So tonight as we finished the shut down and clean up of our work vehicle, and completed the multiple tasks necessary to bring about the end of our workday, a breeze kicked up with enough bite to it to make me reach for a light jacket.
A little later, as I sat at my desk, I distinctly overheard the weather report from the TV in the other room and the lovely blond weathercaster cautioned that tonight’s temps were going to drop into the 30’s and 40’s.
Now in all fairness, she also said that it was a fast moving front and the rest of the week would be quite pleasant but the psychological damage was already done.
I paused, glanced up at the framed, old style nautical chart of the Hawaiian Islands above my desk and sighed — What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days ago I was also outside when another breeze kicked up but the difference then was that I was standing on the white sands of Kaanapali Beach, Maui in swim trunks and a tee-shirt slowly getting sunburned and having the time of my life surf fishing with my trusty pen rod fishing rig (penfishingrods.com).
But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Regular readers will recall that a couple of years ago I had the good fortune to stumble across the penfishingrods website and discovered the solution to a problem that had vexed me for a very long time – being in incredibly fish-able places but not having the gear to do anything about it.
Regular readers will also recall that not long after discovering pen rods I vowed to never travel again without at least one tucked away in my luggage.
So, this year when the opportunity to spend time over on Maui presented itself, you can bet that I had a compact rod and reel plus a few flies and tippet spools with me.
Now in years past, even if I had had the gear, I would have been a little apprehensive about standing on one of the best beaches in the world among the tanned and beautiful pitching little bits of fuzz and feathers into the near perfect waves.
This year however, after we settled into our home away from home for the week, I was very excited to see classes on surf fishing being offered along with classes on surfing, kayaking, tai chi and hula dancing.
I was on the phone to the reservations desk within seconds.
Unfortunately, the class was full and I was number seven on the waiting list. Slightly disappointed but ever optimistic we went ahead and planned out several hikes and snorkel trips and we choose dinner locations and settled on a whole list of other activities that would fill our week and refresh our spirits.
Then on about day three into our adventure, we came home from an incredible morning that included some short but exciting hikes as well as snorkeling amongst thousands of reef fish accompanied by the songs of humpback whales and I noticed that the red light was flashing on our room phone:
“Mr. Zambrano, we have opened up an additional class for surf fishing for 8 am tomorrow morning. If you are still interested please call the reservations desk to confirm your attendance. Mahalo.”
I was on the beach the next morning at 7:30.
I had no clue as to what to expect, especially since at every beach we drove past I had noticed most of the guys out there using ten to twelve foot poles with heavy sinkers cast out beyond the breaking surf. However, soon after I arrived at the designated meeting spot, a deeply tanned gentleman with a enormous straw lifeguard hat and bright red rash shirt appeared with a well-worn canvas creel slung over his shoulder and dragging a trashcan full of five–foot, basic spinning rigs.
Soon about a dozen of us were standing in the sand with the warm water gently lapping our feet while we received basic instructions on Hawaiian style surf fishing.
Much to my delight, the basic technique was very similar to a style of fishing I was already quite familiar with: a float was tied onto the main line with a swivel and then about three feet of leader was tied to that with another swivel. A small split shot was then pinched on about a foot above a stainless steel #6 circle hook. A small chunk of shrimp was then carefully threaded onto the circle hook.
The key difference was instead of using a clear plastic bubble-float, the preferred float in Hawaii is a tangerine-size bright orange or white balsa wood version.
The final instructions were to cast out as far as possible but fish the rig all the way back to the beach since many of the reef species take small crabs right in the trough just off the beach. The other caution was to set the hook lightly as soon as the float disappeared beneath the waves or, as the instructor put it, “No Booyah hook sets here, keep arms down and set da’ hook firm but soft.”
We spread ourselves out along the beach and cast out into the swell just past the breaking surf. On my first cast, I barely had time to close the bail on the reel when I saw the orange float disappear beneath the swell. I set the hook about like you would if you were fishing for Crappie and sure enough there was a fish on.
Now, I could say that my professionalism kicked in and I quietly fought my first Hawaiian fish all the way into the beach where I posed for pictures and then gently released it back into the clear blue waters.
I could say that but it would be a lie.
The truth of the matter is, I screamed like a little girl and whooped and hollered like I had just hooked on to a Marlin.
The instructor trotted down the beach and hovered over me as I landed a brightly colored Wrasse. He encouraged my to handle it as little as possible and to release it back into the water as gently as I could after the obligatory pictures – all things I planned on doing anyway, but I admired his conservation ethic.
Needless to say, I was hooked.
The next two hours were spent in a constant but thoroughly engaging ballet of baiting the hook, casting beyond the breakers, watching the float disappear and occasionally fighting small reef fish in to the beach. In all honesty, I lost more than I landed. In all honesty, I didn’t really care.
The two-hour class flew by. I was having a blast, as were all the other participants. With each cast, I felt as though I was getting better and better at reading the water, spotting the take and keeping the fish on.
Towards the end of the second hour, one of the participants hooked on to something fairly large but it managed to make a decent run and it ended up wrapping the line around a submerged rock. After a minute or two of trying to free the line, and after giving some very handy advice for dealing with such situations, the instructor decided to break it off and re-rig the pole.
The bright orange float remained about fifteen-feet out from the shore bouncing in the surf.
When the class officially ended, I asked the instructor if I could have the lost float if I was willing to swim out and retrieve it. He was only more than happy to let me do that and even threw in a cupful of shrimp bait to sweeten the deal.
I plunged into the water, swam out to the float and followed the line down to where it was snagged on a rock. The hook popped free with just a little twisting and lo and behold, I had myself a Hawaiian style surf rig plus bait.
Well, you can only imagine how I spent the rest of our early mornings on Kaanapali Beach.
The Pen Rod got a workout. It handled the large float with ease and it made catching the smallish reef fish very exciting. As my confidence grew, I even experimented with some of the saltwater flies I had brought with me.
I caught a wide variety of reef species. Each one, fought differently and presented new challenges, which made each cast a rather exciting proposition.
Ultimately, the shrimp bait beat out the flies as far as catching fish went, but it didn’t matter – I got to stand on the beaches of Maui and surf fish.
The definition of recreation is: to re-create. To restore and refresh the body, mind and soul to allow us to carry on the daily tasks with renewed vigor and purpose.
Been there, done that. Highly recommend it.
I love this addiction called Maui surf-fishin’.
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