By Léo Azambuja

Uncle Charlie demonstrates how to throw net at Smith’s Beach in Anahola.

Uncle Charlie demonstrates how to throw net at Smith’s Beach in Anahola.

It’s a hot midsummer afternoon in Anahola. Charles Blake Pereira, better known as “Uncle Charlie,” is standing at the edge of the water at Smith’s Beach, his eyes focused on the shorebreak.

“It’s gonna take a while to see that fish in that water,” said the 87-year-old master throw-net maker, the Hawaiian Pidgin strong on his voice. “The first thing you gonna see is, when the waves curl like this, you can see that fish, they get some fish like that, mullet, probably the āholehole shines a little bit, then the manini is green.”

Uncle Charlie holds the net with his left and right hands, in a complex configuration that is second nature to him. In one smooth motion, he springs his whole body and releases the net. It flies out of his hands forward and downward, opening up perfectly in mid-air and falling flat on the water. But there was no fish to be caught.

Uncle Charlie

Uncle Charlie

“My time, fish was plentiful, today it’s not; they had overcatch some of the fish,” he said.

It’s OK, though. Just by being at the edge of the water was an accomplishment for Uncle Charlie — it had been two years since he had thrown net. “My legs are slowing me down,” he says. That day, however, he threw net twice, and both times he managed to do it perfectly.

Uncle Charlie has been making throw nets since he was 12 years old. He has sold his nets to fishermen on eight Hawaiian Islands, including Ni‘ihau. Millionaires have bought his nets just to hang it on their walls as a work of art. His story has been featured in many books about the island, newspapers, fishing magazines and even in songs.

Back in 2009, he and his wife, Loke, were nominated Garden Island Living Treasures by the Kaua‘i Museum. That night, he counted 62 nets he had made since his first one. Three days after the museum’s tribute, his wife of 53 years passed away. Since then, he picked up the pace, and estimates he is close to 100 nets. Not an easy feat considering the time it takes to craft an 11-foot-wide throw net.