Category: Hawaii


By , April 22, 2012 7:11 am

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 (


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.

They worked.

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’.


By , April 1, 2010 10:00 am

My Fly Fishing experience on my trip to Hawaii came in a two part series. Part one as already described in my first post was Freshwater Fly Fishing and the second was my Saltwater Experience.

I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked on the flats, but the couple of hours during a windy morning had to do, and as an Urban Fly Fisherman I have learned to take what I can get.

First off, I am not a very experienced Salt Water Fly Fishermen as I only started testing the waters last year. Second off, I have even less experience fishing Saltwater Flats. With the entire island of Oahu surround by Flats, I had to get familiar with it quick and Chris really helped teach me alot.

It was amazing to be about 200-300 feet from shore and still standing in knee deep waters. The water was crystal clear, which was refreshing since in southern California sight fishing in salt isn’t generally an option. The chop from the wind made it a little harder than normal (per Chris) to spot fish, but between the two of us we spotted a few Bone fish, Yellow Spotted Trevally, and Mullet. The scenery and taking pictures seemed to get the best of me , and after about an hour and a half it was time to head back.

I had a chance to do a little scoping around on my own the next morning. I was able to get two hookups one of which slipped out of the fishes mouth and the other broke me off on the coral. It was an extremely frustrating, but rewarding experience. After about 30 minutes, I decided to give up and hit an little canal that emptied into Hawaii Kai just couple of blocks away.

The spot produced a colorful fish, which a local advised me was called a Wrasse (since I did not say the Hawaiian word for the fish) and a puffer fish. Now I have never caught a puffer and the teeth on that thing looked super mean, so after about 5 minutes of trying to get the fish off the line and not wanting to go near it’s mouth (with a bunch of local bait fishermen laughing their heads off) my experience had come to an end.

I can’t wait to get back to the islands and I am itching to get out on the flats again. Hopefully we will find time to get back next year.

“In the meantime Aloha and Mahalo to the Island of Oahu!”



By , March 20, 2010 10:46 pm

Just landed back in the Mainland last night from our trip to Hawaii. It was an amazing vacation filled with time for family, site seeing, and even some time out on the water with my fly rod.

The trip was mainly for my wife to visit her Grandparents and her Dad, and for me to visit my Grandparents. In between visit however we did manage to do some site seeing like visiting Iolani Palace and Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay.

Before I left on my trip to the islands, I got into contact with one of our site followers Chris who knows the island and the fish on it extremely well. The weather patterns have been a little strange there for the last few weeks and the Saltwater bit has been slow. So, we decided that it would be best to hit up th local  Nuuanu Stream in the morning and get out on the flats in the afternoon when the tide was coming in.

The morning started off interesting with me missing the cutoff sign for the stream, and getting lost. I found my way back to the road to find my host waiting for me on the side of the road to flag me over to my parking destination. We talked for a few minutes and he briefed me on the terrain and the equipment to use.

The fishing was amazing. We both managed a few Smallmouth Bass, I think I caught about 15 (since he gave me all the good holes to fish) within a hour or two. The hiking was a little strenuous in the rain with us (mainly me) slipping and falling all over the stream, but the results were well worth it.

I want to give a big Mahalo to Chris for showing me this little stretch of paradise!


By , March 12, 2010 6:00 am

We will be on vacation for about a week in Hawaii and will not be posting anything during that time. Don’t get discouraged though we should be pushing out new material by the end of next week.

-Aloha from


By , March 5, 2010 10:24 pm

So every couple of years my wife and I recognize that our veterinary practice needs a “shot in the arm”, so to speak, in order to revitalize and refresh our business plan and… to keep our heads from popping off our necks.

This “shot-in-the-arm” usually comes in the form of what we call an upper-level staff retreat. Now, since we are the only two upper level staff, that usually means we go somewhere where we can relax for a bit and have some long, uninterrupted discussions and planning sessions without the day to day pressures and busy-ness of our normal routine intruding.

Last week, we had the amazing blessing of holding our “retreat” on the island of Kauai.

I gotta tell you, if you want to get away from it all, and if you want to remove yourself from the busy-ness of urban life, Kauai is definitely the place to go. It ain’t called the Garden Isle for nothin’ – sure the end of our trip had a little drama in the form of a tsunami warning and evacuation to higher ground and all but…we were still in Kauai.

Needless to say we were able to squeeze in some serious relaxation time between planning, reviewing schedules and goal setting for our business. However, as I have mentioned frequently in previous articles, I am hardly the personality type to “relax” by sitting next to some pool sipping pretty looking drinks with miniature paper umbrellas in them.

Rather, we relaxed by hiking and kayaking and swimming in flowing rivers and snorkeling over reefs and standing on the edge of immense canyons and crawling over ancient lava fields and going into caves and walking along mostly deserted, endless sandy beaches and whale watching and eating mounds of white rice covered with spam and fried eggs followed by shave ice and fresh papaya and…well, you get the picture.

The one thing we did not do was fish.

Now, I debated long and hard with myself about bringing one of my fly rods with me because I knew that of all the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is THE island for both freshwater and saltwater flyfishing.

I also knew that there is a guide service on Kauai ( that will take you out onto the flats for some bonefish flyfishing, which is supposed to rival that of the Florida Keys.

I was also acutely aware that Kauai is jam packed with Bass holding waters. Not just largemouth Bass but Smallmouths and ferocious Peacock Bass which are found in the more than 160 ponds, reservoirs, and holding basins as well as in portions of the nine rivers of the island. I also knew that Tom Christy is the guy to guide you if you want to go Bass fishing on the island ( though he does not guide specifically for fly-fishing and does not provide fly gear.

Yeah, I knew all that and more.

What I did not know was that we would kayak up rivers where massive, fly-ignorant Tilapia were lined up like salmon getting ready to return to their home waters.

Nor did I expect to see schools of two-foot long mullet hovering beneath bridges attacking every leaf that fell into the brackish waters.

Likewise, I did not anticipate snorkeling with barracuda and nervous schools of Jacks mere yards from the hotel beach.

Neither did I guess how my jaw would drop in amazement and how tears would well up in the corner of my eyes when I turned the corner and discovered the quantity and variety of fishing gear filling the sporting goods aisle of the local Wal-mart where my wife was busy clearing out the souvenir section.


Yeah, I left the fly rod at home but I still had a fishin’ adventure. And you can bet that when we return to Kauai (and we will) I will have the fly rod and I will have the right assortment of flies and I will know where to go and how to fish that area and I will have made the proper contacts and…I will have a large wild Hawaiian double shave ice with ice cream and red beans to celebrate the peacock bass that I will catch and…well you get the picture.

I love this addiction called island flyfishin’.

Switch to our mobile site