Thursday, December 1, 2016

Report #2 on Christmas Island: Different Lodge/Same Atoll

"Christmas Island Still Delivers!"
So says Christmas Island veteran Guy Gardiner. Last year Guy and his group filed this report. Guy just returned from this year's trip and filed another very informative report: Thanks Guy!

In mid-October, our group from New Zealand set off again for our week of bonefish therapy on Christmas Island. By going in the between season i.e. after the Aussies and Kiwis and before the Americans we found our party of 6 had Ikari House and Christmas Island’s fishing to ourselves. Our composition was different to previous parties in that 3 of us Dan, Richard and myself were multiple returnees and the other 3, Iain, Austin and Graeme were enormously experienced fly fisherman and superb casters in NZ and well-practiced at spotting trout. The ideal foundation for enjoying Christmas Island or any bonefishing destination for that matter. The 3 new lads brought a fresh approach in that they fished the usual #8 weights for bones and triggers. but big spin casters for GTs and offshore. This resulted in some spectacular GT catches but by no means were the fly casters left out.



We arrived on the 3rd day after the full moon and the schools of big spawning fish off Paris flat had dissipated except for one small shifty school that we caught 3 5lb bonefish from. The smaller tides gave us quite different fishing this trip. The downside was that Paris flat was quieter, the oceanic milk fish chances were less and the “back country,” Submarine and Western Y site flats systems were inaccessible by boat. The upside was the most spectacular fishing for 1-2 lb bonefish I have ever experienced at Christmas Island including my first trip there in August 1995 when I befriended the late Ken Schwam the Philadelphia tackle dealer who put me onto Scott and Jack Charlton. The thing to note is that these fish are not pushovers unless the bite is on. It is a numbers game and there are lots of them. The bigger ones from 2 ½ to 5 lbs are generally picky and shy so the size ratio one catches of them seems to follow a normal distribution curve.



To put the rhetoric into numbers. Dan, Richard and I the hardcore fly fishers caught 135-150 bonefish each for the week. Of the 145 I caught one was 8-9lbs 2*5lbs 4-5 3 ½ to 4lbs and all the rest 10” to 2lbs. The 2 to 3 ½ pounders were usually in very skinny water and had a smaller one eat the fly or were too spooky. In one hot session in Y site Dan and I caught 80-90 fish with numerous double hook-ups, crossed swords and one fish I hooked Dan hooked it as well and it had a fly in each corner of its mouth. As you can imagine it was so much fun and the constant exposure to fish was great for learning the ways of bonefish and honing one’s skills. 

This trip Richard, Dan and I started our offshore day fishing for oceanic milk fish and had some interesting fishing but the neap tides and our fly options were against us but we now have a year to plot and plan our revenge on those holdouts. The rest of the day off shore was average with 8 hits, 4 hook-ups and 3 wahoo boated. All were wahoo as we had competition from some local folk who were chasing the schools of tuna at Northwest Point. The other lads did better catching 5 good GTs trolling stick baits and casting poppers and stick baits onto the reef as well as 3 wahoo. They also got to glimpse the wildness of the island when a yellowfin tuna was sliced up beside their boat by a wahoo. 



The big GTs were not confined offshore either. I had several shots at massive brutes with my 13 weight and one after refusing my fly at the edge of Y site’s lagoon flat went off into the lagoon and took Iain’s stick bait and after a bruising battle he caught and released it. The other spectacular catch was a large GT that Dan caught on the last morning on his bonefish fly. The hook was deformed and twisted from the forceneeded to subdue the fish.



Trigger fish are an interesting story. Until 1997 when I fished Providence atoll in the Seychelles they had been regarded as a curiosity, an incidental fish to gamefish such as trevally, bonefish, milkfish and permit. Like goatfish, snappers and emperors they were another number on the species list. Interesting but not really a gamefish although they are tricky, often small, fight dirty and don’t make screaming runs. However, on Providence there was next to no bonefishing due to the bigger tides when we were there so the guides promoted triggers as a substitute. When I returned to Christmas Island in 2010 I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of trigger fish and the action one could have with them but I had to wait until I was fishing without a guide. They are a fish with attitude and once hooked pull like a tugboat, fight like the devil and seem thoroughly pissed until they get released. I got busted by a good one and on our last day Graeme caught a very good peach faced trigger which was fortunately out of its coral garden but was still determined to duck down any hole it could find. Everybody had some trigger stories to tell over the Heineken, Bud and Appleton’s at days’ end. 

We were blessed with great weather and whilst it blew some days it was never a significant problem. This trip we fished from Ikari House for the first time and I must say I was impressed. The guides were good but more of the fish spotting and indicating kind rather than the western coach and mentor style of guide but I do like the laid-back lack of pressure and hey you are not paying $600 USD a day for them. You are getting the most cost effective saltwater fly-fishing on the planet and at the end of the day the results speak for themselves.




Ikari is situated in London and is something of a compound surrounded by old corroded buildings but has its own beach and private outlooks so that It is very satisfying drinking a sun downer looking out at Bird Island and Paris flat. An advantage of its location is that it is a short distance from the boat ramp so we got more fishing and less time sitting in a truck. The downsides are that it doesn’t have the island resort ambience and you don’t feel as immersed in the community as we were at CIO with the I Kiribati being a wonderful people. Ikari is the best-appointed facility on the island with 24-hour power, plenty of refrigeration and slow but adequate internet access. The air-conditioned rooms meant that we all slept well and the food was by Christmas Island standards five star and safe! For example, breakfast was Danish or cereal with fruit, yogurt or milk. Toast and jam or peanut butter and bacon, eggs and sausages or similar. None of us had any problems in fact our “gut health” if you will excuse the infomercial euphemism was better than at home.



My previous trips to Christmas Island at the Captain Cook and CIO were special for the ambience of the island, its people and sharing the experience with others. This one was also special because of the group spirit and friendships we made. It is clich├ęd but true to say that by our return we were a band of brothers and the new lads came back so enthused they have started looking at a trip to St Brandon’s in Mauritius next year.

P.S.
Scott,
Ikari Lodge was fine although their guide rotation means that you are less likely to get one of the A list guides and it hasn’t got a resort/beach side bar feel [like Christmas Island Outfitters] it is the best in all other respects.