Tony Soltys hooks up to a Picasso triggerfish while underwater fly fishing. Tony and 12-year-old grandson Alain Thomas Soltys-Gray landed and released all the fish they caught unharmed.

Tony Soltys hooks up to a Picasso triggerfish while underwater fly fishing. Tony and 12-year-old grandson Alain Thomas Soltys-Gray landed and released all the fish they caught unharmed.

Traveling Outside: Underwater fly fishing in Maui

Tony:

Recently, on a family trip to Maui, my grandson Alain and I decided to try fly-fishing not only for different species, but in a way we’d never even heard of. Instead of fishing from shore, we fished underwater.

Alain:

The fish were in deep water, so we swam out to where they were. We didn’t use a fly rod; instead, we just dropped our fly down to the fish straight from a fly reel as we snorkeled above them. We gave the fly the right movement to get them interested. It was pretty hard at first, because we used the flies my grandfather uses for bonefish at Christmas Island, but they didn’t work. So I had to tie up some of my own that the tropical reef fish would eat. Next, we had to jiggle the fly just right for the fish we spotted. It was great swimming with the fish and being able to see how they reacted to our flies and how we moved them.

After that we had to find some reefs that weren’t loaded with swimmers, swim through the surf and locate some hungry fish on coral reefs. We knew from visits to the Maui Aquarium that some of the reef fish were carnivores, and these were the ones we might interest in hitting a fly. Trumpetfish, needlefish, triggerfish, manybar goatfish, boxfish and trevally became our targets. We decided to ignore the scary looking moray eels. The numerous turtles, octopus, and solitary manta ray fortunately decided to ignore us, but were great to observe.

I like to fly fish, but this takes it to a whole new level. They were so hard to catch. I loved how you could see the fish and interact with them underwater. Also, we got to visit spots where there were fewer people. I noticed that for most of the fish we targeted I would have to jerk the fly and let it sink again and again while trolling (swimming quickly) around.

Tony:

We figured out this is a way to fly fish that we haven’t heard about before. The other tropical fish, turtles, octopus, and the fun you have snorkeling new reefs on Maui would make a no-fish-caught-day time well spent. It’s not a sure thing you’ll catch fish. In the three weeks we were there, we managed to catch several trumpetfish, needlefish and a few humuhumu (also called the Picasso triggerfish,) flounders, boxfish and goat fish. Those and plenty of other fish are still there, since we released all the fish we caught unharmed. Alain tried this new-to-us type of fly-fishing instead of enjoying the surfing and Grand Wailea water slides.

I must mention that although I, Alain’s 75-year-old-grandfather, used a snorkel, Alain free-dived. Much credit is due the Glacier Swim Club last year for making him so confident in the water.

Alain:

Next year I’d like to catch a humuhumu and more needlefish, but mostly to catch a trevalley. I haven’t made the right fly… yet!

• Tony Soltys is president of Juneau’s flyfishing group, Raincountry Flyfishers; Alain Thomas Soltys-Gray is Soltys’ 12-year-old grandson and a sixth-grader at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

A sea turtle checks out Alain Thoms Soltys-Gray and Tony Soltys, two Juneau flyfishers perfecting their underwater fishing technique.

A sea turtle checks out Alain Thoms Soltys-Gray and Tony Soltys, two Juneau flyfishers perfecting their underwater fishing technique.

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