Sunday, March 7, 2010

A conversation with Capt. Chris Asaro

After 14 years of successfully exploring and fishing the Everglades National Park and Florida Keys, Capt. Chris Asaro has relocated to Oahu.

Tell me about the bonefish in Hawaii?

Where do I start? First of all, I had no intentions of bonefishing let alone guiding. I didn't even bring a speck of tackle from Florida! I heard rumors about massive fish but figured it was deepwater fishing with no flats, typical of most mountainous islands in the Caribbean.

After being top guide in the 2004 IGFA Rolex Inshore World Champion
ship, basically due to my bonefish specialty, and placing in the top three, the first three years of the Key Largo ghost hunt [which was one of the only money bonefish tournaments in the Florida Keys], I figured it had to be all downhill. I also had a back issue and wanted very little to do with poling another skiff for a living.

Enter Capt. Terry Duffield! I saw his very professional website – and accomplishments. Needless to say, I was more than curious, so I called him. We got chatting and he knew many people I knew, even guided legendary anglers from Florida that I had guided.

So we hit it off very well and he took me out to show me the ropes. I was floored how amazing the fishery was. Red mangroves, rock hard flats with seagrass, every crustacean imaginable crawling and shooting all over the place. I never got to see this in Florida because nearly every flat I fished was super-soft, muddy, turtle grass. But the really kicker was the amount of giant bonefish tailing and finning as you can now attest!

The bonus was the spectacular mountainous scenery and lack of humidity even on the warmer calm days. I must remember to drink water even though I rarely broke a sweat. At night in the summer it gets so cool that our Florida butts close every window in our house! In the winter, the water doesn't go below 75 degrees so there is no lull in the action typical of Florida.

So Coach [Capt. Duffield] took me under his wing and the rest is history. I do his 'wading only' trips out of a brand new cat boat and he does the heavy poling from the only custom Kevlar flats boat on the island [Andros skiff]. I think we really complement each other and am forever in his debt!

One of the first times we fished together for fun, he nailed an 11lb + beauty on his own 'plate lunch special' crab pattern.

I know you were a guide in the Florida Keys before you moved to Oahu, are there similarities or differences between both fisheries?

Well first of all, big bone are big bones where ever you go, not the easiest for even the seasoned bonefisherman. Similarly, to the upper Keys, it is difficult to find tiny fish. They are all beasts, weight fish as they call them in tournaments [over 8lbs]. Sure there are some 3-7 lb fish and they are much easier than the biggies.

The fish here are very much creatures of habit just like the Keys. But Hawaiian bonefish are an entirely different species, much longer and sleeker. This gives the potential for a much heavier fish. One thing that is very nice is the lack of anglers in general here in Hawaii.

Many days you can go all day without seeing another boat yet alone angler reminding me of the exploration trips I took to the Abacos. One nice difference that I already mentioned was the lack of dead time in the winter. In Florida, late December through the end of February the water temperature dips below 70 degrees and for the most part bonefish stay in deeper warmer gulfstream waters making it a waste to even target them. This doesn't happen in Hawaii sure we get fronts but the water never gets cold enough to drive them away.

What do anglers need to know about targeting these bonefish?

Typical of any island, it gets windy, so be prepared. The nice thing is the fish become less spooky when there is a chop and long casts are not needed. But you must be prepared to back cast and stay positive.

I suggest to all my anglers even the really good casters to practice casting on very windy days. And use one of your biggest flies [with the hook point cut off for safety of course] as a 'batting doughnut'. This will keep you from getting flustered when it's blowing 20-30 and tails are everywhere.

Other than that, bring a very positive attitude because no matter how many fish you spook the next one has no idea and could be 'the fish of a lifetime' you always dreamed of!

The Hawaiian bonefish are what I call 'inshore marlin' and you just aren't gonna get one everytime out. But the hunt and experience is incredible! Landing you first 10 lb + trophy is the icing on the cake!

What is the best time of year to go fish in Hawaii?

That’s simple! Whenever you can, but seriously, summer is when we see the most fish. The trick is watching the weather and coming last minute when we get Kona winds [lighter winds from the southwest]. Wind patterns can get locked in for weeks at a time. But as I said, the fish are far less spooky when there is some kind of wind.

The key is just being prepared for it. Most people come here for a wedding or family vacation and want to sneak away for a day or two of fishing. We will move clients around if possible to ensure the best weather and tides.

You've been a saltwater fly fishing guide for a number of years, what separates successful anglers from the unsuccessful?

That’s an easy one! Experience and preparation! Some of the best Hawaiian bonefisherman are steelheaders.
They fish big water with wind all day long only to get skunked the majority of the time and love every minute of it. This is the attitude that works best anywhere you go. There are some legendary anglers in Florida. Most either have their own skiffs or have logged countless hours on the water with legendary guides or both!
But the one common thing is they are prepared and love days when they get skunked just as much as days they catch! They treat every shot the same. With a maximum effort and the confidence that always has them in 'the game'.
An open minded positive attitude, willingness to listen, learn and try new and innovative things are mandatory. Bonefishing is actually quite basic for the most part like most all sight fishing. You keep the food on the plate making it look as real as possible at the most crucial times. On super calm days they can almost be impossible. On those days have clients take the cast out of the equation and guess where they will be next leading them a ton. With the fly sitting on the bottom, we wait for the fish to swim over it. Then, one very hard sharp strip as if he spooked it up, and then he pounds it as it tries to get back to the bottom and hide. It’s that simple!

Can’t wait to see you next time!

Chris Asaro is reachable at

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