Setting the Hook While Dry Fly Fishing: A Lesson Inspired by Hawaii’s State Fish

I’m not the first writer to offer a lesson on patience when setting the hook while fishing dry flies, but … Continued

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I’m not the first writer to offer a lesson on patience when setting the hook while fishing dry flies, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be the first to do it like this…

I went diving again today off Kaua’i, where I encountered the state fish of Hawaii.

It’s called a humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

I’m not making that up. In fact, I can actually pronounce this now, because I practiced it in my head as I was blowing bubbles and finning my way through the reef, some 70 feet deep. You start with the “humu” and double it, then add a double “nuku,” then say “apu,” and finish with “a’a” (kind of like the sound you make when you wag your finger and imply “don’t do that” to a toddler). It’s a beautiful fish actually, though it’s name means something like “the fish that grunts like a pig when it goes away.”

Which got me thinking about my bird dog, Reba, who makes that noise when her nose is working. The brainstorm, however, was that I realized I’ve had it all wrong when it came to naming my gun dogs. I’ve always been told that the short, distinct names were best. I’ve had a Tess, and a Belle. Reba was kind of a breakout with two syllables, but she was a neurotic redhead from the start, so that one just fit.

Anyway, I decided to name my next dog Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. I figure if I actually took the time to pronounce the dog’s name out loud every time a bird flushed, I would slow down my shooting mechanics, be more patient, and thus become a better shot than the impulsive snap-shooter I am now. Besides, I’d like to see how Orvis would handle Humuhumunukunukuapua’a on an embroidered dog bed.

And that train of thought actually reverted back to fly fishing (because everything in my life ultimately circles back to fly fishing, even when I am scuba diving in the ocean). I thought of how many strikes get missed by anglers who rip the fly off the surface at the first subtle hint of a rise. How simple this sport would be if anglers would simply slow down and say “humuhumunukunukuapua’a” when fish rise, before setting the hook. It seems so obvious to me that a catchy word like this could work wonders. Where’s the fun in “One-Mississippi,” when you could go large with humuhumunukunukuapua’a? Seriously… belt that one out loud with your friends watching from the bank, and stick a big brown on a dry, and you will no doubt become an urban legend.

That’s my plan anyway. But maybe that will change when the nitrogen levels in my body stabilize.