I met Mike on a trip to Nuguria Atoll, roughly 270 nautical miles south east of Kavieng – if you don’t know where that is put your Googles on. He came with a big reputation and lived up to it. This guy can fish, but better than that he’s a deep thinker about all fishing. First fly – Jedi crab.
“I fish in Hawaii – my business is Hawaii on the Fly and we mostly chase big bonefish in very skinny water. I run 2 flats boats. I also host a lot of trips to Christmas Island and Alaska as well as fishing big money billfish tournaments”.
“The Hawaiian bonefishery really emerged about 10 years ago. Its all visual, possibly one of the most difficult bonefisheries in the world, not because of the weather but because they’re mostly big single fish. It’s a finite resident group of fish and each year they get smarter. On the worst day you’re getting shots at maybe 40 fish over 6 to 7 pounds, and on a good day upwards of 70 fish. A very good angler is hooking maybe a dozen fish a day and landing about 5, and that’s the top guys. The coral rim on almost all of the pancake flats mostly takes care of the others. You can’t stop a 10lb bonefish, they’ll get to that coral rim and break you off. Then in amongst the mangrove flats are all these old World War 2 machine gun turrets. The best thing to do if you hook up in there is back off the drag, follow the fish, free the line from the obstruction and keep following them freeing up the line if its stuck, and using a mix of high and low pressure”.
“For the trophy fish my advise to anyone going to fish there is that lighter is better, much lighter than you think. I use a tapered leader with no knots and finishing in a 10lb tippet – no added tippet, just a tapered leader finishing in 10lbs – I reckon they hear that knot going through the water even if the knot’s 4 feet from the fly”.
“This is next level fishing, you need to be prepared to sit in the water, to get on your knees, keep a very low profile, no flash. Because of the marl bottom just seeing the fish is tough, it requires incredible focus to be successful in this fishery”.
“The bones here can be very big. I saw a group of 3 fish on Molokai that were over 20lbs. They wouldn’t eat for some reason but they swam right past the boat and we got a good look at them. At first we thought they were milkfish and should have taken the shot when they were 60 feet out. They ended up passing within a rod length of the boat so we got a good look at them, they were bones alright. Biggest landed was 16.5 lbs on a certified Boga, on a strip of squid, the guys first bone and he didn’t care all that much which was pretty depressing. A 14.2 on fly, that was Jim Holland, and a couple of 13.8’s and more than 50 fish over 12lbs. The problem is you just can’t stop the bigger ones, they need to make a mistake, you need miracles sometimes”.
“My fly is a little fly I call the Jedi crab which is my own pattern and its tied on a Gamakatsu 11S3H which is that little black steelhead hook that’s very strong. I use black hooks because I’m finding that the biggest bones are refusing silver hooks these days. This is very technical fishing. We’re fishing big single fish with no competitive element – that competitive element of course can make things a lot easier, not having it means things are a lot more challenging”.
“It has rubber legs splayed out from the middle and a little bit of bunny fur on the back because we don’t like to move the fly much at all, but to catch the fish’s eye it still needs some movement, hence the bunny fur, it moves when you’re not moving the fly”.
“I use the smallest dumbbell eyes (black) for tailing fish in the very skinny water, but in slightly deeper water I’ll increase the eye size to medium dumbbell, but it’s the same fly. Me, my guides, and all my clients use it. If there’s a mantis shrimp hatch I’ll use much the same fly but will tie in a longer tail”.
“I’ll use a very similar fly for triggers but to the tan bunny I’ll add orange grizzly bunny to the other end – triggers seem to key right into orange and if you really want to get technical I’ll add some white bunny as a tail as well, triggers really go for that colour combination, tan, orange and white”.
Drew Chicone of Florida has a done a photographic deconstruction of the fly, I refuse to cut up the two I have; I’m going to throw them at some big New Cal bonefish.