A small cloud of red dirt follows the jeep as we rumble past fields of California grass growing where the sugar cane once flourished. It takes me back to after dinner walks with my grandfather on the cane roads around Camp 3 in Spreckelsville, Maui. I’m guessing I’m now about the same age that grampa was back then.

Grampa’s passion was sumo wrestling. I’m told he was quite the force in plantation sumo matches back in younger days. Back then there was no internet or sumo on tv all he had was sumo magazines from Japan. How he got them I don’t know. Despite the challenges of following the sport from afar, his passion was clear, even to a ten year old. My passion is fishing, I sometimes wonder if people can see that or not.

We get to our planned spot and walk out to check the water. Although we have fresh oama in the cooler for bait today, it doesn’t stop us from looking for schools as we do. The oama season has been pretty strong this year. It actually came in two distinct waves which stretched the season out. The storms of this El Nino year have made things a little unpredictable. It’s been raining and the surf has been big so the beach is washed and the water just outside the inner reef is stained with the red dirt run-off. I like it!

What’s to like about it? Well, using a mix of other theories I’ve heard over the years, I’ll start with the brown (or in this case red) water in the channel outside. In muddy or murky conditions the bait fish get a false sense of security, kind of a “I can’t see them, so they can’t see me” mentality and venture out and about a bit carelessly. The activity brings the predators in who find them and push them into the shallows of the inner reef. In the sudden change to clear water the predators are now “lit up” with excitement dark bars appear on their sides and in many cases their silver bodies turn completely black as they go into attack mode!┬áMy bait sits another 30 yards inside in 5 feet of water.

The papio action has been hot and heavy. Well, maybe not necessarily heavy a lot of 10 to 12 inchers are hitting, but, great catch and release action anyway! Hopes are up for big boy action when the evening tide comes.

Rod

The tide is on the rise and its dark out. The moon won’t be rising for a few hours so we are all working the poles hard. It’s been quiet, I’ve been trying in vain to catch something larger then the oama for my heavy spin set up. I decide to throw a chunk of a large tako leg out on the heavy spinner just to get it out there. The fat piece of tako might attract the puhi I’ve been looking for.

I’m running 50lb braid backing under a 30lb mono top shot. I have a 25 foot 60lb mono wind-on leader which terminates with a 3’o swivel and 80lb mono to a #28 circle hook.

The chunk of tako had been soaking about 10 minutes when I got a small bell ring, there’s the puhi I thought! I set aside the leader I was working on and grab my headlamp and stood up. After I ducked out from under our tarp I switched on my my light and looked over at my pole. Woah! The rod is bent over all the way down to the butt!! I start to run, spinner so no ratchet, something big is running hard so the bell isn’t ringing because its stationary! As I finally get there it starts to surge and the bell finally rings hard! I can hear the line peeling out, from the looks of the spool the fish may be out over the ledge already. I give the drag a quarter turn, I need to stop this thing, If it dives, I’m done. Looking at the direction of my line, it went straight for the opening in the reef. It slows a little, then surges and takes more line. I contemplate my drag setting, with the quarter turn I know it’s pretty tight so I resist touching it anymore. It takes another furious run and POP! It’s gone….

I rue my slow reaction to the strike, foolishly assuming it was puhi. Perhaps if I got there sooner I could have stopped it before the drop off. All speculation now….

It’s morning, the rest of the night had been quiet. Just recast the heavy spinner with a 6″ slice of the puhi which finally came up a little later in the night. I put a frozen oama on my medium-light spinner set up. It’s a 14′ Daiwa with a Penn 550ss. Love this rig It allows me to get my bait out pretty deep with out much effort.

The papio action has picked up again right where the previous afternoon left off as we’ve caught and released a few 11 to 14 inch Omilu’s and whites already this morning.

Hard bell ring! The 14 footer is doubled over! I’m running this time…when I get there the long cast coupled with the initial run has the line below half spool! It’s still screaming out line, shoots, it’s kinda big….damn it! I might get spooled. I’ve got the rod up high and I’m following the fish, it don’t wanna stop…it’s through the opening in the reef and over the drop….shit….stay high, stay high….gone. ugh….

I run a lot of light rigs, so this happens, but, the other side of it is that I get the strikes. I release the majority of the fish I catch and yes, sometimes I catch….and that’s good enough.