Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Keith Ehara

“Same old Bays” says Dean, I just nod in agreement. The tall ironwood trees still stand guard at the edge of the road, looking down at the small patches of naupaka fighting to reestablish after the hoards of 4×4’s and atv’s tore at them for years and years. Help has come in the form of large concrete blocks that prevent the entry of the motorized demons. Not especially pretty, but, effective none the less. They have brought back a touch of the peacefulness that we once knew here. I was first introduced to this little gem of a beach back in the mid ’70s when Steve brought me here to surf. It was also when I first met and got to know the boys. They had all been coming out to this area since the ’60s and had their own names for all the surf breaks along this stretch. Bays became our regular surf, dive and fishing spot. While a few things have changed over the years the one thing that has always been the same is the water. All the time we’ve spent in the water here has brought us to know the reef and currents well. The spot has become like and old girlfriend. We know her moods. We respect her when she’s angry and are always grateful when she’s generous.

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Naturally the ride out to Bays is familiar one for us. Over the years we’ve made that drive at all hours of the day and night. The decision to drive out here has on occasion been a questionable one when considering the number of glasses we raised prior to heading out.  Some of those late night  journeys resulted in us all sleeping in the car until the heat of the mid-morning sun would wake us. Sometimes we’d just get out of the car, take a pee, get back in and drive home.  In those early days we were mostly there to surf. A quick surf was always the best cure for a hangover. It always took one person to break the ice by paddling out, usually Steve, then one by one we’d drag our boards out and jump in.

While we’ve had some success fishing there and certainly a lot of good times, Keith remains as the only Zee Packer on record to score an Ulua there. A mystery we’ve circled around for many, many  years. It’s been a long while since we’ve caught much of anything there, but, there we were. Perhaps ecouraged by the oama in our live bait bucket, maybe just because it was comfortable being there. It was in fact the first time we had been out there since Keith passed away. Neither of us had said it out loud, but, I think Dean and I both felt it was the place to be that day.

Keith’s funeral had been a mixed bag of emotions. Touching bases with a few old friends, looking at the collage of pictures of his life and seeing his portrait on the mantle. This had been the first time any event had caused the whole gang to pull in the fishing poles and drive into town from our annual beach house vacation. With all that he and his family had been through in the last few years of his life you could sense that within the veil of sadness there was a breeze of relief and a feeling of joy knowing that he was done with the pain and in a much better place. The MC at the service gave a nod to the fishing gang by asking everyone to keep Keith in our hearts and minds and that perhaps Keith would bring a fish our way someday!

As we made the long drive back to the country from town we reflected on the service and talked about some of our favorite memories of Keith.  While the general mood was pleasent, I know it was tough for all of us to accept that we had just said our final goodbys to our brother.

Getting back to the beach house I wondered how much energy I would be able to put into fishing after such a draining evening. As Daniel and I sat drinking some beers on the deck Dean got right to checking the live bait well and re-rigging his lines. After a bit Dan and I finally decided to get on it too and got some baits on our lines and tossed them out. It was a clear beautiful night, so in the softer country lighting there were a ton of stars in view. As I was gazing up at them I saw a formation that looked like an Ulua with its mouth wide open ready to inhale a helpless baitfish! I was about to point it out to the guys when I thought better of it and decided it would only bring waves of drunken ridicule my way….

Just after midnight, Dean had gone down for the count and Dan and I were still up talking story when a hard bell ring penetrated the alcoholic blur! I looked up and saw the tip of my spinner rod dip out of sight behind the plants between us and the beach, wow fish on finally!! When I got to the rod I could hear the line smoothly peeling out of the Fin-nor despite the rather tight drag setting I was using. I removed the bell and the tie-down. After a few seconds the run eased up and the tip started to lift. I pulled the rod out of the spike and leaned back on it. The fish turned and headed left crossing Daniels line. I had to follow to the left to try and get it to clear. I had just managed to do that when it decided to head back to the right. This time it stayed clear and I shouted to Dan that it was coming in. A short while later we saw the flash of a white ulua in the shorebreak and the next wave tumbled it on to the sand! What’taya know? Ulua, first in a long time for me. I had not caught any ulua since leaving the Big Island over 18 years ago!

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Small bugga, but, definately ulua for sure. It would later weigh in at 14 pounds. The first thing that came to mind when I landed it was Keith! Keith had brought the boys an ulua!! I couldn’t stop repeating it the rest of the night, Keith brought us a fish! It made us all happy, it was a clear sign. The first sign came few days after Keith had passed when Dean had a dream. All his life Dean has had dreams about people close to him shortly after they die. In his dream about Keith, Dean said Keith told him he was fine and he looked good. The second sign was the ulua I saw in the sky that night. This ulua was the third and final sign, a confirmation if you will, for all of us that Keith was indeed okay and doing fine!

Keith had made the long ride home.

 

 

“You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”   ―     Bob Marley

Northern California, off I-5 through Redding another 20 to 30 minutes will get you to the town of Lewiston in Trinity County. With a population of just over a thousand in 20 square miles, life is slow and easy. We’re back again to see what fresh water fishing adventures we can find. We’re towing Deans 13′ whaler behind us and hauling along our trout and bass dreams. Those of ulua and oio are stashed away for now. When the elixir flows after dinner they’ll surface along with the debates we’ve repeated for the last thirty plus years of our lives. We can’t help it, it’s what fishermen do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seventeen years ago I came up here with Dean for what we were calling at the time “My last hurrah!” I was getting married in a month and it appeared my days of packing a duffel and rod case to disappear for a week or so were going to be lot less frequent, if they happened at all…

Magical, is the only way I can describe that trip. We caught fish everywhere we stopped. Strictly fly-fishing mind you, as much as I love the style I’ve never been a prolific fly caster by anyone’s standards. So to catch fish at each stop, river mouth, little stream, fast water, slow lazy water, it was beyond what I could have ever realistically hoped for! Was this a sign? If so, what did it mean?

This trip we fought a headwind all the way up the coast, it wasn’t until we turned into Redding and headed west towards Trinity that we got into more normal air. Redding is a typical rural Californian town, for us fishermen though, you can’t ignore the river as you pass through. The river, the “Upper Sac” as they call it, refers to the northern regions of the Sacramento river that meander through the state and is particularly prominent in Redding. Big water, typically fished from a drift boat or from the occasional low banks that allow one to toss a shiner or worm out with a spinner.

Five and a half hours and we are finally there! Turn on the utilities, flush the water system, turn on the fridge and we’re good to go! Down to the lake for a shake down run in the whaler to make sure everything’s as it should be before we hit the big lake later in the week. Fly fishing purists would be appalled, but, we tied some “needlefish” spoons on our fly rods to troll for trout! What the heck, our spin rods are all 6 to 7 foot so the 9 foot fly rods gave us a much more efficient spread between our lines. Laugh all you want, but it works!

 

 

 

Lewiston Lake, the smaller of two lakes in the immediate area, with about 750 acres of surface area sits just below the hillside where we would be staying for the next few nights. We had just tied up the whaler next to the launch the night before so it was a matter of minutes after we stepped out the door that we were in the boat headed out. I’ll let my buddy Dean describe the morning on the water.

“Next morning we hit the lake again, but still no flow going through. Trolled a bunch with no success then decided to head up to the north end and do some “Scotty fishing”. This method entails northern cali type driftboat fishing. Light lines (4lb) on a 2lb leader with a floaty egg and some real salmon eggs attached on a small lead splitshot. We took a few strikes but no hookups except for many encounters with the bottom as we were not getting any kind of drift. So screw dat. We went in for lunch and decided to suit up and hit the fabled trinity river fly-water 5 minutes away.”

Hiking and wading with a fly rod in hand, my absolute fave form of fresh water fishing, nothing like it!! For me it’s not all about the catching, just something about the serenity, the sound of the river and trees, reading the water looking for those little rifts or big rocks that create a slack water where the fish will hold. I suppose part of the draw is the amount of finesse and technique one needs to master to effectively present a dry fly well enough for a fish to want to take it. Not easy, but, so beautiful when done well.

“We cast small dries into the pocket water below a big pool and had our share of dinks fight over the floating candies. Joel said he saw a monster fish rise and check out his little hooked struggling smolt then slowly disappear. I thought to put a big ol’ trinity wooly bugger and strip it across and down. Joel did this for 15 minutes without a hit so we moved downstream. We came to a nice pool/run just below a riffle that looked nice and fishy. We cast a few times with no takers. Then, a big silver shadow moved up from the bottom to stick his nose out and check out the increasing hatch of caddis and baetis bugs that were floating by. It appeared he didn’t take anything off the top: I figured he wanted something more substantial for his trouble. I tied Joel on to a Herb Burton T-Bone, a fly that had taken me a 6lb. brown many years ago. Joel worked him for awhile but no takers. After a while, Joel said to try him. The riverbank was tight behind us, lots of casts into the bushes, not much room for a nice long reach and drift. finally, I remembered how to roll cast again and got the big dry down the lane. I never experienced a large steelie coming back more than a couple times to take a dry, but this one did. I missed him two or three times until I told myself to let him take it and put his head underwater before striking. After about an hour he cooperated and we had a fish on!”

I had just walked back up to where Dean was still working the run trying to get the big shadow to come up to take his fly again. I sat on the bank to rest and watched Dean casting. He told me that while I was gone downstream he had missed the fish yet again. I sat listening to the sound of the stream and Deans fly rod and line whooshing through the air. Then, a flash, a huge silver log appeared, sucked his fly in and rolled over towards the far bank, I held my breath for a second, then Dean lifted the tip of his rod and yelled as his reel started to scream! The rod was a 5wt Sage re-wrapped by our buddy Keith, a 5x tippet made for a challenging fight. It took all of ten minutes to get the fish to the net, which was actually way too small for this rather long chrome slab! Steelhead, ocean going rainbow trout, a real beauty for sure. One we will remember forever….I gently eased her back in the water, a few seconds later she shook her head to let me know she was ready to go, I relaxed my grip and she slipped away…

“Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.” 

 

 

I talk about the core group of guys that cut our Ulua fishing teeth together all those years ago quite often. After much mis-adventure which included what seemed to us anyway, an inordinate amount of missed opportunities to catch fish of our dreams we took comfort in making a little fun of ourselves. It certainly wasn’t for lack of strikes as we experienced a fair share of those. We just wern’t able to capitalize on many of them. At times it felt like we were cursed, that the fishing gods were determined to show us every possible way to lose a hooked fish.

A couple of clubs on Oahu at the time were Atlapac and the Pacific Casting Club, taking the “Pac” theme from those club names we decided to call ourselves the Zee Pac Casting Club. Never truly formalized as an official club it was basically just us making fun of our own misfortunes. Given the number of times we had experienced the dreaded strike (Zeeeee!) and resulting breaking of our lines (Pac!!) Zee Pac seemed an appropriate name for us.

Fast foward to the present, we recently re-united with one of the original Zee Pac members Keith and when Dean came to town we decided fishing together would be a good chance for us to really reconnect and reminisce about the early days of the Zee Pac.

After securing a spot where we could overnight without getting hassled the plan was in gear! Just like the old days a tent, our gear and a cooler of bevera….um….bait! We were ready once again for fishing adventure!!

Adventure……..well, three old farts humping fishing and camping gear over a couple of hundred yards of sand was, in its self, quite the adventure! More squeaks and groans then a 30 year old Yugo going over speed bumps in a K-Mart parking lot!

One thing we were always pretty good at was rigging up a mean tent! Well, the weather report was predicting 25mph gusts and a 50% chance of rain so, we had our work cut out for us! What the heck were we thinking?

After about an hour, there it was! The little three-man (more like three-munchkin) tent and a strong wind-break to protect it! See, we know what we doing! On to the fishing.

We had done some diving here before so knew there were a good amount of baitfish to be had. Of course there was also a week old frozen tako in the cooler too. Dean and I set off down the beach with our small spin outfits rigged with floater set ups. Soon we had some lively hinalea lauwili in our live bait bucket.

The low tide had swung its way through and the waves picked up a touch as the rise began. An 18 inch snowflake eel was the first to bite one of our live hinalea baits. We put it out of its misery and set it aside for later. If we were sliding it would be one bait, but, since we were baitcasting it would be three.

Late afternoon, Keiths new Nitro takes a solid strike, it doesn’t seem too big, but, takes a few good rips straight out then turns. Oh oh…..line’s hung up….can’t tell if it’s gone or not. It’s cold and windy, but, why not, Keiths first strike on his new rod, I strip down to my surfshorts and jump in the water. I follow the line out to where I can feel it stuck and pull carefully away from the obstruction, it’s free, but, the line is cut off…

Zee Pac!

Disappointed, naturally, but, encouraged by the strike early in the rise we all get busy working our poles!  My hinalea comes back strong and lively so I toss it back out to give it another go while I prep the snowflake eel. I cut the head off leaving about another 5 inches or so of the body attached. The fillets are left attached to the head, but, cut away from the spine which is left in place, cracked once or twice to release some smell and the entrails hang from the head also.

After dinner the tide is really moving now, time for the puhi! Being that we had to hump all our gear out to the spot all I brought was my Rainshadow baitcaster, a 1567F Rainshadow blank the good folks at 5O7S (5 Oceans 7 Seas) were nice enough to special order for me. A step down from the 1569F which is the heaviest they make, the 1567F still has impressive power and very light weight. My return to fishing with conventionals has admittedly been a little rough, too much spinner fishing may have taken me out of rhythm, so, lately I have been leaving the spinner home to force myself to work on my casting. It’s finally starting to work and I am casting with much more consistency and adequate distance. Didn’t bring the big stuff so had to search for a bigger hook among my baitcasting stuff. I find a pack of complimentary hooks from Bruddah Bill at Ewa Beach Buy & Sell, they look like about size 26 or 28. Perfect!!

I get a decent cast out and set the rod in the spike for the wait. I stop for a second to think back to years ago when I lost a 540 Sabre with a Black Marlin 6’o on it out to sea on a vicious strike, gotta tie the rod down. I find a strong two foot section of driftwood, tie my safety cord to it and bury it two feet deep in the sand. All set!

10:30pm just starting to fade off to sleep…..calang calang….zeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! I shine my light down the beach and the Rainshadow is bent way over pointing out to sea the safety cord is a tightrope!! I get there unclip the safety cord and pick up the rod. It’s pulling hard, but, feels manageable, it’s still taking line then stops I get a couple of pumps in then it goes again, then, gone…….

Zee Pac…….

01:30am I’m dreaming about the strike all over again…no…wait!! ZEEEE……EEEEEEEEEEEE…..EEEEEE!! Another strike!! I pop up and shine down the beach again…the rainshadow is at full arch again!!! I finally get there and the line is still ripping! I unclip the safety cord and just stand there holding the rod and watch the line peel. It finally stops I pick up the rod and try to start working it…”wha da hell?” I was so pumped up I had pulled the spike right out of the sand with the rod! Dean shows up and helps me get the spike off, it’s running again….it’s way out there now! It stops again and I try to lean on it, it doesn’t budge. Another run, all I can do is hang on. I’m loving the Rainshadow though, it’s standing up well, not noodling out. Finally I lean back on it and get some line, then it takes it all and more back. This goes on for another 20 minutes or so, back and forth. Gain some lose some, now I’m gaining more than its taking so the reel is finally filling back up. Suddenly it stops the side to side and turns straight out and makes another run.

Zee Pac…..

I curse myself for not leadering up this rig before leaving home. At my age I wonder how many more opportunities like this are going to come my way. Complacency, it’ll get you every time! I should know better….next time…when the Zee Pac rides again!!