Pacific Angler is Heading Back to Christmas Island and You Are Invited!
Below is a report and overview of last year’s trip. In short the trip was excellent, if you missed out we hope you can join us this year and we hope all those who went last year are looking forward to a rematch!
It is as close to a perfect trip for a new warm water angler as you will find and it is definitely a trip all seasoned flats veterans need to check off the bucket list.
April 3-10, 2018 – $3,600 US + Airfare
Spots for this year’s trip are very limited as most of the spots are already filled with returning customers. So please contact us immediately if you are interested and we can get the deposit process going to hold your spot!
Call the shop and ask for Matt or email Matt directly at [email protected] if you have any questions or are ready to lock down a spot.
CXI – A Review and What to Expect if You Want to Join Us Next Year
Christmas Island is one of the most famous flats fishing destinations in the world. It offers amazing bonefishing for all skill levels but also has an amazing diversity of other species located. The diversity is what we loved about the fishery and I can honestly say it is as good as its gets in warm water fishing. You will feel as though you are fishing in an aquarium.
The best quote from last trip was “What kind of fish is that? I don’t know? Cast at it and let’s find out!!”
This sums up the experience well. The variety of fish species and fishing environments is spectacular, providing challenges for flats anglers of all levels. The amount of action was also incredible. The flats were always alive with fish. On most warm water fly fishing trips you will run into long stretches without action and flats that seem void of life. This can last hours even days. It is just part of the game. There were slow times during our trip to CXI but they were few and far between. The “good times” seemed to have a constant stream of fish moving across the flats. Sometimes they were not our target species but the flats were always alive and you never knew what you would see next.
Bone Fishing in Christmas Island – For Beginners 9/10 For Experts 7/10
As the species most popular among flats anglers, a large portion of your trip can be spent focusing on the grey ghost of the flats. In CXI there are a bloody ton of bonefish. Double digit days were common on our last trip and a few experienced anglers put up numbers well over the 30 fish range when the conditions aligned. We will be right up front and say that the average size of fish was not huge. 1 to 2 lb fish were common with a 3-4 lb fish being special but the interesting thing about the CXI flats that surprised me is that true monsters also inhabit the same waters as the plentiful “small” fish.
Bonefish in the 5-9lb range were encountered almost every day. Most fisheries can’t make this claim. If there are tons of bonefish they will all be small and if the fish are huge, anglers can expect much lower numbers. CXI is different. If you are only looking for just monster bonefish, CXI is not for you. There are better destination. But if you can enjoy the plentiful smaller fish, use them to hone your skills, you will still have shots at truly world class fish if you put in the time.
Side Note on Bonefish – If you are an expert, spend the week honing your skills, catch a ton of fish and a ton of other species then hit Hawaii with Captain Mike or one of his A team guides on your trip home for the biggest most challenging bonefishing in the world.
Trigger Fish – Beginner Rating 9/10 Expert Rating 9/10
Most anglers that travel to CXI think they are going for the bonefish but many quickly realize how much fun targeting trigger fish is. For many anglers by the end of the trip they are 100% focused on these toothy, painfully smart, shockingly dirty fighting fish.
What is a trigger fish? There are a number of species (I think 3 major ones in CXI) that range in color and size but they make and live in holes in the coral and use a trigger, a bone in their dorsal fin, to lodge themselves into the hole when being attacked by a predator or when escaping an angler. They are famous for their massive teeth.
These teeth are for crushing the shells of their prey and for cutting out holes in coral. For the angler they mean flies destroyed in ways you have never seen before and an obsessive challenge to get the fish hooked.
The reason many CXI anglers become obsessed with triggers is simple. In a number of ways, they are an easy species to target. You can see them from a long way off on the flats. The anticipation when stalking up to a large trigger tailing in shallow water is something special.
They also tend to hold in one area, feeding for extended periods of time. Unlike bonefish or other species that cruise across a flat, if you see a trigger 100 yards out you can slowly work your way in his direction knowing that there is a good chance he will still be there when you reach the spot were you saw him.
This means that anglers get lots of action. We had times where you could see 20 or more triggers feeding over a 200-yard stretch of flat. You could bounce from one fish to the next trying to fool them. From talking with very experienced traveling anglers they all believe that CXI offers one of the densest population of triggers in the world.
This is where the easy part of trigger fishing ends. When you get in a trigger’s zone (150 ft radius) you will have to move carefully. They are very spooky of both loud wading and poor casts. When you are in range choosing the right cast to get close enough to the fish so he will notice the fly but not spook is a true dance with nature, taking into consideration currents, depths and ultimately the fishes behavior.
Now if you get all this right and the trigger sees your fly without being spooked he usually comes for the fly on a hell bent mission to kill. The only problem is his teeth. The hook-set has to be timed perfectly along with a ton of luck to get the hook to hold and not bounce off the triggers teeth. Oh and that is just getting one hooked up.
Once you are hooked up hold on. Triggers pull like a freight train and will go for holes, coral edges and anything they can find to rub the hook out of their mouth. You will never see a fish fight so dirty and if you want to land one you are going to have to do the same. Long story short if you travel to CXI you are going to get lots of action targeting triggers but landing one is a true challenge and can turn into an obsession.
Smaller Trevally Species – Beginner rating 8/10 Expert rating 7/10
If you travel to CXI, another species you will hear a lot about is GTs or Giant Trevally. I will get to them in a second, but you don’t hear a ton about their smaller cousins the blue fin, bar Jacks and a whole laundry list of the other smaller predatory species that roam the flats.
You can cast bonefish flies at these 1-8lb fish and they feed like a pack of wild dogs when you run across them on the flats. You will get opportunities almost every day and they make for a ton of fun breaking up slower stretches of bonefishing or targeting triggers.
GTs – Beginner Rating 4/10 Expert rating 8/10
GTs or Giant trevally are another major focus for anglers traveling to CXI and first off we have to admit that GTs are hard. We saw Gts almost every day but getting in front of these massive fish and then getting them to bite is another story. We only hooked 3 big 20lb + GTs on our last trip and we want to re-match.
If the smaller trevally are a pack of rabid dogs the GT is a lethal, efficient wolf. I will be very up front, there are probably better destinations in the world to specifically target GTs but if you are determined and a little lucky, hooking one at CXI is very possible. There is nothing like seeing a 30+lb fish pushing a V wake of water over a flat. I can almost grantee you will witness this if you come with us to CXI but I can’t grantee you will have time to get a fly in front of it when it come blasting over the flats.
Milk Fish – Beginner Rating 7/10 expert rating 8/10
The last species that you will want to spend some time targeting at CXI is the milk fish. These guys are very cool. They swim in massive schools in deep water only a few minutes’ boat ride from the front of the lodge. They are a vegetarian species so getting them to bite a fly is a massive challenge. That said we hooked quite a few and the fight with these fish is something else. Long powerful runs, tarpon-esc jumps all on light tackle make them a real challenge. I don’t recommend spending hours chasing them. Seeing hundreds of fish in front of you that don’t always bite can be a little frustrating but you will definitely want to take a shot at it when the tides are not right for flats fishing.
This list just touches the tip of the iceberg when fishing in CXI, there are tuna, wahoo, sharks along with a hundreds other species I have not talked about that you will run across when out for a day of fishing.
Facilities, Equipment and Staff – 8/10
This is one of the most critical aspects of a successful trip. We stay at Ikari House situated right at the mouth of the lagoon. There are some other great operations on the island but in terms of location with run times to both the outside of the lagoon, the lagoon and the back of the lagoon or “back country”, Ikari is the best situated. Barring crazy tides, the boats pick you up from right in front of the lodge and they are the most modern boats on the island. This simply means more fishing time and less time in cars bouncing over the unpaved roads.
All of the accommodations on the island are rustic. You have to go into any exotic fishing trip with this in the back of your mind and manage expectations. That said the staff at Ikari house understand what fisherman need. The air-conditioned double rooms are spacious and laid out perfectly for your gear. The outdoor lounge area turns into a wonderful hodgepodge of fishing gear, fly tying vises and is where we spend most of our time when not fishing; telling stories, fixing gear, getting ready for the next day.
The staff is great and will take care of laundry and keep the rooms clean. If you are an experienced flats angler, you could give the basic accommodations a 7.5 to 8 out of ten rating. If you are a flats fishing rookie, make sure to come into it with an open mind and take my word for it that in such a remote area the accommodations are excellent.
Food, again it is nothing to write home about but that said every meal was good and had enough options that everyone could find something they liked. Also our host (I will talk more about this below) brings some key essentials to up the game on lunches and add to the dinners to make sure it is enjoyed by everyone. Again if you have traveled with me before we have experienced some truly bad meals. The team who went with me to Cuba in 2007 and shared goat and rabbit for 6 days straight were all real troopers. The food at Ikari in comparison is way better and again on the remote fishing destination scale gets a solid 8 out of 10.
Now the game changer – Our Host – And I am not talking about myself. I have traveled to many locations around the world and having local knowledge of the fishery and the operation is key.
I met Captain Mike Hennessy bone-fishing in Hawaii and in one day on the flats with Mike I learned more about bonefish than I had in all my previous flats fishing trips. He is a maniac and completely obsessed with flats fishing. He is as salty is they come, and manages to balance a driven, do what ever it takes to catch fish mentality with a let nature take her course, have fun no mater what attitude that is infectious.
Mike is our ace in the hole when it comes to this trip. He will be cycling through the group, fishing with every boat to make sure we are doing everything right in regards to fishing strategies and equipment but he will also help us manage the whole experience. For you seasoned anglers this is your chance to learn from one of the best.
He has an uncanny way of picking the right guides for the right angler as well as making adjustments when things go sideways. Guides are always a challenge when you have a cultural barrier. Mike manages the guides like a sports team manager. He understands their personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses then pushes to get the best out of them. He has been working with all the guides for over a decade. They have all become close friends with Mike and they know what he expects. This team attitude gives us the best chance for success.
I can’t stress how valuable Mike was to the group last season. We do pay a premium for him to grace us with his salty presence but everyone agreed on the last trip that it was money well spent.
Mike has been fishing CXI for over 20 years 2-6 weeks out of the year. Experienced flats anglers you know how important this level of experience is. Mike is there to trouble shoot things when situations go sideways (they always get a little messed up at some point when fishing in a remote location) push the guides to think outside the box and make sure we are doing the best we can with the tides, winds and fishing condition that mother nature throws at us. Not to mention he is freak’n hilarious and a lot of fun to fish with.
Finally, the camp out. One of the highlights of our trip was camping out on the backside of the island, literally with the waves lapping at the sand 2 feet from the edge of our beds. The Ikari team setup an epic remote campsite in an area that receives way less fishing pressure than the lagoon. Mike ships in steaks from Hawaii for the BBQ and it is an experience you will never forget.
I have traveled to a number of amazing flats fishing destinations. For you who have traveled with me we have had some unreal fishing. The destinations we have hit have delivered “best in the world” fishing experiences from 30 + pound permit, tarpon, double digit bonefish and roosters but we have also had our ups and downs. I only have one CXI trip under my belt but with Mike as our host and from what I saw on our last trip I am optimistic that we have found one of the most consistent, easy to access and diverse fishing locations in the world.
Things you will need to consider – The first one is important. You will need to be in relatively good shape for this trip. Almost all of the fishing in CXI in done of foot. I personally love fishing from foot and in many ways it is easier than fishing from a skiff but it does take a toll on the body. After the first 3 days of walking I was still fine and had no problems but on day 5 and 6 you will be surprised at how your feet get sore, embarrassing rashes form and how exhausted you will feel. This trip is not for someone with mobility issues and even experienced flats anglers are going to be bagged at the end of the trip.
Now in all my reviews I try to play devils advocate a bit a look at the downsides of a trip only to make sure we are all coming on the trip with fare expectations. Your expectations for CXI can be high. Mine are. But you will hear the negatives.
“It can be crowded.” CXI does get a relatively large number of anglers each year and it has been happening for almost 20 years. I have fished flats were fishing pressure was literally zero and though I know how pressure can affect a fishery the CXI fishery has matured in many ways. Meaning there is a good number of great guides who understand it on a level that you wont see on the untouched “new” fisheries around the globe simply because the guides do not have enough seasons on the water. A good experienced team of guides can shuffle, bounce and ultimately predict what is going to happen to get in front of the fish and other anglers at the right time to make sure you have excellent fishing. The guides that Mike has know how to play this game and though I did see a couple other anglers on the water I never felt as though pressure played a big game in limiting our fishing.
All the bonefish are small – I touched on this above and though there were times when I was spoiled and caught so many relatively small bonefish that I got board – Just about the time I came to the conclusion that “all the bonefish on the CXI flats were small” I would come across of school of hungry 5 lb fish or a single monster pushing the double digit range.
The accommodations are terrible – Yes if you are a 5 star hotel connoisseur that has never roughed it on a fishing trip or stayed in a motel 6 near a cool steelhead river, then yes you are allowed to call the accommodations what ever you like. If this is you, I will let you in on a little secret- you are missing out on some epic fishing destinations that have low end accommodations. I loved the accommodations, have stayed in way worse and cant wait to be back sitting on the beach in front of Ikari drinking a beer, watching the surf.
Bottom line – Are there locations in the world were you can find better numbers of larger bonefish? Absolutely but you might go hours without seeing fish and these destinations rarely offer the diversity of species seen in CXI that keep you interested until the trophy fish swims past. Are there places with less angling pressure? Absolutely but these places might have guides who can’t think outside the box, don’t have the experience to make great guide decisions and you are probably going to have a hell of a travel schedule to get there.
Are there places with better accommodations? I have to say yes to this one too but when looking at the easy of travel time from the west coast, relative cost of the trip and the combination of excellent fish numbers mixed with some trophy sized bonefish, Gts that are consistently spotted roaming the flats and a population of triggers that is one of the largest in the world – CXI is a trip that any flats fisherman needs to put on his bucket list. Weather it’s your first trip or 100th trip you will have an experience that will blow you away.