top of page


Screenshot 2024-03-20 at 1.01.00 PM.png

Good People - Good Water - Good Fish

Where do I start?  This trout fly fishing road trip is dedicated to the late Deane Gonzales, and this is where the story must begin.

Hawaii trout fishing has been on my bucket list for 20 years.  The timeframe stated that the internet was solid, but I needed help finding much information; I only saw one article about trout on the Big Island, which required more accurate information.  Slowly, I found more information, checking in once a year or so.  Eventually, I found the history of trout in the Hawaiian Islands in a blog.

Trout are not native to Hawaii but were introduced on at least four islands: O'ahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.  Sugar plantation owners first introduced rainbow trout to the Hawaiian island of Kauai around 1920.  While a tropical island would generally not be considered the most optimal trout habitat, the fish thrived in the cool, higher-altitude freestone streams of the remote Kokee region on Kauai's west side.  The other islands were not prosperous in reproducing the stocked trout.  Stocking occurred regularly on Kauai until abruptly discontinued in the early 90s due to concerns regarding the trout's impact on native damsel fly populations.  These days, stocking is limited to a single reservoir that receives relatively high fishing pressure during the short 3-month season—meanwhile, wild trout swim in the consistent tea-stained cold waters in remote mountain streams.  Wild trout in a jungle setting is unique and only revived in Costa Rica in my journeys. 

Since 2019, I have missed the existence of the Hawaii Chapter of Trout Unlimited and its website.  Also, about the same time, I stumbled on a fly guide that took people to Waimea Canyon, where the rainbow lives, but nothing came of it.  Lastly, I dug into blogs but needed help finding someone who could give me enough information to commit to a trip.   At least I knew there were trout.  The key was I needed something more concrete before I spent capital and time traveling across the Pacific Ocean.  

I met Deane Gonzalez on the Hawaii Trout Unlimited website.  Wow, my answers could be realized!  Deane had created dozens of fly fishing videos about Hawaii trout fishing and other locations worldwide.  His video gave me a great idea of Kauai Trout fishing.  Later, one of his friends told me he pioneered trout fishing in Hawaii, so I contacted Deane immediately.

From June 2023, we exchanged emails at least weekly.  In January 2024, we planned a four-day, four-night trip to the Waimea Canyon at his 1920 Rice Cabin.  We would revisit a section of rivers he had not visited in seven years and his favorite stream above and below waterfalls.  He promised me a Hawaii Trout and adventure.

But, in mid-November, I lost contact with Deane as he contracted bacteria in his bloodstream and Unfortunately died on February 4, 2024.  Before I could talk to him again, I cannot tell you how I was hurt; I lost my new friend. 

It was in late December when I tracked down his wonderful wife to find out about Deane's health issue; she quit the fisherman, too.  Trout is unimportant; the priority is friends and family,  but I was flying out on January 12 to Kauai, and I needed a strategy.  Lucky Deane had great videos, and where I needed to go through Google Maps and Google Earth, I would be alone was the only issue.  I was not too fond of hiking on non-official trails without a buddy in possible bad rainy weather.  Luckily, I contacted two fly fishing guides who had fished with Deane, and they gave notes and GPS coordinates, which aligned perfectly with my hunches!  When I contacted Nigel Warrack, he had not heard about Deane, and he spent about an hour telling me stories about when he met Deane at the age of 13.  He told me stories about himself, his friend, and Deane stocking trout, tracking trout, clearing streams, and fishing.  He had also been trying to contact Deane for a while.  Derek Draplin I met through an article I found and tracked him down in a fly shop in Colorado.  He looked at his notes and confirmed my assumptions.  I want to thank them both for sharing their worry about Deane and helping me.

OK,  now to the fishing.  Lauren and I arrived in Kauai a day late, spending a night in Oahu.  The delay was due to a light bulb in the cockpit and a Chicago blizzard, which caused us to miss our connection from Los Angeles to Kauai.  It is more reason to get out of the Midwest.  We arrived on Saturday just in time for the farmer's markets for fresh Hawaiian vegetables, fish, and a handmade t-shirt.  That night, we walked down from our Princeville condo to 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, a 5-star resort, for a large glass of Chardonnay and a look at Hanalei Bay. 

We spent four days on the north side of Kauri, going to beaches, kayaking, hiking, and eating local cuisine.  On day five, we booked a place on the island's south side on Shipbreak Beach next to a former Italian restaurant chef's.  Randell and I had many deep conversations on cuisine as I worked at a French restaurant many years ago.  Since we could not stay at the Rice cabin in the canyon, we found a place only an hour away.

Unfortunately, I caught a bad cold right before my journey to the mountain and the day I went to the fishing spot.  I did not feel great, and it was cold and raining.  My head was full of energy, but my body was slow.  I left our bungalow around 7 am, grabbing a breakfast sandwich from a food truck and a latte in the town of Waimea.  Waimea is a 30-minute drive to the Kōkeʻe Lodge, and across the lodge is a dirt road where a 20-minute drive is necessary to my fishing spot.

  The dirt road drive was better than planned, even though it was full of potholes, but I got a jeep, and to my surprise, it was reasonably straightforward.  The challenges in roads in Deane's video would come later.  The drive was about three miles until I got to the second bridge and my place to fish.  Everything I researched and visualized was precisely what I thought, which never happens.   I pulled over at the bridge running over the River Kauaikinana.  The river is more like a creek here.  The valley was white-washed with fog just above the tree line with spartic rain.  Ready, I hiked down to the river prepared with rain gear, hiking pants, wader boots, and a fluorescent orange baseball hat.  Orange, just so some wild pig hunters didn't shoot me.  Moving through the thorn bushes on a faded path, the stream opens up to layers of green hues of tropical palms, ferns, and canopies of tropical trees.  As in an oil painting, the variety of green values is from a lost world of dinosaurs.  The valley is plotted with water falling over Volkswagen-sized boulders.   I set up will black and blue shimmering wooly bugger targeting a small pool.  On my second cast,  a solid hit, and then it was gone!  Immediately, I generate a high-speed flashback of all the research and planning over 20 years that this is now real.  On my 3rd stroke, I lay the streamer perfectly above the whole,  a few strips, and fish on!!!  Hawaiian done after a few pictures of the 4-inch Wild Hawaiian Rainbow.

 Boulder hopping and climbing, you need to get up the stream.  I do this while throwing my fly in a shallow pool, hoping for some strike.  I felt what seemed like a strike several times but could not confirm it.  I climb over a wall of boulders and stumble on the most beautiful tropical oasis I have ever seen, a 50-yard trout pool resembling a waterfall screen from Jurassic Park.  Jurassic Park was partly filmed in Kauai.  This trout section is perfectly lined with tropical fauna, crystal clear water, and a possible trout along the way.   The water was super deep.  After fishing in pools only 2-3 feet deep, this water was far over my head.  I approached a massive boulder in the water to stand on, flicking my trout wand back and forth and laying it into the water as I waded.  I stumbled and fell into the water above my waist.  Fish on!  I am fighting a much larger trout with one hand on the rod and the other on my wader stick, so I don't fall over my head.  The unthinkable, I took my finger off the fly rod, why I don't know, and slack now exists; the trout swam off the hook and back into the pool.  I hooked five more fish and could see them through the ice water, but I could not land one.

I explored another 200 yards up the stream to a small waterfall that looked very promising, but nothing struck my line.  I thought about scaling up the cliff to see the other side of the waterfall, but it would take some strength, and I was cold, wet, and sick.  So, I started headed back, finding some trails that made it much more manageable.  I was ill but not too sick to drive back up the dirt road to the Koki's Lodge to change into dry clothes, a beer, and a local Hawaiian beef burger.

After an hour of rest, I will search for the black pipe and Koke'e Stream.   The road was a different path than the Kauainana.  The black pipe is part of the irrigation system created during the sugar cane plantation era.  I found all the clues left to me by Deane and Nigel: the main road,  the side road with down trees, and the black pipe path signs.  I decided to follow the path Nigel spoke of, but the side road would be better.  I was right.  Without a guide, I needed a couple of days of exploring, and as a rookie, I was bound to get lost.  But it took about 45 minutes longer because I went down the wrong way twice.  I felt I would return someday to this canyon, so I was OK returning to our bungalow by 3 pm as promised without finding the stream.  Little problem: my jeep got stuck in the mud; thank God, I could move the jeep into 4-wheel drive, and boom, I was out.   You need a jeep if you are going to explore the backroads.  

The four days of fishing didn't happen; Deane passed away before I could meet him and thank him for all his work to make my dream come true.  I can only pray to thank him and his wife, Donna, for this opportunity because I don't think it would ever happen. again.

bottom of page