Destination: Christmas Island
Today we would like to share with all of you a review from Kirk Deeter of Field and Stream Magazine of our most recent excursion to Christmas Island, as well as an article written by Kirk on how this trip improved his saltwater sight fishing game. Christmas Island is a destination that any Angler wanting to explore the fly fishing world should consider!
I filled out the form you sent, but I feel compelled to send you a little extra feedback, because I’m kind of an “outlier” from the “normal” client on a trip like this. For context, as you know, it’s part of my job to travel and fish at different lodges/places, and I have a fairly long list under my belt (like you… Russia, South America, Central America, Alaska, etc. More than I can remember at this point). As a magazine editor, I’m often comped trips (which is, of course, wonderful) but that comes with expectations to write stories and so forth to promote the lodge and/or destination. I purposely signed up for this trip because it came at the end of a long and busy year (I couldn’t fish on Oahu before we took off for CXI because I was literally editing and shipping magazine pages from my hotel room, and I shipped the last page from the gate at the HNL airport in the staging area before we boarded the flight). I encouraged Paul Zabel to join because he is an old friend, who knew me before any of my magazine stuff ever happened. When Torok told me about the trip in June, I thought, “Heck yeah… I’ve always wanted to see Christmas Island.” But I just wanted to go and fish (not “work”). I wanted no strings attached. I wanted to be anonymous, and just bond with an old friend, and forget all the writing and all that. Most of all, I wanted to leave when the trip was done, and have a suntan, and have caught a few bones, and that’s it. I wanted to check out. That was my goal. I wasn’t on a quest to catch anything, or make a story, or any of that. So there’s your context.
First off, I think you totally nailed the pre-trip correspondence, the logistics, the élan of the crew assembled, and everything. Superb. I have nothing to suggest there. Put it this way: You did better on this trip than any other I have ever taken, including those where the guides, lodges–even COUNTRY–have rolled out the red carpet to make a story happen. You are the man, and that pre-trip stuff was exemplary of what any hosted trip should be like.
Second, in my experience, 99% of the success quotient of ANY trip has to do with “the crew.” I’ve been on trips and had great fun, and made great stories, where the fishing was fairly shitty, but the characters and the spirit were top notch. Conversely, I’ve been on trips where the fishing was bonzer, but there were one or two total jerks in the ensemble, and that dropped the mood and satisfaction for everyone there. I don’t know if you got lucky, or you screened the crew, or you were just particularly skillful at managing personalities when they hit CXI (my guess, based on experience, is that it’s probably a combination of all three), but this was a really good group, and that made a big difference in what could have been a difficult week, weather-wise.
I was stunned by Ikari House, probably because I thought, going in, that I was headed to a barracks. I was told that by the end of the week, the food crawled from one end of the table to the other. I was told that the head guide had died, and the remaining guides were fair at best. I found the food to be awesome (for dinner). I thought lunches were fair, but good. I thought the guides, by and large were INCREDIBLE, given their socioeconomic means… They know the water and they can see fish. And if we’d all give them more good gear to work with, they’d do better.
The one issue I had, which I told you about, was on the first day, with Tim. But it wasn’t Tim. Tim is a good, young guide, and Tim can see fish and do well. It was English. English was a jerk to Tim, and he’d go set up on a flat (under really difficult weather conditions) and take his people, then leave Tim on his own. (We were with Tim… but I saw this right away). Now, if that were you or me guiding, what would we do? We’d set Tim up on the cherry run, and help him out, and tell him how to fish his clients, and then we’d go make our own thing happen. English just made his thing happen, and he screwed Tim. And frankly, Tim didn’t know how to work the tides and the low light like a super-seasoned guide would on his own. But if Tim had help, he’d be absolutely fine. I really liked Tim, but he’s learning. English needs to learn how to play team baseball, or English should be cut loose. That’s my two cents. Nathan was great. Moana was, of course, great.
As for the total appeal of CXI… let me say this. I found it extraordinary that I could catch 20 bonefish in a total downpour on the last day, which I did (so did Paul, who was fishing with me). I loved the triggers. Found the milkfish thing to be “eh, okay, tried that, done that, but whatever.” I hoped to catch a big GT but I think that’s a far more random opportunity than most people realize. Maybe that was weather, and tides, and so on, but that has to remain an “icing on the cake” super random possibility as you promote these trips in the future, because, based on what I saw, that’s what it was. Random. I wouldn’t call it a GT fishery, I’d call it a place where a GT is possible, but unlikely. Again, maybe that was the tides, the week, the weather, whatever… but I also think that’s the guides. Not a ding, and not a complaint.
I was TOTALLY satisfied with the trip and what I learned, and what I encountered. I think it’s one of the most remarkable places I have ever been. I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d maybe change my timing, maybe change my own approach, but hell yeah, it’s a supremely interesting, captivating place, and something any serious “world traveler” angler should put on the bucket list.”
Along with this review came an article from Kirk that you can check out here on sight fishing in low light conditions.