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Christmas Island Fly Fishing // How to Fish Christmas Island

Christmas Island Fly Fishing // How to Fish Christmas Island

After a 3+ year Covid closure, the island is open again and fishing is excellent. Just bring your Vax card, no PCR test required. Pretty easy entry and the lodges are up and running. Whether you join Red's for a hosted trip or book DIY, use this article to plan the perfect adventure. This is everything you need to know about fishing Christmas Island. I've personally been there several times and worked hard to listen to angler experience, guide wisdom, and absorb useful tips from anyone willing to share. Comments and contributions are welcome!

The value, adventure, mystery, and experience is world famous.  Everywhere on the PLANET anglers are dreaming about fishing this spot right now.  We've been there many times, and accumulated a lot of knowledge in the process on flies, techniques, and tips for having a great trip.

Other Helpful Links Before You Start:

Christmas Island Fly Fishing... the basics.

Walking the Backcountry in Christmas Island

Wade fishing for Bonefish and Trevally in the south Pacific Ocean at 3.5 degrees North. No boat fishing on the flats. You'll get access to open white sand flats, coastal fishing on foot, bluewater fishing by boat (non flats), and backcountry lagoon fishing like in the photo above. That's the first thing to cover.

"The daily program is GREAT. A group of anglers share a boat and get dropped off to walk various shallow flats"

You'll fish the area for a couple of hours, then the guide calls on the radio for a pickup when it's time to relocate. You'll fish long days, often being on the water for 9-10 hours.

Boat Transport for Fishing on Christmas Island

You'll walk on firm shallow water flats with a mix of sand, coral, and coral rubbish (rock). It's a good idea to be fairly mobile, but walking long distances isn't essential. As long as you can spend time on your feet this trip scales for everyone. If you get tired, rest on the boat under the shaded canopy. While the paparazzi like to photograph the Giant Trevally, it's said to be among the best Bonefish destinations in the world. Basic but comfortable accommodations make this trip affordable and accessible to almost anyone.

Memories From My Very First Trip to Christmas Island

Tips for Landing a Trevally on Christmas Island

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... It's all about the fish.

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 over the years I've updated it with more current intel, tackle, and flies.

"Red's sincerely wants you to have the best possible experience on your trip to Christmas Island. If hosted we will provide tactical fishing advice in addition to inspiration, if not, use every bit of this article to self-prepare".

The flats fishing is all done on foot with a 2:1 or 1:1 guide ratio depending on your package booked.  You will use either boats or trucks to access various portions of the island, the flats are a labyrinth of opportunity as you can see by the satellite imagery. 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 maze of flats and lagoons. I personally enjoy 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, Gilbertese, and they won't be offended if you can't pick up on their native language. 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.

Getting to Christmas Island

Flying into Christmas Island

"To get there you'll connect through Honolulu. You'll need to be there on Monday, for the once-a-week connection on Fiji Airways which departs on Tuesday."  

The overnight layover in Honolulu is easy. We have a hotel that is affordable, clean, and offers walking access to Waikiki without paying beachfront prices. We always try to meet up for a beer as a group, and a nice dinner so that we can get to know each other. Plus, if we dine beach front we can watch the newbies attempting to surf. Good entertainment.

Tuesday morning, we procure a few taxis to get our group back to the airport. It's best to get there about (3) hours early as the check-in is pretty slow. The flight crew is also the ticketing crew. Once about our Fiji Airways flight, you'll fly an anxious 1,200 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. 

Flying to Christmas Island to go Fly Fishing

Fiji Airways is a nice flight. Typically, a well-appointed Boeing jet and the staff on board is awesome. They do a great job of spreading islander culture and cheer before arrival. You'll land at Cassidy "International Airport" about 3:30 pm local time. Customs agents 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.

You'll be met by a couple of drivers, and they promptly load your gear into trucks and away you go!  These open-air cab-over pickups are 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 you'll arrive in London town for a wonderful greeting from the lodge manager and staff. You'll get the rundown on fishing schedules, booze tabs, room assignments, and a warm welcome.

Upon arrival your host and the head guide will have a quick meeting, chat fishing and will then convey the desires of the anglers to their guide staff. The guide assignments get posted at night with a 7 am start time. Typically the guides will be out and ready between 5:30 am and 7 am depending on tides and weather.

The first several days of my first experience were very educational to say the least! 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 interrogate every guide I fish with. We want to have the best intel possible for our future groups including you, so we've continued to learn all we can. At the time this is written, we've hosted hundreds upon hundreds of anglers in Christmas Island. The majority of what I will teach you here came directly from the most experienced flats guides the world has ever known, and customer feedback based on real-time experience. 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. We ask open ended questions and often get them to really open up and teach.

Some General Quick Hitter Information

Tips for Fishing Christmas Island

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 are 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 and socks 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

Certain elements will be outside your control. Things don't always work out perfect, so be prepared to roll with the punches!  Be ready to handle those situations with patience and it 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. Those are little things that tend to add stress. 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 and eliminate the fear of casting and wind.

    Christmas Island Bonefish Tips

    Joe Rotter's Christmas Island Bonefish Tips

    Christmas Island is said to be the best Bonefish destination in the Pacific Ocean, and by far the best Bonefish trip I've personally been on.  It's 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 my first trip and I'll never forget it. Had only been there about 30 years ago I could have named it "Red's Flat" haha.

    "I tend to get distracted by Giant Trevally, aka GT, but my consistent regrets are not spending more time on the shallow flats hunting trophy Bonefish."

    On Christmas Island I landed my largest Bonefish ever, about 8 pounds and it was everything a fisherman could ever ask for. Still haven't bested that one. Bonefish are awesome as long as you like silently stalking through shin deep water hunting prey with a small fly and a floating line.

    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 won't do it.

    Carrying two rods for Bonefish and GT on Christmas Island

    Bonefish Quick Tips

    • Enjoy fishing without the aid of your guide. 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.
    • 16-20# tippet. These fish aren't leader shy, the coral is sharp, and the fish are strong. Just be aware that 20# tippet often exceeds the breaking strength of the hooks on many bonefish flies.
    • Bring a big fly selection. Various weights and types are crucial and it's nice to see your guide happy and confident when they reach in your box.
    • Leave a couple of flies of varying weights in your hat or on the outside of your bag for quick change, quick replacement.
    • Bring a set of Amber or light-colored sunglass lenses. Two pairs of shades, one green or copper and one amber will really help you spot fish.
    • 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. Too much blind casting makes you weak haha.
    • Practice carrying and fishing with an extra rod early in the week, if you can get good at carrying an extra rod it opens up some opportunities at GT or Blue Fins.
    • Relax. Breathe. Be in the moment. Time spent Bonefishing should be relaxing and low pressure.
    • I prefer an 8 weight. You can Bonefish with a 7 but there are so many bigger fish prowling around that it just makes sense to have the 8. Plus, they cast better in the wind and 7 weights are fragile compared to an 8.
    • If the tidal current is strong switch to a heavy fly.

    Giant Trevally Tips for Christmas Island

    Tips for Fishing Giant Trevally in 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. However, we choose to fish with guides that don'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 ambush them fair and square.

    "You'll discover 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've spent many 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've been fortunate to catch quite a few GT's 30+ pounds, and I've had many failed efforts, near misses, and sometimes they just ignore your fly. It can be tough. If you inquire and let the Kiritimati guides talk, they will teach you decades of fly-fishing wisdom shared from guide to guide, generation to generation. I've listened closely and 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 haven't made that mistake on my trips here. I listen, in fact, I wrote most of it down so that you have an outstanding Christmas Island trip.

    Fighting the GT Stereotype.... "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. They have incredible vision, excellent judgement, and I've 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 look or even sound real. Their senses are uncanny. 

    Shop Manager Bob with a GT from a trip to Christmas Island

    Tips for Fly Fishing Giant Trevally, aka GT's

    • Small to mid-sized GT's are super sporty. 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 11 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.
    • Make accurate cast that lands clean with little to no slack.
    • They are smart and have seen flies. You can spook them, they can be tippet shy, and nobody gives them credit for this. 40# gets bites... 60# gets fish landed.
    • The fish will often come close but short casts don't allow room enough for them to follow. A quick 50' cast is about right. Measure it, practice it.
    • Get LOW. If the fish is following and is going to be close crouch as low as you can. I missed a rare 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. Squat as they get close.
    • One of our guys lost 2 fly lines, bring an extra. He was trolling flies and hooked big GT's that spooled him. Doesn't happen often but it happens.
    • Put your time in. It may take a 2nd or even 3rd trip to get a big GT.
    • 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.
    • Live fire practice with your 12 weight before you go and on Day 1. 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.
    • 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 a good Popper that casts well. For blind casting Poppers rule. For site casting a baitfish pattern is better. 
    • I personally like to start with 10' of 60# test (some like 100# but I feel like that is overkill), but have landed some great fish on 40#. as well.  Many folks like to have shorter leaders, but this tippet is as stiff as your fly line, so I haven't experienced problems with leader turnover. Longer is better, it just makes getting some momentum started in your cast a bit more difficult.  Short leaders roll cast and get you moving faster.
    • WF12F shooting heads hit the water pretty hard. Please practice your casting.  GT's can be very spooky.
    • 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. Keep in mind that you can speed up your strip as the fish peels off an begins it's assault. Don't slow down, you can only speed up. Probably why it's best to start with a slow strip.
    • 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've 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 Fishing on Christmas Island

    These fish might be the best species on the trip. My first trip I had no idea what to expect here as not enough people write, photograph, or talk to you about the smaller species of Trevally. Blue Fins are like the Danny Devito to the GT (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  The Blue Fin are amazing and relatively abundant. They behave differently than GT's. They like smaller flies, they have better vision, cruise a bit faster, and might be the prettiest fish on the flats. The younger GT's are a great trophy as well. They swarm and attack flies like a pack of starving wolves and it is incredible to watch! You will get a lot of action on these fish and I spend a fair bit of time pursuing smaller Trevally. What will often happen is you will be walking a flat, maybe with Bonefish in mind or GT's and pretty soon you will start seeing Blue Fins cruising by or mini GT's and you simply have to cast at them!

    They will eat a Bonefish fly but it is much better to have a smaller baitfish pattern ready on a 9-10 weight. The 12 should be setup with a larger fly and heavier leader at all times. The best setup for the Blue Fin and the SGT's is 40 pound Fluorocarbon.

    "I have experienced a huge difference in how the fish reacted to 40-pound leader vs. 60-100 pound."

    Apparently, the Blue Fin have much better close-up vision than GT's according to the guides. I have seen it firsthand, which on a different subject if the Blue Fins were leader sensitive the big GT's might be more leader shy than we think. Just a thought, but you need leader that will allow you to land the fish. Coral shreds leaders when fighting GT's. Anyhow, the perfect setup is a smooth casting 9-10 weight with a WF Floating Tropical fly line. Set this up with a 9' of straight 40-pound Fluorocarbon and that will be your small Trevally killer. Blue Fins get up to about 20 pounds and make an awesome trophy. Blue Fins are also easier for me to see than the other fish so it was fun being able to see them and take shots at them.

    Blue Fin Trevally Tips for Christmas Island

    Tips for Blue Fin Trevally and Small GT's on Christmas Island

    • Strip fast but be sure to reserve a bit more speed for when the fish begins to pursue.
    • 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, like 1/0 or even #2.

    Fishing the Coastal Shipwreck Areas on Christmas Island

    Fishing the Coast on Christmas Island

    One of the unique experiences you may be offered is the option the fish the coastal areas outside the main lagoon on Christmas Island. It's not always an option, the tides need to be right for an all day excursion and the walking is more challenging. If the tides are too high, there is not flat or even room to cast. Too low... it's just a reef. If its an option, the guide or group leader will put together a crew to go coastal. When offered a truck ride is fun way to see the island the fishing offers a unique experience at some interesting species. Heck, we don't even know what some of these fish are!

    Truck Ride to Fish the Shipwrecks on Christmas Island

    Bluewater Fly Fishing on Christmas Island

    Shop Manager Bob with a Christmas Island Tuna

    There are so many species to catch here. You can do it on a fly, but you'll be trolling so I like to think of this as a gear excursion. 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 often caught offshore, Red Bass, 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. Lots of stuff especially if you fish conventional.

    I LOVE it when we can put together a Bluewater group, this typically means sashimi every night. The lodge will prep your fish as a fresh appetizer and it awesome! Not a bad idea to bring a little tube of Wasabi and your own Soy Sauce. Some little commodities like this often get overlooked in Christmas Island. 

    "Fishing offshore 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."

    The lodge will have some conventional tackle, but if you hope to have the best possible experience it's wise to bring your own tackle. Regarding conventional tackle you will be better served reading other blogs.

     Shop Manager Bob with a Wahoo From Christmas Island

    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.
    • Bring gloves, every fish worth catching has something sharp on it.
    • Bring spare fly lines.
    • 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 Galvan, Hatch, or the top end Sage Reels, Tibor, or Abel you will be in good shape.

    The Rodney Dangerfield Fish of Christmas Island, "They get no respect!"

    Blacktip Shark Fishing on Christmas Island

    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 catch lot of different fish especially on the days we use trucks to access the coast.

    More General Advice for Christmas Island Fly Fishing

    I would suggest you start out by casting at anything that swims until you know what it is. You'll wind up casting at a lot of Milk Fish that don't bite, but that is how you learn. The more fish you hook, the more splashing happens. This can often act as the dinner bell for GT's to come up out of the depth and onto your flat. The guides will often cast your Bonefish rod while walking for GT and hook anything that makes a splash. This attracts the GT while you wait with your heavy rod. If you get ancy and would prefer to be the guy hooking fish, ask your guide to be ready to hand off 12 weight but sometimes this takes too long. While doing this I once 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 random fish types 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 good. 40# is probably the right strength.

    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

    Fly Rods for Christmas Island

    My personal weaponry for Christmas Island is an 8, 10, and 12 weight and they worked perfect for me. I would carry the same rods again. The guide(s) can carry rods for you but I recommend getting good at tucking your extra rod into your backpack strap. Learn to do this early in the week. If were fishing GT, I held, carried, and casted the 12-weight while he carried the 8 or 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 Rod Setups for Christmas Island

    I put 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?  Top end rods are easier to cast.  More importantly, 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. Quick direction changes and line speed on demand are critical skills. 

    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. 

    RIO Elite Tropical Outbound Short

    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 1-2 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 like with the RIO Tropical Outbound Short; the head is 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. Easy to load at short range for quick shots.

    When we spool 12 weight reels at Red's we take great care in winding the backing, which we prefer 65# 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 trust the welded loops on a NEW fly line. They are well reinforced with sometime of super-duper poly coating. I've pulled in some serious tonage and never seen this fail. Most of the brutal tug-of-war will happen at close range and the backing knot isn't even involved. I tie a back-to-back Quadruple Surgeon's Loop and marry it up to the welded loop. The fact that you have 60# tippet, 65# backing, means the system is very strong. You'll experience a lot of stretch and it's critical to get that line back in fast when fighting these fish as they will just swim around resting on a long line. Winch 'em back in, break their will, and finish the fight hard with just the fly line out. No backing in play.

    You can get fancy and do Double Bemini Loop in the backing. Most folks can't tie a double Bemini Loop, but I have strength tested a Quadruple Surgeoun's Knot and these work. Especially when tied in unison. I personally prefer a loop-to-loop to an Albright 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. Again, my opinion.

    On the fly line end, new lines come with a welded loop. I didn't always, but I trust these loops on the new lines.  This connection is very strong and should serve you well. I loop to loop 60# test directly to the welded loop on the fly line. I have seen  12 weight lines break in half and the loops on both ends of the system 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 for Christmas Island

    This is your utility stick. I really like a smooth casting 10 weight as it is a nice break from the 12 weight.  I use mine a ton for mid-sized GT, Blue Fin, Queen Fish, and Misc. other species. I run 8-10' of 40# Fluorocarbon, the Blue Fin can be picky in direct sun. With these heavy rods you get exactly what you pay for. Top end rods are engineered to cast easy and well at close range with minimal start up effort, in general the less expensive rods are overbuilt to compensate for the lack of punch offered by more affordable materials. 

    Regarding fly lines, advanced casters might like a bit longer head and a #10 is also easier to load at close range for quick shots. If you are new to casting heavy rods, just go with another shooting head type line such as the RIO Outbound Tropical Short or the SA Tropical Jungle Titan

    Longer heads are smoother, more accurate, and for me they are much more enjoyable to blind cast. Lines in this category are the RIO Flats Pro Elite or the SA Amplitude Grand Slam. Both fine choices.

    In addition, if your 8 weight blows up and you wind up fishing with your 10 weight for Bonefish it's a good idea to have a fly line that works for both. 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. For your backing, 65# 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.

    8 Weight Rods for Christmas Island

    This will be your Bonefish sniper stick and used for about 15 other kinds of fish. This rod should be set up with a 16#  Bonefish 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 could in theory get away with a 6-7 weight for the Bonefish but I prefer an 8 for durability, versatility, and there are world class Bonefish here!  Don't be under gunned. 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 favor durability which is a "saltwater specific rod model". Something built 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 skip on quality here.

    Fly lines need to be a floating tropical line, and advanced casters should go for a true Bonefish taper which delivers a fly delicately. The downside... tough to load at short range and for less advanced casters. The fly line everyone can cast is the RIO Flats PRO or the SA Grand Slam.  Easy to cast, sets down pretty soft, but if you want to make one-shot-kills on tailing fish nothing beats a true Bonefish line for shallow water sight casting. Its sneaky. If you are nervous about your casting skill and often struggle to make good casts quickly then the RIO Bonefish Quickshooter is your line. It is mild shooting head with a fine tip 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 on your 8 weight.

    Sunglasses and Advice for Seeing the Fish on the Flats

    costa saltbreak

    I would say that I can spot fish pretty darn well for a gringo, which might not be saying much but I do ok. I am fortunate though as I get to guide here in the states for a living so I have a leg up on the average angler. I am still very reliant on the guide, and humiliated at times, "where is the fish I can't see it!", but the better I can spot fish the better our overall team is. How do the guides see fish like that? Well it simple. They have looked at HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Bonefish and other species. You too would become well adapted if you guided for a year, let alone a decade like many of the guides here. Hundreds of thousands - maybe more.

    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. The better you see the fish, the more you catch. Direct ratio. Plus the guide can't look everywhere at once especially when they are with your buddy. 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, use a low light amber lens from 7 am till noonish and then a better mid-day lens like green or copper. Back to Amber in the afternoon or with dark cloud cover.
    • Use your Buff, pull it tight around your glasses to prevent backlight from reflecting off the back of the lens.
    • Stop walking so damn fast. In fact, stop talking too while you're at it. Concentrate, be still. 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. 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.

    Footwear for Fishing Christmas Island

    Flats Boots for Christmas Island

    Comfortable feet are essential. Break your boots in and wear them around the yard soaking wet. Walk the dog and do anything you can to break them in while wet. I fill mine up with the hose and mow the lawn, wetting them down once or twice in between. Buy good saltwater flats boots that drain well, are designed for wearing wet, and good fitting neoprene socks that act the same wet as they do dry. I personally like to buy some hiker's liner socks. They are super thin and nice to wear between the neoprene and my skin. After about 2-3 days the liners begin to pay off protecting you from rubs and hot spots caused by the rough neoprene. 

    Gear Management and Packing Tips


    packing list for christmas island


    This island is a long ways from anywhere so be prepared. If you are on a hosted with Red's we'll have some backup rods and flies but anglers on these trips need to be self-contained. It's impossible for your host to back-up everyone in these big groups.

    Luggage and Bags for Christmas Island

    • Waterproof Sling or Backpack for Fishing (works as your carry-on)
    • Dry Bag for the Boat
    • Checked Bag for Airline Travel (rods go inside)

    I've got this honed after doing it a bunch of different ways. I check my rods, reels, and flies. The fact is if my checked bag doesn't make it, this has my boots, socks, and other fishing essentials. I can borrow a rod, reel, and flies, but boots are a more essential commodity. That said, I check it all and it makes airport navigation cleaner and easier. No lugging rod cases around anymore for me. I pack light and tight.

    When you leave to go fishing each day, wear a small waterproof backpack or sling pack. It must have drinking water and essentials for a few hours of fishing. Bring a "boat bag" on the boat every day. This is just an inexpensive collapsible dry bag. I keep extra flies, a dry shirt, hand towel, extra camera batteries, and other resources I might need between spots.

    Fishing Pack Gear List for Christmas Island

    fishpond thunderhead backpack

    • Small container of sunscreen
    • Simms Guide Gloves (for sun and gripping fish!)
    • 10, 12, 16, 20, 40, 60, 100 pound Saltwater Fluorocarbon Tippet (approximate strengths)
    • 6 Saltwater Leaders for Bonefish, 10' - 16 lb. test
    • Quality Hemostats
    • Nippers
    • Small Pocket Knife
    • Saltwater Pliers
    • Lens cloth
    • Toilet paper (also used for constantly wiping saltwater off glasses)
    • Extra Sunglasses
    • Small first aid kit, including Advil
    • Tape for your stripping fingers (ESSENTIAL!)
    • Fly Box (keep extra flies back on the boat)
    • Camera (waterproof much preferred)
    • SPF Lip Balm
    • Bottle of water

    Boat Bag

    • Packable Rain Jacket
    • First Aid Kit
    • Extra Buff
    • Dry hand towel or rag from your room every day
    • Big Fly Box (extra flies)
    • Extra Tippets
    • Snack Bars
    • Electrolytes to Add to Water

    Complete Packing List for Christmas Island

    There are some general overlaps in these two lists, so shoot the gap in the middle. Being overpacked can be as annoying as being under packed so here is your general guideline.

    When considering clothing amounts, consider this tip. After you get off the boat, shower in your fishing clothes, ring 'em out, hang 'em on the clothesline. They will be dry by morning ready to wear again.

    *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!

    • Sunscreen
    • (3) 16 lb. Bonefish Leaders
    • (3) 20 lb. Bonefish Leaders
    • Saltwater Fluorocarbon Tippet - 12, 16, 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 Green to change out based on lighting)
    • Saltwater Flats Fishing Boots
    • Neoprene Socks
    • Poly Liner Socks (you cannot afford to get blisters)
    • Flip flops
    • 3 Fishing Shirts
    • 3 Fishing Pants
    • Pajamas
    • 2 casual outfits
    • 3 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 USD cash for gratuities, bar tab, misc. Australian Dollars are accepted as well.
    • Waterproof Backpack or Sling Pack (also your carry on bag)
    • 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
    • Booze or wine from Duty Free (not many options on Christmas Island)
    • Extra Hat
    • Small roll of duct tape and few zip ties for unforeseen repairs
    • Pre-moistened lens cloths
    • Flies
    • Music Speaker

    Traveler's Diarrhea

    What a shitty topic.  All the lodges on Christmas Island have battled some type of food born illness issue in the past.  They use reverse osmosis ultra-violet water filters at most lodges and regularly test the water.  Salads, dishes, etc. are washed in that water.  They take this responsibility very seriously and have put many stop measures in place to prevent anyone getting sick.  I haven't been sick there yet, but I got hit pretty hard in Costa Rica this past year.

    Often when someone gets sick its because they brushed their teeth with the sink water.  I suggest bringing 2 or more toothbrushes so that if you accidentally rinse the toothbrush in the sink, just throw it away. sink water is bad. Bring plenty of Imodium.  Also very important is bring the powdered electrolytes, like EmergenC, Gnarly, Gatorade, Liquid IV ect. to replace electrolytes and add to your water. 

    Hopefully you will not have any issues.  Avoid raw vegetables if you want to be extra careful.  The kitchen is usually spotless, and the cooks and servers wash their hands constantly.  Bring some of those little bottles of hand sanitizer and don't be afraid to give them to your guide after he takes a trip to the bushes or just keep them handy.  If someone in your group gets it, try to stay in front of them in the buffet line.

    Flies for Fishing Christmas Island

    Two Tone Brushy Black & Purple by Fulling Mill // Saltwater Baitfish

    This is the base list that we've come up with for pretty much everything you encounter on Christmas Island with the exception of Milk Fish which require an algae or moss type fly. 

    The "Well Prepared Angler" Fly List

    Shop Our Christmas Island Fly List

    Bonefish Flies for Christmas Island

    Xmas Island Special by Fulling Mill

    Your Bonefish flies should heavily favor the vaunted "Xmas Island Special" in various weights and colors with a slight favoritism toward Orange. No matter how much we fish other flies.... this pattern always seems to be the staple. No denying it. You'll also want some very lightweight beadchain eye flies like the Gotcha Shallow, Arctic Bone, or Boney Foo Foo. A good mix is all you need, again - strong emphasis on the Xmas Island Special. Our flies have the best hooks, but a word of caution when trying to winch in your fish. With 20# test tippet you can break hooks. The nature of a #6 Bonefish hook is to that it's light enough to get good penetration without having to set like the incredible hulk. In most areas anglers use 10-12# tippet with these flies, Christmas Island and 20# tippet is an exception to the norm because of the coral and the lack of pressure.

    GT and Trevally Flies for Christmas Island

    You'll want a good selection of sizes and colors. (18) flies mixed from 1/0 - 6/0 is a good idea with more than half of them being black. For whatever reason, GT's seem to have a slight preference for black but the Blue Fin and smaller Trevally favor white and natural colors. On your 12 weight for big GT's, go with a 4/0 or 6/0 fly on 60# - 80# test. You might find that the 6/0 sinks too fast sometimes, and switch to a 4/0. All in all both sizes are good but the 6/0 hooks are stronger. On your 10 weight rod if rigged for smaller trevally, use a 1/0 - 2/0 streamer setup with 40# test. Here are a few flies that we like.

    Crabs and Big Shrimp for Triggerfish and Golden Trevally

    Trigger Fish on Christmas Island

    Triggers are fun to chase! While I won't spend all week casting at Triggers, no doubt I'll give in to the tantalizing wag of their tails poking up across the flat. They aren't sneaky. These fish are easy to see which is a relief! They have crazy strong teeth and dive into holes in the coral making landing them a feat. You'll want a heavy wire hook like some of these below.

    Golden Trevally prefer crabs, but also eat Shrimp. Use a crab pattern or large shrimp to target Golden (striped) Trevally when you see them on the flat.

    Capture the Moment... Photo Tips for Flats Fishing

    This is a special trip and fishing photos are what keeps us sane and sober in the off-season! Take good pictures.  Teach your guide how to use your camera and where it is located in your pack. This is one of the first things I do each day! I love to take video as well, the guides are delighted to help you get great photos and videos. Bring a dry hand towel (provided in your room) 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.

    • Put thought into every image. Make every photo a keeper.
    • 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.
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