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fly fishing hawaii:

fishing the lake... busting fish.

winding its way through the heart of wahiawa, oahu is the wahiawa reservoir.  aside from a few small streams, wahiawa reservoir, also known as lake wilson, is the only public body of freshwater available to an island fly angler to stretch out a trout set up and hook some fun and hard fighting fish.

okay, you won't find this fun and hard fighting fish in the lake but i know there are a lot of you out there still in the "strictly for the bones" stage so this is for you.  craig got this guy on sunday.  yes summer is a great time to bonefish in hawaii and yes they're out there right now in good numbers.  i have not been chasing them lately but they are definitely there for the picking.

the lake. as i lovingly call it, is home to a number of fly eating species some once stocked by the state and others illegally introduced over the years.  it is like our little amazon.  common species include peacock bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, tilapia, red devils, jewel cichlids, bluegills, carp, plecostomus, snake heads (pongee), channel catfish, chinese catfish (puntat), oscars, threadfin shad, and some kind of freshwater gar.  less common but also in there are koi, comets, pacu, and assorted other cichlids.  most of these fish will take a fly pretty readily if they are in the mood.  i even saw an arowana cruising around the south fork once.  yes there are a plethora of creatures living there and it is a safe bet that just about every fish you can find at a local pet store has been in there at some point.

tuc tail spot.

as far as gear goes, pretty much any fly outfit will do, but trout set ups really shine.  i like a five weight or less.  a six weight rod can also come in handy when fishing surface poppers or sinking lines.  floating and intermediate lines do most of my work up at the lake.  sink tips and full sinking shooting heads are good when fish are schooling deep.  leaders do not have to be long.  seven and half to nine feet is fine with eight to twelve pound tippet.  just about any baitfish pattern will work as all predators in the lake feed mainly on small fish whether it be shad or the young of other species or even their own.  fly sizes range from size 10 to size 3/0 depending on who you ask.  i prefer small flies in sizes 8 and 10 as they allow the use of lighter rods including bamboo and fiberglass rods.  i also think that fish are more often willing to put a small fly in their mouth as opposed to a big fly.  the one exception to this is the spawning peacocks, which i tend not to fish for obvious reasons.

trout sized gear, five and six weights, are the way to go on the lake.  my favorite lake set up is a g loomis classic glx 5wt and abel creek 2 reel.

bank access on the lake can be tough especially when the water is high so a watercraft of some sort definitely helps to get around.  i’ve seen kayaks, belly boats, canoes, and creative makeshift homeless water crafts being used out there.  a hawaii freshwater fishing license is required as well as a wahiawa reservoir permit.  these can be obtained at most fishing supply and sporting goods stores for only a few bucks.  there are also a few guides out there.  check out my buddy stan’s website www.hawaiibassfishing.com for more info on that.

went up last week with matt just to see how things were going up there.  the peacocks appear to be in their schooling mode now.  peacock bass will usually be found around the many fallen trees that line the lake but sometimes they will congregate in huge numbers in the deep water and chase around the shad.  that is what it seemed like they were doing as we pounded much of the “good wood” with little success but caught most of our fish out in the open water.  when peacocks are in this schooling mode it can be the easiest peacock bass fishing you’ll ever experience or the toughest.  what makes the difference?  the difference is whether or not they are chasing shad up to the surface.  when they are eating shad at the surface or “busting” as we call it, they are easy to locate in the open water and will hit just about anything that is put into the “bust”.  so when they are “busting like crazy” or feeding all over the surface, it is usually pretty easy to hook a bunch of fish.

typical lake schoolie.  busting fish can provide some exciting and easy fishing if the conditions are right and the peacocks are "on".

the less the fish show on the surface when they are schooling,  the tougher the fishing gets as it gets harder and harder to get your fly in front of a feeding fish.  i call this the “sporadic bust” and it is one of my personal favorites to fish.  i have come up with many phrases to describe things that can happen in the sporadic bust.  things like being “johnny on the spot” which means to get your fly right into fish feeding at the surface and hooking one when there is not that much surface feeding going on.  being johnny on the spot IS the goal of fishing the sporadic bust.  another term i use is the “jedi knight” refering to the times when you just cast to a spot that has no activity then all of a sudden they start busting right where you cast and you hook a fish that way.  it is a little less common way of getting bit in a sporadic bust but i have caught enough fish this way and seen it happen enough times that it warrants mentioning.  during the sporadic bust you need fast reflexes, often a long cast, and luck never hurts either.  now that, to me, is fun!

on this day i was able to be "johnny on the spot" in sporatic busting conditions with a bamboo four weight and matt on the trolling motor.  now that is fun!

now i realize that most anglers are not like me and would prefer the crazy, just chuck anything, anywhere, and get bit bust over the sometimes will testing sporadic bust.  there are ways to increase your chances of being in that sea of boiling fish.  first fish tend to bust more in the low light and especially the low light of the morning.  i have experienced crazy busting in the evenings too but for the past five years or so it hasn’t been happening as much as it seemed to before or maybe i just haven’t caught it right.  the crazy surface feeding can last, sometimes, all day if it is overcast but in general the sun will put an end to it pretty quick though it is still fishing and there are no hard and fast rules to the game.  i have had days of fish busting like crazy in the bright sun but those days are more rare.  another helpful hint for finding the crazy bust is that you can always tell if fish are feeding well on the surface if you see a congregation of boats drifting around off the shoreline in a particular area.  “floating ducks” as i call them are a sure sign that there is fish pushing up bait in that area.  if there are a lot of boats you can bet it is not just a sporadic bust situation.

doubles are common in the "crazy bust".

... and not just peacocks.  when it comes to busting shad, everyone seems to want to get in on the action! 

there is a down side.  sometimes during this time of frantic feeding the fish won’t show on the surface at all.  they are down there somewhere in the ten to thirty foot murky depths but that is a lot of water column to try to find them in and especially with peacock bass the schools are often moving making them even harder to locate.  even if you do find them i often wonder if they are even eating at these times.  peacock bass are notorious for turning “off” when peacocks are in off mode they will not eat anything.  sure signs of “off” peacocks are baitfish cruising off the banks and shad that are loosely spread out all over the place rather than in tight groups.  baitfish... they know.

so during this schooling time, if you can’t find the schools in the deep there is not much other option as most of the fish will be in these schools.  you can try to find the errant one in the woods but often, as matt and i experienced last week, the “good” woods are not so good when the fish are really schooling up.  better hope there are a lot of devils.  which there hasn’t been too many of recently, by the way.

one of the few devils we were able to find that day.

i grew up fishing the lake.  i have slid down its steep banks and fallen into its deep waters many times.  i have also, somewhat regrettably, eaten a lot of fish from those waters.  so you could say it is a definite part of me.  i have seen it in all it’s moods, phases, and changes over time.  she definitely holds a special place in my heart.  if you haven't yet, why not give it a shot, she may just find a place in your heart too.  i’ll see you on the water.

the lady of the lake and i go way back.

the lake has always been all about fun and gaping mouths are a definite part of the fun factor.  serious people need not apply.

clay + lake = good times.


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