Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Christmas Island Report

Jesse, an awesome guide in Honolulu, with an amazing trevally.

Nei Debbie in waiting
It's been just over a month since I set foot back in the cool dry riverine landscape that I call home.  Returning from the trip of a lifetime that took over a year of preparation has it's downsides, but it was nice to be back.  It has taken that amount of time for the whole thing to sink in.  A trip to the other side of the dateline warrants a report that's better than something you write on the plane ride home, and nearly 6 weeks later I still don't think that it's all digested.  Christmas Island is a trip I have been wanting to make since I was 12 years old and saw pictures on the cover of the Kauffman's catalog, having really had no clue what I was looking at.  18 years later it didn't disappoint.

A little over a year ago my friend Larry and I were floating down the Big Hole when he asked me if I was interested in going to Christmas Island.  I know that I said something in guide mode like "yeah, that'd be great, lets do it!" but in my head I was thinking "Fucking duh, lets go!".  It then became official and we started recruiting anglers to come along.  The emails didn't go far before the trip was full, in large part to my friend Dave who unfortunately wasn't able to go.  His friends who joined on the adventure though were the type of guys that you shake hands with and know there will be many more trips in the future.

The first evening we were explained the program, discussed angling options with our guides, and set game plans for the following day, which for myself, Brett and my Dad would be our first day of flats fishing ever.  A hearty meal of fresh Ahi, Seared Ahi and Lobster and we settled in for a muggy restless night of sleep, with anticipation dripping off of everybody.

I guess you could say that even our highest of expectations were met quickly.  A short ride on the covered seats that lined the bed of a diesel truck/van led us to our boats, an outrigger manned by a smiling captain, a giant cooler and a few leaks.  These boats would be the taxis that shuttled us around the flats for the next 6 days.  On this first morning the boat dropped our friends Dan and Larry off, then putted across the bay to drop Dad and I off on a football field size flat, that was rapidly shallowing as the tide ripped out.  Exactly 3 casts into bonefishing and Dad had his first bonefish on the fly, a trend that would play out for the rest of the day.

Larry fishing a flat just outside of London.
Often trips begin with great expectations and then fly by in one blink.  This trip for me did not do that.  When the boat picked us up for lunch on the first day, after a morning of shot after shot (after shot!) at bonefish all I could think was "are you kidding me, it's only lunch time?"  Even by the end of the trip, the days sped up, but life moves so slow on Christmas Island that you are truly able to enjoy every last second of it.
Cruising back after a long, successful day.  

Brett Angel with a fish of a lifetime.

To list the highlights of our six days on the island would take a month of writing.  I think the impression that was left on all of us from Christmas Island was astounding, and not just simply because of the fishing.  A glimpse into the life of a third world island in the middle of the ocean is very humbling, especially when you are there to catch and release fish, a thought that was laughable to everyone on the island, including our guides even though they were polite enough to not say so.
Dad and T.J. stalking.
One of the best days of the trip was a cloudy, rainy day that resulted in us hooking exactly zero fish.  We had the opportunity to fish with Moana, the first guide ever on Christmas Island.  Moana began his guide career some 40 years ago as an employees of the department of tourism, tasked with taking 10-20 guests per day fishing along the flats for $2 a day.  It took him not showing up to work for him to get a raise, and his climb to legendary status occurred shortly thereafter.  Simply spending time around this amazing, knowledgable and highly intelligent guide was worth the trip.  His understanding of fish behavior and flats fishing was astonishing, that which can only be acquired through a lifetime of fishing. 
Coolest species of fish I have ever chased.
 Many milestones were achieved during our week as well.  Every angler caught a GT, which are far and away the nastiest thing I have ever touched on a fly rod.  In fact both reels that I brought limped home in my luggage to be returned for life-support at their respective companies.  The fish pictured above was one of the smaller GT's hooked, and was all my 12 wt set up could handle.  
Dad with a bigger GT than mine, truly amazing fish.
The only thing better than my grip and grin above was watching my dad land an even larger trevally.  As I have shared before on the blog some of the most special moments I have ever shared with my Dad are fishing, and this day was not different.  The energy on the boat ride in was overflowing, and the Heinekens tasted especially smooth as we zig-zagged our way out of the back country.  
No caption needed.
Our final evening, the prelude to a 7a.m. flight bcd to reality, included a luau and pig roast, our awesome guides sticking around for beers, and the perfect cap to 6 incredible days fishing at the end of the earth.  Just in finishing up this post I get goosebumps thinking about the trip.  Life nchanging may be a stretch, but then again maybe not.  We will certainly going back next year, with most of the same crew, a gift that couldn't be better.  And knowing what we are getting into this time, I expect it to be every bit as good as the first time, if not better.

Note:  If you are headed to Christmas Island or are interested in going feel free to shoot me an email ( and I'll send you some of the more technical stuff that would have made this blog post incredibly boring.  After one trip I am certainly no expert, and wouldn't claim to be, but am more than willing to share what we learned.  Also, a huge thank yo ufo all of my friends and the companies that helped outfit us with gear including Scott Fly Rods, Winston Fly Rods, Sage Fly Rods, Allen Fly Reels,  Nautilus Reels, and Rajeff Sports/Airflo as well as Modobi, Jersey Mike and Grey.

And last but certainly not least, a giant thank you to Dylan Rose and the crew at Fly Water Travel!  Their service from the first email to checking in after we returned was professional and first class.  You truly made our trip, and if you're thinking about any fly fishing destination you would be remiss without calling these guys.


  1. What a special trip Joe. The smiles on you and your dad's face are priceless. Sounds like the trip was spectacular and the fishing was a bonus. What a way to spend a week, doing something new.
    Congratulation on a great trip, thanks for sharing some great pictures.

  2. Wow, what and incredible trip with memories that will last a lifetime! I hear those GT's are really something indeed. Thank you for sharing and congratulations.


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