Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Manuka

Ol’ skool

Comments off

When did I become old school? Have to admit I am. When I think back to days out on the lava fields on the big island I realize just how lucky we were as many of those places we used go to are now gone under new construction. In a few decades there will be even fewer places still.

Long way down, slow going, hot, I still miss it a lot!!


When we started, old school was things like Templars and full bamboo rods. Black Penn 6’os, Long Beaches and Jigmasters were the norm.  High speed Penn 6’os, 4’os and Newells were gaining popularity along with their kits to modify Penns. Daiwa had just entered the market with their Penn “clones”. Half and half rods were still common and one piece rods were the rule.

The new ulua blank in town was the Sabre 540, a two piece blank that came with a fibreglass dowel to splice it together. The standards were Lamiglass SB160 or SB162’s and the Fenwick 16810. Two piece ulua rods were the exception rather than the norm as they are these days.

A half & half and a Sabre 540 restored beautifully by Gilbert Madriga

So, there I was trying to get back into it after a decade plus hiatus. It’s not as though I totally gave up fishing, just didn’t go very often and outings were far, far less serious, fishing primarily with spinners. I’d rig up the big spinner when the family or neighbors picnicked or stayed at a beach house. Then Facebook came along and I started to seek out other fishermen to share the interest with and met “Bruddah Bill” on his Ulua Fishing page. I enjoyed talking fishing and giving beginners advice on the page. This eventually led to Bill inviting me to become a moderator on a new fishing forum he was starting up. I had no idea what that entailed, but, I dove in anyway just happy to feel a part of the fishing scene again! http://forums.ifishhawaii.com/

It was the “big” forum in town commonly referred to as “HFF” that taught me a lot about the “New School” and made me see that I was “Ol’ skool”.  The nice thing was that through the forum I was also able to re-connect with old fishing friends from my time living on the big island. http://www.ulua-fishing.com/hff/index.php

So, in this day and age of social media on the Internet, where are our historians? Is it just the data stored on servers that will become our historical libraries? As far as Ulua fishing, the only “official” Ulua fishing historians I know of are Brian Funai and John R. K. Clark. Brian was born into the family of an ulua fisherman and has done much research on the subject for articles he has written about ulua fishing history. John Clark, a former life guard has written a number of books about beaches in Hawaii and spoke to many ulua fishermen while researching his book “Guardian Of The Sea – Jizo in Hawaii” which chronicles the Jizo statues and obelisks placed as warnings near spots where fishermen have died.  Much of our sports deeper history is so to speak “under-ground” or local knowledge handed down from friend to friend, father to son or daughter. One of the old friends I mentioned re-connecting with through HFF is known on the forum as “kona-ulua-style”.  He is one of many who have transitioned from what the young guns these days call old school to the current state of ulua fishing. He continues to “pound” as they say, perhaps in a slightly more laid back fashion then back in the days of casting club affiliation and more serious, less family oriented outings, but, his knowledge of all things “Ulua” is un-questioned. Perhaps it’s people like kona-ulua-style, that we, who may be interested in the history of ulua fishing need to tap into to help keep the knowledge and adventures alive!!



Fishing vehicles come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. When you add the last bit, configurations, the permutations are endless. Like leader set-ups they vary depending on which island you live on and what kind of areas you fish. The urban fisherman for example, may just throw their gear in the family sedan or mini-van. Even on the Big Island if you have access to private lands, some of them have pretty tame trails that allow a long wheelbased work truck to do the job just fine. Other more “raw” trails require a more serious off-road set up to get there and back.

One of the many benefits of a strong military presence in Hawaii has been the number of trails they have carved over the years to set up various outposts, radio towers, etc. These bulldozed military roads along with the ancient trails of Hawaiian messengers and warriors are a big part of the trail system that gets  ulua fishermen out to the remote areas that they prefer.

The further off the “beaten” path you go, the more extreme the requirements for your vehicle become. Unlike the typical off-road enthusaist, whos load consists of some tools, their best friend and a cooler of beer, the ulua fishermens normal load is much heavier and demands a balance of carrying capacity, approach/departure angle and wheelbase. Balance being the key word here. An old flat fender jeep will get you to most places, but, is limited as far a the amount of gear you can haul. A F-250 will carry a lot, but may “high center” or sit on the rear bumper on the rougher trails. Imagine putting a hole in your gas tank two hours from the main road! I know of one case where this happened and they used a wad of chewing gum and duct tape to make it back to civilization! They were lucky, it doesn’t always work out so easily.

My old Scout "Ben" stock with 31's.

Note in the picture above my scouts backend is sitting a little high. The reason for that is I had air-shocks in the back to level out when the truck was loaded down with stuff. In this picture we had unloaded the big coolers, 170qt packed with ice, 120qt with food and drinks and a 48qt of bait. Not a radical rock-crawler, but, capable on most established trails. The little extra the air shocks gave back after loading up helped a lot!!

Reliability is another key, don’t matter how capable your truck is if it don’t run, overheats or something! You never know what will happen and not many tow trucks are gonna come get you hours deep off road.


A lot of us used to roll with CB radios in our vehicles for the purpose of communication on the trail. Depending on the number of trucks your in your gang, the caravan can get pretty stretched out especially if it’s dusty. We were crawling along the shoreline once in south kona, I was at the head of the line in my old Scout “Ben” when the CB crackled to life. It was my friend Al at the very back of our group. “Ho, hold up! Something just wen broke on my suspension I think!” I stopped and looked back, we had only four trucks that day, but, were spread out over about a quarter mile. I could see Al getting out of his truck and looking underneath. A minute later, “The leaf spring wen break!” I could see everyone starting to back up to where Al was stopped. On a’a lava trails you usually can’t turn around unless there’s a turn out or a big flat spot, so reverse it was!

The main leaf had just broken off clean, weird, how can you prepare for that? Luckily there was a turn out about 20 yards away from where he had broken down. We managed to jack the Scout high enough to stuff a piece of 2X4 between the axle and the frame to keep the tire from jamming in the wheelwell so he could slowly crawl to the turn out. There was enough room for all of us to park in the turn out, so, Als Scout had just selected the camp site for us! (Well, it was a “Scout” after all, isn’t that what they do?)

It actually turned out to be a pretty good spot for red fish which is primarily what we were out there for. After a couple of days of menpachi/aweoweo action it was time for most of us to head home. Al? Well, luckily he and Jerry had a few more days before they had to go back to work so, Al stayed put while Jerry made the long trek back up the trail to the main road and home to Hilo. Once there Jerry tracked down a new leaf spring for Als scout loaded up some fresh supplies, dropped off a couple of coolers of fish and repacked them full of ice and headed back! Now that’s a good friend!! All told it was a good 6 to 7 hours of driving plus the time to get the spring and reload. When Jerry finally got back the next day Al had filled up another cooler! After swapping out the leaf spring, the two crazies stayed another couple days before heading back home!!

Typical bunch a local guys I guess, some friends from back in their hana-bata days others from work or school. Me from Maui, two from Kauai, one guy from Boston (hah?!) and the core group (or hana-bata boys) from Oahu. Surfing was our thing during the day and when not working, hostess bars at night. Life in general was a lot more free and easy. Beers at the bar were a buck and a drink for your “hostess” was three. No curfews and no D.U.I. check points!! Yea, life was good!!

Don’t recall who started or made the suggestion, but, one day we found ourselves being drawn into the fishing thing.  We had all done some fishing in our youth with parents or friends, but, never took it to the real hobby or pastime level. I guess there was enough of a seed planted that once we started into it, we got pretty serious, quickly.

One of the guys, Steve, had gotten serious about a young lady from Maui and had taken a transfer to Maui to be close to her. This started a series of day trips to Maui by Dean and I to go fishing on the back side of Haleakala with Steve. Our success rate there was much better, further setting the “fishing hook” if you will.

Several “sayonara” strikes later, Ulua became the object of our fishing desires and we upgraded our equipment. We got pretty good……at finding things…..We found a five pound lobster stuck in a tide pool, another time Daniel and Bruce (the Bostonian) found a 67 pound ulua!! Catch an ulua? Nada……

Sayonara strikes, the fishing gods way of setting the hook in you without letting you catch one! When you least expect it, violence! The bell clanging like something scared the s*%t out of it and the ratchet screaming like your hook got caught on a freight train passing by!! Your pole’s bent over further than you ever though possible, shuddering and shaking like it’s possessed!! THEN…..”pac”……..suddenly you speak fluent “French”……As you wind up your line your legs are shaking, your mind racing with “What ifs” and the could’a, should’a, would’a!!

Our quest for ulua continued, many nights and days of vienna sausage, pork and beans, leaky tents and puhi strikes. No, not strikes on our puhi bait, puhi strikes! You know, you jack up your pole, rerig, cast and slide down a fresh bait, then after you wash your hands and finally settle back down on your cot, “ding ding”. Not the previously mentioned violence, just “ding ding”….#*%^!!!

Now comes the hard part, do you leave it and risk getting bankrupt, lose everything? Or do you get out of your warm sleeping bag, put your headlamp back on and go out there? #*%^!!! No goin catch nutin when your rig stay deep inside one puhi hole!!…#*%^!!!

It was one of those times, third re-rig and slide in one hour and of course, “ding ding”……..apparently I had set up my pole right in front of a puhi honey hole! Silence, I guess everyone else was getting some sleep or quietly snickering, wondering if I was going to get up again. Funny, haha! Why are puhi only bothering my pole? Damit! I sit up, grab my headlamp and walk out to my pole. I give the pole a good boost, stuck…..sigh…..So I take a couple wraps of line and go for the “full pull” to break the line and it gives! I quickly take up the slack and start reeling, it’s coming, but, some dead weight on the line. Guess I got lucky and got the puhi to come out! OK, boost, crank, boost, crank, crank, woh big paka! Aurite, fresh bait!

About 30 minutes later, the pole is casted back out and puhi is filleted. The head is sitting on the cutting board, it’s about the size of a 20oz soda bottle with some backbone and guts hanging from it. OK, lets go for it! I put a knife edge on a 52 BKN point and shove it through his mouth out through the top of his head. Slide da bugga down! “Let’s see a puhi swallow dat!!”

OK, fillets bagged and on ice, wash hands, wash face, tide goin turn in about two hours, time for a short snooze……”ding ding”…What da…”CALANGA LANGA LANGA LANGA!!! ZEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!ZEEE!!” YEEEEHAAA!! “CLANG CLANG CLANG!!! ZEEEEEEEE ZEEEEEE EEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!” “Eh who’s pole dat?” AZ MINE, NEVA MIND GO BACK SLEEP!! “ZEEEEE PAC!!!” @&$^#(^&#&%!!!

Yep, das us!! Da “ZEE PAC” Casting club!!!


Rolling Your Own

Comments off

I was ten years old, we had recently moved to Oahu from Maui and my cousin Ken had come for a sleep over and some fishing at the marshland nearby. He had brought his brand new rod and reel with him. It was a Garcia-Mitchell 304 spinner and a beautiful emerald green rod also made by Garcia-Mitchell. At that age I had not seen or maybe never really paid much attention to many other fishing poles, but, I was absolutely sure that the shiny green rod was the most beautiful one in the world!

A beautiful rod is definitely eye candy for anyone involved in our sport! Even a beginners eyes light up at the sight of a shiny rod in their favorite color! The Nitro rod importers got it right bringing in a bunch of candy colors to mix in with the standards like black and yellow and even some new wave stuff like chameleon!

Me, I’m still kinda old school, most of my ulua rods are 20+ years old. Even got a half and half I built some 25 years ago. I recall hearing about a comment made about that rod by a friend and very well respected  angler, a hundred plus member in fact that, well, was not too complimentary. However, being that he is not a rod builder himself, it didn’t really bother me. Rod building for me is a personal thing, I put as much time into the design of the rod as I do building them. My rods are built for function not beauty and I can proudly say all the ulua rods I built for myself with the exception of the first two (I’ll explain), have caught more than one ulua. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say I’m some kind of bad ass builder, far from it, there have been failures along the way, that’s how you learn. After losing the first build out to sea on a monster strike, the second rod I built snapped on a big strike out at Laie point. I got hit up with everyone’s theory about why. Didn’t spine it correctly, drag set too tight, blah, blah, blah…..what ever! My friend Edmund who caught his first ulua on a rod he built, later had that rod snap in nearly the exact same spot on the blank, which was the same brand blank I used for mine. It happens, you inspect it carefully, learn what you can and move on.

My old half and half, sitting in the spot I took two unstopable strikes two years in a row!

For professionals it becomes an art, truly, a custom built rod made by a pro is, in an anglers hands like a diamond necklace, the Mona Lisa and a Ferrari all rolled in one! For amateur builders/fishermen like myself, the thrill is two part, first designing and building exactly what you want, second and perhaps even more thrilling is catching an ulua with a rod you have designed and built yourself!

I’ve never built a “jewel” like the professionals do, not saying I didn’t try, it just takes a lot of practice and a ton of patience. Those of you just starting out building your own rods, don’t fret about it, concentrate on balance and functional strength. This will catch you fish, not bling!

A big part of the Ulua fishing scene these days are the tournaments held by some of the major clubs and other organizations. If you are into Ulua fishing and have never been to a weigh in at a big tournament you ought to go check one out. No need to enter the tournament, just go down to check out the weigh in! I know there is a big part of the Ulua fishing community that does not have or want anything to do with tournaments, but, there’s no denying the excitement as Ulua are pulled out of coolers and placed or hung on a scale.

Back in my club days, the Kona Coast Casting Club (KCCC) had just started organizing an annual tournament. As a new member I wasn’t too involved with the “heavy” work of setting up, organizing and running the tournament. I do know that it is an awful lot of work.

I was entered in the Kona Coast Casting Club Tournament and had chosen a spot in Manuka just north of South Point. Despite four wheeling 2 hours to the first spot, it was taken! So we continued down the trail to a spot my friends and I call “40 Steps” and set up there.

Late Saturday night (last night of fishing) I took a huge strike on my 6’o out on the right point. I had short casted into a narrow channel that cut diagonally across the area we were fishing. I had slid down a large Alaihi mama on a #50 XXX BKN. The rod was my old half and half and it was bent in full arch, I couldn’t get it out if the spike! I knew the fish was going to dive over the ledge which was about 100 yards outside off in to deep blue, so, I cranked down on the drag and held on. The splice clicked through the guides so I knew I was down to somewhere between 100 to150 yards. Then, nothing….it was gone!!

One year later, same tournament, same spot, I cast the same rig into that same channel again. That night guess what the first live bait we caught was? Yup, a large Alaihi mama! So I slid it down and set the bell and drag. My partner Dean and I looked at each other, but, didn’t say a word. 2 am, BAM!! Monster strike again! Angry fish on the end of my line…..gotta stop em ……….quarter spool left…..it stopped……pulsing……I leaned back on the rod, no run…..crank, crank, crank……pull back, gaining line….pull, feel like I pulling one boat! Come on, come to papa! SH#T!!! Running again…no…no….ripping da line now …stop…..STOP!!! ……….gone.

At the weigh in eating humble pie, weighing in a 6lb omilu in the papio division. Insult to injury, only one prize given in the papio division, a 10 pounder wins!?? I thought papio was under ten, not ten and under!! WTF!!

And so my tournament days ended.