Christmas Island, Kiribati

Christmas Island, in the central pacific Republic of Kiribati, has long been on my target list of fly fishing destinations. So when I got word from Jesse Cheape there was a empty spot on a trip to Crystal Beach Lodge I was quick to sign up. The trip was hosted by Joe Willauer of Evo Anglers and scheduled for the 29th April – 5th May, which coincided with prime GT tides.

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The lagoon is an amazing sight from the air

After a few false starts our group of 6, consisting of 5 Seppos and myself, arrived from Hawaii to blue skies and a glassy ocean. Perfect weather for flats fishing, unfortunately however our six days of fishing were to begin the following day. The weather during the trip remained good for the most part with rain a couple of nights and a couple of cloudy days that just encouraged us to chase trevally rather than bones.

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Great beach front accommodation at Crystal Beach

The newly finished accommodation at Crystal Beach is simple and practical making it a perfect angler base. Of course CXI is almost as remote as you can get in the modern world but still has the comfort of air conditioning.

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The flats taxi moving across the lagoon

The size of the lagoon and the incredible number of flats has to be seen to be believed. Each flat is unique and with varying fishing options to keep all anglers busy no matter the tide or target species.

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CXI lagoon flats map

CXI has a reputation for having a multitude of small sized bonefish, and we did catch bucket loads, however there are also plenty of big ones as well. According to some locals and guides the average size has been increasing since they became protected. The biggest I landed for the week was 7lb, but bones of any size are all worth catching.

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Solid 4lb bone from the first flat of the week

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No matter the size, the bonefish are always a pleasure

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One of the better bonefish of the week at 6lb

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Picturesque backcountry

The other main draw for anglers in CXI apart from bonefish are the trevally, including the highly sought after giant trevally or GTs.

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Clouds and storms shutdown the flats and turn attention to hunting trevally in the backcountry

Fish up to and exceeding 100lbs roam the shorelines looking for prey, usually milkfish or mullet, and can be legitimately caught on the fly. During our trip Joe Willauer nailed a monster that was estimated to be ~110lbs on his 12wt in a remarkable afternoon in which he landed 5.

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Was a deadset workout getting this ~80-90lb GT on the 12wt

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Back to harassing the milkfish and mullet

Golden, Blue and Bluefin Trevally cruise the flats and shorelines ready to eat a well presented fly.

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Trevally will eat bonefish patterns, sometimes even if you don’t want them too

Surgeonfish are common across the flats but aren’t normally a target as they rarely take the fly. However for some reason one took a liking to a GT deceiver and fought exceptionally hard on the 12wt.

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Yellowfin Surgeonfish, Acanthurus xanthopterus

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Only saw one skinny ladyfish for the week

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Plenty of one-spot snapper around the rocky outcrops and reefs

Yellow Striped Goatfish that took a fly destined for a Bonefish

Finstripe Goatfish that took a fly destined for a bonefish

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There seems to be endless shoreline in the backcountry

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Greedy little brownspotted grouper that nailed a fly presented to a triggerfish

Triggerfish are another main target on the fly at CXI, and we definitely saw our fair share. We spent the best part of two days targeting them but I still didn’t land one, while my partner Jesse nailed a nice one on the last day. They definitely aren’t easy, and interceptions from small trevally and snapper often spook them.

As it was my first trip to CXI I took a large array of flats flies to cover myself for the week. However in hindsight, a standard assortment of Christmas Island specials in pearl, orange and pink in varying weights from size 4-8 will cover most of the flats fishing for bones, triggers and trevally. Similarly half a dozen large (6/0) deceivers tied to imitate milkfish and mullet would probably cover any GT action.

Already I can’t wait to return and continue exploring more of the flats and species of Christmas Island.

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The Usual Suspects

Its high summer down under, which means peak season for many pelagics species on the East Coast. The fish have arrived and chased schools of bait into bays and estuaries along the New South Wales coast, making it the perfect time to target them from a boat or kayak. Early in the morning, late in the afternoon and sometimes even all day these fish bail up bait into balls of nervous water before carving them up like angry torpedoes.

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Truckloads of 50+cm salmon

Find the bait and you will find the fish, which most often consists of Australian Salmon, Tailor, Bonito and Kingfish. The athletic capacity of all these species could easily justify the use of rods in the 9 weight category, however they are dead set reel burners on a 7 weight, which I prefer to fish in open bays.

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Fly of choice, the surf candy

Extensive fly selections are not required as a simple surf candy on an intermediate line will cover most of a days action. Just pick the size to best match the bait and cast it directly into or around the edges of any bust ups. These swimming missiles slurp them down, often as soon as they hit the water.

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These salmon pull like freight trains

Pound for pound the Australian Salmon would have to be one of the top sports fish in the ocean, anywhere. Once hooked they feel as though they will never stop pulling. Hook into a big one, 60+cm, and be ready to go the full 12 rounds.

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Doesn’t get much better than Kingies on the fly

For most anglers big Kingfish are the ultimate summer prize. While there are usually good numbers of rat Kingfish up to 65cm (the legal limit), the numbers thin out above this mark. Landing one over this on fly is a real achievement and anything over 85cm should be considered a trophy.

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Plenty of rats, but a few half decent kings as well

Tailor are always about and often seem to arrive at the right time break a quiet spell. While not as revered by most sport anglers as the other species mentioned, they do fight hard, and as long as they aren’t biting through your tippet are always good fun.

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Even the larger Tailor go pretty hard

No doubt there are bigger fish in the sea, but for a day on the fly, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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The Gold Rush

Gold fever first hit New South Wales in the 1850’s, when payable gold quantities were reported by Edward Hargreaves at Ophir in the Central West.  Thousands of men flocked to the region in search of their own personal fortune, with varying degrees of success.  Bernardt Holtermann and colleagues hit pay dirt and discovered two of the largest gold nuggets in history.  Amazingly, the smaller of the two nuggets measured 1.5m in length and weighed 286kg.  It contained an estimated gold content of 5000oz.

Holterman with 630b gold nugget from Hill End NSW

Holtermann with the 286kg gold nugget from Hill End NSW

These days most of the known gold producing regions in the Central West have been extensively mined.  However, for those that know where to prospect the region still has plenty of trophy size gold nuggets to be found, albeit of a different kind.

The Central West plays host to an multitude of freshwater dams and rivers that provide access to prime Golden Perch, aka Yellowbelly water.  The jewel in the crown is Windamere Dam, near Mudgee, which is arguably the best trophy Yellowbelly fishery in the world.  The dam extends for approximately 14km over through Cudgegong River valley.  The waters hold Silver Perch and Murray Cod but the Golden Perch are the main attraction for most anglers and can grow anywhere up to 9kg.

These fish are without a doubt worthy quarry on the fly rod.  When the conditions are right, Goldens can be found cruising drop offs and shallow feeding bays hoping to encounter an easy meal.  These fish can be targeted with dark coloured Woolly Buggers tied on sturdy hooks in larger sizes.  The woolly bugger is good representation of minnows and small yabbies which form a major part of the diet of these well feed footballs.  Shallow bays provide good opportunities for sight fishing to behemoth sized fish lazily working along the banks.

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Football sized Yella

Like most Australian freshwater natives, environmental factors sometimes induce a strong case of lockjaw, resulting in tough fishing.  On these days it is best to target the deeper holding structure with larger flies.  Any submerged timber close to ledges or in deeper water is prime.  The Zinger fly has become our weapon of choice for this scenario and is highly successful at arousing expressions of interest and aggressive responses from otherwise dormant fish.

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Nuggety gold

When hooked these hefty brutes surge in lunging runs towards the closest snag or deep water.  Often locking up is the only way to keep, straining even 8wt rods and 6.5kg fluorocarbon to near breaking point.  Pound for pound these lake fish won’t fight quite as hard as their river siblings, but due to their huge paddle like tails, they will put down an incredible amount of power for a short period of time.

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Big shoulders

Land one of these iconic Australian nuggets and you will go home as happy as Holtermann.

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Tilapia Found in NSW

Sad news this week as it has emerged that Tilapia have been found in some Northern NSW waterways.  Anyone who has fished in North Queensland or areas like Hawaii will know the devastating impact these fish can have on waterways and native species.  As is the case with carp, catch and kill is strongly encouraged and fish should not be returned to the water.  Full announcement about the discovery from the NSW CFA:

Tilapia found in north-eastern streamsCFA_logo
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is seeking assistance from the public to help stop the spread of tilapia, one of the world’s most invasive fish species, after they were recently detected in the far north east of the State.

DPI Strategy Leader Aquatic Biosecurity Melissa Walker said community assistance is urgently needed to control the spread these pest fish, which were recently found in Bogangar Canal and Cudgen Lake, south of Kingscliff.

“The highest risk for transporting tilapia is via humans carrying live fish or eggs,” Ms Walker said.

“If people catch or find a tilapia, it is vital that the fish is not returned to the water.

“Our advice to anyone who catches or finds tilapia is to humanely destroy and dispose of it appropriately.

“In any case of uncertainty about identification, we recommend taking a good quality photo then calling the Aquatic Pest Hotline immediately for confirmation.”

Ms Walker said tilapia have pale olive to silver-grey bodies, with a long continuous dorsal fin, and can grow to more than 36 centimetres and live up to 13 years.

“The fish are particularly threatening because they are such successful breeders,” Ms Walker said.

“Mothers produce up to 1200 eggs a year and protect their young fry in their mouths for up to 14 days before releasing them.

“This technique, known as ‘mouth brooding’, ensures that even if the mother is not living, any eggs in the mouth have the potential to survive.

“Once established in a flowing river or creek, these fish are almost impossible to eradicate so it is important to stop the spread of tilapia now before it’s too late.”

Tilapia impact on native fish numbers by competing for habitat and food, behaving aggressively, disturbing aquatic vegetation and could potentially introduce disease and parasites.

DPI Fisheries and Biosecurity staff are working with local council to coordinate surveys of the surrounding areas to help inform potential management options for this invasive pest fish.

Sightings of tilapia can be reported to DPI via:

•         Phone:  02 4916 3877 (24 hour hotline)

•         Online: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/pests-diseases/aquatic-pest-sighting

•         Email: aquatic.pests@dpi.nsw.gov.au


Male and female tilapia

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