Pacific destinations - what tackle

Spare time these days is spent preparing for the next adventure. After all, life would be dull if it was just the same old, same old, every day!

I therefore motivate myself by planning adventurous trips to exciting places up to 12 months ahead. At present I have two trips on the horizon. One is to Aitutaki in February, one of the world’s most beautiful places and just an hour north of Rarotonga. This is planned to coincide with the annual spawning migration of a small species of baitfish. These fish arrive in the lagoon from offshore waters, and the big giant trevally that live both inside the lagoon and outside its surrounding reef gather for the feast around the full moon in February each year. It’s events like this that make it important to book ahead so you can be sure you’ll have accommodation, boats and guides for the desired period. In this case you can miss the GTs by a day or two.

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Last February we hit the second half of the gathering and enjoyed exciting fishing for huge trevally. The best GT landed was a hefty 45kg, but we hooked and lost even bigger ones. We fish for these monsters using 15kg or 24kg spinning gear on casting rods armed with big poppers – surface lures that create a lot of noise and splash. Last February it was the Sebile Splashers that did the business for us. These poppers don’t break your arms pulling them in, but still make enough disturbance to attract the trevally. Subsurface lures also attract them, and Sebile Flatt Shads have out-fished all the other lures in that field. I have unfinished business with a 25kg trevally that ate my fly and then blasted off 50m before pulling the hook.

The beauty of this trip is that if we are unlucky with the GTs, there will still be bonefish to fish for in the lagoon and on the sand flats, so fun fishing is guaranteed. But, of course, hitting such a narrow window of opportunity at the same time as a period of good weather will be the trick.

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At other times of the year bonefish are the drawcard in Aitutaki, with GTs also a possible catch inside the lagoon. The bonefish are huge by world standards, often averaging 3kg, with big fish around 6kg being fairly common catches. The bonefish can be caught from a boat in the deeper parts of the lagoon when grubbing about on the silty bottom for crabs, shrimps and other sea creatures. In the process they create a patch of dirty water that looks just like someone’s poured milk into the water, and is called ‘the milk’.

We drift through these areas for the bonefish, trevally, goatfish and snappers creating the disturbance, dragging super-fast sinking lines and flies with lead eyes to keep everything down on the bottom where the fish are rooting around. On fly gear the fights are epic, with bonefish and big trevally both winning out at times upon finding outcrops of coral.

The second trip I have booked involves taking groups to the remote waters at Christmas Island, part of Kiribati, an archipelago of islands scattered across the mid-Pacific. Take a look on a map and you will have to agree that this is a remote fishing hole, with the nearest island being over 300 kilometres away – and even that’s uninhabited.

The remoteness is the very reason why this island was chosen by both the British and the Americans to test their nuclear weapons back in the 1950s and ‘60s. Fortunately, there is no trace of that period now, other than a large concrete block used to tether the balloons that took the bombs up to altitude before exploding. (No, the fish don’t glow in the dark or have two heads, thank goodness.)

Why do we go there? Well, it is the draw of the best saltwater fly fishing for bonefish in the world. Not the biggest bonefish, although a few big ones can be encountered sometimes. It does, however, have the biggest population of easily accessible bonefish.

As well as the bones there are giant trevally of a good average weight, as well as some huge ones up around the 50kg mark. All this is available to fly fishers wading the shallows and fishing the drop-offs. What a fantastic spot for an adventure!

The logistics of such trips offer a neat challenge: you need to be prepared for anything – and also keep in mind that there are no tackle shops where you can replace gear on these islands. You must have everything necessary, as well as all the spare parts and replacements possibly required as well. For example, if a big trevally runs you around a coral head and shreds your fly line, you won’t be able to buy a new one, so you’d better have a backup of some sort. If travelling in a group, you may be able to beg, borrow or steal one from a mate, but if not, it’s best to take spare lines.

Tackle failures needn’t spoil trips if prepared. Spare rods are a must. You don’t need me to list here the number of ways a fly rod can be broken. Just chasing big fish will put your gear at risk.

My usual packing for the tropics includes: two 9-weight rods; one 12-weight rod; and sometimes a 7-weight as well. These four-piece rods fit in my suitcase. Matched to these rods are: two 9-weight reels and spare spools; and one 12-weight reel with a spare spool, so I have a sinker and a floater on hand. Also, if I have the 7-weight on the trip, it will have a reel and spare spool, too. (It’s worth noting that this line-up usually involves three Redington Delta reels so I can mix and match them to suit the day’s fishing. Also, as I have three identical reels with #7 and #9 lines on spare spools, if one breaks down, I am in a good position to carry on with a simple reel change.

On tropical trips, particularly to spots I have not fished before, I like to take a light spin rod with a variety of small lures, too. Such an outfit may well offer some of the best fishing of the trip. If it is windy, for instance, you can still flick a few lures around. Again, a multi-piece rod that fits in my suitcase is the answer, matched by a reel with a good drag and filled with 4kg braid. It’s amazing how often this outfit catches the best fish of the trip. Lures include: Sebile Flatt Shads (one of the most underrated lures going); small poppers; hex wobblers for really heavy coral areas; some small, but castable hard-body lures; as well as relatively expendable lures for casting into impossible looking locations. (These ‘impossible places’ might be reef passes where you can cast beyond the reef into ocean water; big, nasty fish inhabit such spots and are very hard to extract.)

I go for the head-to-toe look in tropical clothing. I’ve had enough sun and don’t want sunburn spoiling my trip. A buff or similar head covering is worth having, often coming to the rescue when I’m not particularly vigilant with the sunblock, as well as offering good wind protection to lips while underway. Footwear is solid and hard soled – no jandals or sandals. Wading coral areas can be quite difficult and can result in cut feet that will keep you back at the lodge while others are out fishing. There are a lot of really good self-draining shoes available these days.

As you will have seen by now, the tackle is the important part of your packing. Make lists and use them so you don’t forget anything. Go over and over the gear, because it will be too late to add anything when you touch down in Paradise!

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