Written by: Michael Divita, Deep Canyon Outfitters
People pray for a number of different reasons: for sick people to get better, for safe travels to far away places, for a lottery ticket to be the Big Winner. Before our boat left the Kaunakakai Harbor on the beautiful island of Molokai this past January, Captain Clay led us in a prayer to “see bonefish in the flats and hook a big one.” Hallelujah doesn’t even begin to describe the race of adrenalin I felt when I hooked my very first bonefish that morning.
The small Hawaiian island of Molokai is nestled between Oahu to the west, Maui to the southeast, and even smaller Lanai to the south. With approximately 8,000 residents spread out over 260 square miles, Molokai looks and feels completely different than bustling Oahu and tourist-centric Maui. It’s called “the Friendly Island,” the aloha lifestyle is alive and well, and the pace of life is slow. Delightfully slow. You don’t come to Molokai to do stuff every second of the day. You come to unwind in the nearly year-round perfect weather, watch the Humpbacks frolicking off the coastline in their winter playground, and just plain kick back. And in my case, attempt to catch a bonefish.
The shallow reef that surrounds the south side of the island houses some of the larger bonefish in the fishing world. There isn’t a big population of this elusive fish, but if you are lucky to see ‘em and even luckier to hook ‘em, you are almost guaranteed they won’t be small. Fishing for bonefish is more like hunting for bonefish: you have to set eyes on one before casting in the shallow flats areas that typically have very clear water.
My prayers were answered after two hours of hunting for the emerald, darting wonder under the brilliant tropical sky. Captain Clay, expertly poling his flats boat from his platform in the back, called out, “Tail, tail! 11 o’clock, 30 yards out!” to clue me into what I couldn’t quite see, yet. This was my first time fishing for bonefish, and I wasn’t quite yet tuned into what I was looking for under the surface of the Molokai water. My Squimp fly landed in front of the fish, and he followed it in quickly as I stripped line in, delicately, trying to keep his attention. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself, “is this really happening”? The fish took it! He chomped! Then he took off at rocket fish speed. The scream of my fly line racing away from me, the sound fly fishing dreams are made of, made me appreciate just how awesomely strong this tropical fish is.
Memory clouded by excitement, I barely remember actually bringing him towards the boat. But I definitely remember, with clarity as clear as the Molokai waters, Captain Clay whispering, “Good God he’s huge…” That fish weighed in at 11 pounds and 29 inches in length. A true beauty of Albula vulpes and a very mighty catch for my first day of bonefishing. We saw a dozen other bonefish in the remainder of the day, but I wasn’t able to get a cast out to them before they had already darted far away; which didn’t matter at all – I was on bonus time after the epic fish.
I have spent 20+ years as a fly-fishing guide in Central Oregon. You would think my excitement for catching fish would have waned ever so slightly by now. But the level of adrenalin pumping through my body at the moment that bonefish grabbed onto my fly in the Hawaiian waters attests to the fact that the thrill of fishing is never gone.
Michael Divita is a fly-fishing guide and partner in Deep Canyon Outfitters. He lives in Bend, Oregon and definitely wants to travel again to warm waters to hunt for bonefish.