Christmas Island Trip, Dec 2023 Wild on the Fly by Joe Frisch

Xcalak on the Fly trip April 2024 by Joe Frisch-Wild on the Fly Reading Christmas Island Trip, Dec 2023 Wild on the Fly by Joe Frisch 9 minutes
I told myself, "You just have to get over the embarrassment"; I had been on Christmas Island for only
part of just one day of the seven for which we were scheduled, and knew it would be a long trip if I
didn't get over my uneasy feelings.
To start, there was just too much to be embarrassed about. In no particular order there were several
elements related to actual fishing. Most noticeable early on was my inability to see the bonefish my
Christmas Island Lodge guide would point out by pointing a rod at the fish while calling out the distance
and the direction the fish was looking. Consequently, the first day I was blind casting more than I hoped.
My efforts were initially met with, "To the left more . . . too much, to the right now . . . oh, now he's gone" And then cheerily, "that's okay there will be more fish" Indeed, there were many more fish and many more opportunities, which may be the most striking
distinction of Christmas Island--a well-founded hope of finding more fish and making the next cast more
precise. With the many repetitions, I grew better at seeing the fish and distinguishing them from the
milkfish, puffer fish and black tip sharks that shared their waters.
Any anxiety about my casting in the strong winds also faded quickly by the way the guides approached
the flats--they start on the upwind side of a flat and work downwind, since many of the bonefish were
facing up into the current and wind. So much so, that it was not unusual to cast to fish 20 feet in front
or cast downwind to fish 60 feet ahead, well within the range of my 8wt and ability. In some instances,
we cast a mere ten feet to bones.
The catching part was relatively easy once you could get a size 6 or 8 Christmas Island Special pattern
near the fish. The guides, blessed with tremendous eyesight, call out the stripping cadence and length.
"Strip fast! Strip fast! Ok, wait. Now strip long, strip . . . strip . . . strip . . . strip short, strip short. Fish On". Almost immediately the fish would peel off line in the dazzling display of speed for which they are
The guides prefer the small Christmas Island specials (orange and pink) as they don't spook the bones
and there's less risk of the fish biting just the tail of the fly and missing the hook. Moreover, bead chain eyes make less of a splash than dumbbell eyes and hook up on the bottom far less. So, when it came time to change flies, my guides often looked dejectedly into my fly box, which featured larger flies more
suitable for the Caribbean yet only a handful of the Christmas Island Specials.
There's no fly shop to run to at the end of the day and to stock up, so guides do what all the people in
remote areas do--they make the best of the situation and modify what they have. In this case, they cut
off the long legs and tails of my flies. Or, they put on a more squid-like fly and happily announce, "We go for blue fin trevally now!"
Guides scout for bluefin, triggerfish, and Grand Trevally while also spotting bonefish. It is common for the guides to carry multiple rods, while you carry your bonefish rod. While you may be tempted to bring only an 8wt and a 12wt (for Giant Trevally), a third rod (10wt) set up for triggerfish makes for a quick
change from your bonefish set up. Time, tides and triggerfish wait for no man. Flexo Crabs are the triggers' preferred fly, but bring many of them as the triggers are not gentle on these flies. If you run out of Flexo Crabs, you'll never forgive yourself. All three fish--bonefish, triggerfish and Giant Trevally--came together for one of the most impressive sights I saw on the water. My guide was just releasing a bonefish we caught when he suddenly saw a trigger fish near the seam where some of the deep, turquoise water meets shallower aqua-colored
water. We likely released the bone before he was fully revived and focused on the trigger, quickly trying to tie on a Flexo Crab. At that moment, a Giant Trevally sprang from the dark turquoise water and attacked the weakened bonefish in the very shallow clear water. It looked like something out of a horror movie, in which they speed up the film to make the monster appear more menacing. With a
quivering motion, he sliced through the water and took the bone and just as quickly retreated back to his dark hideout. Completely stunned, we lost sight of the triggerfish. Seeing that display of size, speed and surprise gave me more appreciation for a large GT I had caught the day before. I was even more appreciative of the stiff 12wt rod, the Galvan Torque reel, the double-
bimini twist on the gel spun backing, and my reinforcements on the welded loops of the Rio GT line. As the GT ripped off line, I thought queasily about each of these points of vulnerability as well as the job I had done winding the backing on that spool to avoid under wraps. However, my greatest source of chagrin had nothing to do with fishing. The guides and staff of Christmas Island were so accommodating and so caring. They loaded our rods onto the trucks and boats,
along with our wading boots. After fishing, they rinsed all our gear and placed it near our cabins on racks to dry, where they retrieved it the next day. On the first day, a woman literally helped me pull off my wading booties after a tiring day. I felt shame and yet at the same time well-cared for and appreciated. Community members also hosted a Luau for us on the second to last night. On an island of incredibly limited resources and fewer people, they feted us with a feast and a show. The community had festooned the Maneaba (an open air, covered structure for gatherings) with large green leaves, intricately woven around the pillars and with smaller yellow and green leaves loosely woven on a string and hung like bunting between the pillars. We also each received a freshly woven garland crown of colorful flowers and leaves. We marveled at the amount of time that must have gone into the preparation of an event that benefited only us eight anglers.
We were treated to a musical performance by the "Bamboo Boys"" a group of at least a dozen school-age boys who played percussion pipes made from varying lengths of PVC construction pipes. The boys struck the ends of the pipes with flipflops to sound the notes. Additionally, young girls danced
traditional island dances that also reflected many hours of practice, evoking memories of dance recitals of our own daughters and granddaughters. Toward the end of their performance, they invited us old
men to join them in dancing where we embarrassed ourselves completely.
By the end, the week had turned into an embarrassment of riches—one embarrassment I gladly overcame.

Getting There and Being There
Christmas Island is reached via Honolulu and the weekly, three-hour southerly flight to Cassidy International. Christmas Island Lodge provided all the transportation once we landed on the island. The
Lodge itself is presently limited to 12 anglers and situated farther east than the other lodges on the island, on the north shore. Anglers enjoy breakfast at sunrise with waves breaking on the beach. By virtue of its location and relative remoteness, the guides fish waters that are rarely used by the other 
operations and, even within our own group, we fished thousands of yards apart. Tyler, the International Host hires the guides, who rotate through the group over the course of the week. They distinguished themselves, not only with their ability to spot fish, but with their bonhomie. Christmas Island Lodge also
employs the first two women guides and fishing with them was a delight.
The Lodge operates on an all-inclusive basis, so cash is not needed except for gratuities, and credit card transactions are not available nearly everywhere on the Island. Aside from our detailed gear list ((hyperlink)) you will need to bring only a couple sets of fishing attire, as laundry service is provided daily.
Moreover, the WiFi, provided by Starlink, is surprisingly fast so you can stay in touch with family--and work, I guess, if absolutely necessary.
The Lodge provides an overly generous amount of food at each meal. This is all the more amazing, given that so many of the supplies come in on the same weekly plane that carries passengers. We enjoyed
lobster, steak, grilled tuna and an assortment of grilled chicken and sausages during our stay. Do bring your own alcohol, however, outside of beer, which was available in the in-room fridges, the dining table-
side cooler and on the boat. As you would suspect and as you would find in many remote locations, the tap water is not potable, so
plan and take care accordingly.The rooms are air-conditioned, spacious, and comfortable, if spartan. You do spend little time in them,
however, as the shuttle left usually around 6:45am and returned after 5:00 pm most days. A quick shower and you're on to happy hour and an alfresco dinner. Dinner usually broke up around 8:00pm and sleep comes quickly, as the rhythm of the crashing waves provides an effective lullaby. Groups of anglers are taken out to the flats on an unusual boat that is more like an outrigger canoe on
steroids. The narrow main hull carries the guests and four guides as well as a boatsman. A narrow gang plank connects to the outrigger hull and provides an easy onboarding and deboarding experience for guests.