Fly Fishing Trout on the Koaie – Kauai, Hawaii
In the past 6 years I had made 3 trips to koaie stream, located in the Alakai swamp in the kokee area of the island of Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands…
It involves a 4 to 6 hour hike, up, over and down into some very difficult but the most beautiful country God ever created. A wonderland of ferns, trees, shrubs and flowering plants found no where else in the world, plus some of the best rainbow trout fishing anywhere in the USA… Got your attention – I thought so.
Originally we planned on the date of slept. 12 Th. 2001 – but we all know what happened on the 11th. Of that year, and so our trip was canceled… for a full year. No– we had not planned it that way – it’s just the way the cards fell…
OFF AND RUNNING
Ok fast foreword to our last trip in September, Three members of the trout unlimited Chapter ( Deane Gonzalez, Dr. Jim Dimarchi, and Andy Baker) Arrive on Kauai. A mutual friend, Tom Shaffer, who – with his 4-wheel drive jeep – deliver us to our “Jumping-off-place”– the end of “Camp ten road”, meets us. Here starts the “Mohihi- Waialae trail”, or I should say what is left of it. Hurricanes in 1982 and 1992 destroyed much of what was this scenic path; now only about the first 2 miles resembles anything of a well-traveled trail.
Let me say – just for the record, here and now, — if you want to make this trip, go with someone who has done it before…. The “trail” at points is dangerous, confusing, and turns into mud holes once you work your way into the Alakai swamp. It is VERY easy to get lost and you don’t want to get lost in the Alakai… 2nd. There is NO WATER once you cross the Mohihi stream. You will need a minimum of 70 oz. Of water to make the hike, carrying a full pack weighting 50 lbs. your next water source is the Koaie stream and the hike is about 4.7 miles – nothing to it eh? Oh yea, you tell them boss – I got news for you Buckwheat. – Beautiful as it is, you better be in shape, the first 1.25 miles is all UP HILL, then about 2.75 miles over difficult uneven tureen, then about .7 miles DOWN the mountain to the stream – BE PREPARED.
Remember, everything you will need to stay alive for the next 4 to 7 days you have to pack in: Some things like a tent, water purification pump, cooking equipment, you can share and split up the weight. Your food should be dehydrated meals or if you don’t mind the weight, MRE’s. They are great but too much weight for me. I use the “Mountain house” brand of freeze-dried foods. You can pick them up at Campmor, or REI mail order house. Just add boiling water to the plastic food pouch and Wa- Laa, you’re a gourmet Chef…
Make sure your tent is waterproof, it RAINES every day on the Koaie, and every night too… plus it gets cold once the sun goes down. I dress in silk “long john’s” at night, sleep in a “Kelty light” sleeping bag, and have a nice 3& #8260;4 length 2 inch thick, blow up air mattress. Come night time, you will be in your “hooch”” at 8 pm – and you want to be DRY and WARM… there is nothing worse than a long, dark night when your wet and cold – trust me, I been there.
Don’t forget a first aid kit, you WILL need it, a rain jacket, hat, and your fly vest to carry gear, lunch, and a water bottle. Filled with stream water you have BOILED or FILTERED. DO NOT drink water right from the stream – pigs pee in it – enough said.
All this gear can be … carried is an internal frame backpack, DON’T use an ex-eternal frame backpack, the trail is too uneven and they shift too much…. Trust me on this one.
Regarding your fishing gear, a 4 piece 5 weight pack able fly rod is best for you “Air beaters”… for you spin fisherman, a 3 piece 6 foot Pac-rod will do fine, if you want, — bring two rods, I guarantee you someone will break a rod before the trip is done – I have NEVER been on a trip into the back country that someone has not Broken a $ 700 dollar fly rod – just ask Andy Baker, he is a “Pro” at it.
Regarding fly’s and lures. For you fly fisherman, Bead heads, AKA the “John Earl special” work very well, if you don’t know what they are – attend a TU meeting, 3rd. wed. Of every month at the Willows Res. And find out – “Willy buggers” – black with the brass head also do well, for the Metal checkers (Spin casters) the “Jerry flies” killed them this past Sept. – use a # 2 BRASS SPIN BLADE, backed by a “Green grub” from “Jerrie’s Fly’s”- Our smallest trout went 17 inches, our largest was 20 inches – and was close to 5 lbs…. Not bad eh?
As you are dropping down the mountain, the “trail” is very narrow, slippery, and full of blackberry thorns – you will be swearing every foot of the way, what will keep you going is the sound of the stream. Oh yea, you can hear it loud and clear as you make your way down, carefully balancing your pack so you don’t go head- over-tea-cups, – TAKE IT SLOWLY, your not in a rush, one mistake and your screwed, No you can’t take a cell phone, it don’t work back there. So again I say – be careful.
Wading shoes, bring the best you got, oh yea, they add 2 extra pounds to your pack but don’t leave home with out them, you will live in them for 8 hours a day, and they are a must – Koaie stream is as slippery as greased owl S–. And if you have ever stepped in Owl S–, and I have, you know what I mean.
The Stream winds in a serpentine fashion for about 3⁄4 of a mile down stream. There are rips and nice pools all the way down until you come to majestic waterfalls – trails end. Yes, there is a way to get below then but unless you happen to be a mountain goat or named “John Earl’ don’t try it… – one look and you will see what I mean, it isn’t worth the risk. There is 2 days of fishing up stream from where you dropped down into the Koaie so plan one-day trip down stream, and two days of fishing up stream. This is what I recommend, but then that’s me – I fish S-L- O-W-L-Y, fact is I’m always bringing up the rear, that could be because I’m pushing 60 and all the rest of the guys are 20 years my Jr, OR it could be because I fish a pool from one end to the other, shallow and deep. I’ll pull BIG trout from a pool that the “Air beaters” just worked over – and I LOVE nothing more to see the look on their face – it’s what I live for!!
As you work your way up stream, you will find some Big pools that will knock your socks off, they are so big it’s 50 yards from one end of the pool to the other and – only God knows how deep…
How to get from one end to the other – well, that is a problem you are going to have to solve for yourself, I can tell you– it can be done, most times with ease, walk along the edge, oh you might be in water up to your belt buckle, but you will get around, OR if it is too deep, put your rod in your teeth and swim…. I told you were going to get wet!! And you will – so, wear 100 nylon clothing, they are light weight, and will dry out in 20 minutes – see, all the “Trade secrets” I’m giving you.
Work up stream for about a mile the first day, save the 2nd mile for the next day… you will know when you reach the end of the line when you reach the water falls, be very careful here, there is ALWAYS a 19 inch Rainbow under the first falls, the 2nd set of falls – forget it, there are NO trout up there, you have reached the end of the line… fish back down to camp.
It takes me about 3 hours to walk, with out stopping from the waterfalls back to camp – judge your time accordingly, you don’t want to be floundering around in the stream after dark, it’s just too hard to walk on those stones, and one more thing – use a walking staff when your in the stream, cut a Guava limb if you have too but with out a staff you will spend more time on your back – in the stream, than you will on your feet.
One of the many things you will notice about Koaie stream is the color, it looks like tea. Yea, dark tea. The water that forms the stream starts as rain fall on mount Waialeale, it’s 5080 feet high and is known as the wettest spot on earth. The rain filters through the Alaiaki swamp and takes on the “tea’ color,. We know from our “Trout study” that Koaie produces the largest biomass of insect life, aquatic and terrestrial, this makes for the production of BIG trout, simple – more food, bigger trout. It isn’t rocket science Boys…. The stream is self-producing, the Rainbows reproduce, some years more than others, it all depends on Rainfall, tempt. And water quality. This has been going on since the 1920 when Rainbows were first introduced to the streams on Kauai
You will find level ground above the “Range gage Station” on the other side of koaie stream, this is where we pitch our tents.
The range gage station can offer some shelter but it has been known to have rats crawling around at night, they don’t bother me unless they are over 5 lbs. But to more sensitive people the Rain gage station is a last resort.
There are no “port-a- potty’s” out there either, take care of business by burying “it” deep. I don’t want to come back there in a year and find some dick-head has taken a “Dump” where I pitch my tent, leaving a big sign saying “Look What I did” – oh yea, we get those types sometimes, I have known mushrooms that had more brains – so, leave NOTHING but your foot prints, and take NOTHING but pictures – that goes for the trout too – it’s catch and release…. Ok, OK maybe only ONE for the cook fire but it better be one that was hooked so bad it would not survive. Remember, for those of you who make the trip any trout you catch … will have been caught before… and you would not have the pleasure of catching them if someone had not released it. So do the same, take all the pictures you want, god knows I do, but then release the fish to fight another day. Or my wrath will be upon you – and you don’t want that – do you? This stream is NOT Choked with trout, they are there but normally one, two, maybe 3 per hole, it could be fished out fast if everybody just took what they caught – fortunately, it is so remote –I doubt that will ever happen but, those large trout – make little trout, I think you can do the math, So – catch and release – got it…?
Go back the same way you came in – We leave around 8 am after breakfast and making sure the camp sight is in the same condition we found it –
The climb out of the canyon is — easier than the climb down, it should take you about 50 minutes to one hour, use the roots as hand holds on your way up, it will be wet and slippery from the rain the night before but no big deal, you can do it…
Once “On Top” re-trace your steps back out – your foot prints will still be there, and Maybe on your way in you saw some of my flag markers, use them going out too. You should reach the Mohihi in 3 hours and that includes – three, ten, Minute rest stops where you can drop your packs and enjoy the sights, oh yea, those water falls you see on the other side of the valley are something – take a picture, drink it all in. you just been to Koaie…
NOTE: One of the things we like to do when we make this trip is on the way in, — as we cross the Mohihi stream– we leave a “Six Pack” in one of the deep pools.
On our way out – as a “Reward’ to ourselves for making the trip we drink the six Pac…. Oh that is NICE. It is sort of the carrot on a stick, in front of the horse. No matter how tired we are on the trail making our way out from the Koaie Stream, just knowing we got a cold beer at Mohihi makes it that easier to go that last mile…
Last but not least: You will need a “Camping Permit” to camp in the Forest reserve: Contact the Dept. of Land and Nat. resources, Div. Of forestry, yada, yada yada. Just call them at 1-808-274- 3433 for your permit – better yet, talk to me before you make that call… there are a few things I need to tell you – off the record. Just between us men. My phone number is 395- 4607 I’ll answer any questions you might have – that I did not address in this article:
Now go “getem” buckwheat!
By: Deane Gonzalez