On a wet chilly day looking out the window at work you can easily imagine it. The water is a shade of blue you only see in the tropics, a warm breeze blowing through the palm trees, and sand flats stretching on for miles. You can see yourself there, wading in warm knee deep water, scanning ahead for signs of bonefish feeding on the flats. Up ahead is a school of bones, you carefully make a 40 foot cast being sure to lead the fish, then a slow long strip followed by a tightening of your line, strip set and fish on!
If this sounds like a dream, it doesn’t have to be. It happens all the time on Christmas Island. You’d be hard pressed to find a better location for chasing bonefish while wading than Christmas Island. There are an endless list of reasons why it is a bonefish paradise and going there to enjoy it is no more difficult than a trip to the Bahamas or Mexico. And if Hawaii is a regular part of your family vacations, it is an easy add on trip.
Let’s start with the basics. Christmas Island is part of the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced Kir-ee-boss). It is 1300 miles south of Hawaii and lies very near the equator. There is one flight a week on an Air Fiji 737 that leaves Honolulu. After a 3 hour flight you and your crew get off the plane and the previous week’s anglers board the plane to head home. You then go through the most chill customs experience of your life, your lodge’s vehicle meets you and you are off to the lodge. In terms of travel it doesn’t get any easier than this.
Christmas Island bonefishing is ideal for the whole range of experience levels. First trip for bonefish? Perfect, you’ll be wading on firm sand flats, getting numerous shots at bonefish, and no you don’t have to cast into the wind. Your guides will set you up so casts are downwind or crosswind and if you miss a shot don’t worry, you’ll get another. And while there are lots of 2-4lb bones, there are enough 6+ pound fish around to keep you on your toes. Are you an experienced saltwater angler? Well Christmas has plenty of variety for you in addition to the bones. Triggerfish, milkfish, bluefin trevally, golden trevally and of course the legendary GT’s. If a challenge is what you want it is available!
Since Christmas Island is so near the equator, the weather doesn’t vary much from season to season. So you don’t have to hit a small timing window in order to get good fishing. Whatever works for you is good. While January to May is the most popular time to go, summer and fall offer excellent fishing and fewer anglers on the flats.
COST AND TRAVEL
We all know that traveling isn’t as fun as it used to be. And we also know the more connections you have to make the more opportunity there is for lost bags, missed flights, and frustration. The beauty of a Christmas Island trip is the simplicity of getting there. You arrive in Honolulu the day before or maybe you are there on a family vacation and you add your Christmas Island trip to the end. After a leisurely overnight in Honolulu, the next day you board the jet to Christmas and 3 hours later you are there. No small commuter hops or dealing with crazy little air lines that seem to come and go.
The The lodges are low key, very comfortable and relaxing. In terms of cost, they are quite affordable. Especially when you take into account that the fishing is fully guided and the guides are top notch.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight how warm, relaxed and friendly the local people are. A great part of the trip is getting to know your guides, the staff working at the lodge and any other locals you meet. They are wonderful and make a real impression that you likely won’t forget. You have to ask them questions at first but as they open up you’ll gain a great appreciation for their unique island lifestyle.
THE FISHING GEAR - BONEFISH
A 9 foot 8 weight rod is ideal for bones. Some might argue for a 7 weight which is still a good option, but an 8 will give you a bit of extra power in the wind and also let you tangle with the smaller Bluefin Trevally. If you can round up an extra rod it is a good idea. Things do get broken and as you might expect there is no fly shop on the island. If you are going with a group you can always have a few extra rods for your group and hope that everyone doesn’t break their rod!
We’ll leave the complete saltwater reel article for another day, so let’s just say Christmas Island is no place for an economy reel. The warm saltwater of the equatorial Pacific is mega-corrosive, the whole place is sand and grit, and the bonefish are hot. Get a good one.
A tropical Bonefish line, which features a core that keeps it stiff and casting well in 85 degree water, is what you want. The Rio Bonefish or Rio Bonefish Quickshooter are two of our favorites. You should consider bringing a back up line too in case a big bone runs you over a coral head and shreds the coating off your line. It happens.
For leaders go with tapered 10 Foot Rio Bonefish in 12 lb and 16 lb test and matching spools of Rio Saltwater Fluorocarbon tippet in 12, 16, and 20 lb test. A good estimate is one leader per day of fishing so 6-7 leaders will set you up for the week. A good option is to get three 12 lb leaders and three 16 lb leaders.
Every destination has its own twist on flies and Christmas Island is no different. The Bones love small sparse shrimpy patterns. Sparse being the key word here. On my first trip to Christmas, I tied all my own flies. Upon arrival, the guide opened my box, asked me “Did you tie these?” I hesitantly nodded yes and he said “Very nice flies.” and then commenced to trimming ¾ of the materials off my patterns. So whether you are tying your own or buying flies sparse is better.
The number one fly has been and continues to be the Christmas Island Special in Orange, Pink and Pearl. Size 6 is the all around winner for size, but the #8 are very good ,too. A few #4 will come in handy if you are blind casting off the flats or for larger bonefish.
Moana’s Chili Pepper is very good as are small worm-like flies such as the Bonefish Worm and Worm Bite. A few larger Bahamas-style patterns such as Bone Jovi and the Skampi are good for big bones and Bluefin Trevally.
How many should you bring? Everyone has their own tolerance for how many flies they are comfortable having on hand. Some like to bring the whole arsenal while others are OK rolling in with the minimum. Just remember there is no fly shop on Christmas Island. You should be okay if you have 36 flies for a full week of bonefish fishing. If you tie flies, bring a vise so you can replenish the hot ones.
GT (GIANT TREVALLY) GEAR
You’re going to need a big one. The default rod size is a 12 weight and anything less is asking for a disaster. You don’t get a ton of shots at the big boys so make sure you are ready when you do. If at all possible practice casting the 12 on the lawn before your trip. If you are in Hawaii before your trip, sneak out on a golf course when the last golfers have played through and make some quick 50 foot casts.
Like the bonefish reel, you need it to be top quality. If you don’t have a 12 weight set up and investing in one isn’t in the cards, there are options to rent a set up. Ask us about this and we can give you some options.
A weight forward floating tropical line that is designed for quick shots is ideal. Airflo’s GT line is excellent and it is built on an extra stout core to meet the demands of GT fishing. If you plan to do much GT fishing bring an extra line. Leaders are generally straight (meaning not tapered) 60, 80 or 100 pound test Fluorocarbon and 5-6 feet in length.
10 GT flies will get you through a week. Most of the patterns are meant to imitate juvenile bonefish, milkfish, red snapper and mullet. Note that most of these fish are light colored so baitfish patterns in tan, gray, light olive with not a lot of flash are the winners. Some examples of these are Joe Dirt and the Dabloon. Both in size 4/0. Big Poppers can work as well but take note that casting them is much more difficult than a subsurface streamer.
INTERESTED IN GOING?
We are happy to help with this. Whether you are single angler or you have a whole group we can make suggestions about time of year, the fishing program and help with making sure you have flies, leaders and tackle needed to have a successful trip. We work closely with Yellow Dog Fishing Adventures so you know you’ll have the best in the business working for you and it won’t cost you a nickel extra.
Fly List for a Week at Christmas Island