Christmas Island Trip Report // Villages May 2019
May 24, 2019
This was my first saltwater trip, but it certainly will not be my last. There was a group of 20 anglers and about 15 had never fished Christmas Island before. Everybody had a blast and caught a ton of fish. I'm going to give a day to day recap with an emphasis on the gear that was used and what it is truly like to go fishing in paradise.
Christmas Island is located 144 miles North of the Equator and just about due South of the Hawaiian Islands. Air temps are 80-85 degrees everyday of the year, and so is the water. The island is hollow in the middle and that is where the flats are. Our primary quarry was Bonefish, Giant Trevally, and Triggerfish; however we also were able to catch Blue Trevally, Striped Trevally, Black Tipped Sharks, Pufferfish, Yellow and Red Snapper, Yellowfin Tuna, Rainbow Runners, Wahoo, Goatfish and probably more.
The Adventure to Christmas Island Begins
We arrived in Honolulu on Monday, the day before we departed for Christmas Island. I had never been to Hawaii, so walking the beach and seeing the surfers and everything was really fun.
We stayed at a cheap hotel in Waikiki, which was really convenient. It's an easy and fun place to have a quickstop on the way.
There is only one flight per week in and out of Christmas Island, so we were careful not to miss it. We met up at a restaurant near the hotel that most of us elected to stay at. Swapped stories and talked about how excited we were to get fishing. What gear people brought was of course a hot topic. Before long it was clear that we had a great group on our hands and the week was going to be a good one.
Day 0 - Travel Day // Christmas Island Trip Report:
Departed for Christmas Island in the morning from Honolulu. After getting through security and picking up some beverages at the duty free store we were finally aboard the plane. It was only a 3.5 hour flight, but the anticipation made it feel like much longer. The view looking down from the airplane was stunning! Look at those flats!
Immediately upon landing we went through "security", customs and bought a fishing license all within about 15 minutes. They were not messing around. Bob, the head guide, was there to meet us and we loaded up on a bus for the ride to the Villages.
They gave us a brief introduction and we all settled into our rooms for a bit. Dinner is at 7 PM every night with sashimi appetizers beforehand. After dinner we did a bit of gear set up and knot tying demonstrations. We all crashed pretty early and made sure not to get too carried away so we could be fresh and ready for a hard day of fishing.
Day 1 // Christmas Island Trip Report
Fishing begins! Breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon with plenty of coffee was a good start to the day. Breakfast was at 6:15 am most days and the boats departed at 7 am. The guides would grab your rods every morning from the porch of each guests room. Coolers would be loaded up on board with 4 waters for each angler and whatever beer and soda you ordered. I set out that day with Tenea primarily after bonefish. Although, it was a little cloudy in the morning and I had an extremely hard time seeing the fish the guide was even able to spot them in tough conditions. Finally we were on a flat with white sand and the sun was out from behind the clouds and the fish were much easier to see. By afternoon I had caught a healthy amount of bones and even had one shot at a GT that happened within about 42 seconds from the time the fish were spotted until one was hooked. Plenty of fish were caught by all.
My Rods and Gear for Fishing Christmas Island:
- Bonefish Rod: G. Loomis Asquith 790-4, Reel: Sage Reel, Line: Scientific Angler Grand Slam, Leader: Rio Fluoro Bonefish Leader 16 lb
- GT Rod: G. Loomis Asquith 1190-4, Reel: Ross Evolution R Salt, Line: Rio Flats Pro, Leader: 60 -80 lb Rio Fluoroflex Tippet
- Simm's Dry Creek Z Sling Pack
Everything about this bonefish setup worked great. The bonefish rod cast great even in wind. The line turned things over even with a heavier lead eye fly for quick short roll casts. The line was also very easy to pickup and make two false casts and launch 40 feet no problem. I learned that is was important to use the Fluoro leaders as the bonefish have very good eyesight.
The GT Rod wasn't used as much, usually the guide would carry it and if we were in a likely spot for GTs he would pull some line off so if one did appear we could switch rods quickly and be ready to cast. Mostly the chances for GT are quick, so you have to have a good shooting head line that can dump a cast out at 40-60 feet without much false casting. Be familiar with your reel because things happen quick and you might need to tighten up the drag under pressure (like when a GT is pulling line and heading for some coral and you need to stop him). When I go back next time I would bring a 7 or an 8 for Bonefish, a 10 wt for GT/Trigger and a 12 for big GT flies. If you are interested in bluewater fish a gear rod and a 14 wt would be a great option as well.
A waterproof pack is essential, either a hip pack or a sling pack, but I like the sling pack. Sometimes we were wading waist deep or even more so the sling pack stays up and out of the water. It is also important to have another dry bag to leave in the boat with some extra gear that isn't necessary to carry around with you.
The Best Flies for Christmas Island:
- Orange Christmas Island Special sz 6 and 8 (definitely sz 6 orange was most popular all week),
- Pink Christmas Island Special sz 6 and 8
- Mantis shrimp sz 4, 6, and 8
- Bonefish worms both beadchain and lead eye
- Bonefish Junk sz 6
- Enrico Puglisi Tan Crab sz 8 for Trigger Fish
- EP Rooster Fish Mullet #4/0
- EP Black/Purple Peanut Butter #3/0
- Rainy's Offshore Popper
I did end up loosing about a dozen bonefish flies throughout the week, a good idea to have an assortment of flies for the guides to choose from. Not very many of them actually broke off, but some of them got the hooks bent and then broke when bending them back. About 6 flies just caught too many fish and so they started to fall apart. Depending on the conditions the guides would like a larger fly vs a smaller fly and leadeyes vs beadchain eyes. If you are serious about trying for Trigger fish some larger crab patterns with strong hooks would be advised. The guides seemed to like the EP Rooster Fish Mullet because it was a very natural pattern. Both Joe R. and I caught GTs on Black/Purple Peanut Butter but depending on conditions you definitely want to have an assortment of different baitfish patterns.
The Right Clothing for Christmas Island:
- Solarflex Armor Shirt
- Solarflex Bugstopper Hoody
- Guide pants
- Super light pants
- Sol Sunscreen
- Flats Sneaker
- Guide Guard Sock
- Solarflex Sun Gloves
I was extremely impressed with the Solarflex Armor Shirt, it has a built in gaiter that was super comfortable and easy to breath through. The Solarflex hoodies are also really comfortable to wear with an additional buff. I found that wearing the hood kept me feeling cooler because the sun wasn't beating down on my head, it was hitting the hood. The guide pants and the superlight pants are a no brainer, the dry quickly and are comfortable even when wet. The superlight is probably a better pant because it is a little lighter and has some nice features, but it is cut a little slimmer than the guide pant which doesn't work for me. The flats sneaker with the guide guard sock was the way to go. Although I didn't break the shoes in before the trip, which I was worried about, they were comfortable all week and no blisters even walking miles on the flats. I also brought the regular neoprene socks that don't have the gravel guard built in and I did end up with some sand in the bottom of my boot after a day of fishing with the regular neoprene socks. Before I went I wasn't sure if I wanted the Solarflex Guide Gloves or the Sun Gloves. The Guide Glove has a leather palm which is good for rowing back home, but I found the Solarflex Sun Gloves to be more comfortable and easy to wear during a long day. The fingers have nice leather spots that are quite comfortable for stripping (hard and fast for GT).
Day 2 // Christmas Island Trip Report:
After the first day most of us were so excited to get back fishing (the time change was in our favor as well) that 5:30 am breakfast was not a problem. We new we had an early breakfast because they post the schedule the night before with the destination, time and anglers on the boat. They try to stagger the boats leaving to spread things out a bit. The early day was because our boat was heading to the backcountry. Just an area that is far on the other side of the island. We made our way toward the backcountry but stopped short and fished Bonefish during the morning, once the tide went up we got further in through a series of channels onto some saltwater flats. We witnessed some GTs chasing mullet up onto a coral shelf similar to the picture below. The mullet literally jumped out of water up onto the coral shelf to escape the predator and only after the GT swam off did they finally wriggle back into the water. Most of the afternoon all four anglers in the boat targeted GTs and saw a couple, made some casts but nothing that got hooked up.
Day 3 // Christmas Island Trip Report:
In the morning we were after bonefish and attempted to try at some trigger fish. A handful of other fish species were caught along the way. The trigger fish proved to be both exhilarating and frustrating. It was a challenge as they are very picky and spooky. I hooked two within the first hour and I was hooked on the trigger fish, at least until I got a taste for the GTs. I could really see the fish and started catching more and more bones as the day went on. Even though I could see the fish that the guide pointed out it was important to ask which direction the fish was facing so that you could place the cast accordingly. I caught both Blue Fin and Golden Trevally that don't get nearly as big as the GTs, but the Bluefin are super aggressive and fight hard.
Eventually the leader broke off a couple times and I put 20 lb saltwater fluoro tippet on. That worked fine for bonefish but was certainly preferred for the Trigger Fish because they want to go into a coral hole and tend to break you off as I learned. One of the other anglers carried a separate 10 weight rod set up with a crab pattern specifically for Trigger Fish.
The guides are not just good at spotting fish and carrying your extra rod. Make sure to show them your camera first thing in the morning and they can take pictures of you and your fish throughout the day.
Day 4 // Christmas Island - BLUE WATER FISHING
A couple of the anglers that came on the trip came prepared with some serious gear. And by gear I mean trolling rods. Bob A. wanted to go bluewater fishing and we got three other anglers to fill the boat pretty quickly. In addition to trolling with the gear rods we threw some 12 and 14 weights off the back and trolled big flies through flocks of feeding birds, crashing bait balls and feeding tuna. We caught Wahoo, Tuna, and Rainbow Runners. The boatman took as all the way around the outside of the island which was a nice tour of the island. I would recommend bluewater fishing one day, as long as you come prepared with big rods and maybe even a gear rod with some heavy duty 100-150 lb mono and serious swivels and wire leaders. The best lures of the day were ones with pink stripes and ones with more natural colors like blue and green. Not only was it a fun and relaxing day of fishing it was an easier day compared to walking miles upon miles on the flats. The guides kept all of the fish that we caught that day, it wasn't even a question. We got to eat some of it and the rest went to their families which we were happy to oblige.
Day 5 // Christmas Island Trip Report:
Another day back on the flats, most of us couldn't believe we only had two days of fishing left. Great weather conditions made for great fishing. Very little clouds, light wind and good tides made for lots of fish and many fish stories that evening with sashimi and drinks. Somehow the fish had gotten bigger by dinner time than they were during the day, but nobody seemed to object. I hooked another trigger fish that was out on the ocean side of the island. He decided to run straight into a coral hole and bent the hook. I learned that good hooks are very important for the trigger fish, another one bit my hook in half. As the guide and I were walking towards the beach to get to the ocean side of the island (just 100 yards across the island in that spot) he spotted a toad Bonefish. I must have made 10-12 casts at that bone. Some of the casts were too far in front of it because I was scared to put it too close and spook it off. Some casts were behind, as it was feeding back and forth in front of us. Sometimes he would follow my fly for a few strips but then turn off. Finally I made the perfect cast and the guide instructed me to do short slow strips instead of long ones, he took the fly and proceeded to make five back to back runs across the flat. Those things can really go on a run! Caught this bad boy on a Size 8 Pink Christmas Island Special.
Day 6 // Christmas Island Trip Report:
The last day of fishing was upon us. The night before hand they post the schedule with the anglers on the boat, the location and departure time. Everybody was excited for the last day of fishing and most anglers decided to target some Bonefish in the AM and go after some GTs in the PM. The tide was highest at 6 PM so that is when the GTs are on the move. I believe three nice GT were caught that day along with some attempts at some others.
After catching many bones and throwing at 15 trigger fish, if which I hooked three but didn't land, we changed gears to target the big boys. The guide positioned me in a likely spot for some GTs to move through, it was a channel with the rising tide pushing water through it. A good spot for them to cruise and hammer on some baitfish. We had been slowly walking and waiting for a few hours, casting occasionally in the channel so see if anything was around. Finally the guide said "Get ready", I knew it was go time. Double checked that my line wasn't tangled and the fly was free. He told me to cast and as the cast was going out I saw three big shadows that I knew were GTs. He told me to cast once more further right and on the second strip I felt tension and continued pulling to bury that fly in the fishes mouth. It was game on. The line flew through my empty hand praying that nothing would get tangled and the line wouldn't get wrapped around the reel seat. That fish started running, with my drag darn near so high that I couldn't have pulled line off the reel with my hand. The fish ran and I watched my fly line disappear into the deep and 65 lb backing was screaming off the reel. I'm not sure how far he ran, but it was at least 200 yards. Finally he stopped running and I began getting a few feet on him when I could. Once I could see the fly line I felt much better, even as the guide had waded out on the flat to push up on my line with my other rod so the fish couldn't rub on the coral. Once he was up on the flat and in clear view the fight was won and I was victorious. Luck, patience, the right gear and some good karma lead to one of the best fishing trips I have ever been on. Can't wait to go back next year!