mean something. But to a bonefisher, moon phases, trade winds and tide charts are the tools used to find fish. I knew nothing about these, so I took to the internet to find a local guide. I came across the only game in town: Nervous Water Fly Fishers. Nervous Water is a small & modest flyshop, run by two extremely knowledgeable gents in the heart of Honolulu. I asked for a guide for two days and fortunately flyshop partner Kevin Faucheaux was available the days I needed a guide.

While I could try to tell you where to go, I honestly can't. I can't remember the names of the bays and beaches we drove to. In fact, I probably couldn't even get back to those same spots if I had my own transportation (Kevin was nice enough to pick me up at my hotel each morning). And even if I could get back, the better destinations require a kayak at a minimum. I have no doubt, however, that if you call or email the shop and ask them whereabouts for good bonefishing around the island, they'd be more than happy to share current information. But as good flyfishing etiquette, stop by their shop, get a few supplies, swoop up a few of their killer bonefish patterns and chat with them face-to-face. Gee whiz, you don't have to anty up for an expense fishing liscense (since no salt water liscence is required in Hawai'i), so help the shop out! I'm sure they'd be more willing to chat to a real-live face rather than an anonymous phone call or email. I know I would.

So, the next time you and/or your family choose Hawai'i as your next vacation destination, don't forget to pack your fly gear...you'll miss out on a great opportunity if you don't!

 

Guide Kevin Faucheaux of Nervous Water Fly Fishers

A brief note on why the guide fished...
I am a BIG believer in seeing, watching, learning, then doing. Monkey-See, Monkey Do. I INSISTED that Kevin flyfish with me. This is NOT the usual protocol of any guide service, so don't expect it unless you ask for it; and even then, some guide services have strick rules to never fish with clients, so don't expect it even if you ask for it. Personally, I think this is a poor 'rule'...if I am paying significant money for a guide, I should be able to tell him/her to fish if I so choose!

I stuck close to Kevin's side for the first day, learning how to spot bones and studying his casting and stripping techniques. Not only did I learn much quicker, I also picked up his techniques on using a stripping basket and even tying bonefish-proof knots. I would not recommend this approach, however, for a beginner flyfisher or for your first time at bones. You'll need your guide to tell you how to walk on the flats, spot every fish for you and even correct what you think is a good casting stroke. Plus, it's just darned nice to have someone tie on every leader, every knot, every fly and even take off fish when you ready the camera to capture the moment of success!

 

 

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User comments
From: ted · ted.paro·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted June 14th 2013

New to fly fishing here in Hawaii, I too have been fishing Hickam flats with no luck.


From: Da - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted October 19th 2012

It is sad to hear that visitors/flyfishers have been stood up to be taken fishing,I have never heard of this ever before and it does hurt to hear guides island local born or transplants.Thats showing our visitors tourist,fishers that there is guides out there that have NO aloha from there hearts and thru there veins.Bra if you can't make it try to call your client and set up another guide at your expense or what ever it takes to keep your client happy and willing to come back.If you don't know how to be a good guide then you should not advertise to be one.In hawaii you're concidered a pilau one and other fisherman will start to see this and have NO respect for any of you so called guides.I remember my grandma always said "harvest from the ocean only what you need"same goes for clients in my eye don't get a client all excited only to have you not show if you can't handle the over flow,over booking ,or if it's to nice to be taking a client out cause the water is malia and you want to go to your hot spot let 'em know. Show our visitors Hawaii still have that ALOHA that was there from long ago.Your're prob asking yourself why does this guy care well I don't live there BUT I was born and raised there lived there for 20 years before I left the islands.Why did I leave I loved working on airplanes as much as I love fishing and hunting Imoved to Oahu and worked for the airlines after awhile it was to crowded for me coming from the island of Molokai so I joined the airforce and travelled and fished alot of places some half way around the world.Now I live in Alaska and fish alot I do try to help people here when they ask about fishing guides in hawaii now I know sort of who's the good and bad which is sad.Try to change this whether your a guide born and raised there or a so called haole brown white black we all the same show aloha or maybe move where somewhere you don't have to give aloha.


From: Sandy - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted March 15th 2012

I fished with Capt. Rick Lee last month and he was EXCELLENT- he got me on plenty of big fish and was great to bee with. He is from Hawaii and has guided and run lodges all over the world. He also has a sweet maverick flats boat. Check him out. www.bonefishhawaii.com Good Luck!


From: vk - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted January 22nd 2012

Lots of people asking about the best time for fishing. You can get good fishing any time of the year but winter months are not as good as the rest of the year. But more important are tides. If you want to plan a trip specific for bonefishing, then check the tide calendar, and ask your guide to recommend the best tides. And of course weather/wind is a big factor but not much you can do about planning for that.


From: jireh · theojireh·at·rocketmail.com  Link
Submitted August 12th 2010

Wow! I'm so impressed, its nice to see people doing fishing using the special fishing rod, its really an exciting experience in life. People will really love this kind of pastime because its so exciting to do specially when you cached fish. Personally i love doing fishing and it is really fulfilling and enjoyable experience in my life.


From: Mike - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted July 30th 2010

I've been fly fishing the flats at Hickam pretty unsuccesfully here for about six months. I see lots of fish, but just don't have what they want I guess. Im new to fly fishing in general so Im probably doing something wrong. If any other newbies want to get together on a weekend to go fish the flats on O'ahu, let me know. I'd love to have someone to fumble through this with.


From: Capt Steve Alqueza · redfinatic·at·cfl.rr.com  Link
Submitted February 23rd 2010

Would someone with creditability email and tell me what the fishing is like in Mid- September?
I am a guide in Florida but will be on a once in a life time trip to Honolulu, I would very much like to book a trip.


From: James  Link
Submitted June 20th 2009

Like Jack I'm going to be on Oahu in August (on my way to Christmas Island) - is the bonefishing any good at this time of year?


From: Jack de Yonge · jackdeyonge·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted June 12th 2009

As an old steelhead fly fisher and every-decade bonefish angler, I found this a most instructive page, and inspiring. Though I understand this page was written a few years ago, I'm sure the information--especially that about the flats and coral--will help me muchly if in August 2009 when I visit Hawaii I get a chance to fish.


From: Denis Byron · millbury·at·worldonline.co.za  Link
Submitted May 29th 2009

Hi I have just been to Oahu May 2009 and never having done Bone I went out with mike Hennesy and believe me it was the best I have had knew where to go and most important knows what he is doing at all times on the open water as well as on the sand flats his chose of fly was spot on at all times I managed to get snapped up twice and then it happened my first Bone what a moment not to be forgotten. I travelled from South Africa to enjoy that moment and Mike made it all the better. Denis Byron To contact him phone 8083667835


From: Captain Terry Duffield · Coachduff·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted April 26th 2009

If you want a true fly fishing experience contact Coach Duff. We fish the fly exclusively, have professional guides on Kauai and Oahu are very honest about the challenges this fishery presents and sight fish exclusively. We do not make claims we cannot back up and we do not expect your trust, we earn it -- cast by cast. The head guide and owner is a FFF certified casting instructor, the only one in Hawaii and is a licensed USCG Captain, running a fully customized 18 foot Andros Boat Works Flats boat. We are sponsered by Burkheimer, Galvan, ExOfficio, Frog Hair, Smith Optics, Galvan and Monic. We offer airport pick up and free gear rental for outer island fly ins. We are featured in Destination Fish Magazine and Fly Rod and Reel magazines currently and will be in the new Catch Magazine. We do full and half day flats boat or walk and wade trips on either island. We carry a million dollars insurance, are CPR/1st Aid certified and take all major credit cards. Our prices reflect the legitimacy or our business, and the services we offer our valued clients, nothing more. We are not a cash only operation for this reason. We also offer world class views and lodging in Lanikai -- voted one of the top ten white sand beaches in the world EVERY year. We look forward to putting you on big bones and enjoying a day of sightfished, fly only, trophy catch and release bonefishing! Aloha -- Captain Terry Duffield, Captain Robert Tang and Rob Arita.
Coach Duff's Hawaiian Bonefishing


From: Louie DeNolfo · louiethefish·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted April 9th 2009

Aloha! We guide for NervousWater Fly Shops at times. I guide occasionally, but my son Joaquin is a very savvy guide, and excells in sight fishing and spotting fish for our clients. We have a small boat, and our rate is $ 350 a day, close to half of what some new guides are now charging. We are second in experience here only to Ollie Owens. I have been guiding over 40 years. My website is www.louiethefish.com and we really know Oahu's best kept secret spots, and we have a number of very special flys we have invented that work when all else fails, and we easily have the very best catch rate for bonefish on the fly in all of Hawaii, hands down!! Hope to see you here.....Louie


GFF staff comment
From: Steve Schweitzer · steve·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted February 7th 2009

Folks:

I am so sorry that many of you experienced no-show guides. I understand that the guide used in this article is no longer at Nervous Waters, so, I hesitate this article to be a specific recommendation for Nervous Waters as it is so much a destination article for bonefishing Oahu.

When I wrote the article in 2003, Nervous Waters was the only fly shop with a formal guide service. I understand there are additional and capable guides available now. A quick Google search will identify them.

Regardless of the guide service you use, this article is very applicable to Oahu bonefishing.

Thanks to all who have commented,
Steve Schweitzer


From: Phil Bell-Scott · pbs·at·manx.net  Link
Submitted September 24th 2008

I contacted Nervous Waters to arrange a guided half-day trip whilst I was on a family holiday in Hawaii last week (September 08). The guide showed up on time (10 minutes early, in fact) and I hooked and landed 3 nice Bonefish to about 7lb - very happy with the service!


From: Valerie Koenig · vkoenig·at·hawaii.rr.com  Link
Submitted July 11th 2008

A new and excellent guide to fly fishing in Hawaii is Coach Duff. Very dependable and awesome knowledge of fly fishing, Coach Duff is experienced and will take you to some of the best spots in the islands. Based on Oahu, but will book for any island. Highly recommended. At least he always shows up! Web site is www.coachduffshawaiianbonefishing.com.


From: Donna · dkkawano·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted January 16th 2008

When is the best time of year to try and fish for bonefish?


From: kihoalu · kbaptiste·at·hpu.edu  Link
Submitted January 5th 2008

As for being stood up by guides, refer to the fact that tides, tradewinds, and moonphases all play a roll. Perhaps if you were misled to setting up appointments than I would be quick to judge. But their lack of availability could possibly be to ensure a day of catching as opposed to fishing. At best weather predictions hold up in a 5 day forecast. here in hawaii your luckyto predict it right for 2 days. SO give these businessmen some slack.


From: john leake · leake1j·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted December 16th 2007

I will be in Oahu in January and was going to get in touch with Dave Hill for a days fishig,but from the last comment I will have to find another guide,as any body used shoreline adventures


From: Kenneth Geoghegan · docg·at·villagevethosp.com  Link
Submitted November 30th 2007

What is up with the No Shows and stand ups? I'm going to be in Oahu in Jan 08, the good Lord willing, and almost called Nervous Waters but now am a little "nervous" myself. By the way, Dave Hill isn't going to be in Hawaii this season, FYI, (unfortuneately, because when I booked a trip/spoke with him, he seemed like a great guy.) He put me in touch with Greg Moss for my trip and he has been great to work with and very mellow, unlike some keys guides that have yelled at me over the years ha-ha! For me, an education while enjoying mother nature in paradise is a lot more fun than waiting for a no show guide. Any thoughts?


From: newbie  Link
Submitted November 29th 2007

I tried to check out Nervous Waters because I live here and am looking to get into bonefishing. They would not be my first choice. The gentleman I met gave me little advice and wasn't friendly. Even when I came back to ask a few more questions and buy some flies, he did little more than acknowledge me. I'll be tying my own flies and figuring it out by trial and error I guess~! It's too bad because we could use a good shop.


From: THALL  Link
Submitted September 27th 2007

I, too, was stood up by a Nervous Water guide. However, I went out on my own with absolutely no knowledge of the area. I had no problem finding bones. Everywhere I went, I saw them. Catching them was another story. These are tough fish and spook like the ones in the Keys. I managed to get several to take, but broke all 3 off thanks to nicked leaders and poor knots. Still, I had a wonderful time and it wouldn't be fun it weren't so challenging.


From: Stan Wright · stanwright·at·hawaii.rr.com  Link
Submitted August 22nd 2007

This week the bonefish have been averaging 7 to 9 pounds in Kaneohe Bay. Largest was 14 pounds and several 11 and 12 pounders. Those were Boga-grip weights... not guesses. LOL

Aloha,
Stan


From: todd · toddmatorian·at·sbcglobal.net  Link
Submitted April 4th 2007

I will be on molokai april 15-29th are there any bones there?


From: John · johnmiao·at·sbcglobal.net  Link
Submitted February 12th 2007

Will be in Oahu during June. Is the bonefishing good then? Thanks!

www.xcaliburrods.com


From: hawaiianfishermann · luv2fishmann·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted February 11th 2007

Great infomation on bones. Gives me great headstart on who to contact when in the islands on my next trip. I'm a novice flyfisherman so never caught any bones before- sounds like excitement and thrills on the hookups. Hooking trevallys would do also.


From: Bill Hoglund · willund·at·comcast.net  Link
Submitted January 31st 2007

I booked Nervous Waters (7/04) for two days but they were a no show. My wife and I flew over from Maui specifically for bonefishing. Nervous Waters was supposed to pick me up at my hotel but didn't show and didn't get in touch with me after I left several messages on their phone.


From: Craig Kivi · ckil1046·at·aol.com  Link
Submitted November 9th 2006

Thanks, everyone. I'm coming out to your great state on Nov. 20 to visit my daughter who is a marine biology student at HPU. She catches bones on spinning tackle and squidd, and is pumping their stomachs (non-lethal) for experimental reasons.

I have several fly rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippets, etc. I want to test. Last time I was there, I fished for over 20 hrs, only to get 1 "watermelon" to do a headstand on my fly, but that was it. I'm a licensed guide here in Michigan, and stubbornly did not hire a guide last time out there. This time I'll get a guide. Thanks everyone.


From: warren peterson · warrenp·at·oberon.ark.com  Link
Submitted November 7th 2006

THanks for the info....have been chasin Bones for years, like Xmas with Moana and a few other greats, Belize, and Kwajalein...going to be in Oahu for a month on the west side in Jan 2007..would like to hook up with a good guide... Thanks


From: Peter Gallon · pgallon·at·northumberland.gov.uk  Link
Submitted June 20th 2006

Thanks for the info. I am a Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon angler fishing in the borders of Northumberland and Scotland. I am a Bonefish vigin. Hopefully by the time I return home from holiday I will have caught some Hawaiian Bonefish.
I have been in touch with Nervous Waters to book a guided session.


From: Mario Nedialkov · madbulg1·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted June 3rd 2006

Thank you for all the information, I just moved here from Pittsburgh used to flyfish the Lake Erie tributaries for steelhead. After many searches on the net this is the best report I have read. I will contact the fly shop following your advise.
Fish on
The Mad Bulgarian


From: Hawaii bonefisher  Link
Submitted February 25th 2006

Just a quick note from an avid Hawaii bonefisher... their are other guides in town besides Nervous Water now. Dave Hill of www.bonefishinghawaii.com guides in Hawaii in the winter. He is a USCG guide who has a flats boat... so he wades and poles around for fish. Ollie Owens and Louie the Fish are two local guides also who fish from shore.

Another note- don't expect good advice from Nervous Water. They will be happy to sell you generic flies, but not the patterns they use. They will also be happy to tell you about flats they never fish... but won't direct you to their spots. If you want to fish here, GET A GUIDE. Nervous Water or one of the above... otherwise you will have a very tough time.

Response to John Y- I think you are out of luck for guides on Maui. Maui has no guides and very few flats. Fly to Oahu for the day... you'll be happy you did!

Good luck and Hana Pa'a!!!


From: John J. Yurosko · jjyurosko·at·aol.com  Link
Submitted February 22nd 2006

Very interesting and well done. I am heading to Maui and hope to chase bones for a day. Am experienced with Bahamian bones. Please advise as to guide services.



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