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.
This is exactly why you should never underestimate Urban Fishermen. A 67 year old man fended off not one, not two, but three armed robbers with his fishing pole last Tuesday night. This man was fishing a small pond in St. Louis when three young men attacked him announcing that they were going to rob him. He managed to send them fleeing and two of the villians were caught later that night. When police asked for a statement the young men responded that they were attacked by “A man with a fishing pole”. Let this be a lesson to anyone thinking they are going to rip off some guy fishing alone in the park. You may have just messed with the wrong Urban Fisherman!!!
Mike Hart a so called “Pro Bass Fisherman” from Southern California was caught cheating in a Lake Mead Tournament, and banned for life from Fishing Competitions. Lead weights were found in 3 of the Largemouth Bass from his weigh in on the second to last day. After the weights were discovered, all 5 of his fish from the last day’s weigh in were cut open and found to also contain lead weights.
You have probably read at least one of my rants on this site, about how the Los Angeles River is underutilized and undermanaged. Well the Evironmental Protection Agency has taken the River a step in the right direction by declaring it “traditional navigable waters”, which lands it back into the helping hands of the Clean Water Act. This ruling means alot to alot of people, and most of all it means that we may soon see this waterway restored back to it’s natural beauty!
How about entering a big water conventional fishing tournament, and winning the grand prize of $1 Million big ones with a 883 pound tournament record marlin. Only to have it stripped away, because you were dumb enough to enter without getting a fishing license. Don’t believe it? Well it really happened at the 52nd annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament! Click the link below for the full story
A 3 foot long 20 Pound Asian Carp was caught today slipping past the electric barriers that are meant to keep this out of the Great Lakes. It is reported to have been caught by a commercial fishing boat on Lake Calument in Chicago’s South Side. Click on the link below to read the article.
I am always amazed at the so-called coincidences and subtle interwoven interactions of life. Toss in a connection with fishing, and I am not just amazed, I am also amused.
Consider, for example, the following thread of events from this past week:
I spoke to my sister on the phone last Monday and during the course of the conversation, we reminisced briefly about the tiny flat she and her husband used to rent in London.
It was literally on the banks of the mighty Thames, and seriously within a stone’s throw of the London Bridge and Tower.
I could actually sit out on the balcony sipping my morning coffee and casually converse with guys who were flyfishing from the muddy banks below – all in the virtual center of one of the greatest cities on earth. I loved that little place.
So then last Tuesday, while heading to our next appointment, my wife and I were cruising down one of the major thoroughfares that knit the various communities of Orange county together when we crossed over one of a thousand small drainage channels that spider all over SoCal.
From my elevated vantage at the helm of our rolling veterinary hospital I caught a quick glimpse of the mild flow of water coursing between the rip-rap lined and concrete reinforced banks.
In the milli-seconds that I had to capture the entire scene – something which I am convinced is a by-product of growing up in the car culture of SoCal – I made the assessment that that little waterway would be a great place to practice fly casting and line mending techniques. The only thing lacking would be fish.
That, of course, started me thinking about the previous day’s conversation with my sister, those barely remembered conversations with retired stockbrokers on the banks of the Thames and…
…that led me on a whole other tangent of thought with regard to loss of native fish species, the wonders of civil engineering, the re-establishment of salmon in the Thames River, urban renewal and so on and so on
Thus, with those thoughts swimming around in my head, once we finally settled in for the evening, I feverishly tuned my attention to the info super highway and typed away into the wee hours of the morning tracking down useful information which just might possibly lead to a new, untapped or long forgotten spot to fish. I am singular in purpose, if nothing else.
I did not turn up any secret “honey hole” that I’m willing to share but I did stumble upon some fascinating info nonetheless. It turns out there are something like a hundred miles of those open channels all across the greater L.A. Basin. They in turn connect to some 1500 miles of underground pipes and tunnels and eventually it all feeds into sixty or so outflows that pour into the ocean. Seems that that little phrase from the movie, Finding Nemo, does have a basis in truth (at least in SoCal) — “all (storm) drains lead to the Ocean”.
Folks who get paid to calculate such things, tell us that roughly 100 million gallons of water flows through this network on any given dry day. Toss in some rain and the flow jumps to an astounding 10 billion (yeah, with a “B”) gallons per day! That’s a lot of water.
One only has to look at a map of these channels and such and it isn’t too hard to surmise that SoCal was once a magical place of meandering creeks and small streams and living, breathing rivers.
As coincidence would have it, the very same day I was pondering these things, our fellow bloggers over at L.A. Creek Freak posted a great story (excerpted from a Press-Enterprise story of a year ago) about the re-appearance of the Santa Ana Speckled Dace in the City Creek portion of that waterway.
Dace are smallish and minnow-like and probably wouldn’t put up much of a fight except maybe on a 00 weight rig. The bigger battle would be trying to convince the judge that you were actually fishing for a legal to catch species.
Nevertheless, the story by Creek Freak directed me toward additional sites and eventually I came across some pretty interesting articles documenting the fact that at least until the 1930’s, honest-to-goodness Steelhead used to swim very close to the present day location of Los Angeles City Hall.
So…in a little more than twenty-four hours I had come full circle. From a brief snippet of conversation which stirred a memory about flyfishing on the heavily urbanized Thames to a study on the drainage system of SoCal to copies of historical documents indicating that Steelhead swam the L.A River to my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I crawling through a hole in a fence to fish a section of urban channel we had never fished before… Like I said, what an amazing and amusing series of interactions…