Christmas Island report- bonefish and a whole lot more

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I have just returned from a four week stay on Christmas Island (Kiritimati). I fly fished for 27 straight days. I targeted bonefish about 60% of the time, with the remainder of time being spent fly fishing the beaches, salt ponds, reef areas and offshore attempting to catch as many species of fish on fly as I could. Each day we had the option of using boat transport or truck transport to the get to the flats. We used boat transport about 60% of the time. We used the truck to access the remote and rarely fished areas in the back of the lagoon which provided staggering numbers of bonefish, especially inside the protected fisheries management area which is off limits to local netters and protected with a locked gate. We had to get permission to fish in there and bring the fisheries employee with us to unlock the gate and gave him a $5 tip each. 

Here he is unlocking the gate to bonefish heaven:



Overall, the bonefishing was nothing short of spectacular. It was my first trip to Christmas Island but my fishing partner has been there 18 times before and said this years trip was some of the best bonefishing he has ever experienced there. September and October are a great time to go because there are very few other fisherman there during this time. In fact, we had no more than 5 other fisherman on the entire island on any given week. Christmas Island has a reputation for small bonefish, and while there are a great many fish in the 1-3 pound range (perfect for 5 or 6 weight), there are certainly opportunities to target larger fish. We caught plenty of 4-6 pound fish.

Each month ,from three to six days after the full moon, large schools of 4 to 8+ pound hungry, spawning bonefish appear at the Paris 1 and 2 flats near the mouth of the lagoon. These schools contain up to several thousand fish and they are easy to spot because they swim near the surface. Best fished in the morning on an incoming tide, you will see schools pass by every 5-15 minutes. There is a lot of current there because of the spring tide (~3 ft tide range), so you need heavier flies. With no other anglers on the island that week, we had the whole place to ourselves. It wasn't much of a challenge, but I had to experience it at least once. By about 10 am, after about 2 1/2 hours of steady catching,  the action starts to slow down and we moved on to other pursuits. Here is a picture of Nareau holding a typical Paris 1 bonefish. Please notice no other anglers in the photo.


Now, on to the pursuit of other species:

We did one day offshore where the Kawakawa (mackerel tuna) were really cooperative on the 12 weight:


and also did some handline fishing for big red bass and other stuff:



Next on the tour, a brief sortie to the salt ponds for Hawaiian ladyfish and Mozambique tilapia. Most visiting anglers don't fish in these salt ponds.




Then, on to the reef species at Vaskess Bay (south side of the island), Paris reef (west side of the island) and the Capt Cook Hotel reef (north side of the island):


My largest Longnose emperor, about 6-7 pounds, caught wading at Paris reef.


Surge wrasse, you can sightcast for these over the sand and coral rubble inside the reef. Pretty hard fighters as well.


Now for a selection of groupers and hinds:


Peacock hind


Darkfin hind (Flagtail grouper)


Foursaddle grouper


Starspotted grouper


Snubnose grouper (I believe) Any professional taxonomists out there? I need a double check on this one.


How about 5 species of goatfish:


Dash-and-dot goatfish


Finstripe goatfish (found over sandy flats in the lagoon, sometimes swims with bonefish and fights like them)


Gold-saddle goatfish


Manybar goatfish


Twosaddle goatfish

Here are the rest of the reef species in no particular order:


Freckled hawkfish


Sand lizardfish


Banded sergeant


Blackspot sergeant


Needlefish of some kind


Stocky hawkfish, common in the deeper pools of surge area of the reef in front of the capt cook hotel.


Now on to reef fishing in the lagoon. Most of the flats have coral areas near the edges and these are loaded with fish to catch on fly:


Blacktail snapper. Without doubt, the most common fish in the lagoon. Hard not to catch them at times. Also found on the ocean reefs.


Onespot snapper (also found on the ocean reefs)


Red bass or Red snapper (also found on the ocean reefs)


Tomato hind, only caught 2 of these the whole trip, both in the lagoon by coral.


Honeycomb grouper, by far the most common grouper in the lagoon.


I found three species of triggerfish in the lagoon. Titan triggers and the yellow margin triggers are very frustrating fish, very easy to spot but very spooky, hard to hook, teeth that can crush flies, like to live in holes near coral. I sacrificed a lot of flies pursuing these guys.....


Titan triggerfish, this fish, caught on Arthur Island flat on day 2, launched an obsession....


Yellow margin triggerfish. I caught two of these, along with 1 titan trigger and 1 picasso trigger in a single morning on a Y-site lagoon flat and temporarily thought I had cracked the triggerfish code. I was horribly wrong. I experienced several other frustrating sessions afterwards.


Picasso triggerfish, the prettiest and easiest trigger to catch if you know where to find them. Very common around the reef areas near Paris flat. Also plenty on the reef at Vaskess bay.


The golden trevally gets its own section in the write-up because they are no doubt very special fish. I saw about ten during my trip, cast to three and caught two. 



More to follow when I have time.....

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Yes, as promised here is part 2. Here are some pictures of the flats and reef areas where I fished:


Yes,Nine mile flat really is that long...


Giant trevally alley


Typical Cat Island flat


Poland channel shoreline flat


Captain Cook hotel reef surge zone at low tide-challenging to fly fish there but the deeper pools and cracks in the reef are loaded with small groupers, sergeants and surge wrasse. Watch your step!


Paris 1 flat near the lagoon entrance. This is the place where, for just a few days a month, after the full moon, the spawning bonefish arrive by the thousands.


Vaskess Bay on the south side of the island. 1 hour and 45 minute drive from the Capt Cook hotel including an hour or so on the Poland Road (dirt road) which is in need of major grading. Fished here for two days, wish I had more time there. Tremendous diversity of reef fish and schools of trevally and bonefish along the beach as well.


Vaskess Bay reef . I was amazed at how quickly something ate my fly each time I cast out there....


Typical Y-site shoreline flats


Almost impossible not to catch a blacktip reef shark here. There were 50 or more of them on this dark patch of Nine mile flat. Saw similar groups at other flats as well. The sharks will readily eat bonefish flies. 


Shark caught with a size 6 beadchain Gotcha and no wire shock.



Another Y-site flat


More Vaskess Bay reef, I'm very fond of this particular part in the middle section of the bay.


Vaskess Bay outer reef. This is about as far out as you can wade without going off the edge. Nareau, my guide, asked me if I knew how to swim and then took me out here. He later told me that I was the first imatang (white person) he took here in 26 years of guiding.



Another Y-site shoreline flat with a school of 3-4 pound Giant trevally racing along the flat. 


Paris reef area, many picasso triggerfish here near the coral heads. This was the place to catch large longnose emperors as well.


Paris Outer reef. Walk out as far as you dare and cast. The reef drops off about 100 feet further out. Lots of fish here but difficult conditions-uneven bottom and waves make for a tough combination.


Paris shallow rock area inside the reef. I suspect most people would look at this picture and think that I didn't fish here. In fact it was loaded with small groupers, and other fish. I tried unsuccessfully to catch a moray eel on fly here. The moray showed no interest in the fly.


This is Orvis flat on the last afternoon of the trip. It's not always sunny on Christmas Island. The last day was our cloudiest day with about half the day overcast like this. I fished on the Paris reef most of the day so I really didn't care.

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That's about how long I wish I could have stayed, just to target the triggers!

Interesting how much the kawakawa looks like a false albacore.


Originally Posted by muskeget View Post


I have just returned from a four week stay on Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

We did one day offshore where the Kawakawa (mackerel tuna) were really cooperative on the 12 weight:



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The sort of photos to excite any fly angler's lust,


We'd like some details as to what you used when there, and - if you don't mind, no harm if you're reticent - what you spent to get there, and how you did it.

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I planned this trip for almost a year. It certainly helped that I went with a guy who had been there 18 times before. He gave me a lot of great information. What you won't see on the list is any mention of the pre-trip preparation. I'm 51 years old and I did my best to prepare myself physically and mentally for 27 straight days of fly fishing, eight hours per day. I know some people will roll there eyes about the mental preparation but in my opinion, mental focus and attitude have  a lot to do with your success. With the exception of the 1 offshore day, the fishing was all wading, standing on you feet for hours at a time. So, for three months prior to the trip, I walked 3 miles every day in the Florida heat (no, I wasn't a couch potato before that but I needed to build up my leg stamina). I did some visual exercises as well. As I mentioned before, I shared a guide, so about half the time I was fishing on my own. Being able to see the fish and avoid eye strain is critical to your success with the bonefish. 


Here is the actual packing list I made for this trip:

Christmas Island

Packing List 2014


□ (3) Long sleeved SPF fishing shirts

□ (3) Short sleeved shirts and/or t-shirts for after fishing

□ (3) Pairs of quick drying SPF long pants for fishing

□ (2) Pairs of shorts for after fishing

□ (2) Pair of Cotton socks for traveling

□ Traveling shoes

□ Traveling pants

□ Sandals to wear around the lodge

□ Lightweight raincoat

□ Wading shoes and backup pair

□ (2) Pairs of wading socks

□ (1) Pair of gaiters

□ (2) Buffs for sun protection

□ (2) Pairs of sungloves

□ (2) Hats-Baseball style hat and backup hat


□ (2) six weight fly rods

□ (1) six weight fly reel

□ (2) six weight floating bonefish lines

□ (2) eight weight fly rods

□ (2) eight weight fly reels

□ (4) eight weight floating bonefish lines

□ (2) twelve weight fly rods

□ (1) twelve weight fly reel

□ (2) twelve weight floating lines-GT or Leviathan

□ Bonefish Flies

□ GT Flies and poppers

□ Leaders -14 twelve foot Bruce Chard formula bonefish leaders w/ 18lb Flouro tippet.

□ Tippet/shock-100 lb., 80 lb. ,40 lb., 30 lb., 25 lb., 20lb, 16 lb.

□ (4) Nippers

□ Line cleaning kit

□ (4) Dehookers/forceps

□ Hook hone

□ (2) Water bottles

□ Stripping basket

□ Waist/hip pack or light weight vest for wade fishing

□ Boat bag for everything you are bringing for each day of fishing, waterproof

□ Polarized Sunglasses and backup pair and cleaning cloth

□ Reel lube kit, ferrule wax, small scissors


□ Passport plus back up copy

□ Cash for extra guides, gratuities, water and beverages

□ 2 copies of your flight and travel itinerary

□ Personal toiletries

□ Personal medicine (pack in you carry on)

□ Plastic bag for wet wading shoes and dirty damp clothes on your way home

□ Book or two to read /fishing log book

□ Reading glasses

□ Sunglass cleaner

□ Mosquito repellent, not always needed but good to have

□ Sunscreen

□ Camera, memory cards, battery charger

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