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Tenkara in Hawaii: Kauai Rainbow Trout with the Hane

On July 19, 2018
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Kauai Trout with the Hane

by Adam Trahan

Tenkara USA hane tenkara rod in Hawaii

I enjoy tenkara in far away places, and Kauai has been on my list to for quite some time. Tenkara USA recently released the Hane, a compact and robust tenkara rod; my trip to Kauai would be a great inaugural adventure for mine. As with any far away trip, I planned this one out months in advance, but I knew I would be using this rod as soon as I saw it the first time.

Hawaii fly fishing trip

Trout are not native to Hawaii. They have been introduced. There are trout on at least four of the islands, O’ahu, Maui, Kauai and the big island. The original stocking of the streams in Kauai are well documented and were studied over a hundred years ago. At this time, there are at least three streams on Kauai that contain trout. The trout in these streams are “wild” trout naturally reproducing from the original stocking in 1920. At that time, 50,000 rainbow trout eggs that originated from Montana and Utah arrived in Honolulu harbor on a ship that carried them from California. The eggs were then transported to Kauai were they were taken to a hatchery to hatch the trout fry for introduction into the headwater streams of Waimea Canyon.

Packing a tenkara rod
As with all of my travel, I put together a minimal pack list for fishing the mountain streams. I am a tenkara fisher that enjoys the effective minimalism in tenkara. The equipment of this simple method of Japanese fly fishing can be succinctly described as “rod, line and fly.” Japanese tenkara is a form of fixed line mountain stream fishing for trout and what I’ll be doing in Kauai fits the description perfectly. I have quite a bit of travel experience using a tenkara fishing kit that is easy to pack inside of a small backpack. The rod is telescoping and the line is fixed to the end of the rod and it is lightweight yet easy to pin point cast. Tenkara is perfect for travel and I have pared down my kit from experience and use a tiny fishing bag that holds a little fly box, three card spools of different lines and a nipper as well as a Derf needle driver (forcep) for removing deeply swallowed flys.

The freshwater fishing regulations for Kauai require a license. This can be purchased online and if you are camping in the area at one of the few remote campsites, you will need a permit. I could have just camped but the logistics of my vacation did not support taking my camping kit. The cheap economy rental car will get me close enough to the streams and I can park and hike the rest of the way. If I am successful in catching the trout on day one, I can use day two for exploring the island. I’m equipped for hiking and snorkeling too and there is a lot to do in Kauai.

Hawaii Trout in Kauai
I enjoy the “plan your work and work your plan” method for my adventures. This helps me stay focused on my goal with room to make dynamic decisions based on the conditions of travel. The target area is rainy so I chose a lightweight rain jacket and a rain skirt for my kit. I also use a compact daypack and keep my things in a dry bag. The area of trout is epic for hiking and photography so it is my intent to catch a few trout in a couple of the streams and move on. I want to sample fishing in the streams, enjoy Kauai, and move on to the family portion of our vacation.

I had my GPS on the phone and it took me an hour plus to get to my destination. The pack comes off, I rig and rest. The stream is choked with a thorn berry plant, sticky sharp wiry vine type tanglefoot and slick mud slopes, volcanic rocks here and there but I can see the trout in the coffee colored stained water. I thread a cast and drift a half second and STRIKE! On my first cast! But I miss him, and several others. I know I’m going to catch fish but when? I try to move along the stream but I’m tired and tense. I finally catch one, then two, falling into the rhythm of a tenkara angler.. I caught about a half dozen trout before the hike back.

It is pretty straight forward catching trout in Kauai but the area is filled with caveats. There are clues here and there online, information and anglers that have written about their trips but be cautious and know your limitations. Research, make a plan and execute it but be careful, you could make a huge problem for yourself just bushwhacking in the jungle. Make sure you know what you are doing and more importantly, draw limits for yourself and stay within them

Hawaii mountains tenkara fishing

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