Dateline: May 21, 2011 – Oahu, Hawaii
Maurice Chevalier was WRONG. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever rant against that charming old-time French singer, but anyone who sang “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” surely never met Jaime Hamamoto. And Chevalier was French, so that’s two strikes against him. (We all know how the French love strikes.)
For those of you who are not familiar with this particularly vicious little girl, Jaime is the daughter of one of my best friends, Wade Hamamoto. She is an otherwise normal 13 year-old who has an awful habit of catching fish that neither Wade nor I can catch. While she may sound sweet, kind, and helpful to the unsophisticated listener, she actually seethes with competitive rage and can not bear to see me catch anything she has not. This would differentiate her from me, as I am always completely gracious and never get worked up or competitive about fishing matters. (Cough, cough.) For more history on Jaime, see the 1000fish blog episodes “The Ghost of Don Ho,” “An Inconvenient Youth,” “Aloha Means I Hate Fishing,” and “The Worst Little Girl in the World.”
There it is! The face of pure evil!
Late one May evening, I had a rare moment of introspection. Something was missing from my life, but what? Was it unresolved family issues? Bunches! Career satisfaction? No, I am oozing with apathy. A fulfilling partner? Naaah, given up on that one. I thought for a long time, and it finally came to me – I had not caught a Hawaiian Bonefish, and Jaime Hamamoto had. It was time to face that competitive little girl and finally catch the elusive beast. So I booked a trip – 4 days in the islands. (3 with the Hamamotos and 1 over in Kona to recover from 3 days with Jaime.) Hawaii is truly a beautiful place, even if it holds such horrible memories and always seems to come with such a heavy dose of humility.
Interesting factoid: The ONLY friend of mine who has not insulted this swimsuit is Scott Kisslinger. Scott is color-blind.
I arrived on the 20th, a lovely Friday. The Hamamotos got me at the airport, and we headed off to the northern beaches. We didn’t get a Bonefish, but there were three more days, so I didn’t throw things or begin crying. It’s pretty hard to complain when you’re on the windward side of paradise, hanging out with a great friend – and his awful, competitive daughter.
As evening began to fall, we moved over to a pier on the northeast side of the island to hunt around the pilings before heading to dinner. On my first drop, boom, a small Surgeonfish. I presumed it was a Yellowfin Surgeonfish, but these fish are always so beautiful I have to take photos regardless. Good thing I did, because, upon further review by Dr. Alfredo Carvalho, that relentless machine of fish IDs, the beast turned out to be an Eyestripe Surgeonfish – a new species for me. Jaime knew it was a new species all along – “That’s different than the one you caught at Heeia in 2007.” she said. (Which is just a little bit creepy considering that was 4 years ago and she was 9 at the time.)
The Eyestripe Surgeonfish, moments before he was safely returned to the water.
The 21st broke bright and sunny, but then again, so does pretty much every day here. We headed off to Heeia Pier, that North Shore species hotspot, and set up with the requisite Sabikis and shrimp. Jaime and Wade had to take a quick break to go to some school banquet where she had apparently swept all of the awards. Again. Oh sure, you may think this makes her all smart and such, but I should point out that when I was 13, my academic career was described by assorted teachers, counsellors, and the Birmingham Police Department as … “memorable.” And sure, she may have been valedictorian, but I’m not religious. The moment Jaime’s evil presence faded from the pier, the fun started. On two straight casts, I caught two superb new species, the Sailfin Tang and the Twospot Wrasse.
The Sailfin Tang. Just about the coolest fish ever.
The Twospot Wrasse. It’s called that because it has two spots. The other spot is on the flank above the pectoral fin.
At this rate, I could have hit 1100 by afternoon. But then, suddenly, inexplicably, and apparently permanently, things slowed down for the entire weekend. I don’t know if it was a weather pattern thing, or tides, or sadistic Fish Gods, but we had to fight for pretty much every bite the rest of the weekend. I am convinced, faintly but insistently, that Jaime had something to do with this. I struggled through the afternoon, but then, as soon as Jaime reappeared on the pier, the bites started again. Savage little bites. I reeled my rig back in to find the hook bitten off. Bewildered, I tied the leader again, and moments later, I reeled in another hookless setup. I thought out loud “It’s like there are sharks out there.” Jaime responded “That’s because there are sharks out there. The Hammerheads spawn in here this time of year. You might want to try a wire leader or you’re just going to get bitten off all day.” I reminded her “Nobody likes a smartass.” Then I quietly rigged a wire leader and caught the lovely Scalloped Hammerhead you see below.
So that would explain the missing hooks.
Despite my best efforts, it would not bite her on the nose.
That’s just plain weird-looking. Of course, they think OUR eyes are too close together.
We spent the rest of the afternoon running around the island to Wade’s favorite bonefish spots. This is a waiting game, and I always figure the more hours I spend not catching one, the better chance I have later on. This is because I did not pay attention during statistics in college, but the rationale makes me feel better.
The 22nd was another gorgeous Hawaiian Saturday. Of course, it was a Sunday, but pretty much every day here feels like Saturday. Jaime joined us for the morning, which we spend rock-hopping on the North Shore, looking for reef-dwelling oddities. I had gotten a couple of eels, when suddenly, I felt a sinister little tap on my shoulder. Jaime was quietly pointing at a deeper pool about 15 feet away. OH MY GOODNESS it was a lagoon triggerfish, the rare, the elusive, the wonderful, and it was also more than big enough to be a world record. But if I cast now, Jaime would forever be known as the person who facilitated the catch. I’d have to share the glory. While I sat there being conflicted, the fish swam under a rock, not to be seen again. “Bummer.” Jaime said. But I could tell she was laughing inside, and her inner laugh sounds like Vincent Price at the end of “Thriller.”
Jaime then got picked up by her Mom to go look at Rottweiler puppies (presumably for lunch.) Wade and I then headed for more bonefish beaches, working our way through several pristine island postcard scenes with no success, but hey, at least we had each other. During one quiet moment, Wade said “Here’s something to help you deal with Jaime.” It was a box of Pepto-Bismol.
Consolation prize – This is what you get to look at when you’re not catching Bonefish.
At one stop, a turtle had pulled itself out of the water to rest, to the delight of local tourists. Wade tells me they make excellent soup. When I asked him if he meant turtles or tourists, he just smiled.
I can never get over how darn big these things are. The turtle, I mean – not the ridiculous man-boobs at rear center.
He looked up at Wade as if to say “I hear tourists make great soup.”
We tried about everything we could. We hit 4 different beaches, a couple of harbors, and some rock ledges. We joined Wade’s brother Todd and went to a freshwater reservoir and tried to get a couple of transplanted tropicals. Nothing. I could tell myself that these things happen, but I was disappointed. I was in the Hawaiian Islands, home of thousands of species, but the Fish Gods had pooped on me like I was one of Spellman’s new shirts.
As the day wound down, Wade could sense my disappointment. He traded knowing looks with his brother, and said “Do you wanna catch a Bonefish real bad?” I said “Oh yeah.” He said “Bad enough to risk prison?” I said “Absolutely.” He replied “OK, we’re going to need two empty Gatorade bottles and some squid.”
Wade with the “Oahu Yo-Yo” – a handline for stealth fishing. It is also easy to abandon when fleeing from authorities and doesn’t hold fingerprints well.
We drove to the west side of the island and onto the property of an exclusive resort. This exclusive resort has three private swimming lagoons. These lagoons, which are private, apparently contain a population of bonefish, but there is the issue that they are private. Well, I was not going to sit on my hands while corporate mainlanders stomp on the rights of native Hawaiians! So we carefully made handlines out of the bottles with 60 pound leader and squid baits, waded into the water, and, as subtly as possible, swam the baits out 15 yards or so, then sat there and waited for bites. Unfortunately, the curse was not overcome by our cleverness, but I still felt like we had struck a blow for freedom. King Kamehameha (literally “Lord of the Vowels’) would have been proud, even more so if I had spelled his name correctly.
We strike a blow for freedom. Yes, we are actually fishing although we appear to be innocent swimmers.
The sun sets on our Bonefish hopes.
Our third day was much more notable for the company than it was for the fishing. In a happy coincidence, one of my great friends and fishing buddies, Scotty Lyons, was in Hawaii on a family vacation. Scotty is a guide from Sydney, Australia, and he has the distinction of having put me on more species of fish – 85 at last count – than any other guide. This is a monument to his fishing skill and also to his patience with a certain impossible American. (Or it could be that he’s deaf. It’s so tough to tell with Australians, because of the language barrier and the drinking.) Getting Wade and Scotty together was like forming a support group – there are just a few men worldwide who can truly feel their pain of having to fish with me. I expected them both to burst into tears, but they held it together impressively.
Scotty Lyons with Wade. Scotty runs Southern Sydney Fishing Charters – there is amazing fishing within a short taxi ride of downtown Sydney, and it’s an easy short day during a business trip. Look him up on fishingsydney.com.au or just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early in the morning, after I had a night full of bad dreams about Jaime catching huge Bonefish, we picked up Scotty and his sons, Blake and Bryce, and piled into a van to take a whirlwind tour of the island. (Interestingly, if the kids ever own a Bed and Breakfast together, they could call it B&B’s B&B.) Wade is a simply awesome host, and even though I have been to Oahu at least 20 times, he always points out something new and fascinating that I hadn’t seen before. (Generally places where Jaime has caught a Bonefish.)
Who talked them all into wearing matching blue shirts?
We stopped and tried a couple of fishing spots, but “Jaime’s Curse” still held and not much happened, although two things of note did occur. First, I finally SAW a Hawaiian Bonefish. It wasn’t a large example, but someone down the beach at least got one – apparently they were outside the curse halo. And second, Blake did manage one small Hammerhead Shark, so at least one of Scotty’s kids caught something.
Interestingly, Hammerhead Sharks give birth in this area in early summer. I forget where I learned that.
The group. I still want to know who made the Lyons dress up in matching shirts. Was this Trudy’s idea of fun? (Trudy is Scotty’s lovely but long-suffering wife who allows him out on all those hours of overtime with me.)
Of course, being just about the nicest people you could ever meet, they claimed they had a wonderful time just seeing the island. I must admit it was nice seeing someone experience the wonder of the place for the first time, because isn’t that what it’s really all about? Spending time with close friends, even if you don’t catch anything? Isn’t it all about the experience?
Eech. I feel dirty even writing that. Of course it’s about catching something, and of course I was perturbed that Jaime had used her otherworldly powers to thwart me. Drat that vicious little girl. I will be back, and I will get that Bonefish if it takes me the rest of my life and I have to use explosives or even trespass in a private lagoon.
PS – It has been pointed out to me that “Jaime” apparently actually spells her name “Jamie.” So she has been letting me spell it wrong all these years. Well, you know what? BS. I like my spelling better, and I think we should ask HER to change it. So I will ask you, the readers of 1000fish, to take a vote and decide – do we let her have her way on this one, or do we put our foot down and spell her name in a much better fashion? Send your votes to