I’ve just returned from my first bonefishing trip and I’m well and truly hooked. We spent two weeks at Christmas Island in Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas – the ‘ti’ in the local language is pronounced ‘ss’). The idea came about last winter when I was suffering cabin fever, and seemingly endless days below 10 degrees, and nights of minus five. After ringing around, quite a few people recommended ‘The Villages’ lodge, booked through the Australian agent, Nial Logan – http://www.learntoflyfish.net/
We organised a group of around a dozen friends to pretty much fill the lodge for the week, which was a nice way to do it so we could share our experiences with friends on and off the water. Miri and I stayed on for a second week, as we wanted to mix fishing with some other activities and looking around. I can highly recommend this as it rounds out the trip and the time goes past very quickly as it is!
Trout will always be central to my flyfishing and soul, but I can see that bonefish could possess you too. They are a sensational sight-fishing target and their size makes them catchable on trout-scaled tackle (though they do pull a ‘little’ harder). Like chasing trout, they also take you to an amazing range of places and cultures. You can follow them to Christmas Island, South America, Cuba, the Florida Keys, the Caribbean and elsewhere. All of these places are now on my list of destinations, along with the trout ones!
Getting there (yes – there are two Christmas Islands – this is the Pacific one, not the Indian Ocean one in the news for all the wrong reasons) involved getting to Sydney, then a 4 hour flight to Fiji and another 4 hour flight to the island. You arrive early in the morning slightly dazed, have a lovely warm welcome and singing from the staff at The Villages, and then grab a rod and stagger onto one of the boats to be taken to the flats. Before you know it you are standing on a beautiful tropical flat with your guide saying, “Bonefish coming, nice fish, 30 feet, 12 o’clock”. It’s all a bit surreal! Some of the group spent a few days in Fiji sipping Pina Coladas at a resort on the way over, to break up the travel and after the overnight flight I can see the appeal in that! By the way, in guided/hosted fishing travel terms, it’s a very economical destination. The Villages is a friendly, welcoming place to stay. Given the remote location and basic services available on the island, the staff did everything they could to make us comfortable – and hot water etc. was usually available in the rooms.
The fishing was fantastic, and over the course of the visit, our group cast to and caught plenty of bones, as well as triggerfish, giant trevally to 50lb or more, golden trevally, bluefin trevally, queenfish, ladyfish (giant herring), sweetlip, and many other reef fish and other species. Most of the fishing is sight fishing, though when conditions are overcast, blind fishing can be very productive as well. I wouldn’t say you get sick of catching bonefish, but there are many other species worth targeting too. A few people visit the island to specifically target the reef sharks, which are numerous, on fly. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who managed a big GT (about half of us did though), but I did have the experience of seeing huge fish to 60lb make screaming raids from the deeper water onto the flats, which was awe inspiring. Next time (and there will be a next time)…
The weather was surprisingly pleasant. It was nothing like the heat of the tropical north of Australia, and though we were allocated 3 bottles of water per day on the flats, I often only got through one or two. In Weipa I’ve guzzled half a down litres of cold water and still needed more. The air and the water were about the same temperature – around 26-28 degrees – it was truly idyllic. We did have pretty strong winds most days, and I think this helped with the comfort levels, without adversely affecting the fishing. I would say that to get the most out of your trip, it’s worth doing some practise down at the park on windy days, with a weighted practice fly and focusing on fast, accurate, delicate presentations out to around 40 feet, rather than throwing as far as you can.
Suffice to say Christmas Island is a highly recommended location, and I wish I’d gone there years ago. Still, better late than never. The photos above (more to come in part two) will give an idea of the fishing and other things you are likely to encounter on a visit.