Christmas Island Fly Fishing Tips, Packing List, and AdviceJanuary 10, 2018
Everything You Need to Know About Fly Fishing on Christmas Island
It's winter time and many anglers are planning Christmas Island trips, let me start by saying Red's is your source for planning this trip. We'll be posting additional 2019 Christmas Island Fly Fishing Trip dates very soon, you can watch our website for upcoming trips if you would like to personally travel with Red's. After a few recent trips to other destinations I made a few tweaks to this article and I hope you find it helpful for planning your trip to Christmas Island. Contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org with any gear needs or if you would like to book a trip.
2019 Christmas Island Dates
*more dates coming soon!
Right now I'm the guy struggling to contain a huge smile in an Economy Class Flight on a Hawaiian Airlines flight inbound to Seattle, WA. I'm wedged between two heavy tourists with sharp elbows, so most people are probably wondering "what could that weirdo possibly be smiling about?"Must have just polished of a double scotch. My smile is weary, but satisfied, and I am truly overwhelmed by an amazing week of fly fishing. No scotch required to keep me smiling.
I am motivated to write this article, it turned into a long article, because I truly believe it will be one of the most useful pieces ever written on fishing strategies and preparing for a great trip to Christmas Island. It didn't start out that way but I sincerely want you to have the best possible experience on your trip to Christmas Island. This means providing some tactical fishing advice in addition to inspiration, which is easy after you see the pictures. Red's personally hosts a couple of trips here each year, so please visit our website or call us to find out more information about booking through us. We sincerely hope you join one of our crews. There isn't a bad month to fish Christmas Island, since it is only about 130 miles from the Equator the weather is mild year round.
The flats fishing is all done on foot with a 1:1 guide ratio, at least on Red's trips, and you will use either boats or trucks to access various portions of the island. If you fish by truck you might fish the exposed coastal side of the island near the shipwrecks, or you might venture into the "backcountry" which is a beautiful labyrinth of flats and lagoons. I personally enjoyed truck fishing as much as the using the boats. The guides and staff are great, they don't speak fluent English but their warm smile more than compensates for any language barrier you might encounter. They speak their own local dialect and they won't be offended if you accidentally start speaking Spanish like I constantly did. The lodge manager and head guide both speak great English and you will enjoy getting to know them better over the course of your week. They custom tailor the fishing schedule every night based on tides, species, and angler preferences. They do a great job and I actually learned a lot about outfitting for our trips back here at our lodges.
Preparing for a Christmas Island Fly Fishing Trip
Preparing for this trip was a tough task. There are so many species, choices, and options for fishing that coming up with quality and concise intel was tough. I spent hours browsing the net, watching amateur Youtube videos, reading blogs, and calling all my friends in the fly fishing business that had done this trip. I wanted to get myself and my group as prepared as possible. Gotta catch fish.
Getting there - . To get there from the US we hopped a plan to Honolulu, stayed the night and then flew 1200 miles south to Christmas Island. Its official name is Kiritimati, pronounced Christmas, and it is part of the Republic of Kiribati, pronounced Kiribass. The Australian dollar is the official currency, but US dollars are always accepted. There is only one flight per week that lands there, employees of the airport work a rigid 1 day on 6 off schedule. Rough life. You need to be in Hawaii the day before so that there is no chance of a mis-hap. If you miss the flight out of Honolulu you miss your trip. I suppose if you have a private jet that isn't an issue. If you have a private jet call me!
The overnight layover in Honolulu was filled with excitement. The group spent the evening together walking the strip in Waikiki and we had dinner at Chuck's Steak house watching the waves crash the beach and newbies attempting to surf.
Departure on Fiji Airways was smooth, the flight is a well appointed Boeing jet and the staff on board is awesome. They did a great job of spreading islander culture and cheer before arrival. We landed at Cassidy "International Airport at" about 3:30 pm local time. We got through customs which are composed of friendly locals and they stamp your passport, sell you a fishing license, and make your arrival smooth. Maybe all airline staff should work 1 day on 6 off and it would be more fun to fly.
We were then met by a driver and they promptly loaded our gear into trucks and away we went. We rode in open air pickups designed for two things. Picking up fly fisherman at the airport and taking fly fisherman fishing. They are very good at both. A few minutes later we rolled into the resort for a wonderful greeting from their lodge manager and staff. He gave us the rundown on fishing schedules, booze tabs, room assignments, and a great welcome concert. The local girls sang us a traditional welcome song to bless us with happy times and good fishing. I love this place already.
That night the head guide and I had a quick meeting, chatted fishing and I conveyed the desires of the anglers to their guide staff. The guide assignments were posted that night with a 5:30 am start time. They wanted to be a on a few particular flats at sunrise to hit the tides right for some good Bonefish fishing. One of the clients landed 65 Bonefish that day. No joke! Lots of fun stuff happened on day one and my head was spinning at all the fish.
The next several days were very educational. I will make a disclaimer here and say that all of the fishing advice you will find below is not just coming from me, I practically interrogated every guide I fished with! We want to have the best intel possible for our future groups. The majority of what I will teach you here came directly from the most experienced flats guides the world has ever known. The islander culture isn't one to boast, big talk, or brag. They don't have even have Facebook haha. Seriously though, you do need to ask questions to get them talking. I got them to open up and teach.
I'll give you a quick play by play on some things that I learned. Blue Fin Trevally might be the most beautiful fish on earth. Trigger Fish will tempt, taunt, and torment you begging for you to cast at them - but are very hard to catch. You can't hardly strip fast enough for Blue Fin Trevally. Not all Giant Trevally are giants. The small ones might be the best trophy this trip has to offer. They are aggressive, fun, and fairly abundant. 12 pound test Fluorocarbon isn't nearly enough for these Bonefish if they are near a coral ledge. Your flats boots had better be comfortable. There are fish that you have never even heard of that you will catch and fall in love with. Good knots are critical. Bring an extra 12 weight fly line. DO NOT try to wind your own backing on a fly reel, or have anyone less than a true pro staffer do this. An 8, 10, and 12 weight rod arsenal is the right combo. Better casters catch more fish. Learn to hold your extra stripping fly line in a way that is organized and won't hang up in the coral. There are a ton of other quick hitters but it might be best to go through it by species by species so let's roll.
General Tips on How to Make the Most out of Your Christmas Island Trip
This is a wonderful trip and in addition to fishing hard be sure to take some time to relax. Certain elements will be outside your control and handling those situations appropriately will enhance your experience. If it is cloudy and the weather isn't perfect, don't sweat it. Let your guard down, relax, and take this "down time" to have your guide teach you more about casting and presenting flies. Don't skimp on gear preparation. Running low on tippet, not having the right flies, leaders, or rods that you like shouldn't take away from this trip. Get the right stuff and remember, it is an investment and not an expense. Be absolutely sure to put in some "range time" in before you go and practice your casting. Get some good lessons
Photo Tips for Flats Fishing
Teach your guide how to use your camera and where it is. I love to take video as well, the guides are delighted to help you get great photos and videos.
- Bring a dry towel to wipe off your camera, especially if it is humid or rainy.
- Bring a lens cloth AND pre-moistened lens wipes to clean the saltwater off any buttons
- Take more photos, but put some thought into each one of them
- Get close to the fish
- Get your camera low to the water when taking fish pictures
- Focus on the eye of the fish
- Keep your camera handy, I carry a small point and shoot and a heavy SLR. My favorites often come from the point and shoot in my pocket.
Christmas Island Bonefish Tips
Ok, so this is no secret but Christmas Island is the best Bonefish destination in the Pacific Ocean. What does that mean? How about a place here you to walk on firm ground, and stalk Bonefish on foot like a hunter stalks his prey. That is my kind of fishing. The Bonefish get to 12+ pounds and 5 pound fish are common. More good news - the flats are LOADED with 2-4 pound Bonefish. I fished "Orvis Flat" the final afternoon of the trip and it was epic. I had only been there about 30 years ago I could have named it "Red's Flat". I got pretty distracted trying to get a big Giant Trevally, aka GT, and my only regret on the trip wasn't spending more time on the shallow flats hunting individual Bonefish. I landed my largest Bonefish ever, about 8 pounds on this trip and it was everything a fisherman could ever ask for. Bonefish are awesome as long as you like silently stalking through shin deep water hunting prey with a small fly and a floating line. Yeee haa, Bonefisherman rejoice! Here are some of the quick hitters that I learned about Bonefish on this past trip.
- Bonefish are my favorite flats species.
- Take time to fish alone without the aid of your guide. Just ask your guide to let you tip-toe ahead and try to spot the fish and make the catch independently without their help. This has helped my Bonefish skill immensely! Sure you don't catch as many but it is very rewarding and my eyes get much better every time I do it.
- The guides wanted heavier tippet than we had, even 20 pound test in the areas with coral.
- 12 pound Fluorocarbon tippet is great for the sandy flats, but 15 pound test is good for the coral, but bring a spool of 25 for misc Bonefish/Trevally work (the two species swim side by side at times)
- Bring a big fly selection. I fished with 6 different guides that week and I talked flies with every one of them. We personally want our groups well prepared for success and got a lot of first hand intel from the guys on the ground. Various weights and types are crucial.
- Bring a set of Amber or light colored sunglass lenses. Two pairs of shades, one copper and one amber will really help you spot fish.
- You will lose a lot of flies to fish that run across sharp coral
- Try to spot the fish BEFORE you cast, don't let your guide hurry you too much. If you see the fish you will have a much better chance of catching it.
- Ask your guide to take you to a good "sight casting" spot at least one day. You can catch loads of fish blind casting but there is nothing like spot â€˜n stalk hunting in the shallows
- Have your guide pack extra rods, I like to bring a 10 weight for Blue Fin Trevally while walking for Bonefish. The 12 weight is overkill if you are in shallow flats, but if you are near a ledge bring both the 10 and 12 weight.
- Take pictures and video. Time spent Bonefishing should be relaxing and low pressure.
- Rod wise - I prefer an 8 weight. You can Bonefish with a 6-7 but there are so many bigger fish prowling around that it just make sense to have the 8. Plus they cast better in the wind.
- Ask your guide lots of questions. By nature, the guides here won't babble and talk at you. Don't mistake this for not wanting to share or teach. Ask them to demonstrate how fast to strip, how to cast, how to set the hook, and even spot fish. Just remember, you may have to ask. They love to share but they don't want to badger you. That is an annoying way to guide and teach and they know it.
- If you fish the open water accessible only by trucks, super heavy flies are essential. There is so much tidal current that a bead chain eye fly (preferred in shallow flats) simply won't work well here.
Giant Trevally Tips for Christmas Island
First, my ethical disclaimer should hopefully clear me from sounding like a jerk. Please don't mistake this article for some self righteous rant on how you should fish for GT's. Fish the way you like and don't let anyone else affect what you choose to do. My personal goal was to catch a mature GT stalking the flats "fair chase" style. I had a dream in my mind as to how this would all play out, and I wouldn't settle for any technique that might cheapen the deal. There are many different ways to target "big GT" including trolling, teasing, and chumming. Over the past decade some of the guides here have found chumming to be very successful for Giant Trevally. It works quite well and we took a group to Christmas Island last year and they had a great time doing it. Super fun and lots of big GT's were caught that week. This time however, we chose to fish with a lodge doesn't even make that an option. Nothing against the other program or any angler that chooses to chum, but this is what we decided to do. You can also troll flies for GT's, have your guide cast hookless plugs to locate the fish, and some of the guys on our trip opted to throw conventional spinning gear to cover more water. Each to their own. Blind casting a 12 weight for GT's is tough duty so I don't blame them. I did tons of it and caught a lot of small to mid-sized GT's but my favorite strategy is spot â€˜n stalk.
I stuck to the fair chase program with a fly and discovered quickly that these fish are tough to catch, semi-rare, and very special. You will see LOTS of pics of big GT's of course, we love to show them off, but they are not something you will catch every day on this trip. Just getting to cast at an 80 pound fish in thigh deep water is one of the biggest surges of adrenaline the angler will ever have! I spent days on the flats chatting with all the guides and here are some of the discoveries that I made that will hopefully help you be more successful. I was able to land two big ones, hook a couple of others, and had enough shots to teach the next group a few things. Primarily though, I listened. If you inquire and let the Kiritimati guides talk, they will teach you decades of fly fishing wisdom so I hung on their every word. Most Americans talk too much and listen too little, those that know me are laughing right now because I just described myself. I didn't make that mistake on this trip. I listened, in fact, I wrote most of it down so that you have an outstanding Christmas Island trip.
The GT Sterotype.... "Pac Man on Crack"
Yes, GT's are brutal shameless thugs of the flats that are flat out SCARY when they push their prey up onto the shallow flats. They will eat anything that fits in their mouths... and some stuff that doesn't. I describe them as "Pac Man on Crack". They will eat, attack, and gobble up everything in their path. They are smarter than folks give them credit for though! I had numerous fish refuse and just be "aware" that something wasn't quite right. Maybe it was my retrieve, or maybe the fly didn't sound quite right? Not sure, but they will swarm your fly and not eat at times. The fish in the video below should give you an idea of their speed and ferocity.
Tips for Fly Fishing Giant Trevally, aka GT's
- There are lots of small to mid-sized GT's that are great sport nobody ever talks about. The 5-10 pound fish on a 10 weight are great fun.
- Big fish, 30 pounds plus, are not an everyday trophy. Be patient
- Big GT's are old, smart, and most of them have seen flies thrown at them on the flats.
- Do not carry anything less than a 12 weight if you hope to land a fish over 40 pounds.
- You need to be quick on the draw, these fish don't hang around. You had better be able to make a very quick and accurate cast that lands clean with little to no slack.
- They are a brutal, aggressive, and angry fish when they attack but - . They are smart and have seen flies. You can spook them, they can be tippet shy, and nobody gives them credit for this.
- The fish will often come close but since they follow you need to cast far enough for them to follow the fly 20 feet and not see you standing there. A quick 50' cast is about right.
- Get DOWN LOW! If the fish is following and is going to be close crouch as low as you can. I missed an 80 pound type fish that was opening up to eat my fly because I let him get too close., as he was opening his mouth he saw me and flared. The guide told me if I had crouched down super low (head near the water) it was a done deal. I'll be reliving that one for a while. DOHHH!
- Reinforce the welded loops on your fly line with mono nail knots and knot sense or super glue. We can do this at Red's if you come to our clinic before the trip.
- One of our guys lost 2 fly lines, bring extras. He was trolling flies and hooked big GT's that spooled him.
- Put your time in, don't come to Christmas Island expecting to catch a bunch of whopper GT's. I got my dream fish on the last day because I stuck to the program and got my shot - it all worked out.
- Learn to hold line coils in your hand so that your line is ready and organized to cast any second. You can't simply drag the fly line along behind you. There is too much coral and if anything goes wrong you will lose your opportunity. I posted a video of this, scan our Youtube Channel before you go.
- Practice with your 12 weight. Early in the week I had a tough time getting the tempo of the rod and line but by the end of the week I could put the fly on a paper plate at 80'. Ok, that is slight BS but I did a lot of blind casting and having a 12 weight rod/line that you enjoy casting is key. It is kind of fun casting the big rod and learn to double haul before you go. Putting a quick 50' cast in front of a cruising fish shouldn't take more than 2 false casts. Max.
- Rio Tropical Outbound Short WF12F. The Rio Tarpon Short is the same line, different name. This line makes a quick cast. I didn't love it at first but I got use it and it grew on me. I typically like a longer head but the other guests really liked it and I could shoot a quick shot with minimal false casting. Haste is good for GT's.
- Blind casting. I did a ton of blind casting and caught small to mid-sized fish. It is good to do when its cloudy but after quizzing all the guides all week if you are hunting for a big fish it is better to have your line coiled and ready.
- Bring good Poppers that cast well. For blind casting Poppers rule. For site casting a baitfish pattern is better. We sell all these flies, just let us know if you want a custom assortment.
- Leader wise - most literature says that 6' of 100 pound Flurocarbon is standard. Rio makes a great product that seems to tie knots quite well. However, the guides said that 60-70 pound will hook more fish. I had several very large fish that refused the fly on 100 pound. I'm not saying that is necessarily why, but it wouldn't hurt on clear sunny days. I personally found that 8-9' of straight 100 pound leader casted a lot better than 6' for some reason. The casting loop was better. I also spooked a couple of big GT's that may not have spooked if my leader was longer. Next time I will be fishing 8' of 60 pound Fluorocarbon.
- WF12F shooting heads hit the water pretty hard. Please practice your casting.
- Don't panic. You will panic, but at least now I can say that I told you not to panic. I didn't see a truly big GT prowling the flats until Day 4 and I was a spaz. I thought I had seen some nice ones but the first 80 pounder type that you see will change your life.
- Larger fish typically prefer a very long but not super aggressive strip. Smaller fish love the fast strip just an FYI, all the guides confirmed this. Blue Trevally like fast, big GT - medium fast.
- Fish the way you like to fish. Don't let me or anyone else prevent you from trolling, chumming, or casting plugs. I will say however, hunting them with a fly in shallow water is probably the most awesome fly fishing experience I have ever had. We genuinely want our guests to experience the same level of "highs" and reward that we get while fly fishing. Because of this, we'll teach you everything we can and help prepare you to fish the way we do.
- Last tip, don't cry. Not everyone will get a big GT but you will get shots. Make the most of them and you will be successful. If not, that is ok too. This is a special trophy and there are so many other incredible species to pursue that you'll be content.
Blue Fin Trevally, and SGT's, "Small Giant Trevally"
Tips for Blue Fin Trevally and Small GT's
- Strip fast
- Single handed strip seems to work great, don't worry about a 2 handed strip
- Blind casting works quite well on the ledges, ask your guide about this if it is cloudy
- A dedicated rod for this is a wise move, 9-10 weight
- Make sure your backing knots are very strong, a 15 - 20 pound Trevally will make your 10 weight feel weak
- Don't let ego get in the way of enjoying fishing GT's, the small GT's are great fun and you should relish the experience
- Bring small Poppers that are durable, these fish will destroy foam poppers. I wore my Poppers out after 3 days and wish I had brought more.
Bluewater Fly Fishing on Christmas Island
There are so many species to catch here. Let me give you a quick rundown on what to expect. There are Black Trevally (which is a common term for a dark colored GT, Red Bass (large!), Wahoo, Yellow Tail Tuna, Sailfish, Barracuda, Bonita, Skipjack, Snapper, and probably about 40 more that I either didn't catch or can't recall right now. I personally didn't do the bluewater trip as I went specifically to fish the flats, but I listened intently every night from the guys that did go and have listened to many testimonies over the years so here is my take. I actually LOVE the fact that the rest of the group went trolling because we had fresh sushi every night. The lodge will prep your fish as a fresh appetizer and it awesome! Raw fish anyone?
The Bluewater is primarily a trolling game although you can cast plugs with spinning rods as teasers to bring fish up and then throw your fly at them. You will need to bring your own spinning rods/plugs to do this, the guides won't have anything. Our group went right for the meat haul every day and trolled the entire time and had a ton of fun. This was a big trip for them and they brought both flies and conventional tackle. Frankly, tackle is a good idea here as you might be hooking 10' Sailfish, Marlin, or Yellow Tail that a 14 weight wouldn't even handle. They guys lost two 12 weight fly lines trolling with fly rods out there. Regarding conventional tackle you will be better served reading other blogs about that but I'll tell you what I know.
Tips for Bluewater Fly Fishing in Christmas Island
- Bring 100+ pound test saltwater swivels. Trolling fast will twist up your fly line
- Bring NON BRAIDED steel wire. 70# test works fine for anything you might hook with a 12 weight rod.
- A 30' Shooting head sink tip (T-14 or T-17) will help keep your fly just under the surface while trolling fast. If it skips too much on the surface the birds will pick it up or you will miss strikes. Rio makes the perfect product and it has loops on both ends. Super easy to rig up
- Don't even think about using anything less than a 12 weight
- Consider bringing a heavy level wind reel and conventional rod, for specifics I respectfully encourage you to read another blog
- Bring gloves, every fish worth catching has something sharp on it
- Bring spare fly lines, enough said
- Have a pro tie your backing to fly line, backing should be 50 pound or more and LOTS of it
- Good reels make all the difference, I won't mention the bad brands but if you stick with high end like Hatch, or the top end Sage Reels, Tibor, or Abel you will be in good shape. We have been surprised what we have seen come back into the shop because it simply wouldn't slow down the fish.
The Rodney Dangerfield Fish of Christmas Island, "They get no respect!"
There are a pile of fish that simply don't the love that the Bonefish and GT's do. Let me name a few of the species that I caught in this category. Trigger Fish, Deskey Trevally, Queen Fish, baby GT's, Parrot Fish, Grouper, Snapper, Puffer Fish, Black Tip Sharks, Sweet Lips, Golden Trevally, Milk Fish, Striped Trevally, and likely a few others. I am convinced that without all these other "X Factor" fish that Christmas Island would be just another 8th grade Geography question on a photocopied ditto. We caught a lot of different fish especially the day we used trucks to access the open water side. It was cool fishing for Bonefish on flats where you have 10' breaking waves 100 yards away and a flat with crystal clear water and some small waves. It was really fun. In addition to a unique experience we caught a variety of fish that don't typically see on the sandy flats in the lagoons.
More General Advice for Christmas Island Fly Fishing
- Have some fun casting at anything that swims
- The more fish you hook, the more likely a GT will here the action and come cruising up on your flat. Some of the guides will throw your Bonefish rod while walking for GT and hook anything that makes a splash. This attracts the Trevally at times. If you would like to be the guy hooking fish, ask your guide to be ready with your 12 weight and GT fly ready to throw. We saw an estimated 70+ pound GT eat a 6 pound Bonefish off the end of our line. It was unreal. Had the GT missed the Bone we might have got it on the 12 weight!
- Use these species to help you practice species identification, I got really good at spotting Puffer fish haha, the joke is that they aren't spooky and easy to see. They don't take flies very well and figuring out how to identify Puffer Fish from a distance will help you stop looking at it and move your eyes towards trying to find some Bonefish.
- Trigger Fish can be upwards of 10-15 pounds and you will LOVE seeing them tailing in the coral. They like to eat crab patterns and you will need 20 pound test if you hope to land them. They dive into a hole in the coral often break your line
- Black Tip Sharks are all over, don' t be scared but they are fun to cast at. Strip very slowly and if you are not above using a chunk of fish on your fly you can have a great time hooking these fish. It is a fun way to mix up a slow day on the flats. We saw hundreds of them in shallow water and some were up to about 8' long. Braided wire leader like you would use for Barracuda is nice to have, or 100 pound test bite tippet.
- Queen Fish hit hard, jump, and fight like crazy. You can get a lot of these blind casting over the ledges with mid-sized baitfish patterns.
Fly Rods, Reels, and Fly Lines for Christmas Island
My personal weaponry was an 8, 10, and 12 weight and they worked perfect for me. I would carry the same rods again. The guide carried two rods for me every time we got out of the boat. If were fishing GT, I held, carried, and casted the 12 weight while he carried the 8 and 10. If we were seeing a lot of Blue Fin Trevally or small GT's then I fished my 10 weight, which is also capable of landing GT's up to about 35 pounds or so but it will like shred your fly line in the process. The further they run the great amount of coral they drag that line across. I can't imagine trying to effectively fight a 50+ pounder on a 10 weight.
12 Weight Rods - I put some some serious coin into my 12 because I wanted the absolute best chance at connecting with a big GT. Many consumers buy "value rods" and then complain about how awful they are to cast. Well, you get what you pay for right? I currently carry the Sage SALT HD 1290-4 because that is the rod that I can make the fastest and most accurate cast with. This is what worked for me. More important than the particular model though is that you practice, practice, and practice. You need to get strong with your #12 so that you can make good casts when it counts and do enough blind casting to generate some action when things are slow. My backup rod was a Sage MOTIVE and it was a bit smoother casting, but I didn't get the tight fast loops that I wanted.
Any edge that I can get I am taking it. I could write an entire blog post about casting 12 weight rods but I will say that you need to get your line hand involved and learn to double haul. Most of your power should come out of your left hand (if you are right handed) otherwise you will die from fatigue and you won't make that demanding 60' on demand when your moment of truth arrives. Good by Trevally, nice knowing for all of about 30 seconds. If you plan to troll a lot or use the rod for big Tarpon then think about a Saltwater specific rod for the durability. When fish run under the boat they break rods. Saltwater specific rods can lack a bit in casting precision, but the strength is nice tradeoff. You might consider a Sage SALT HD, Sage MOTIVE, or the Redington Predator. The Redington has a fighting handle on it and the guys that fished bluewater really appreciated having that the there.
I was mixed about fly lines but I took some good advice from a mentor of mine. He has been fishing there since the 1980's and said that a short shooting head is what you want. A quick shot with only 2 false casts is key. Often the fish will be coming right towards you and if you don't get that fly to 50' + feet quick by the time you strip and follow they will be on top of you and spook. This happened to me a couple of times and to a few other guys a lot. A relatively long quick cast is crucial. I went with the RIO Tropical Outbound Short, the RIO Tarpon Short is the same line but different box. The head was a little heavy for me so don't even think about over-lining your rod. For a 12, get a 12. I could probably use an 11 or even 10 on my 12 - no joke. This line has plenty of mass to get your motor revved up fast.
When we spool 12 weight reels at Red's we take great care in winding the backing, which we prefer 68# Hatch Backing. It isn't cheap but it is super strong and ties up well. Have only an experienced pro spool your reel! If it isn't wound tight you will have serious issues. With the amount of drag tension that you will have with GT's the backing will cut into itself and create tangles and seize. It is ugly! This is a great way to lose a fly line, maybe if I wasn't giving you this advice we would sell more fly lines.
The backing to fly line knot is very important and there are several approaches here. Personally, I like a Double Bemini Loop in the backing. Most folks can't tie a double Bemini Loop, but I have strength tested a Quintuple Surgeoun's Knot and it will work in a jam. I actually prefer the Quintuple Surgeons Knot to an Albrght Knot. Just my opinion, if you want to argue put it in the subject line of an e-mail so I can delete before I open it. On the fly line end, most new lines come with a welded loop. I reinforce this with an 8 wrap nail knot with mono and some Knot Sense or a dab of super glue. This connection is very strong and should serve you well. I saw a 12 weight line break in half and the Quintuple Surgeon's Loop held FYI. You will hear of folks losing many 12 weight lines, this is often because the line becomes so tangled in coral you are essentially breaking it against rock, not a fish.
10 Weight Rods - This is your utility stick. I really like a smooth casting 10 weight as it is a nice break from the 12 weight. A few of us have really fallen in love with the Sage SALT HD 1090-4. It is so easy to cast and still throws very tight loops. The Sage MOTIVE is a good alternative if you are going to use it boat fishing for Tarpon as it is also built tough, and there are lots of choices here but this particular rod is a dream to throw. If I lost mine tomorrow I would buy it again. I used mine a ton for mid-sized Trevally, Queen Fish, and Misc. other species. I ran 8' of 60# Fluorocarbon but will run 40# next time, the Blue Fin were picky in direct sun and I had shots at 15 pound fish that would have been trophies. I personally like the 1090-4 Redington Predator for a budget rod, hate to say that word but that rod is a good fish fighting tool and a darn good casting tool. Regarding that, it is very tough to find a good casting 1090-4 rod unless you are willing to pay for it so the high end rods are what I'm packing. I love a good fly cast.
Regarding fly lines, I like a bit longer head on my 1090-4 because I might use it to sight cast to Permit or Tarpon. Longer heads are smoother, more accurate, and for me they are much more enjoyable to blind cast. In addition, if your 8 weight blows up and you wind up fishing with your 10 weight for Bonefish at least you have a line that works. Shooting heads and Bonefish don't jive. Well the Bonefish jive but they do it while swimming 70 mph hour across the flat scared to death when your fly line hits the water. I personally like the RIO Flats Pro WF10F or WF10F/I on my 10 weight. I don't love the RIO Outbound Short on my #10. It is very enjoyable to cast and the flies that I am casting aren't that big anyway. This line handles it great. For your backing, 68# Hatch Backing is the right choice. If you put your fly in the water near GT's in Christmas Island you had better be playing to win. Same connection advice, loop to loop. Double Bemini if you can, in a pinch the Quintuple Surgeon's will work.
8 Weight Rods - This will be your Bonefish sniper stick and used for about 15 other kinds of fish. This rod should be set up with a 10# 10' leader and shrimp pattern. You will cast this to Bonefish but you will catch various small Trevally, Queen Fish, Trigger Fish, and others. Many fish eat shrimp so this rod will sort of do it all. You'll cast your 8 weight opportunistically at GT's up to 10-15 pounds out of shear necessity, they come onto the flat fast, and in addition the phantom Golden Trevally prefer shrimp. Should you be lucky enough to catch a Golden, it will likely be done on your Bonefish rod.
You can get away with a 6-7 weight for the Bonefish but I prefer an 8. I've seen enough large fish swim by to know that I have to have gear that will allow me to win most of the time. 8 weights cast great and I was very happy with my choice. For this trip I wanted durability so I took a Sage MOTIVE 890-4 which is a Saltwater specific rod. Meaning it is tough and will pick up a weighted fly fast. What it lacks in roll casting and mending finesse it makes up for in its ability to throw a long straight cast in the wind. There are lots of great 8 weights, but I have seen too many rods break to not want quality here. You will spend more time with your 8 weight in your hand than any other rod. The Sage Xi3 is really the best choice but I had to buy a new 1290-4 Sage ONE so my budget was shot haha!
The fly line I currently like for my 890-4 is the RIO Flats Pro WF8F line, but nothing beats the RIO Bonefish line for shallow water sight casting. It sets down soft. If you are newer to fly fishing and struggle to make good casts quickly then the RIO Bonefish Quickshooter is your line. It is mild shooting head that loads easy. Novice to Intermediate anglers LOVE this line and catch more fish because of it. You won't be making delicate 80' deliveries but it will play ball for 90% of the situations.
Again, use the same connection for the backing to fly line as described above. You don't need to reinforce the welded loop and 30# backing is more than adequate.
Sunglasses and Advice for Seeing the Fish on the Flats
When I see the fish myself I am much more effective at placing the fly on the correct side of the fish and generating the hook-up. How well you can see the fish has a HUGE impact on your success . Plus the guide can't look everywhere at once. They get tired and miss a few once in a while. Some of my best trophies happened because I diligently scanned for fish rather than simply waiting for the guide to speak and point. We want you to be as successful as possible and a big part, maybe the biggest part, is learning to see fish better. Here are some quick hitters and tips to help you see the fish more effectively.
Tips for Spotting Fish While Flats Fishing
- Change sunglasses, Amber from 7 am till noonish and then a Polarchromatic Copper or Brown lens in the direct light. Then back to Amber in the afternoon or with cloud cover.
- Use your Buff, pull it tight around your glasses to prevent backlight from reflecting off the back of the lens
- Stop walking. Stop talking too while you're at it. Seriously though, stop moving and wait very few steps. Fish in saltwater are almost always moving. If you are moving this makes them more difficult to see.
- Tilt your head if you see something that looks like a fish but are unsure. Depending on the angle of the light your glasses might be picking up extra glare. Get the angle of your glasses working perfect against the glare and it might give up the fishes position
- Look for tails or anything on the surface, Trigger Fish do lots of tailing, Golden Trevally will tail, and Bonefish will tail in shallow water.
- Look for nervous water. If there is a slight chop on the water's surface, which there usually is, then look for water pushing against the waves. Just like current in a river the fish is an obstacle and will block that slight current in shallow water. This is very helpful when visibility is poor
- Try to learn the "tells" of the various species. Milk fish are tough to catch, being able to tell the difference between a Milkfish, small Trevally, and Bonefish is very important! Ask your guide lots of questions. Milk fish swim higher in the water column and are generally cruising faster, and are rarely alone. All species have "tells". This will let you know how fast to strip, what rod to use, and whether it is even worth getting distracted over.
- In poor light, slow down. Don't press your guide. If you walk fast, they will walk fast. Ask them to set the pace. Somewhere between a snail's pace and an overweight snail's pace is about right. Once fish spook they often leave the flat altogether.
General Gear Management and Packing Tips
- Bring a waterproof backpack (my preferred bag)
- Your hip pack or backpack must be waterproof!
- Waterproof cameras are very nice, your hands will have saltwater all over them which cameras don't handle well. A small waterproof camera can be washed off.
- Rods, a couple of reels, and a few flies should go in your carry on luggage. I will be getting a carry on rod/reel case like the Fishpond Dakota Rod/Reel case for my next trip. It makes airport management super simple and will be my one and only carry on. You will be digging your passport and boarding passes out of your pockets at least 8000 times so simple carry ons are good. I packed too much on the plane last time.
Checklist - Inside Your Flats Pack While on the Water
- Small container of sunscreen
- Simms Guide Gloves (for sun and gripping fish!)
- 10, 12, 15, 20, 40, 60, 100 pound RIO Saltwater Fluorocarbon Tippet (approximate strengths)
- 6 Saltwater Leaders for Bonefish, 10' - 16 lb. test
- Quality Hemostats
- GOOD Nippers
- Small Pocket Knife
- Saltwater Pliers (they need to be strong enough to cut a hook if necessary)
- Lens cloth
- Toilet paper (also used for constantly wiping saltwater off glasses)
- Extra Sunglasses (Amber and Copper or Brown)
- Small first aid kit, including Advil J
- Tape for your stripping fingers (ESSENTIAL!)
- Fly Box (keep extra flies back at the lodge)
- Camera (waterproof much preferred)
- Waterproof Camera Bag - I personally attach the Simms Dry Creek Waterproof Camera bag to the outside of my pack to make it super accessible for my guide
- SPF Lip Balm
- Snack bar (bring these with you to Christmas Island)
- Bottle of water (available in all boat coolers right when you step off the boat)
- 2 Tiny Zip Ties
- Packable Rain Jacket
- Super Glue (keep in your first aid kit)
- Buff (on your face, but bring at least one extra on the trip)
- Dry hand towel or rag from your room every day (used to wipe your hands before handling your camera or drying off it off after a big ol' fish splashes it!) This is a good tip, saltwater near the equator is super annoying
Your General Packing List for Christmas Island
There are some general overlaps in these two lists, so shoot the gap in the middle and do your best to fill this out. If I left something out and you forgot it, that's your faultOur job is to make sure that every angler joining a "Red's Trip" is well prepared, comfortable, and relaxed. Being overpacked can be as annoying as being underpacked so here is your general guideline.
*All the lodges will do laundry for you at least once or twice during the week for a fee, on our last trip $20 took care of you for the entire week!
- EVERYTHING on the "Fishing List" there are some duplicates below
- 6 Bonefish Leaders
- Flurocarbon Tippet - 10, 12, 15, 20, 40, 60, 100 pound tippet
- Headlamp (there is often power outages at night, also nice for reading or beach walks after dark)
- Insect Repellent
- 2 Sets of Polarized Sunglasses (Amber and Copper or Brown to change out based on lighting)
- Flats Fishing Boots
- Neoprene Socks
- Poly Liner Socks (you cannot afford to get blisters)
- Flip flops
- 3 Fishing Shirts
- 3 Fishing Pants
- Pajamas, it will creep your room mate out if you sleep naked
- 2 casual outfits
- 2 Buffs for UV Protection over your face
- Passport -leave photocopies in your checked bag, carry on, and at home with a loved one
- Photocopies of your flight information in both your checked bag, and carry on
- Camera, charge cords, and extra batteries if necessary
- Packable Rain Jacket (also nice to wear to/from the airport if you are flying out of Seattle - like me)
- Ear plugs (in case your bunkmate is sawing logs)
- Tylenol PM (I have a tough time sleeping the first couple nights I am so excited!)
- $1000 cash for gratuities, bar tab, misc.
- Waterproof Backpack or Hippack for fishing
- Toiletries and personal effects
- Extra 12 Weight Fly Line
- 8 Weight Rod/Reel and Tropical Floating Line
- 10 Weight Rod/Reel and Tropical Floating Line
- 12 Weight Rod/Reel and Tropical Floating Line
- Reading material
- Booze or wine from Duty Free (not much available on Christmas Island!)
- Extra Hat
- Small roll of tape and few zip ties for unforeseen repairs
- Pre-moistened lens cloths
- 48+ Flies
- Ipod or MP3 Player w/ docking station for music (someone needs to bring tunes for the evenings)
Flies for Fishing Christmas Island
Christmas Island Fly List