Fishing Christmas Island (Kiritimati)

Here's what happened.  I was scheduled to be fishing Fanning Island last week, but whoops, their puddle jumper airplane was grounded at the last minute and the trip cancelled before takeoff.  So we could not get there.  Disaster!

As my other flight tickets were non refundable, to not let them go to waste, the booking agency that got me started on this adventure was able to find a place for me to stay at Christmas Island which was the last stop on the way Fanning.  While the better fishing camps were completely filled, they did manage to get me a spot in the Captain Cook Hotel.

It turned out to be something of a mixed blessing.  Let's just suggest that while the hotel at which I was booked might be OK for an emergency one night stand, it was not usable for any stay beyond that.

Let's tell the whole story (from my perspective) in the hopes that anyone reading this will avoid spending much, if any time at that facility.  The property is an old military base that was converted to a "resort hotel" and is operated by the Kiritimati government  The one redeeming feature of  the Captain Cook Hotel is that it's only five kilometers from the airport.  Aside from that location advantage, there literally is nothing to recommend it.  When I landed at the airport coming in from Honolulu, I was met by "Slick" (the local island intermediary of the booking agency) and "Robo", my guide for the first four days.   (Note that these are not the guy's real names - just my nicknames for them.)  We hopped in my rental car and made the short trip to the hotel where I checked in.

Drove to my beachside bungalow and did some unpacking.  The room would be described as less than basic.  Very old decrepit building, furnishings and window coverings, a bedroom light that didn't work (for the first four days), and a bathroom that you really didn't want to enter.  Went to dinner that night, and the situation kept going downhill.  The food was pretty much inedible.  I paid attention to what a group of Aussies were eating and decided to approximate their menu choices for the next few days.

Zeroed in on what might be least damaging to my stomach for the duration of the week and stuck with the same choice every meal for the duration.  It was scrambled eggs and bread for breakfast, an egg sandwich for lunch, and battered fish plus chips for dinner.  There were a few communal condiments available on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table.  Everyone stuck their fingers into the salt cellar and their flatware into anything else they needed.  The coffee set up was never used.  It consisted of a pot of hot water and a jar of instant coffee.  Everyone was terrified of the local water.  Salads were unthinkable, and no fruit was available.  The only liquids we could drink were soda, beer, or bottled water that we had to buy in the adjoining bar.

Even with these simple meal choices the cook never output anything consistent from one meal to the next.  The wait people were utterly useless - but like all the rest of the staff at the hotel - everyone was super friendly, happy, and smiled all the time.  It reminded me very much of the movie Dumb and Dummer.  To give you some idea of the value of the food, my tab for eating three meals a day for a week was $90.

That first night it rained hard, and of course the roof of my room leaked directly onto the pillows on the bed.  That's called ugly and uglier.

The rain continued all day the next day which was supposed to be my first guided day of fishing.  Robo (the guide) drove me out to see one of the flats we were going to fish, then back home, and the day was done.

The booking company had lined me up with four days of guided fishing - two using a boat, and two just walking the local flats.  Since I never use guides elsewhere, it was my fault for not being more assertive about this subject, but I didn't know anything about the island.  In hindsight I'd have been better off just having the guide drive me around for a day and then going off on my own.

Next day's boat fishing trip was fascinating to start with.  We motored all the way across the massive lagoon in the middle of the atoll.  (See video for pictures of the boat.)  We fished along the edge of the lagoon area and had decent success.  The guide Robo has good fish eyes even when we had bad light, but at least for this part of the trip, I probably saw the bones just as well.  Here's where my issues with the guiding started.  He wanted me to use a long slow strip on every cast.  There was no acceptable change to that approach.  I got sick of doing it.  No variation in how you attempt to tease fish into striking is beyond my comprehension.  Nonetheless we caught plenty of fish, but given my impatient nature, it grew old quickly.  I lasted about three hours doing the same thing and then threw in the towel.  We headed back to the dock and were home by roughly 1:00.

The next day was a wade trip.  Same issue.  Without question I was getting on Robo's nerves and he was getting on mine.  I simply got sick of doing exactly the same thing over and over so stopped fishing around noon.  I was supposed to do another boat trip the following day but canceled it.  So I ended up paying for four full days (plus tip) to be guided and actually only used two half days - a real waste of money.

OK.  I still like and respect Robo.  He's a good guy, has great eyes for the water, and I'm sure he's been very successful in finding people fish for as long as he's been guiding.  My problem (and it's really my problem) is that I can't stand doing the same thing over and over for hours on end.  Casting I can do endlessly but not in the metronome like way we were doing it.

I went off on my own, and on the lagoon flats, I was less successful than I would have been with the guide.  Two sets of eyes obviously work better than one.  However what I found I really enjoyed was fishing the reef flats between the shore and the ocean breakers.  It was tons of fun catching and releasing not only the "reef babies" that live there but some nice trevally, bones, and other species I'd never seen elsewhere.  (See video for more) 

Here's the problem about fishing this particular section of the reef for anyone who may read this and be interested in trying it.  The wind prevails from the East on this side of the island.  If you are not capable of casting left handed here, the term "chuck and duck" applies.  That's no fun and also dangerous.

And so the week ended up on a decent note from a fishing standpoint.  If I were ever to return to Christmas Island, I'd now better know how to fish it and enjoy it (mostly by staying at another resort hotel).


Here's another of the clunky videos I regularly make of these trips.