I just returned from some of the most thrilling, intense, and addictive fishing that I have ever done. The excitement was not caused by the number of fish caught or the crazy amount of action we en counted, but from the potential and level of difficulty that our target species presented. Oio on the fly. The Garden Island of Kauai offers a few flats that are between 10' and 6 inches deep and made purely out of nasty coral. The Oio (bonefish) on these flats don't run in epic schools of 50 or more, typically they are in pairs or if they are really big (10lb+, not uncommon) they roll solo. Calf deep water is the easiest to see into and fish. Your eyes will begin to play tricks on you quickly. Imagine staring into a kaleidoscope of colors and trying to lock into a pair of greenish shapes, then add chop from wind. You will swear your locked in to a moster then you loose the fish or begin to doubt it was a fish at all, only to see it blow up 10 feet from you. Eight pounds of heart break zip by in a flash.
Talking with the locals hooking 10lb Oio is just the beginning. Once hooked bonefish run for every coral head that they can find in a desperate attempt to break off. The biggest Oio, 12+lbs require that your run after them popping fly line and backing off of coral heads while they head for the bluewater. One way to increase your odds it to spool reels with some GelSpun backing to help prevent cut offs during the fight. These flats are happy to help you loose a whole fly line. Attach the backing to the Saltwater Taper WF 9 fly line, with a 15' fluoro 20lb leader and you may stand a chance. These fish are more similar to a permit than your typical bonefish. For additional difficulty points fish like the fly moved slowly near the bottom. Too slow you snag the coral virtually instantly, too fast and swimming above the coral, the fish turns off. Meditate on that for a while...
Somehow by the grace of the fishing gods I was allowed to hook into a baby Oio, by Hawaiian standards. My wife Jessie had an Oio of 8lbs or so grab her fly and miss the hook. I had two shots at fish in the 10lb range and multiple shots at Oio under that, but the stars did not align and they all shied away. As we camped on the beach next to the flat that holds these monster Oio. I dreamed of massive emerald shadows cruising the flats. Gracefully darting in and out of the coral in search of food and I dreamed about an encounter with my fly.
By Russell Miller