Shit took a decidedly tropical turn this fall.
By way of a short backstory, me and 2 other fellas I occasionally fish with are the same age. In our late 30's (aka way the fuck back in time), we all decided we would go on a big fishing trip someplace to collectively celebrate our 40th trip around the sun. Things were going well in the trip planning department until one of the fellas found out his wife had a bun in the oven, which pretty much fucked that trip. Fast forward a bit (like, half my hair and ALL my grey), and the idea of a group trip was back on the table, albeit with sideboards that include scooter-accessible fishing and soft flats so we don't break any hips. Along the way, we lost one of the original group - he didn't die, our imbecilic AK governor cut education funding and his family income stream was in jeopardy during the trip planning phase (thanks, gov) - but we managed to fill out the posse with a couple of younger fellas who support the elderly. The decision was made (by the old guys) to head to a sunny, salty destination for our 50th birthdays, and the place we settled on was Christmas Island...
At any rate, where were we?
And why is it so cold in here? Is somebody fucking with the thermostat?
Oh yeah. We were talking about gettin' all tropical up in this place.
Christmas Island is way the fuck out in the ocean. Like, the MIDDLE of the ocean. The one flight a week to and from CXI leaves from Honolulu on a tuesday, so we all made our way to HI from our various jumping-off points. I took advantage of a tiny bit of free time and got there early so I could practice walking on flats and yelling at bonefish, a skill I have honed over a few previous trips to the Sandwich Isles. True to form, I walked on flats for a few hours and yelled at a couple big-ass bonefish that followed my fly for a few feet then fucked off. I DID get a good picture of my new flypole, so not all was lost. I also took the opportunity to get my poke on. As some of y'all may have picked up on in previous TR's, I likes me some poke, and pretty much live on it while in HI. Oahu did not disappoint. On Tuesday morning, we found ourselves in the hot, humid clusterfuck that is the international terminal of HNL, along with a pile of other folks headed to CXI. Go time, fellas. A few hours later, we caught sight of the beautiful mountainous terrain of Kiritimati. After clearing customs and supporting the local economy - with Austrian dollars, which is sorta like Monopoly money, only cheaper - we met our transfer fella and drove through the rolling hills and valleys to the lodge which would be our home base for the next week. View from the front door - Our quaint bungalows with "air conditioning" and refrigerators straight out of a 70's dorm room. We all drew straws to determine lodging partners, and even after I cheated I still had to room with the Narwhal. In typical fashion (read: jamming out to funk and attempting to drink *every* beer in the neighborhood), we got situated in our hovels and commenced the stringing up of fishpoles and the laying out of gear. Sunset comes early to the peaks of Kiritimati, so we acted (in)appropriately and anesthetized ourselves with cheap beer and strong drinks in an attempt to sleep over the noise of the refrigerators and "air conditioning"...The next morn found us hopped up on bad coffee and Tang, and we gathered our gear and made our way to the outrigger canoe that would take us to the promised land. As dawn broke along the craggy cliffs, we shoved off into the lagoon. As I may have noted in previous missives, the bonefish and I have not been friends in the past. I have spent a little DIY time chasing them in some off-market locations, but pretty much all of these trips ended with me yelling at fish. For years I was pretty sure the humpback whales that migrate between Alaska and Hawaii were ratting me out to the HI bonefish before I got there. Yea, even in the run-up to this trip, even as we were transiting the waters of the lagoon rumored to have more bonefish per mile than anywhere in the world, there was a tiny sliver of doubt... Was it me? Am I the problem? Would I once again travel long distances at great expense to be humiliated by fish?
I got the answer about 10 minutes into my first flat. It wasn't huge, and it wasn't an epic battle, but it was sufficient to lay the curse to rest. It was also the catalyst for me pretty much losing my mind for the next 7 days, so you'll excuse me if the timeline gets a bit jumbled from here out. The following is a group of images from our week in the mountains of Kiritimati, in no particular order. I'll try to narrate the ride as best I can with a few top-captions and such, but it really is a blur. Further adding to the date and time confusion is the fact that all of us took advantage of the $20AUD/week (so, like...43 cents?) laundry service provided by the lodge - we only have 2 sets of fishing clothes so all our pics look the same. And it was pretty much sunny with a few clouds the whole time. And nobody really gave a fuck what day it was, until they told us we have to leave.
In reality, all these things are good problems to have. Our mountaineering guides for the week in our trusty canoe. These dudes are built like bison and have eyes like eagles. They also smoke cigarettes of tobacco rolled up in a local leaf pretty much nonstop, laugh at honkies when they fuck up casts, and have mirthful conversations in Gilbertese about said honkies. Good fellas, all. Without further ado, meet our majestic house crab Steve. In case you have forgotten where we are, let Narwhal help. As it turns out, things other than bonefish swim around in the lagoon. We saw a couple GTs pretty much every day, but when they are on the flats they are spooky AF. I had legit shots at a handful, and managed to land one. It was all of 2 lbs, and my camera chose that exact moment to not work...It worked for some of the other species tho.
Narwhal and a bluefin Trevally he made friends with. My first bluefin of the trip, right before my camera took a shit. Barred Trevally. Narwhal and Bob, setting our to redpoint one of the island's many impressive peaks. Lest you think we were unpatriotic 'Mericans and forewent the celebration of our colonial subjugation and subsequent "saving" of an indigenous population WHILE enjoying the hospitality of a colonized indigenous culture...Happy Thanksgiving. Apparently, some folks come here JUST for the triggerfish fishing. I can see the appeal, but I was pretty much stuck on bonefish for the week. Maybe one day I will have had enough of the bonefish pursuit, but until then, triggerfish can fuck right off. The Narwhal, on the other hand, loves him some triggerfish. He's weird like that. More bonefish for your viewing pleasure. And then it was time to go. A long (LOOOOOONG) layover in Honolulu was made mercifully shorter by discovering and exuberantly patronizing the greatest bar in the history of bars, as well as a couple ramen joints. What makes this bar so great, you ask? Behold. 30 hours of travel and we were all back home. Sunburns, fish pictures, hangovers and ramen burps were the souvenirs of this trip, as well as a longing to revisit the glorious mountains of Kiritibati in the future. If luck holds, one day we will return.
*As a note to all, I realize I have not followed protocol by blurring or obscuring faces of the innocent and not-so-innocent in this TR. I am aware this may come as an affront to some of you, and as I enter into my sunset years as an official half-centenarian, I offer you this in response: Enjoy, fisha. I know we did.