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A Reflection on My Experience with Keawe Adventures and Fly Fishing Hawaii

By Ereti Tekabaia

2019 Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellow Program, Farewell Reception.
Keawe Staff from left to right: Kathryn, Office Assistant; Ereti Tekabaia, Fellow; Makani Christensen, Owner.

Being part of the 2019 Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellow program Spring Cohort is indeed a life-changing experience to me, personally and professionally.  But being with Keawe Adventure for one month is an even more rewarding and insightful contribution to my professional career development.

As part of the Tourism Pro-Fellow program, I started working at Keawe Adventures on a 4-week work placement, which will end tomorrow.  These four weeks are a worthwhile learning opportunity for me. I am a government official giving advisory assistance to local our operators, and whoever interested to start a tourism-related business back in Kiritimati Island. But being placed at Keawe Adventures is like I am being put in the shoes of a tour operator to observe and learn first hand how a tour company actually operates. Keawe Adventures is a fitting exemplar for our tour operators given that it conducts small group and customized tours for a high-end market- an appropriate market for Kiribati given its smallness and environmental context.

I am fortunate to join two of their tours – Pearl Harbor with Makani Christensen, the owner, and Circle the Island with Nanci. I have visited Hawaii before but this is my first time to visit Pearl Harbor and experience a full island tour. These tours are exceptionally interesting and informative with the knowledgeable guides – they are well versed not only on the sites but the stories and history.

My placement is not only about office works and tours. I am very privileged to have a meeting with Mr Mike McCartney, the Director of Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, and Chris Tatum, the Head of Hawaii Tourism Authority.  This is a very rare opportunity that I would not have had, if I am not placed at Keawe Adventures. Mr Keoni Downing is very instrumental in the meeting with Mr McCartney as he was the one arranging with him.  I am so grateful and honored that Mr McCartney and Mr Tatum could allow some of their precious time from their busy schedule to meet and share some of what Hawaii had gone through and its success in tourism.

In addition to those marvelous experiences, Makani, through Kathryn, the Office Assistant, made sure that my Individual Project for this Profellow program is on the right track. Kathryn is a lovely colleague that she always makes sure that I enjoy my works at the office.

In a matter of day I will not be seen at Keawe Adventure office, and soon after I will be leaving East West Center campus, and back with my work colleagues and families in Kiritimati Island.  But I had acquired abundance of valuable knowledge and lessons on Hawaii tourism through the work programs Keawe Adventures engaged me in.

This work placement story of mine will not be possible without the endless assistance and support of Mr Scott Kroeker, the Interim Senior Manager of Pacific Islands Development Program.  Thanks to him, he had perfectly placed me at Keawe Adventures where I was enriched with wonderful experience, knowledge, and opportunities that I cannot wait to use, and implement where appropriate back in Kiritimati Island. At Keawe Adventures, I am indebted to Makani for making my placement at his company beneficial and useful for application in Kiribati.  The office works, the tours, and the meetings are, and will be, definitely enhancing my capacity to perform my responsibilities as a Principal Tourism Officer.

I am so fortunate and blessed to be part of this Pacific Island Tourism Fellow program and be part of Keawe Adventures team for one month. Thus it is very appropriate for me, as a Kiribati custom, to return the favor with our Kiribati traditional blessing of Te Mauri, (Health), Te Raoi (Peace),  and Te Tabomoa (Prosperity) to those who have directly and indirectly contribute to the success of this work placement, particularly to my friends and colleagues at Keawe Adventures.  

exchange program, Fly Fishing In Hawaii, Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellowship Program

FLY FISHING HAWAII WELCOMES ERETI TEKABAIA FROM KIRIBATI

We are honored to host Ereti Tekabaia during her 4-week work placement with the Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellowship Program.   She serves as the Principal Tourism Officer of Kiribati National Tourism Office basedon the island of Kiritimati or Christmas Islands, which is located 1,340 miles south-west of Hawaii-3.5 hour flight.  Christmas island is a world-renowned fly-fishing hotspot that accounts for 43% of its tourism.  Individuals from around the world fill up one flight a week to target the Bonefish, Trigger Fish, and Giant Trevally.  Fly Fishing Hawaii is excited to have a role in sharing our experiences in Hawaii’s Tourism with an individual that will contribute to shapingtourism on Kiritimati for generations to come.   

Kiritimati island also known as Christmas Island is an atoll in the northern Line Islands (equatorial islands) a part of the Republic of Kiribati comprised of 33 islands. Kiritimati atoll has the largest land area of any coral atoll in the world and comprises 70% of the total land area of Kiribati.   The perimeter of this atoll is 93 miles, which include the flats and lagoon.   

During the cold war 1950-1960s the United States conducted 22 nuclear detonations as part of Operation Dominic, and the United Kingdom conducted its first successful hydrogen bomb test at Malden Island.   

During World War II, 1941-1945, the Americans took over the island garrison to protect it from Japanese occupation, and potential airbase for the Japanese Airforce.   The 102ndInfantry Regiment, a National Guard Unit from New Haven, Connecticut, was the first US force to occupy the islands. Kiritimati Island was a strategic location for Allied forces, and served as a forward operating based throughout the war.      

The Islanders of the Kiribati atolls to include Kiritimati have endured war, nuclear testing, famine over the last century, and in 1979 they gained their independence from the U.S. in what is known as the U.S. Guano Island Act claim which formally ceded by the Treaty of Tarawa, and became part of the Republic of Kiribati.  Independence from foreign control has allowed Kiribati to partake in world affairs to include joining the United Nations.   With the Islanders back in control, they will pave their future.   

The Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellowship program will allow individuals the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and pave a bright future the 5000 inhabitants.   We are lucky and fortunate to have Ereti with us!We are honored to be a part of Kiritimati’s future.    

Fly Fishing In Hawaii, How to Catch Bonefish, The right equipment. Costa Sunglasses!

It’s Cool, It’s Hip, and Effective! Costa Sunglasses

As a fly-fishing guide, having the right equipment is key to spotting bonefish in the shallow waters around Oahu, Hawaii. The right pair of shades can enhance your experience and increases the potential of catching these elusive bonefish. Lately, I have been testing out Costa’s latest pair, the Pescador, with side shields made from 100% recycled fishing nets. I fished during the afternoon with the wind at my back and sun to my front.

Spotting fish with the sun to your front is near impossible without proper sunglasses. For the shallows here in Hawaii, I usually prefer the Copper Silver Mirror shades. They create lots of contrast between the bottom and backs of the fish. With the right glasses, fishing gets a lot more interesting and I was excited to test out the Pescadors.

I started fishing well into the afternoon with the wind behind me and the sun in front of me- a challenging combination for spotting fish. The water about 2-feet deep. As the sun angled lowered on the horizon, visibility in the direction of the sun went from 20 yards to only about 5 yards within a few hours.  To the left or right of the sun, visibility improved with each degree center.  The “center” is the path of the sun where visibility is reduced the most due to glare. At 45 degrees, the visibility improved to approximately 60 yards.  Most of the time, my focus was either to the far left or right. 

Spotting the fish early on allowed me to present the fly to the bonefish with enough room to work the fly.  The side shields were key in blocking the ambient light, reducing the glare and allowing for better sight fishing at angles to the sun.  I don’t normally wear these types of glasses and prefer wrap around glasses, but these glasses may quickly become my new go-to fly fishing glasses.  

There are a couple of differences between the wrap around glasses and the Pescador shades.  The wrap around glasses tend to fog up more easily and get dirty faster. They sit closer to the face which limits air circulation, trapping oils and moisture on the inside of the lenses.  The Pescadors are light weight and have more room between your face and the lenses, allowing for more circulation and less oils and dirt to be trapped on the lenses.  With that said, why not use the Pescadors all the time?

My type of guiding on the flats is different from off-shore fishing or heavy activity.   The Pescadors are light weight and the side shields are easily detached from the glasses.  I’m not bending over the side of the gunnels on a trolling boat gaffing a 300lb tuna.  Fly fishing on the flats requires less movement that would potentially damage the glasses or cause the side shields to fall off.  Also, I’m not getting hit by water sprays from driving a boat around for 8 and having to constantly clean the glasses.  Note that cleaning the Pescadors requires a litte more care to keep the side shields from falling off.  On a boat in rough seas or in a low light environment, you will not have the luxury to carefully clean your glasses.  However, in my back yard while guiding for bonefish in Hawaii, the Pescadors made by Costa Sunglasses are perfect!

The lenses on my Costa Pescadors are the Copper Silver Mirror, which provide a noticeable contrast and reduce the glare.  I’ve been spotting fish since I was 8 years old, when a throw-netter showed me how to spot fish in the surf.  Since then, I’ve learned to pick up certain colors in the water based on the contrast and movement.  Back then, most fisherman used the old school wrap around glasses with light colored lenses that were ideal for stalking fish in the shallows. I’ve learned to pick up on certain colors, such as blue or aqua.  At home, my wife says the couch is brown, while I say it is blue.  The Copper Silver Mirror amplify and create a contrast between the blues and aqua when spotting bonefish.  Having the right glasses and lens color is key in stalking bonefish on the fly in Hawaii.

During this short mission, testing the Pescador Costa Sunglasses made with 100% recycled fishing nets allowed me to see the bonefish early on. They dramatically reduced the side glare and allowed me to differentiate between the blues and aqua colors.  I was able to spot well over 50 bonefish within a short amount of time and hooked 3 bonefish.I highly recommend the Pescador Costa Sunglases with Copper Silver mirrors while fishing for bonefish on the flats in Hawaii.

To book your next fly fishing trip in Hawaii, visit our website at www.flyfishinghawaii.fish or give us a call at 808-780-1253.    

YOUTUBE

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The Fly Fisherman’s Omen

Bob sent me a message that he wanted to catch some bonefish before departing on his 9:00pm flight back to the East Coast.  He had just spent the week hunting for deer on Lanai with some buddies and he had an 11-hour layover. 

I fished the day before to plan for our trip and get a sense of where the fish were.  I hooked 2 and landed zero.  The fish were all over the place, but not biting.  I thought the next day might be tough, but you never know unless you go.  The winds were light from the North East.  I had a game plan!   

Bob met me at the dock at around 11:30 am.  The winds were swirling and coming from the South and Southwest, which were perfect for the time we started.  It was sunny, which meant spotting the fish would be ideal!  We got to our spot just as the tide was bottoming out.  I had just anchored the boat and looked to the opposite side of the boat to see a small he’e, or octopus, swimming at us.  I didn’t think anything of it. We investigated it, shot a quick video, and headed out to the spot.   

The tide was low, which exposed the majority of the reef.  As we walked to our spot, I pointed out a couple of bonefish swimming in the deeper ponds. It took a few shots for Bob to get accustom to seeing the bonefish.

We fished an area where a channel opened up onto the reef.  We posted up and waited.  It did not take long for Bob to start seeing the fish.  The wind and the sun were at our back and the fish were swimming at us. Perfect conditions!

Makani:  “Bob, cast 15 yards. Right there!”

Bob placed the cast perfectly.  I see the fish swimming at the fly looking at it.  I take out my camera in preparation for the fish to start taking the fly.   

Makani:  “Take it! Take it! Shit!”

At this point, I’m only hoping this is not a repeat of the day prior.  Without time to talk about it, another fish came in.  Bob casts again and this time gets a solid hook up. This fish was big.  It started running, but within a few seconds we lost it to the reef monster.  Thrilled and stoked to get a solid hookup we exchange high-fives in a jovial celebration of our partial success.  We were already an hour into fishing and were excited to have gotten at least one hook up. Knowing that these fish are finicky, Bob had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  We re-rigged and were ready for the next attempt.  

The next hour proved to be magical.  He hooked two more bonefish within the next 30 minutes.   We lost each one to the reef monster, even snapping the main line.  After hooking a fish, it took less than 5 minutes for the next bonefish to show up.  Bob was in the zone!  

I responded in shock, “that was number four! You might want to start running after the fish if you want to land it.”

The tide was creeping in and we had a lot of area to cover.  We moved about 100 yards down the reef, when it happened.  A bone was coming straight at us.  The wind and sun rays were in the front of us which made seeing fish super difficult.   

Makani:   “Bob, there is a fish about 15 yards to our front. Cast 10 yards out.”

Bob laid out the cast perfectly.  The fish reacted quickly, and the fight was on!  Bob started to weave his way around the little coral heads to keep the line clear. For the next 5 minutes, it was an all-out-run-in knee-deep water.  Bob was not about to lose another fish to the reef monster. He demonstrated his angling ability with this fish.  As the fish started to round a coral head, he would lift the rod high and move toward the coral head in the opposite direction.   With each obstacle presenting a new challenge, he reacted perfectly.  After missing 4, we finally had the 5thbonefish at leader.  SUCCESS!

True joy!  Bob said the fight with that bonefish was harder than hiking up and down the valleys during his week-long hunt.  What a rush!  It was an awesome moment and to be a part of it was even better.   

We moved another 100 yards down the reef and saw a few more bonefish.  We hooked another and lost it, taking the total count to 6.  After that, we hooked another and even got the initial take on video.  Then, we landed number 7 and lost it again.

Altogether, we hooked 8 bonefish.  This was my record with a client!  It doesn’t happen often. We are usually stoked with just 1 bonefish.  I suggested that Bob stop by Las Vegas on his way back to the East Coast.    

As we walked back to the boat, we talked about seeing the octopus earlier that day.  Bob mentioned that the octopus had 8 legs, and we caught 8 bonefish.  Was the he’e an omen?  This day turned into a spiritual moment.  The stars had aligned, the guardians of the ocean were with us, and the elements in our favor.  So, if you ever see an octopus, or he’e, before you start your fishing adventure, the odds may be in your favor.  

Check out the video here.

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When Guides Go Fishing: The Untold Stories

Makani Christensen

I met Mark Rogers, a fishing guide from Naples, Florida, during a photo shoot for a company selling inflatable rafts.  We started talking and we share some of our best fishing charters stories.  As fishing guides, there was an instant bond between us. Although we guide anglers 4,000 miles apart and target different fish, we found a common bond.  The stories we shared often started with, “I had this one charter…” or “I took this guy fishing….”   I found it fascinating!  Within the first couple of minutes, I already knew this was a guy you would want to fish with.  Seeing an opportunity for both of us, I offered to take him fly fishing for the elusive Hawaiian bonefish. The deal was struck and we set sail on Sunday 17 February 2019.

We met at the ramp around 9:00 am, just when the tide was at its lowest in Honolulu Harbor.  I had already formulated a plan the night before on where we would be when the tide reached a certain level.  On the low tide, the fish tend to bunch up in certain areas of the reef, and that would be our opportunity to land one of these bonefish. My mission was to help Mark land one of these giants.   

By 10:45, we were on a bed of loose coral about 10 feet across that stretched in from the surf by about 100 feet.  We were standing in water that was less than 1-foot deep, and to either side of this coral beds was a small channel about 3 feet wide.  The bed of coral acts as a natural funnel for bonefish feeding in the area. Over the years, we have caught a few giants at this location and have learned to utilize topography to our advantage.

Makani:  “Mark, cast ten feet  at 12 o’clock.”

With a smooth cast, Mark hits the target.  The bone sees it, follows the fly, and doesn’t take it.  

Makani:  “Eat it! Eat it! You mother f**ker,” (referring to the fish).

At this point, I smartly gave a disclaimer about my profanity.  I explained that out of all the tours I do, I only swear on the fishing tours.  I conduct a lot of tours around Hawaii not just fishing, with Keawe Adventures and I will never swear on those tours.  However, when we fish, all bets are off.  I drop “f-bombs” sometimes more than others.  Today might have been one of those days when I dropped more “f-bombs” than ever before.

As Mark and I talked, our conversation turned to sharing the craziest stories we’ve heard on our fishing charters. I immediately recalled one story that I had heard from a paramedic working in Las Vegas.  Hands down, it’s the gnarliest story I’ve ever heard. I had to share it with Mark.

The guy who told me the story had served in the Las Vegas Fire Department as a paramedic.  He fished with me a few months back, but the story he told me that day seared an everlasting image in my mind.  

The paramedic responded to a call that took him to an apartment building near the strip in Las Vegas, where he encountered one of the most peculiar and mind-blowing scenes. He explains the story in all its gory detail (be warned).  Arriving on the scene, he entered the room to find two individuals. A female victim was lying on the floor with severe wounds to her face around her mouth. The overall appearance resembled The Joker. This woman had managed to eat her own face off. What? Yes, she ate her own face, furiously chewing through her own lips. How the hell did this happen?

The paramedic turns to the other individual, a semi-conscious gentleman on the couch, to find out how this happened. This individual was so out of it, he probably felt like he was the couch. To put it bluntly, he looked high as sh*t. 

His response was less then comprehendible both in subject and volume, “Bath salts my n*gga, bath salts. Up the a**.”

The paramedic asked again, only to receive a more forceful and garbled response, “N*gga, I told you. Bath salts up the a** with that,” he said, pointing at the turkey baster on the counter. This guy seemed to be the pimp of this (once) attractive young lady, probably in her early twenties. Medical examination later identified pieces of her lips and cheeks in her stomach.

If we learn anything from this story, let it be to stay away from drugs and keep the bath salts in the tub. 

We continued our hunt for bonefish on the flats, stopping briefly at certain areas where the bottom topography was perfect to wait, or if we saw a fish heading our way.  As the sun disappeared and then reappeared, a bonefish surprised us only a few feet away from where we stood.  We had many opportunities to present the fly, but again and again the bonefish took off. I changed the fly nearly 25 times, only for my profanity to steadily increase.  Mark and I fished, shoulder to shoulder, as I attempted time and time again to help him hook his first Hawaiian bonefish.   

All the flies thrown at the Bones and Dropping “F” Bombs

Mark is an experienced fisherman with more than 35 years of experience. He fished professionally in the bass tournaments across the United States, with first place prizes in excess of $50,000. He is also the premier guide in Florida, targeting a variety of local fish on spinner rods and on the fly.  

With the tide rolling in, we took the boat to another fishing location- The Triangle. The tide was perfect. It was a small tide in the afternoon, a limited window when the fish roll onto the reef. At this point, the water was about 6-inches deep with 10-lb bonefish tailing everywhere. Half of the fish were out of the water as they arched their backs to feed. Mark and I went nuts casting well in front of these fish. Our plan of attack was to cast about 10 feet in front, so when they got to that spot, they would see the fly in its most natural looking state. On The Triangle, Mark and I hunted, about 100 feet between us. The fish were looking, but still not biting. Hiding near a mangrove, I spotted 3 giant bones. First shot- miss. Another shot- miss again. F-bombs were flying. I look over at Mark to see a giant bonefish headed in his direction. I shout it out. He sees the bone coming in, giving a couple of casts. The fish was still about 50 yards out but closing in quickly. Within moments, the fish halved that distance, now only 25 yards out. Mark casts again. As the fish closes in on the fly, he moves it. The fish jumps on it, looks, and then bolts. An explosion of spray and white water as the fish thrashes in the shallows making noises that sound like fire crackers. Absolute mayhem. 

This happened maybe 5 or 6 more times during our expedition, each time increasing our determination. By this time, I had gone through my entire arsenal of flies, putting each one to the test. As the tide drained out, the fish headed out from the reef and we finally called it a day.

This was a pretty typical day out on the flats. Although we didn’t land any bonefish, it was an epic hunt. What made this day truly special was the camaraderie between us. Two guides from different parts of the world, hunting for bones in Hawaii and bringing crazy stories together. Some more gnarly than others.

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From Hawaii To the East Coast and Back Again

By Makani Christensen

I started Keawe Adventures and Fly Fishing Hawaii in 2008 after serving 10 years in the military. In 1998 I was accepted into the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Road Island. In the summer of 1999, I found myself checking into the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This was my first experiences with the humidity, snow, and a robust academic schedule. As a Hawaiian from the rural town of Hilo, Hawaii, I was not accustom to the people, academic workload, and everything else the East Coast had to offer.  I adjusted quickly and set my sights on accomplishing anything the Academy threw at me.  Then, on September 11, 2001, the world changed with the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. 

I was walking out of Ocean Engineering in Rickover Hall when I saw the commotion around a television on my way to my next class.  The second plane had just hit the World Trade Center.   I was a sophomore in the midst of my Systems Engineering degree with very little knowledge of Afghanistan, including its geographical location.  War was coming.  The Academy was on lockdown and classes were cancelled.  Everyone was on their phones.  There was a buzz of uncertainty.  We needed to talk to someone, I needed to call home, 4770 miles away, and let my parents and my sisters know I was ok. The phones lines were saturated with calls. Getting someone on the line was difficult.

Makani:  “Mom, did you see what happened?”

Mom: “No.”

Makani:  “Turn on the TV.”

Mom:  “Oh shit, holy moly, holy moly, Geez!”

Makani: “I’m ok everything will be fine.  I love you.  Let the rest of the family know I’m ok.”

Mom:  “Ok.  Are you sure you are ok?”

Makani:  “Yes, I’m fine.  I think a bunch of us are going to play tackle football.  Don’t worry! Everything will be fine.  I gotta go now.  Let everyone know I love them.”

This wouldn’t be the last conversation or email with family or loved ones explaining that everything was ok.  But this moment, September 11, 2001 was seared into my memory.  It was a surreal moment when the realities of why we were there started to sink-in.  For the next two and a half years, I worked hard on academics, but my path had changed.  I thought long and hard about my systems engineering major, and decided to change my major to Oceanography.  There was no need for systems engineer where I was going.  

My last year at the academy, 2002-2003, I decided to be a part of “the few, the proud, the Marines.”  Out of a class of 1000, only 160 signed up to join the Marines. We went through many interviews just to be considered. At the time, it seemed like they were only taking the best of the Academy.  I was nervous, and thought I might not get in.  There was no way, I wanted to be on a ship, but  I thought that would be torture, to see the ocean everyday and not be able to fish or surf.  A few years later, I realized that during the time of war, enrollment into the Marines drops significantly, and the Marines may have been taking anyone willing at that time. 

In 2003, I graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelors of Science degree in Oceanography. I removed my summer whites and downed the Marine Corps Dress Blues. My mother and sisters pinned my shiny new second lieutenant bars on my lapels.  It was only two and a half years ago when I had the conversation with my mother letting her know everything will be fine.  Joining the Marines affected them in many ways, but they didn’t show it. They knew that when the twin towers were attacked, I would go to war.  

I started my training at The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.  I knew for a fact that I do not like the cold.  This point was reaffirmed during our week long tactical movement through the forest of Quantico. It was early fall going into winter, and the weather started to move south.  A few cold fronts had already moved through, but in Virginia the temperature would drop to 32 and back up to 70 degrees the next day. It looked like it was going to be okay.  

The first and second day of the week-long exercise consisted of a 20+ mile march with our 60lb packs, Mount Training, and Convoy Operation.  The mount facility is a bunch of cement buildings, where we would practice breaching the building and killing everyone inside. We simulated the exercise by converting each weapon to fire 9-mm paintball rounds.  We split into teams and took turns being the aggressor and the defender. There was nothing to convoy operations! We loaded the vehicles and when someone yelled contact right, we stoped the vehicle, off loaded, and returned fire.

The third day, we patrolled all day.   Walking through the forest setting up Op-Orders based on intel that our cadre would feed us.  We practiced digging fox holes, we practiced navigation, we practiced hand signals.   We practiced everything in the Marine Corps manual for infantry men.  

With less than a couple hours of sleep a night, I found myself losing track of how many days we were in the field. We conducted live fire exercises, while moving by day and by night. This made everyone nervous. There was always a chance of some Lieutenant tripping and discharging his weapon in the wrong direction.  It is a good thing we had safety instructors keeping us online. After a while, I started to feel more at ease with the live fire exercise.  It started to grow on me.   Having a live round in the chamber and shooting our weapons amongst a platoon of second lieutenants started to feel normal.  

The next day, we started walking again. This time it started raining.  We got to our objective and set up an ambush position.  Everyone started to dig foxholes to set up their defensive position with their standard issued E-Tool.  The E-Tool is an entrenching tool, which probably has not changed much since WWII.  At this point the sky turned dark, and then we heard a crack in the air.   It started pouring!   You could see lightning bolts jumping all around us.  Hitting trees not far from our position.   The hair on my arms started to stand up.  We had just survived live-fire training, now this?  The lightning got so bad, that our cadre had us stack our rifles.  Everything was soaked!  This was my first experience with hail.   Small balls of ice pelted our position for a good 5 minutes. Then, the temperature dropped.  The rain turned into snow.   And every puddle turned into ice within hours. Everything wet froze.  I promise, leather boots are not waterproof, as they seem to be.  It wasn’t long before we got our next order to move out. 

During one of the final movements of the exercise, everyone was issued laser-tag equipment.  Our weapons were rigged with a laser that would fire every time we fired a blank round.  We reached our ambush location in the evening.  The winds started to pick up.  The winds were strong and it was cold!  From what was reported, the wind-chill that night was minus 17 degrees.  To this day, I am not a fan of the cold.

Our training at The Basic School prepared us for war and leading Marines. This is only a small portion of the training required by young Marine Officers. Each of us were soon deploying to our units around the country to be a part of the War on terrorism. Our training imbued the concept that every Marine is a rifleman. No matter your specialty, you are trained to be a rifleman first.

My job, or specialty, was Supply Officer or the Military Occupation Code (MOS) 3002.  When asked by the instructor what I wanted to do in the fleet, I responded, “I want the hardest job, I want the job people get fired from.” Without hesitation the instructor responded, “Supply Office.”  I’ll take it.  I continued my follow-on training at Camp Johnson, North Carolina. Where I studied supply chain management.  Then, headed back to Hawaii for my first duty station. 

Within four months of arriving at my first unit and checking into the Third Battalion, Third Marines we deployed to Afghanistan. The four months leading up to the deployment, I worked had. This was the first time that everything I did impacted a battalion of 1500 Marines. Contracts for training in 29 palms, contracting at Pohakuloa, transportation, Sapi Plates (body armor), up armor for vehicles, and a ton of individual equipment ordered and delivered before we arrived in Afghanistan. To this point of my life, these four months were the hardest I had ever worked. We were the first Marine unit to deploy to War from Hawaii. This was the main reason I started the company in 2008.

I was back in Hawaii, but not really.

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Fishing with Ben – 12 Feb 2019

By Makani Christensen

YOUTUBE

I had the opportunity to guide Ben on one of our Half Day Fly Fishing trips for bonefish.  A storm had just swept through the islands, causing the water temperature to drop by at least 3 degrees.  The fish had disappeared off the reef.  We had about 4 good shots at fish, and saw about 15 fish throughout the day.  We managed to catch this fish at Fraggel Rock using the Big Trouble in Little China fly, which has extra-large green eyes.  

Leading up to the day, Ben and Roberta had contacted me about their trip to Honolulu. We exchanged some emails and I was able to set fly fishing expectations. When the amount of fish on the reef is limited, it is important to have things to talk about.   The conversations dove into the history of the islands and what we ate for dinner.  We talked about politics, kids, and weather. At the same time, we were always looking for the the next bonefish, hoping that a fish would pop-up in front of us and give us a perfect opportunity to present the fly.  

Some of the flies that Ben created were based on conversations and photos sent back and forth before he arrived on the islands. Every fly fishermen artist has a unique fingerprint or style of their creation.  He would send a picture over, and I would respond with, “let’s try that one” or “might want to redo that one.” I was just as excited as Ben about this fishing trip. We tried a few of his creations, which were likely to work, but ended up hooking this fish on one of my go-to flies.   

“Ben, let’s try one more spot.”  I may have said about 3 or 4 times during the day, hunting for the bonefish on the reef. We needed a good shot. I wasn’t satisfied with the shots we had, and we were determined to catch a fish.   

We approached one of the spots on the reef that I unofficially dubbed Fraggel Rock. If you ask other guides the location of Fraggel Rock, you may get the deer-in-the-headlights look. I asked Ben to tighten the drag because of the coral heads. The area is a bed of loose and broken coral the size of a football field with a few giant coral heads.   To the left and right of this bed of coral is no-mans land.  If the fish ends up in this area you will lose the fish.   

With the glare in our eyes, I saw a bone swimming in.  

I called out, “Ben, cast 15 yards at 12 o’clock!”

Ben punched the fly 4.5 yards in front of the fish. Perfect!  The fish reacted to the fly and rushed.  With a couple slow strips, the bonefish was on!  The rod looked like it was ready to snap.  Ben, an experienced fishermen, held the rod low to keep it from breaking. 

Something was wrong! The fish was no longer pulling the line. The backing wrapped over the outside of the reel.  Possibly a bird nest that fit through the groves of the reel? Looking at the video you can see the video go sideways.  The only way to fix the problem with the line was to take the reel apart.  With a quick fix the fight was on again.  

Ben wrangled the fish in. You could see the “stoke” or pure joy in hooking one of these bonefish in Ben’s body language, smile and voice. Success! For a few minutes after the fish was caught, Ben mentioned the “shake.”  The “shake” is the result of adrenaline pumping through the body due to pure excitement.  

This marked another successful fly fishing trip for bonefish in Hawaii.  After a few pictures and the successful release of this elusive Hawaiian bonefish, we called it a day. Of course, we took a few more shots on the way back! We headed back to the boat with the images of the day seared into memory.  

Makani:   “Hey Ben, did you see the Eat?”

Ben: “Yeahman!”

Here fishy, fishy, fishy! Here fishy, fishy, fishy!