Hawaii Fly Fishing...
More Than Just Bonefish!


Hawaii fly fishing is seldom the topic of fishing conversations but that doesn't mean the islands are not a great place for what many consider the most pure form of fishing!

Granted, Hawaii doesn't offer much in the way of trout-, or salmon-filled streams and rivers but the islands do have their own made-for-fly-fishing spots along with a multitude of great opportunities where one can "work the line" for action that could rival anywhere in the world!

Ollie Owens displays a nice o'io (bonefish) taken on Oahu's windward coast.

More Than Bonefish

Most of the talk that does occur about fly fishing in Hawaii centers around Hawaii Bonefishing, or known more commonly in the islands as o'io. And while Hawaii has its share of world class "bones" the islands offers fly fishers a spectrum fish that pound for pound will provide a fight equal to or surpassing much of what they've been accustomed to!

Even a small trevally (papio) can put up a fight that makes an angler think there's something much bigger on the line.

(photo: courtesy Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishing)

Freshwater or Saltwater Fly Fishing... Your Choice!


Although lacking in a lot of freshwater fishing spots Hawaii does offer a limited amount of river, stream, and reservoir fishing opportunities that can turn up some pretty impressive results.

While not at all like the dramatic boulder strewn river beds of Montanna... the icy rivers of Alaska reflecting the snow-capped mountains towering above them... or the sandy flats of Florida that stretch as far as you can see... Hawaii does offer a decent combination of fly fishing spots with game enough to satisfy even the most seasoned anglers!

The island of Kauai, with the heaviest rainfall and the most rivers, probably offers more freshwater fishing than the other islands.

Offering fishing grounds like the Waimea River where papio and barracuda thrive in the brackish water near the river mouth, a fly fisherman can really put in a good day's work with good results. Limited trout fishing can also be found on Kauai in the streams, ditches, and reservoirs in the Kokee area.

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On Oahu, locations like Lake Wilson, a very large irrigation reservoir in Central Oahu, offers tucanare, bass, perch, and other freshwater fare while other areas like the Nuuanu Reservoir are well known for catfish and tilapia. The many small streams that dot all of the islands don't really have anything worth angling for except in the brackish water transition areas where the streams meet the oceans and small papio and barracuda are likely to be found.

Most freshwater fly fishing areas in Hawaii that are worth anything require fishing licenses which although easy to obtain are another step to clear before getting out on the water so most look to the ocean's reefs, flats, and deep water zones to pursue their targeted gamefish!

Kauai resident, Todd Hirano, takes his lunch break perfecting his two-handed spey casting technique in the shallows behind Nawiliwili Harbor and gets the added bonus of an occasional papio or barracuda!

Due to the fact that most freshwater fishing in Hawaii requires a license more enthusiasts, fly fishing or otherwise, will naturally turn to the ocean where no license is required and the only restrictions might be a few general size and seasonal restrictions.

Every island offers its share of flats and shallows conducive to fly fishing... like Oahu's Kaneohe Bay, if you can hit it when the wind is down!

Reef areas are habitat for a plethora of aggressive wrasses like this Christmas wrasse that didn't hesitate to pounce on a fly put before him!

(photo: courtesy Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishing)

Reefs & Flats

For those (and there are many) seeking world class sight fishing and wade fishing, Hawaii fly fishing offers perfect waters with as much variety ss you'd find anywhere. Enough to satisfy the most ardent Hawaii Bonefishing enthusiasts and just about any other serious angler!

Every island offers its share of reefs, shallows characterized by densely growing coral scattered with patches of sand and pathways of sand leading between the shallow waters and the surf or deeper water zones.

The beautiful bluefin trevally, or omilu, is a prize for all fishermen and should be counted as a definite target for any fly fishing in Hawaii.

(photo: courtesy Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishing)

The moana is one of a number of species comprising the goatfish family all of which are great fighters and among the most prized table fare for local folks.

(photo: courtesy Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishing)

Another believer in Hawaii's jumbo bones, many of which reach and exceed ten pounds!

(photo: courtesy Ollie Owens, Hawaii Shoreline Adventures Guide)

These "sandy" areas are the anglers' target areas for fish like trevally (papio), bonefish (o'io), and other reef dwellers like goatfish (weke & kumu) as well as an assortment of wrasses.

Areas into which streams and rivers flow like some spots in Kaneohe Bay aren't too inviting to anglers due to the brown water and sometimes muddy bottoms but a number of fish like papio and barracuda along with ladyfish (a'awa awa) are attracted to the food-rich environment that these areas represent.

Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, Aina Haina along Oahu's Eastern Shore, and Kaneohe Bay are all areas that offer expansive reefs and flats conducive to fly fishing.

The yellow spot papio is yet another of Hawaii's jacks that favors sandy channels and outer reefs and will give great run for the money.

(photo: courtesy Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishing)

Off the Beach

Although Hawaii's beaches are pretty crowded, there are lots of areas that while not appealing to swimmers and sunbathers, offer good fishing opportunities!

Bays and harbors offer deeper waters where seasonal schools of big-eyed scad (akule) and their juvenile siblings (halalu) congregate in the late months of summer. The presence of these schools brings about hoards of anglers but it is worthwhile to work the areas outside of the crowds for the occasional wanderers and predators lurking in wait of opportunities to lunge into the schools!

The presence of coral and other rocks in Hawaii's nearshore waters make foot protection and a basket to "float" your line highly suggested items during fly fishing Hawaii's coastal flats and shallows!

As in all ocean fishing, the best feeding times are a couple of hours before or after the peak tide which means that should you choose to walk the fishing grounds you can expect to be wading in thigh- to waist-deep water searching for feeding fish so, in addition to good footwear (like tabis or reef walkers) you might want to bring a basket for your line so any sinking line doesn't tangle on the rocky bottom you might be traversing.

Open Ocean Fly Fishing

Like any sportfishing destination, Hawaii offers the opportunity for offshore fly fishing targeting dolphin fish (mahimahi), tuna, sailfish, wahoo (ono), etc. Of course, the gear required, experience in casting from a boat, and the very necessity for chartering a boat make this venue of fly fishing beyond what most are looking to experience while here in Hawaii.

Undoubtedly, as the sport grows here in the islands, more and more options will become available... especially small boat operators that offer fishing just outside of the surf zones where medium-sized game like large trevally (ulua) are plentiful!

So, just as folks in Hawaii practice for their out-of-state expeditions in search of salmon, trout, and other cold-water trophies, fly fishing enthusiasts in other parts might want to look to Hawaii for some world class fishing yet to be discovered!

How To Get Started

For some instant reading... here's an E-Book Available for Purchase & Immediate Download!

Click for E-Book Some understanding of fly fishing basics and a bit of technique will add a lot to your experience whether you try it alone or take advantage of a guide.

Hooking up with a fly fishing guide here in Hawaii is probably the best thing you can do to jump right into the action. You can engage a guide and learn the tips for successful flyfishing in Hawaii after which the islands are your playground. Common sense, as in all ocean sports, is a requirement and when going it alone you should check your plans with local resources such as lifeguards and fishermen for risks that might not be apparent to you.

Here are a few experts who can help:

Bonefish 808 Ollie Owens offers great fly fishing trips around Oahu and on the neighbor islands as well! The way I came to know Ollie is a story in itself, but here's a guy who has brought his expertise in working mainland bonefishing flats to those here in Hawaii. He'll also be able to show you some great local-style dining if you treat him right!

Hawaii Bass Fishing Stan Wright and son, Chris, call Oahu's Lake Wilson home and can show their clients a great time there. A local celebrity through his co-hosting days of Hawaii's first dedicated fishing series, the congenial Stan has done it all as Hawaii fishing is concerned but he remains more than anything one of the staunchest fans of Hawaii Freshwater Fishing

Hawaii Bonefishing Terry "Coach Duff" Duffield runs a great operation here on Oahu offering boat fishing the flats of the island's south and windward coasts! When you're working a fly from the bow of a boat for some 10# bones you'll realize why fly fishing in Hawaii is like no other!

Molokai Fishing with Captain Clay Ching offers fishing from the flats or from his 24' Power Cat, a fishing platform for Hawaiian waters!

Nervous Water Hawaii Fly Fishers A full service fly shop that offers made-for-Hawaii flies and gear for fishing the islands and other Pacific destinations.Do yourself a favor and spend some time with Sean Niesz and I know you'll come away with a good understanding about fly fishing in Hawaii. He can also make recommendations if you'd like to get hooked up with a guide here or elsewhere in the Pacific!

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Return to top of page: Hawaii Fly Fishing

Or visit our other Hawaii fishing pages:

Hawaii Shore Fishing

Hawaii Kayak Fishing

Hawaii Freshwater Fishing

Hawaii Spearfishing