Bait to Plate

Kev Collins

Well known Restauranter and co-owner of Fish D'vine & The Rum Bar in Airlie Beach. When Kev's not working he's out fishing in the amazing food bowl of the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or in his tinnie in the estuaries crabbing! His blog imparts wisdom, tales and info on all things fishing and food.

Christmas in July

I have had a bucket list fishing trip to the pacific Bonefishing destination of Christmas Island booked since late last year. Well before Cyclone Debbie appeared over the horizon, and, thankfully, late enough to have dealt with the majority of putting things back into some semblance of order so as not to feel guilty about going away.

The trip really started when catching up with a good friend who now works for the Kiribati airline in the lounge at Nadi airport. Over a few too many bounty rums (all in the name of research) I discovered a delightful nuance of the Kiribati language and straight away it answered questions. The locals call the nation Kiribas and the actual island Christmas Island, spelt Kiritimati. Turns out that when the local language was first turned into written text by a visiting missionary the guys typewriter was missing the letter “S” so he used “ti” to signify “s” in all the written text. Hence Kiriba(ti)sAnd, delightfully, Kir-i(ti)s-ma(ti)s.

What I also discovered on landing at the unique “Cassidy international airport” on Christmas Island was a very undeveloped nation with an average annual wage of $20 a week with very shy delightfully locals somewhat in awe of the whitefella who come to fish and in turn whose holiday dollar injects enough wealth into the country that our group of some 14 people in turn supported an entire village. Polite, friendly, natural people who were a long way short of the slick, professional hospitality staff of Fiji but instead had a naive natural charm and shyness which was both enchanting and refreshing compared to the slick practiced and well trained routine I am used to.

As a fishing destination for Bonefish, fished exclusively with salt water fly fishing equipment it is hard to imagine a better place in the world. Literally miles and miles of shallow coral sand flats, small tidal flows and bonefish literally in their millions. Some years ago the government fisheries managers to their great credit, worked with industry to recognise the potential for these fish as a tourism drawcard and banned the netting of bonefish on Christmas Island.

A resultant explosion of the population followed to a point where it is possible to catch (and release) 100 fish in a single day. These “ghosts of the flats” are an ultimate fly fishing target. Hard to see but abundant. If you miss a shot there will be another in a minute or so. Highly flighty and easily spooked by a poor cast, a splash of a shadow, and, at the same time and amazingly aggressive taker of a well presented fly with any hook-up followed by an explosive run with just seems impossible for a relatively small fish.

The “bones” were always the main target but some beautiful Blue Fin Trevally, GT’s and the frustrating Trigger Fish were also regular encounters. Hard to talk much about the “plate” side of this trip as the food was, at best, pretty basic and nothing I could use in the restaurant and as to “bait”, being an all fly adventure it was about fluff, fur and feathers. A mate who came for the trip and ties his own flies actually made some, very successfully, from the fur of his pet Labrador. So instead of give a dog a bone, it became as case of give a bone a dog =).

Rather than curing me and being able to forever tick on one off  the list, I am now more hooked than the fish and will go again. Saw a lot, learnt a lot and for any fly fisherman I can say without doubt that Bonefishing on Christmas Island ranks amongst the most memorable fishing experiences of a lifetime. Couple of pics I can't seem to change format on from portrait to landscape. The birds are also protected as show no fear of man, hence they land on your head while fishing and a side shot showing the amazing colours of a Bluefin trevally.