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Clients Paul and father Brian Start recently returned from one of our Fly Odyssey Australia hosted trips to Christmas Island, in the Pacific. It still remains one of the best saltwater flats destinations for fly fishermen of all experience levels.
“I think that it is time to fish Christmas Island!” my father, Brian, announced after a casual drop into ‘The Flyfisher’ in Melbourne a few months ago. This casual statement started off a chain of events. We have been keen ‘Trouties’ for many decades, fishing New Zealand countless times, but this was going to be different. The trip to Xmas Island was run by James, from Fly Odyssey and was hosted by Russell and Scotty from The Flyfisher in Melbourne. Then came the barrage of questions that all the guys assisted us with during our preparations – where, when, why, how, what, gear?
We shouldn’t have been worried at all. 8 weight rods, saltwater fly reels with massive amounts of backing and drag settings that seemed impossibly tight, 16 pound tippets, boxes of Bonefish flies, sun friendly clothing and plenty of advice along the way. We were off!
The morning of 30/8 saw 8 intrepid Anglers (7 newbies) and Russell meet at the airport and fly to Fiji, then onto Christmas Island full of anticipation. After clearing customs at the busy CXI International Airport (a rusty tin shed), we were taken to ‘The Villages’, our accommodation for the next week. Its positioned in an idyllic tropical setting with Bonefish flats within a stone throw from our sleeping quarters. Here we met the angling party before us, including our other host Scotty who was tying up a few trigger flies for the day ahead. We had a light lunch and then onto one of the three boats waiting for us to go to straight to some of ‘the Flats’. These Flats go for miles and miles and are full of Bones. We were into it!
You are dropped off with your guide (one on one) with the sun and wind positioned behind you, wading shin deep in warm water and immediately the guide is calling details; bone 11 o’clock 20 feet cast….. Where? This is when you realise that you cannot see the fish (I have polaroided, stalked, spotted, and spooked countless Brown trout in all sorts of conditions back home but this was certainly different!)
The guides have x-ray Flats vision, it will blow you away!! They call fish at 70 feet and name the species also – its simply amazing. While our eyes adjusted during the week, this was day one and we were still getting plenty of shots at bonefish, even if we couldn’t see them every time.
Its then that you count your blessings that James has picked the best Lodge with the best Guides and a one on one guide ratio – and you realise that the cards are stacked on your side. Strip…..Strip…..stop….Strip-Strike (no Trout strikes allowed here!!!) you are ON!….Then do the Karate kid (Russ’s advice to manage your loose fly line), as it tightens onto the reel and the Bonefish accelerates off the flats at warp speed! WOW! Is an 8 weight enough? If all went well the bonefish were bought in, admired, photographed and released. It was exhilarating and addictive.
Then there was the Trigger fish (There are three species to my knowledge on the flats here). This fish looks like an aquarium giant with a tall trigger spine sticking out of the top of its head which it uses to wedge itself in reef holes once hooked. They are however a little easier to spot, often with their head down feeding and beautiful butterfly tail waving at you.
The routine was similar. We would assess its head direction, the current direction and then things got interesting as I would prepare to make my first cast count; the cast had to be spot-on and even then they were ultra finiky, as selective as any Mataura River Brownie and nearly always flanked by two Bluefin Trevally who acted as security and often took my fly first!
If you are priviledged / lucky enough to hook one of these bizarre fish it invariably runs back to its home in a coral lair to break your tippet and shred your flyline…. that’s if your Guide doesn’t get there first and block its escape route! What excitement and drama…..bring it on! This was the fish that I personally received the most enjoyment out of but I still wondered why I didn’t bother to bring a 10 weight. Next time!
Then there was the different species of Trevally -Bluefin, Golden, Striped, and the GT. THE GT…. These Giant Trevally are the ‘Wolves’ of the flats, and for me it seemed as though my fly fishing life had just changed once I spotted my first one! As a seasoned angler nothing can prepare you for when your Guide gets excited and screams at you to swap your Bone rod for the prepared 12 weight GT rod with a straight 100 Lb 8 foot tippet and a 8 inch ridiculous sized Baitfish fly on the end. You cast at this mini sub and strip as fast as is humanly possible then cross your fingers/toes/everything and try hopelessly to calm your nerves as this huge shape gets closer and closer to your fly, then……ahh, next time. Perhaps I was stripping too fast, fly too big, wrong colour, not hungry – who knows! Its not easy but fortunately, some of the other guys got a hold of some nice ones during the week!
As with all good fishing trips, the trip is the sum of the parts; the mix of fishermen, the location, the boat ride to and from the flats ( trying to stay awake on the return leg), the Guides, the hospitality, the accommodation, the debrief/catch up of the day’s events, (which lasted from last cast to the next day’s first cast), Happy hour, the resident crabs, the awesome weather (28 to 32 degrees for the next decade at least), the staff at the Lodge, the entertainment, the quality and quantity of fish and species, the other wildlife; Eagle rays, Manta rays, Black tipped Reef Sharks, Turtles, Dolphins, bird life, and the unforgettable Yellow Snapper BBQ for lunch beside an unnamed lagoon.
Then there was a fearless member of our fishing tribe who took it upon himself to catch a Mantis Shrimp bare handed… to sustain our dietary needs (they taste like the best Crayfish) only to nearly lose three of his fingers on his right hand, all caught on videotape to document the event. Awesome!!!
Also, Scottie singing karaoke and adding his own version of Bone fish rap to the end of his performance was worth travelling to the middle of the Pacific to witness!
On our return leg to Oz we stayed overnight plus day at a Fiji resort which was most civilised. We all reflected on our trip and our experiences by the pool, thumbs up all round!
Speaking for Brian and myself, it was an amazing trip and plans are in place to return to this amazing fishery. There is heaps of unfinished business which needs attending to, Bones, GT’s Triggers etc..
Special Thanks goes to James of Fly Odyssey for organising such an amazing trip, Scotty and Russell for being awesome Hosts and The Villages Kiribati for looking after our domestic/ fishing needs.
Well done guys!
Weeks later I cannot get Christmas Island out of my head, I’m still processing the experiences, all for the good I might add.
Christmas Island WILL be revisited….cannot wait!