a few sundays ago, i decided that i would tie this shrimp pattern that i used to use to fly fish for menpachi or soldier fish. for those not in the know, the menpachi is a red nocturnal fish that is a very popular target for hawaii fishermen (just google menpachi and see how much stuff comes up). despite having a TON of bones, the menpachi is an extremely popular food fish among locals.
pink 'pachi shrimp fly.
orange 'pachi shrimp fly.
tying these flies took me back to my slightly younger days to a period of time when i used target the menpachi with my fly rod. my fishing friends all thought i was crazy and chasing this fish made for many very interesting fly fishing experiences. although these relatively small fish eat flies well, there are a few things about them that make them quite challenging to get on a fly rod.
the spoils of a night out on the rocks (circa 1998)
the first thing that makes menpachi challenging is that, these days, they are pretty hard to find especially from shore on oahu (did i mention they are a popular food fish). so just finding them on any given night can be tricky.
another thing that makes these fish tough on a fly rod is that the menpachi is a reef fish and the reefs they like tend to be extremely rocky and often times in areas where the sea is very rough. for the fly fisher, fishing these conditions require superior line control. you have to stay focussed and know where your line is at all times. this goes for the line in the water as well as the line out of the water. one must always be ready to pick up the entire line from the water to avoid a crashing wave tangling your eighty dollar fly line on super sharp rocks. when that happens, it is rare to get your line back whole and impossible to get it back with the coating unscathed. the same goes for the line out of the water. if the line in your basket happens to fall out even once, there is a good chance that it will end up fubar (f_cked up beyond any recognition). needless to say, a lot of my fly lines were left on the battlefield.
if that all still sounds like fun to you, then here is the gear you'll need:
- a six to eight weight rod. i liked an eight weight for the line control properties in rough and windy conditions. also preferably a cheap one. 'pachi grounds are no place for a thousand dollar set up.
- a nine or ten foot leader. i used to use a basic two fly nymph rig. i would use a corky indicator when fishing rougher waters where i would just let the flies drift and bounce around in the chop and surge. in calmer conditions when i stripped the flies more i would not use an indicator.
- a tiny glow stick attached to the connection between your fly line and leader can be very helpful with casting and line management in the dark.
- a stripping basket. absolutely necessary. not an option.
- a good head lamp.
- good rock hopping footwear. whatever kind you trust your life with the most. it get's pretty sketchy out there.
- some menpachi flies. my favorite was my 'pachi shrimp in glow pink, orange, or fluorescent yellow. i used to tie a ton of them for myself and my friends. they worked quite well whether fly fishing, bottom fishing off a boat, whipping, throwing golf ball (a popular local rig where an actual golf ball is used as weight with a spinning outfit), or whatever your preferred "red fish" method may be.
- good medical insurance. the last time i ever fly fished for menpachi i fell on the rocks, split my head open, and spent the rest of the night at the emergency room. i had no health insurance back then so a bunch of stitches and some insane medical bills later, my menpachi fly fishing days were over.
you gotta fish at night for these guys. back in the day this was not a problem for me. instead of going to the bar, we would just grab some taco bell and go fish. now that i am a middle aged guy who is pretty much done with his day at around nine... night fishing? yeah, that's not going to happen.
other creatures you may run into while fishing for menpachi include:
the aweoweo. photo: alohafrom808
the awa 'aua (ladyfish).
the alaihi (squirrel fish).
the menpachi papio (bigeye jack).
the upapalu (hawaiian spotted cardinal fish). photo: theislandgirleats
yes, and even this guy, but that is a story for another time.
a younger bleary eyed menpachi fishing clay. yes that is a powell peralta t-shirt that i am wearing.
yep, all of those thoughts, emotions, memories and much more just from tying a few flies. sean was a bit puzzled about why i spent time tying menpachi flies when i haven't fished for menpachi in years and i have so many other flies to tie... well sean, that's why. good times.
brought to you by the good folks at Nervous Water Fly Fishers, Inc.
3434 Waialae Avenue Honolulu, Hawaii 96816