Christmas Island has been on my fishing “wish list” for as long as I can remember. Over the years I have eagerly listened to the stories of countless friends and acquaintances that have been lucky enough to sample the islands expansive flats always making effort to conceal my envy of their stories. This past July, I was finally able to make my down to the island with a group of friends and I am pleased to report that I now have stories of my own.
I was on the island with a small group of friends that had a mix of saltwater experience and we all found the experience to be equally satisfying. During our six days on the island we fished the famous flats of Paris, the Korean Wreck, submarine, and others and I now see what all the fuss was over. The flats were beautiful and hosted great numbers of bonefish, bluefin and giant trevally, sweet lips, puffer fish, yellow snapper, queen fish, trigger fish, and parrot fish. In the first morning of their saltwater careers, friends Cheryl and Dick Bell had already hooked up with a number of bones.
I fished with Peter, Tenaki, and Beya and loved learning and watching how each covered water and moved to find the fish. They work hard and know their island well. They could see everything and were great at communicating to me what I needed to do. Most of the time I listened but like most anglers I found my thoughts and actions to be different. This was most evident when a Giant Trevally would show up on the flats and I would find myself running to get ahead of it and then forgetting how to make my 12 weight work. Ahh…it was all so exciting and exhausting at the same time. I loved every moment -my success and failures.
Peter, head guide and owner of Christmas Island Outfitters, was a delight and extremely helpful to our group. Not only is Peter a great guide and instructor but he is also a wonderful person. He had many stories about life on the island and many of the local traditions. He did a perfect job of basing our fishing around the tides and our desires. Beya and Tennaki were also hard working and very helpful guides. Their kind demeanor and big hearts shined on and off of the water. On the last afternoon after fishing Beya climbed a palm tree and kicked off a few green coconuts and pried them open for us to enjoy the sweet milk. It was a real treat and an impressive climb.
My most memorable afternoon was at Paris where I had the most incredible fishing for Trevally. There were tons of fish up on a coral shelf having a feeding frenzy. Tenaki and I waded through the sharks (don’t worry I protected Tenaki) to reach there frenzy. I was using a blue and white baitfish pattern that they could not stay off of. Within an hour or more I had landed 8 trevally between 10-20lbs. It was incredible. We saw fish that were larger but did not land them. I was worn out and shaking when the boat picked us up but with a big smile on my face.
Back at the camp, Cata our cook took great care of us. Cata’s charming smile added to our whole experience. He was creative and cared about each meal. Simm and Anita, owners of camp, welcomed us with open arms and made our stay most enjoyable. Anita even took us to the Miss Christmas Island pageant one evening in town. The people of Kiribati are such beautiful people and their smiles send out a true and genuine message. I continue to learn that island life is quite simple and filled with special moments to treasure – the sight of the aqua blue water, the smell of fresh fish on the grill, and the sand between my toes. I also learned that the magic of Christmas Island is not only filled by the spirit of those who live there but by the chance to connect with these untamed bonefish and trevally. I will be back.
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As a hardened angler with fairly serious fishing problem, I have often and accurately been accused of dragging my wife and children to places where their interests took a backseat to my fishing obsession. But recently that changed when I packed up the crew (including a three year old and a six year old) and took them to Crocodile Bay Lodge in Costa Rica. Located on the Osa Pennisula in Southwestern Costa Rica (on the Pacific coast) the lodge sits in the heart of the most ecologically intense portion of the planet and offers a remarkable array of non-angling and eco-tourism activities in addition to excellent offshore fly fishing for Pacific sailfish and other saltwater species.
During our five day stay we pretty much did it all. We took a half day guided nature tour with a skilled naturalist in which we saw countless bird species (including lots of huge scarlet macaws), poison arrow frogs, coatis, iguanas, three species of moneys and sloths as well as many other animals of interest. We visited exquisite botanical gardens, butterfly gardens, local craft stores, and fed caimans and crocodiles. We ocean kayaked, swam and body surfed on beautiful nearly uninhabited beaches, we spent hours in the lodge pool (and gave the swim up bar a good workout) and the ladies enjoyed a number of luxurious treatments at the lodges’ elegant new spa. We also fished and landed some impressive sailfish on the fly under the guidance of excellent captains and mates that spoke very respectable English.
All and all we were greatly please with the food accommodations, level of service and the array of available activities (not the least of which was the offshore fishing). For couples, families, and anglers of all skill levels, Crocodile Bay proved to be a real winner, and for once my family was really pleased that I drug them along on another “fishing trip”.
The Great Sailfishing Company, Guatemala
This past April I made a quick trip to Guatemala to see first hand if the reports I had been hearing about hoards of willing sailfish were actually true. The bottom line was that they were. After landing Guatemala City we were met outside the airport by one of the owners of the Great Sailfishing Company and driven in an air conditioned van (well stocked with cold beverages and beer) to the Villas del Pacifico on the coast. There we checked into our private house where the rest of the group, a private chef, and server were waiting. After hours devours, complimentary drinks and an excellent meal we hit the sack and were up early to fish.
We deliberately decided not to bring any of our own tackle and were pleased to find excellent gear, including Cam Sigler rods, Billy Pate anti reverse reels, state of the art flies, and knowledgeable captains and mates all at the ready. While we were warned that we were past the peak of the season, the fish did not appear to know that. Each day we rose between 17 and 24 fish with a good many of those coming all the way in to eat the fly. And while the action was as hot and heavy as any that I had experienced, the crew was unimpressed and wished that we had come earlier in the season!
All and all I feel that there is no other place on the planet that offers anglers a better chance at taking numerous sailfish on the fly. This last season was proof with new world records set for released fish from a single boat for both fly and conventional anglers. I was also impressed with the range of accommodations and the overall level of service and safety. And for all that have a bit of extra time, a day trip to the historic town of Antigua is a must, as it will leave you with a lovely impression of the country, it crafts and gentle culture.
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After dealing with the one certainty all business owners have to deal with each year—tax season—I found solace knowing that I had a trip planned to check out a little known tarpon fishery near the small town of Campeche on the Western Yucatan coast. What I found to my delight was perhaps the most prolific juvenile tarpon fishery in all of Mexico, if not the world.
For the past five years a number of outfitters have been promoting this destination and training local fisherman to become guides. And it now seems it is coming of age. Currently there are no “fishing lodges” in the area so I stayed in local hotels and had evening meals in the charming historic city of Campeche. Each day on the water I was poled by knowledgeable guides in Mexican pongas well suited to fly fishing. The majority of the guides have not been exposed to many foreign anglers as of yet, so there is still somewhat of a language barrier. With patience from both parties we were able to communicate adequately, and when they pointed and whispered tarpon one o’clock, I eagerly took over from there. I fished under conditions that were considered average to slightly on the tougher side. Each day I saw hundreds of tarpon, jumped between five and twelve from 6 to 20 pounds, and ultimately landed between one and five fish every day of the trip.
All and all I was very impressed with the entire experience. With innumerable opportunities to sight cast with 8-weight rods to tarpon in the 5 to 30 pound class, fish with skilled and kind-hearted guides, and enjoy the wonderfully quaint town rife with Mayan and Spanish history, I believe Campeche is bound to become a staple for avid saltwater anglers.
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