“Ka ulua kapapa o ke kai loa”
The ulua fish is a strong warrior.
                 -Hawaiian
proverb
“Kayden, once you get da taste fo’ ulua fishing’,
you no can tink of anyting else!”
                                                      – From Ulua: The
Musical, by Lee Catalun
No amount of reading will ready you for the first time you come face-to-face with a bruiser fish in shallow water. No amount of day dreaming will help you understand your emotions the first time that the water where your fly was erupts in an explosion of aggression. Nothing can ever prepare you for this; the first time you do battle with Caranx Ignobilis in shallow water.
To define a piece of water as a flat, the said piece of water needs to be of substantial size and should have an average depth, depending on tide, of between ankle and waste deep. If you can’t comfortably wade and cast a fly across them, they are no longer flats.
As far as the imagination… Nick Filmalter prospecting…
Flats fishing of any kind, whether it’s that shallow area at the head of the big lake up the road or those endless areas of tropical sand and grass of the Seychelles, seem to send flyfishermen into a quiet revelry in which day dreams of sight casting to big cruising fish proliferate. I have had an infatuation with flats since I started fishing, which pretty much adds up to my entire life. I remember chasing trout fingerlings around the tails of Natal trout streams. And I do realise that the shallows of a trout stream probably don’t qualify as flats but in the mind of 4 year old, they stretch to imagination’s
end. I still can’t get enough shallow water fishing – hence the reason for moving out to the Seychelles for awhile!
Now couple the endless flats of a tropical atoll with big, angry GTs and you have a fishing spot built for those with strong hearts and adventurous souls.
The GT is THE man on the flats. He swims around with the attitude and swagger of the top dog. He’s King Rat and he knows it. The split second change in temper as cruising fishing becomes hunting fish. The unbridled aggression when he smashes baitfish. The absolute distain he shows for anything smaller (or larger) than himself highlights why he is the apex predator of the flats.
The ulua, as it is know in Hawaii, was so believed to be such a fine warrior that women were banned from eating it. It was believed to be a god which the commoners were not allowed to catch.  Such was the respect and awe lavished on the ulua by the ancient Hawaiians that it was even used as a human sacrifice when no satisfactory human was available! *
This is truly a fish of mythic proportions. Growing to 1.7m and up to 80kg it has the ability to not only make a fly fisherman go weak at the knees but to also give his ego a severe thrashing. Stories of smashed leaders and rods are not uncommon and many a fisherman has paid the price that is inevitable when doing battle with a god.

Top LandR:

Middle: GT rage.

Bottom: Peter Coetzee: taming the gods!

Fishing for him can seem a fool’s errand. Armed with thin piece of graphite, some Teflon or cork to slow the screaming run and a curved piece of metal that just seems too fragile to halt the beast you slowly stalk the vast expanse of turtle grass and sand. Wading along the push of the tide, you need to read the water and ask where the king will find his meal – he’ll be swimming against the current, into the oncoming bait. Your fly needs to be big. My personal favourite is a Black Brush Fly tied on an 8/0 Gamakatsu SL12S.  However, a hungry GT will eat most well presented patterns. When you are hooked up, the best advice is to give as good as he gives: pull him as hard as you dare and try not to let him run. If he gets
some head, consider the fight lost! Best make sure that your knots are perfect…

Cradling addiction.

I have experienced this primal predator in a personal capacity and can only say that I’m addicted to hunting him. I’ve been brought to my knees by $this fearsome fish and I know that I won’t always win the fight. But just as nothing will prepare for your first time, after your first battle is over, nothing will take away the nagging need to fight and beat this fish in the shallows of the flats.

To fight another day.
* Rick Gaffney and Associates, Inc. (2000). “Evaluationof the status of the recreational fishery for ulua in Hawai‘i, andrecommendations for future management”.Division of Aquatic Resources Technical Report (Department of Land and Natural
Resources, Hawaii) 20-02:
1–42. Retrieved 2009-09-14.