Located in the remote South Pacific equidistant between Hawaii and New Zealand sits Kiritimati Island – the largest atoll in the world.. Known to anglers as Christmas Island, the untouched chain of islands is a popular destination for anglers seeking a multitude of species including bonefish, giant trevally, triggerfish, bluefin trevally and milkfish.
Camille Egdorf, Director of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures Christmas Island program explains why this remote fishery is so sought after.
Why are people drawn to fish Christmas Island? What makes it special?
According to Egdorf, the uniqueness of Christmas Island is that novice anglers will find abundant opportunities for bonefish willing to eat a fly, and more experienced anglers will also find thrill in the diversity of the species that Christmas Island has to offer.
“Christmas Island is a great fishery for beginner saltwater fisherman and that is a big reason why it draws many anglers out to its remote location in the South Pacific,” said Egdorf. “The island boasts a prolific bonefish population and though they average between 2 to 4 pounds, there are a lot of them! As a result, anglers will see a large number of fish that don’t startle easily and will allow numerous shots at distances averaging 20-30 feet. It’s a great first bonefish experience.”
Why would Christmas Island be a good option for a beginning angler?
‘There are many perks to targeting bonefish, but a big one is they are easy to find on the flats,’ said Egdorf, “They are a fish that is generally eager to take a fly since they are constantly hunting and scavenging in the many areas where anglers can access them.”
What is the best way to catch bonefish on Christmas Island?
“On Christmas Island, a walk-and-wade approach works best,” said Egdorf, “You simply put on your boots and spend the day walking 2 – 3 foot deep flats casting to feeding bones as they cruise the flats searching for food,” said Egdorf.
“The appeal?,” said Egdorf, “Bonefish run like crazy and they put up a good fight especially when you get into a big one. The 2 to 4 pounders usually make a couple of good runs and then they’re done. But if you get into a six, eight or maybe even a twelve-pounder, get ready for an incredible fight!”
What makes this atoll unique?
“It’s a giant flat in the middle of the ocean where many different species go to feed. The fishery on Christmas Island is teeming with a variety of species including GT’s, triggerfish, milkfish, bonefish, a variety of groupers, queenfish, ladyfish, and others. The atoll also serves as a nursery where juvenile fish have access to food and shelter.
Christmas Island is unique in that it is a place where anglers can target multi-species concentrated in a wade fishing paradise throughout the year. Needless to say, it is a great destination with a lot of specie options.
What are the essential gear, flies, and equipment an angler will need?
Because of logistics and the island’s remote nature, anglers are expected to bring their own fly rods, flies, tippet, leaders and all the other gear that they will want to use during their trip.
However, when packing for Christmas Island leave the kitchen sink at home says Egdorf.
“All you need is a few eight weights and one twelve weight rod. These will be your primary setups. The 8 weight rod is for bonefish, triggerfish, milkfish, and for the smaller trevally species. For the bigger critters, such as GT’s and tuna, a 12 weight rod setup is ideal,” said Egdorf.
It’s good to have backups of everything and ideally, anglers should aim to bring four rods. While we understand that not everyone has that many rods and may not want to buy an extra 12 weight set up, having just one will be fine. Yellow Dog can also assist you with any rental rods that you might need during your stay.
Regarding flies for bonefishing, the “Christmas Island Special” is often the number one fly that guides will reach for and they use it frequently in orange or pink. Sizes six and eight work well, (size four on occasion), but we do recommend that your flies are sparsely tied. Bring a few bonefish flies like “Pink Crazy Charlies” in a variety of colors or “Bonefish Bitters” that you would use in the Bahamas and Belize if you have them because the smaller trevally species like bluefin or golden trevally will be all over them.
If you seek to target GT’s, you’re only going to need about ten flies. The important factor is you do not need bright and flashy colors. Rather, more natural colors like grey and tan will work best.
We recommend avoiding black patterns because you typically won’t see much blackfish on white sandy flats. However, colors such as blue to imitate milkfish or black and red to imitate red snapper will work very well.
It is also important that you are using a good hook for GT fishing. The Gamakatsu SL-12S is a great one, and you can use that in size 4/0 and 6/0. With all of your GT flies, triggerfish flies, bonefish flies, anglers can expect to have around 60 – 80 flies in total. With that combination, you are going to be perfectly set up for the entire week.
As for other gear, one of the most critical things for fishing Christmas Island is solid, stable footwear, because 99.9% of your fishing is going to be spent walking the flats. If you have a pair of flimsy boots that do not have good soles or don’t have a good ankle support system, your experience could be less than desirable.
Investing in quality footwear and a good pair of wading boots is critical. Also, don’t forget your gravel guards to go with your boots either. And it goes without saying that you will want to bring ample sun protection – sunscreen, breathable long-sleeve shirts, sun buff – because the sun is intense on Christmas Island.
Give us a rundown of your average day on the water, what can angler expect?
“In the morning, you and your three fishing companions (along with four guides) will load onto a boat and go out to the lagoon where you will head to your first fishing area for the day,” said Egdorf, “As the day goes on, you and your guide will have opportunities to be shuttled around to different flats. There are bonefish everywhere: in the lagoon and even the outer flats of the island.”
Generally speaking, anglers will be casting to bonefish at close range and can expect to make 30-35 foot casts. Make sure to give the fish a slight lead in the direction that they are going then focus on making a basic, slow retrieve.
As soon as the fish stops or “tails”, you want to give a quick little strip set. You will also want to be sure to listen to the instruction or your guides each day. Remember, they are there to help!
“Christmas Island is a very healthy fishery,” says Egdorf, “The fish spawn on every full moon so there is a spawning event every month. Fish are constantly being filtered into the fishery on the island. While the average size of bonefish is in the 2 to 4-pound range, anglers will have opportunities to get into larger bonefish in the 6 to 7-pound range, and the occasional shot at a larger, trophy fish exceeding the ten-pound mark.”
If you’re looking for a great first-time flats trip or a destination that will deliver impressive numbers and diversity of species, then a Christmas Island fly fishing trip should be high on the list and Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures can help you get there.