October 20-30, 2018 The American Dental Association meeting went back to Honolulu this last month after 11 years. I received a call from my cousin Kenneth and Dr Les Wong about borrowing some equipment for a trip to Christmas Island after the convention. It didn’t take much convincing to join them since I had already planned on attending the ADA meeting in Hawaii. Howard at Fishabout booked me a single room last minute and I started tying flies for the trip. As it turned out, I was the only fisherman that had every been to Christmas Island in our group of 10.
It seems the main draw to Christmas Island has evolved from bone fishing to targeting Giant Trevally – the dominant apex predator around Christmas Island. The other groups consisted of a Fly Shop owner from Indianapolis with 4 fly fishermen and a pair of single bait fishing anglers that were targeting only GTs by any means necessary. They ended up hooking at least dozen huge GTs a day setting up chum lines in the channels and ocean side breaks. Fishing mainly bait for those big boys all day long for 6 days , many 30-40 lbrs were caught. But at dinner I could sense they were disappointed with these relatively small GT’s. The world record GT is 190 lbs! They eat birds out of the sky for god’s sake! They were there for the 50-80 lbrs that YouTube has made popular. One of the bait fisherman, Sean, was a young Firefighter from Florida who moonlights as a Florida all tackle Guide with years of experience fishing for permit, bones and tarpon. His biggest that week was around 50-60 lbs. Still the two were primarily hunting for fish over 60 lbs. Sean really made an impression on me as a very talented Florida Guide who know his stuff.
The Flyfishermen on this trip did well averaging about 20-30 fish a day despite the spooky fish on the flats. Kenneth and Les in my group fished like they have been here before. It was great fun to watch my cousin Kenneth hook and land his first bonefish, Trevally, grouper, trigger, snapper, flatfish, and mantis shrimp. Kenneth caught more species of fish than anyone on the trip. Les was a machine gun on the Flats. Every time I looked over at him he was hooked up. The other Fly anglers all had similar experiences and were very happy with the quality of fishing this week.
We all had the regular shots at big GT’s cruising the flats, but in my opinion, the GTs on Christmas are not as aggressive as they had been in the past as are many of the the big bonefish. The bones and GTs are getting smarter and that’s a fact. Even the guides are not pulling Christmas Island specials with too much orange or heavy dressing. Fishing singles has changed from moderately strong strips to catch their attention to slow smaller subtle strips and long leading casts. The bonefish were reacting to the bead eyes on my smallest flies even leading them by 30 feet. They are tuned into the sound that a heavy fly makes as it hits the water. Most slow cruising Trevally spooked with flies cast 20 and even 30 feet ahead of them. Gone are the days you could throw coral at them and get them to come to you. Sean, the Florida Guide, observing GT’s for the first time, felt like they behaved more like Florida Permit. One thing I did notice about Trevally is that you can tell by the way they cruise if your odds of a strike are high. They swim differently when they actively feed-faster, in formation, and with purpose. When they are like that, its a sure thing if you can get a fly, plug or bait in front of them.
My best converted shot came at the milkfish ponds when a marauding school of huge GTs decided to raid the milkfish pen at outgoing tide. When schooling GT’s swim with attitude, chasing fish as they swim as a group, its a sure hookup and all caution is abandoned. My shot came at the milkfish ponds when a group of large GT came in to grab a couple milkfish inside the pen. I saw the school from 100 yards away as the school of half a dozen may a bee line for the 3 foot gate into the pen. Surprisingly, It took me 8 minutes to land the huge GT. After it took a 250 yard run before I could turn it exerting about 20 lbs of pressure on the fish for the beast’s sustained 80 second run. Inside the pond, I didn’t have to worry about the coral dropoff on the long run and I didn’t have to sprint to the blue water during the whole fight. The guides estimated the fish to be 70-80 lbs but I honestly have know idea how big it really was. All I could ascertain was it was heavier than my luggage which was 50 lbs. We took great care to carefully released the exhausted fish. After I release it, it just hovered upright for a couple minutes before very slowly swimming. I walked with it for 50 feet in the shallows, like walking a pet- supporting and guiding and stroking it as it worked its way out to the deep water all the time its huge eye fixed on me. I think they are intelligent.
Ten years ago on Kiritamti Island while fishing with the late great Christmas Island fishing guide, Tenake, I learned about the massive schools of spawning bonefish that have circle Paris Flats every moon phase for centuries. More often than not, fishing Paris Flats 3-6 days after the last full moon is a sure thing for 30-50 large bonefish a day. Most of the guides consider it almost too easy and don’t talk about it much. Bonefish life cycles are a bit of a mystery since there are different types of species in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and there are at least 11 or more species of bonefish. The one thing that remains a constant around the Christmas Island Atoll is that the moon is the primary environmental stimulus for bonefish spawning. The bonefish spawn in large schools on Paris Flat from three to seven days after the last full moon. The schools are so large that they resemble cloud shadows. Tenake once told me that fishing during that week on Paris Flat, is too easy and I didn’t really understand what he meant till I recorded drone footage of the schools.
The Full moon was October 25 The peak fishing on Paris Flats was the last three day of our trip October 28-30, 2018. The Drone film footage was taken on the 30th. A good link to get future Kiribati Moon phases.
Staying within casting distance to these moving schools of fish is sometimes challenging. If you’ve got the long cast down and can keep your loops narrow when casting into the wind, your odds of staying on the school are greater since they seem to stay just beyond casting distance at times. Floating Shooting heads, Up weighting fly rods and flies with heavy eyes are the ticket on Paris flat when the schools are on the deep side. I saw guys wading to there armpits to get a foot more distance trying to catch the edge of the schools as they exited to deep water. The fish in the schools are not spooky and will hit a moving fly with abandon. Most of our group’s largest fish of the week were hooked on Paris Flats. Joe in our group caught a nice 8 lbr and most of the guides felt that the big fish were on the edges of the school. In general, the schools on Paris stay in the deeper water but when the tides are right they move into the shallow flats.
As recent as 2017, marine biologist from Cape Eluthrera Institue, Florida Institute of Technology and Florida State Universtiy are concurrently researching fertile bonefish endocrinology. But despite the current research bonefish spawning biology still remains a mystery. Four years ago, I was concerned that Global warming would take Christmas Island as it was consuming the local island of Tarawa 2000 miles away. But I now say Hum Bug to that since as with last trip in 2014, the island appears to be rising. There are more flats that are dry this year that use to have water in 2014. Maybe there is a volcanic element to the Coral Atoll.
At the Villages, each angler gets there own guide for the day. I enjoyed talking to the guides about life on Christmas Island. It seems that my twin nephews, Matthew and Michael, are legend on Christmas Island. Every staff member and guide I met asked me about them. Four years ago, the twins caught two huge Trivaly on flies at the same time, that was immortalized in time by a Fishabout Calendar cover that is posted in the dining room right next to a picture of Kay Mitsioshi. It was great to see Kay’s picture on the wall as the founding father of the villages. I fondly remember fishing with Kay at Christmas years ago.
Gone are Big Eddie and Tanaka. Seems the average lifespan on Christmas is 80 for women and 70 for men mainly due to Diabetes. Between 1957 and 1962, the UK and USA undertook 33 atmospheric (above ground) nuclear tests at Malden and Kiritimati (Christmas) Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati. The closest test was 15 miles off the Korean Wreck, 250 people on the island along with British servicemen monitored the 1958 blast as guinea pigs to see the impact of radiation on people. Those people have largely been ignored or forgotten since but one guide told me that his parents witnessed the blast. Many of the guides on Christmas Island are the children of those irradiated native people. Maybe thats why they have superhuman eyesight? It worked out for Spiderman.
I convinced my group to hunt Mantis Shrimps one day for dinner and we successfully caught 8 big ones. I have taken for granted how big Mantis Shrimps are on Christmas island. According to Wikapedia, the biggest Mantis Shrimp ever caught was 18 inches long. Most of the mantis shrimp we caught were over 18 inches! It possible that the species of Mantis Shrimp on Christmas Island are unique. They were delicious. I certainly am getting better at locating Mantis Shrimp Holes having found half of the eight shrimp holes that sometimes are 20 feet deep. We shared them with the group but each of us took a big one for ourselves. The Kitchen simply boiled them for 15 minutes.
I always like to add a paragraph about what I would have done different on a trip. Usually it pertains to packing. The Pepto Bismal shot in the morning worked well as usual. Five of our group had the runs sometime during the week. I probably would not have eaten the Giant Clams sashimi style on the ocean flats because of Ciguatera but I have seemed to survive. I think a fly tying kit is a good idea with lots of different weight eyes and better hooks. I had many bent and broken hook issues with my old flies this trip. Bring a bigger bottle of Tabasco sauce since it seems to be heroin for the natives and It got raided and emptied by midweek. The Laundry for 20 bucks a week was fabulous but they kept giving my underwear to someone else by accident. Next trip at least three sets of underwear so I dont have to go commando till they find my second pair. AT&T now has a $60 unlimited text and 1 gb data plan on the island and seems to be better than the house WIFI at $20 a week. I didn’t need my Garmin Explorer+. Definitely plan around the moon phase- Paris Flats was a phenomena. I would spool 65lb braid on the bait caster without top shot. I would continue to use stainless steel double hooks on my poppers- they are super easy to change out and are very strong. Sean said he had issues with circle hooks and said after experimenting, the ideal bait hook is a Gamakatsu 6/0 J hook. Double Uni’s are great and easy. I prefer perfection loops to my flies now. All the guides tie and try to sell you flies. I would buy a little from each and bring a fly tying kit. I did not use my 100mm lens. I would bring goggles for the drone to better see the detail in the videos and definitely use polarizing filters with all cameras. The departure tax and Visa is no longer but the fishing license is still $50. Dont forget Australian slanted electric socket converters. A new bar of soap is provided but no shampoo. Bring ZIPLOCKS for cameras, phones, etc… Don’t trust salt water. I would bring a bunch of cheap knives for the guides and leave them since they use them for everything from chum to shucking clams. All Trevally reels need to be spooled with tight backing to avoid dig ins If you want a trophy Trevally, only fish for Trevally all day. Tips are given out daily to boatman ($5) and Guides ($30). At the end of six days I tipped the staff ($100).
I brought two GoPros which in hind sight was one to many. I used the GoPro mainly on a chest mount and selfie stick\tripod. I used the Lumix GH5 for my best stills. The Iphone XSMax camera was surprisingly better than my pocket camera. There are many great reasons that the best camera to take fishing is the Iphone xs Max which can take your fish photos, Give you GPS, Tide, and Weather, take underwater shots, control you drone and provide you hole shot entertainment music. I shot all the Aerials with the DJI Mavic Air. The drone handled flawlessly in the constant 20mph trade winds. On the Ocean Side Flats, I miscalculated the amount of battery needed to return to home against the wind and landed it about 100 yards down the beach on the sand and went looking for it. I think my eyesite is getting worse with age since I lost site of the drone in the bright sun when it was 100 feet away and flew mainly with instruments and GPS most of the trip which is a first for me. I think for Argentina Stroble Lake in December, Ill shoot a Sony a6000 in my pocket, A Lumix GH5, a GoPro7. a Sony 4k Camcorder and a DJI Mavic Air. My luggage was only 48 lbs this trip with the Eagle Creek XL rolling duffle (5lbs)