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USA

Rainbows in Paradise -  Wild Trout in Kauai

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Rainbows in Paradise - Wild Trout in Kauai

An Dinh

Seeing trout swimming in such a lush tropical world is breathtaking.

Seeing trout swimming in such a lush tropical world is breathtaking.

I'm in Kauai, I remind myself again.  Just as I did stepping off the airplane and seeing the postcard views in every direction.  Hooking a native trout is out of the question on this tropical island,  so I'll have to be content with wild fish finning in a surreal verdant jungle freestone.  

Is it still a free stone if the stream bed is volcanic?   You'll find wading is treacherous. Somehow these volcanic rocks act like coarse grit sand paper to your bare skin but have just enough slime on them for you to ice skate precariously from rock to rock up the stream.  I make a mental note to bring a wading staff and aluminum spikes or barred soles for the next foray.

All of my serious fishing gear was left at home to make room for board shorts, flip flops and beach towels.  A compromise I made for my wife and daughter.  We can vacation someplace they will enjoy and maybe I will squeeze in some fishing while they soak in the sun at Anini beach.

A fine mist gives way to heavier rains.  The road was dry on the way up Waimea Canyon but will soon be as slick as these lava rocks.

A fine mist gives way to heavier rains.  The road was dry on the way up Waimea Canyon but will soon be as slick as these lava rocks.

Hawaiians refer to foreigners and visitors from afar as "Haole".  Over time It's been urbanized and pronounced like "howlie".   Probably by the same people it's meant to christen.   Both phrases are similar enough, I guess, and they certainly express the sentiment well.  How, Lord, did all these fancy pants foreigners get here?  We are in the middle of the  Pacific Ocean!

At some point one of these Haole sunbathers eventually tired of sipping umbrella'd cocktails from coconuts. Even in paradise you eventually crave mementos from home.

So they bring trout. 

I'm not talking about the stocked rainbow clones that fisheries managers all over the world put in reservoirs for the locals to catch on bait.  Hawaii stocks on the order of 15,000 rainbows in Pu 'u Lua Reservoir and many of these larger fish move into the streams and ditches that feed into it. (By the way, if you need numbers or inches to satisfy your urges, then stick to the reservoirs between June and September for 12-20 inch hatchery trout)

Since we landed I've been hankering for wild colorful gems that since 1920 have been left to frolic and multiply in the cold clean  waters tucked unimaginably in the rainforest atop Kokee State Park in Kauai.  

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That's why I find myself trading in my sandals and Lilikoi seltzers for wading boots and a Tenkara rod when hours before I was enjoying the beach made famous in the movie South Pacific with my wife and daughter.

Back home my holy grail is hooking into a native Bonneville cutthroat in its ancestral waters.  Mostly I catch the Hoales of the Utah streams - rainbows, browns, and brook trout.  I usually console myself with the notion that the fish I've just caught was at least born in this creek and has never seen the inside of a turkey baster, test tube or hatchery - it's a wild trout.  And I'm absolutely sure of this more than half of the time since I don't see any telltale signs of fin clipping or the dull colors of pellet fed fish.  

There are bigger fish in the 14-16 inch range skulking in plunge pools, if you can manage a cast without snagging on vines, ferns, roots and rocks.

There are bigger fish in the 14-16 inch range skulking in plunge pools, if you can manage a cast without snagging on vines, ferns, roots and rocks.

A deeply held assertion among anglers is the belief that a wild animal takes on the energy of its natural home through the minerals, crustaceans, and buggy things it consumes.  I'm betting that the freshwater shrimp in Kauai's streams and the minerals from the lava rock and the red sand and the constant start and stop mist and rain meld into a feisty finned treasure.

The water gets skinny fast but is deep enough to hold fish up to 12 inches.   This is the pocket water I love.

Where the stream narrows, I find the perfect little pocket...a line of bubbles...a single cast crouched below a boulder...

Where the stream narrows, I find the perfect little pocket...a line of bubbles...a single cast crouched below a boulder...

An angler must take it on faith that perfect holding water has at least one fish if not an entire pod waiting for a gift from the heavens.

Wham! This fellow hit my dry just as it touched down.  This is one of the most beautiful fish I have ever caught.

Wham! This fellow hit my dry just as it touched down.  This is one of the most beautiful fish I have ever caught.

I whooped so loud when I felt my line come tight that I started to laugh.

Now this is paradise. 

The SKINNY on Kauai Trout

  1. Focus on the headwaters of Waimea canyon if you want wild trout, there are trail maps at the Kokee Museum and lodge or online.
  2. Stick to the Reservoirs from June to September for bigger stocked trout
  3. Do not attempt to fish these streams without 4 wheel drive, there are several sections where you cross moving water up to 6 inches deep.  The roads to the streams are one lane only which means if you meet another jeep, one of you has to back up on a slippery mud slope until you can find a pullout.  You could hike in or mountain bike in depending on how fit you are.
  4. Nigel Warrack  is a young enthusiastic guide who can get you to this area in his Land Rover if you and the wife rented convertible.
  5. Be prepared for rain - there was no forecast for rain, yet it rained pretty hard at times,  and as soon as I came down the mountain the rain stopped and the road was dry all the way back to Princeville.
  6. Small Rods are perfect like 9 foot or less.  Think the Tenkara USA Rhodo, I fished my Soyokaze 27SR.
  7. Short Lines are best - I fished an 8 foot #4 level line.
  8. Cast to pocket water for fast fishing - dries, nymphs, kebaris will all work
  9. Trout in the deeper pools liked little olive green wooly buggers.  They did inspect my size 10-12 kebaris but never inhaled it.
  10. Bring wading boots with Simms alumabite cleats or Korkers alumatrax bar style soles - the wading and hiking is treacherous.
  11. Bring a wading staff
  12. Don't wear shorts - first of all you will freeze - it gets super cold at the top of the canyon especially when you are wet.
  13. Rain Gear is a must
  14. Wild ginger chokes many of the headwater streams making wading impossible - skip these spots
  15. If you want more specific directions, you will have to come fish with me sometime.