One of the goals high on my bucketlist for saltwater fly fishing would be to accomplish a "grand slam." The grand slam entails landing three of the key inshore saltwater species (Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon) all in the same day. The trip to realize this dream is still on the backburner, but to hold me over in the meantime the concept of the "Hawaiian Slam" was concocted. Two of the three species for the grand slam (Permit and Tarpon) are not available in Hawaii. To determine worthy replacements, substantial thought and debate took place in the humble halls of the Nervous Water Fly Fishers Fly Shop. The replacement for the Permit came relatively easy with the obvious choice being any of the locally available Trevally species. Permit and Trevally both belong to the same Family Carangidae and are commonly known as "Jacks." The replacement species for the Tarpon was a little harder to determine. One fish that was considered early on was the Ladyfish or Awaawa.
A commonly known nickname for the Ladyfish is "poor manís tarpon" because when hooked the fish fights similar to that of a tarpon. This would have been the ideal choice but the only exception was Ladyfish are not readily available on most flats. The fish that was eventually chosen was the Barracuda. This fish can be found on most flats and when hooked occasionally leaps out of the water and shakes its head to attempt to dislodge the hook. With the final selection complete, Sean made an additional requirement to increase the level of difficulty. He suggested that the Trevally and Barracuda needs to be caught using a fly specifically designed to target that fish. His rationale was that it is a relatively common occurrence to catch a Trevally or a Barracuda while fishing for Bonefish as an accidental by-catch. With the requirements for the Hawaiian Slam complete the next thing to do was to getír done.
My initial thoughts regarding the accomplishment of the Hawaiian Slam was that it was going to be fairly easy. I have paid my dues over the years and have been fished many of the flats and I thought I knew them well. I also have caught all of the species on many occasions but not all in the same day. What I quickly found out was that was a bunch of bologna and I had lots to learn. Trying to catch all species in the same day is not just a matter of pounding the water hard. It takes lots of thought, strategy, intimate knowledge of the flats/tides, in addition to a lot of luck. After many hours and many failed attempts I started to learn when and where I needed to fish on the flats to have the greatest odds of landing a particular fish. I found that for me the Barracuda was by far the most challenging fish to catch.
On an outing with Craig, Jon we went out to see if we could complete the Hawaiian Slam.
On this particular day there were lots of Trevally all over the flats and we were all able to land at least one. I was even lucky enough to land a white, bluefin, and striped trevally.
I even got my barracuda on a gurgler fly.
Craig was also able to get a barracuda but no matter how hard we fished we could not scrounge up a bonefish leading to yet another failed attempt at completing the Hawaiian Slam. Although we all did not complete the task, we all had a fun time out on the flats and for me that is the most important aspect of our sport.
On another outing Craig, and I went met early in the morning at the usual meeting spot. Craig quickly grabbed his stuff, piled it in my truck, and we were quickly off to the flats. Since barracuda has always been the hardest fish to catch I started off the day with them in mind. I tied on a mini muddler baitfish pattern to the end of my tippet since I knew the cudas could not resist the fly.
The two reasons I like to fish this fly for cuda is: first the fly can be fished in shallow water without fear of getting snagged due to the buoyancy of spun deer head; secondly is the way the tail (made of mixing arctic runner fur and ice wing fiber) of the fly dances in the water with the slightest twitch of the fly.
With the fly tied on, I made a bee line to a small spot I knew usually held at least one cuda. I usually start off with short casts making sure to fan them out and lengthening the line until I get a comfortable fishing distance. Once I completely fished an area, I walked several steps down and repeated the process. It took me a while but I was eventually able to connect to a small feisty barracuda. I made sure to play the fish with extra care to avoid throwing the hook or having the fish slice the tippet. After tiring the fish, I was able to lift in into my stripping basket and quickly took a picture.
With the first fish secured and realeased, next on the list was the trevally.
I switched the fly to my arctic runner baitfish pattern with big scary eyes and walked to slightly deeper water and started fishing for trevally.
Due to the large numbers of trevally on the flats now days one came to hand really fast.
With the two hardest fish (in my opinion) to catch checked off the list, the last one was the bonefish. I was fairly confident I was going to finish the slam but as time went on doubt started to creep into my mind as the day got shorter.
I had been covering the normal bonefish waters for couple hours with nothing to show and I was getting a bit worried.
But I mustered up my faith and kept fishing and my hard work was eventually rewarded with a nice fat bonefish.
Finally after several near slams I was finally able to complete the Hawaiian Slam.