Hunting CXI triggers

After catching a truck tonne of bonefish last year as well as some good trevally, returning to CXI this year I was primarily focussed on hunting for triggerfish and trevally. Although you can only tread on so many bones before you end up putting my fly in front one.

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A solid CXI flats bone that was feeding with some small GTs

We were hit by some rough weather the first couple of days, one of which was spent on the outside flats at the Korean Wreck.

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Tough flats conditions at the Korean Wreck

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Raining sideways at the lagoon on the start of day 2

Last year we had spring tides, also known as trevally tides, while this year we fished closer to neap tides and definitely saw fewer big trevally but a stack more triggers on the flats. A full explanation of tides and their effects on the fishing at CXI can be found here.

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A yellowmargin trigger tailing in the coral

Casting at triggers is extremely visual, slow stripping flies with frequent pauses. Once a trigger has seen the fly it will likely either spook immediately or start to follow. Eats are easily seen with the fish inverting and waving its tail like a puppy dog.

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Yellowmargin triggerfish

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The spectacular reef triggerfish

Although they look beautiful in an ugly way these fish are angry thugs. They will destroy flies and bend hooks and won’t stop chewing until the fly is out of their mouth. They are powerful on the burst and after the initial reaction will doggedly work back towards the nearest trigger hole they can find. Once in the hole the trigger will flip its fins up and you won’t be getting it back, unless you can excavate the hole (some guides are keener to do this than you would expect).

If you do manage to set the hook properly, avoid getting cut off on coral, and then stop the fish from getting into a hole, then you are in with a chance of landing it. Be warned though, even after landing these fish will hiss, spit water and bite anything they can, including fingers or your rod.

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Another thick CXI triggerfish

For triggers I found small orange or tan winged CXI specials, tied on Gamakatsu Bonefish SL45 size 8 hooks worked well. The hooks did originally seem too small for the power and size of a triggerfish but I reckon the thinner gauge wire increased my hook up rate.

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Nasty grill

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The release

Over the course of the week I picked up a few nice GTs and bluefins, however there were noticeably fewer big trevally this year. This was possibly due to less baitfish in the lagoon as a result of colder water which was caused by higher rainfall and ultimately El Nino.

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Good sport on the bonefish gear

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Electric bluefin trevally

Thanks once again to Fly Water Travel, trip host Joe Willauer of Evolution Anglers, and Christmas Island Outfitters for another great week in paradise.

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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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