This was my 6th trip to the Island. On my last trip 6 years ago, I stated that I would never come back. Over the years, the fishing/conditions had gotten progressively worse. However, during the past few years, word had gotten back to me from other anglers that the fishing was now superb. Howard at Fishabout had been telling me about the changes he’d made to the Villages and the fishing program and it was all positive. So, early this year I ate crow and decided to return to see for myself.
I have to admit, this was my best trip to Xmas Island since my first trip in 1991. Everything fell together great, from the flights, to the weather, to the fishing. The service at the lodge was also outstanding. I had asked for special items and favors numerous times and the answer I received was always, “yes” with a smile. They took a page from the Ritz-Carlton handbook. Overall experience was excellent. Howard deserves kudos for all the work he has done for the Villages.
The meals were very good (lobster 4 nights out of the 7 and sashimi appetizers almost every evening) and we had ice cream every night. We sent our guides out to hunt mantis shrimp almost everyday so we had that 4 nights also. Mantis shrimp is THE best tasting shrimp on the planet… period.
Now to the fishing. The boys were extremely successful with the bones AND the trevally. I would have a guide take one of the boys and I would guide the other, on the same flat, so I could witness their catches and take pictures. That worked out very well. I did not fish for the first 3 days and fished 10 minutes the 4th day and about an hour the 5th day and 4 hours on the last day. With that little time fishing, I still could tell how good the fishing has become since our last visit and I enjoyed watching my kids catch fish just as much if not more than me doing it.
The boys got lucky fishing an area known to have trevally roam in and out of the deep water and sure enough the fish cooperated for us a couple days. One of the days Michael cast Uncle Meng’s 12 weight to a passing trevally and hooked it but the fly line was wrapped around his leg so he broke that fish off instantly. Lucky he didn’t do a backflip when the fly line came tight around his feet! The next opportunity came shorty after that. This time he was armed with my 11 weight and a 3/0 white clouser minnow. The fish took his fly and it was off to the races. He had never felt the pure brute force of this type of fish before and it was exhilarating… for him and for me. When that fish was landed, Michael quietly whispered to me, “I love life”. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
At that point, Matthew was wanting to tug on a trevally, but we told him it was going to be tough to get another chance. Well, I was wrong. About 20 minutes later, another big trevally came in and Matthew made a good cast and the fish inhaled the fly. It was off to the races again! Matthew had a tougher time with his fish, either because it was meaner or bigger or BOTH. We had to chase that fish down the flat to keep up with him and after about 10 minutes into the fight, we looked back at the point were we hooked the fish and noticed Michael had hooked another one on Uncle Meng’s 12 weight! Double hook ups!!
Both fish were landed at the same time. Michael had an easier time with his fish due to is experience with his first one AND the fact that he was using a 12 weight. These pics of double trevally will be looked at by me for many years to come. It was a great day of fishing. However, since that moment, all the boys cared about was trevally. They did not want to fish for bones anymore. They had trevally on the brain for the remainder of the trip. Every flat we went to they asked if they could fish for trevally. I almost had to force them to fish for bones while we waited for the trevally to show themselves.
We made the long drive (2 hours by truck) to the oceanside to fish for bones and trevally on the beach (the area was called Submarine). I had fished the Korean Wreck on past trips but the tides were not favorable during our week. I had not fished Submarine before and it was a good experience. Uncle Meng brought his Drone video quadcopter and took some amazing aerial photos of the beach and the fishing.
On the 5th day, Michael was blind casting his pencil popper on a conventional rig and he got a big blowup from a trevally. We all heard it, and it was ferocious. He missed that fish and we thought it was a total missed opportunity. With that blow up, Michael was even more diligent at casting his popper and after about 10 minutes it sounded like a bath tub was dropped in the water on his plug! Michael set the hook and the fight was on. With the drag set very tight on the Calcutta 250 loaded with 65# spectra and 50# top-shot (I use this reel to stop salmon on the Sac river), the fish was unstoppable. I looked down on the reel and could see the line peeling off and a high rate. We all told Michael to “RUN you’re going to get spooled!”. We followed the fish down the bank but it was still taking line. I looked down at the reel again and noticed the arbor starting to show. I told Michael to RUN FASTER! He did and gained some line back but it was a tug of war for awhile. Michael needed a break so Matthew took over fighting the fish. When the fish was in sight, Michael took over the reins and finished the job. When we tailed that fish, we noticed one of the hooks on the treble hook had straightened out and one of the other hooks only had a tiny piece of flesh purchased. It literally fell out of the fishes mouth when we gave it slack! That fish “should” have been lost, but the trevally gods were shining down on boys that week! Lucky AGAIN!
The boys managed to land bones up to 7-9 pounds and land GT’s on fly and conventional. Other members of our group ( Dick and Michael Sasaki, Meng Syn, Roland Kumagai, Roger Bevers and Larry Willis) did well too. Roger was the top dog as far as numbers of bones in a day. He landed over 50 the first day. Roland also got into a big GT on fly. Larry landed a huge bonefish that measured 31 inches!
The catch rate was definitely higher this time than trips past. There were many 30-40 fish days per person. I think the guys were right about Christmas Is. The fish are back and conditions are almost as good as the first time I went.
There were other great experiences for the boys, like eating fresh caught snappers on a pile of burning coconut husks. The fresh coconut juice and coconut flesh was also very refreshing. Matthew threw a Rattle Trap to a shark and it ate it instantly too.
As we boarded the plane back to HNL, the boys said they wanted to come back next year. I told them it would be unlikely that we would come back that soon, but as I have learned from this amazing place…..never say never.