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Christmas Island Hosted Trip Report – Sam Pankurst reports from the Pacific Ocean

Christmas Island Hosted Trip Report – Sam Pankurst reports from the Pacific Ocean

Fly Odyssey Australia have just returned from one of their annual August trips to Christmas Island.

 Sam reports on his week away in fishing paradise…

The trip to Kiribati started with a stop-over day in Nadi, Fiji.  This allowed me to start to acclimatise from the frosty Tasmanian winter I had left, and the transition from minus 5 to +30 degrees was a nice step-up!  The 18 fishermen in our group dribbled in over a day or so from various locations in New Zealand and Australia.  A pleasant day of swimming, some beers in the sun and playing with our bags to keep them under the weight requirements, passed quickly.  We had a restorative pub dinner and then headed over for the midnight flight to CXI.  There is only one flight a week onto the Island, a stop-over on the way to Honolulu, 5 hours in a totally adequate 737!

Arriving early in the morning, we disembarked into a dry tropical heat and proceeded through the fairly relaxed customs and fishing-licence process.  We all piled into the bus for the rattly ride to our accommodation at The Villages.  Travelling across the very flat atoll in a very “Pacific” looking setting, the first thing that struck me was how very basic most of the structures are on the island.  This is a very poor place and the fly- fishing ecotourism is one of the few revenue streams for the community.

We arrived at the accommodation, a compound with a central hang-out hall, bar and dining room and a series of 2-person cabins with bathrooms, air conditioning and fly-rod racks!  Basic but again, totally adequate, this is a fishing holiday, not a cruise. I was sharing the cabin with my Dad and we found it suited our needs perfectly.  Like nearly every day there, it was 32 degrees and it was a  baking dry heat when out of the wind.  More on this later, but being out of the wind was seldom a concern for most of the week.

Slightly sleep-deprived and after a nice breakfast (breakfasts were my favourite meal of the trip – pancakes, eggs and bacon), briefing and introduction to the staff we began to get ready for our first day of fishing.  Vast arrays of gear, rods and tubes, fly boxes and sun-gear appeared from the bags of all of the travellers, no one had packed light for this trip!  Everyone was assigned a boat and a guide and we headed out. The entry off the beach looked like the D-Day landings in reverse (said my Dad), except a bit more chaotic.

The first hour on the flats had me wondering if I should have ticked the “beginner” rather than “intermediate” fly fishing skill box on the form, but I quickly realised that would have to accept casting in a constant wind was going to be part of the experience.  The buffs and blue camouflage hoods are ostensibly to keep the sun off your neck but they are really to keep the fly hooks out of your ear. The azure waters and crystal-clear flats were beautiful and I found myself continually amazed at the disjunct from the grey winter I had left just a day before.  Sight-fishing to the bonefish was amazing fun and with the expert advice and eyes of my guide we got onto some nice fish, even with my somewhat lacklustre day one casting.  These fish run like nothing else I have caught that size, even the small ones take you to the backing a couple of times, the big ones have 4 or 5 big runs in them. With favourable rising tides there was plenty of opportunity to cast at fish; triggerfish and assorted trevally were also fairly common. I learned many things including that triggerfish do not like having the fly dropped on their heads.

After our first day of fishing we gathered at the bar is and enjoyed some tuna sashimi.  Fishing tales and photos were discussed and there was also an enthusiastic attempt on the duty- free stashes everyone had acquired on the way through from Fiji.  The bar also had a selection of beer, wine and some spirits and with a bit of forward planning, the right wine could be on ‘chill’ for the day’s end.  Even better forward planning had beers in the lunch eskies for the trip home at the end of the fishing day. A sit-down dinner in the dining room and set the theme for the week which was a few meat dishes, some fish and carbohydrates like rice or potatoes.  The food was simple but satisfying.

The rest of week continued along this format, breakfast was at 6am, we headed out on the boats at 7am and generally got back around 4pm.  The fishing area is huge and the locations we were assigned and varied day to day.  All of it is crystal-clear ankle to waist deep water over sandy reefs.  My favourite areas to fish were the “pancakes” small circular bommies with blue water around them that you fish on a rising tide.  After you have fished a beat the guide will call the boat and you are taken to your next stretch.  Plenty of fish were caught by everyone in the group including Bonefish, four types of Triggerfish, Giant, Golden, Striped and Brassy Trevally on the flats.

My casting the in wind improved markedly and the days passed very quickly considering they were actually quite long days of concentration in the sun.  Out on the water the temperature was perfect, the wind cooling us nicely.  A highlight of the trip was a day down the “Korean wreck” down the other end of the island, this was fishing along a rocky shore with some shots at many trevally, some very big bones and large schools of milkfish, one of which I managed to hook and play for a fair while before the hook pulled.  The drive down is a neat way to see some more of the place, including a very surreal cruise along the old runway that was used in the 1950s nuclear testing program conducted near the island.

Some non-fishing activities from the week included a couple of evening visits  to nearby pubs for darts and pool with the locals, and even a trip to the only nightclub which was eventful!  We also had a couple of concerts performed to us by the Villages staff; the singing was amazing.

Hand- written boarding passes and a very relaxed and extended check in process punctuated the flight home and we had a pleasant meal in Fiji before heading on our separate ways.

The trip was an amazing week of fly fishing, an eye- opening and thought- provoking experience, and like nowhere I had visited before.  We had a great group of guys and Jimmy from Fly Odyssey was a great host, very attentive and well organised.  Everyone got on very well, and got onto lots of fish throughout each day. Until next time!

Sam Pankhurst

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