The only real change is the incorporation in heavy leader (80lb and up) of a special leader to fly loop taught to us by Moana Kofi, the legendary Kirimati guide. I'd never sunk steel into a bigger than 4 kg GT but my tests with my #12 lifting weights and pulling things around gave me confidence in the my big rod system.
As far at the bone fish rig was concerned, I thought I had it sussed. I'll come back to 'thought' later...
As the boys and I sat in the airport lounge, I had no idea of the epic nature of what was about to unfold. We'd taken advantage of Tim's prior experiences to get the timing of our trip sorted, to book a house, to get transport from airport to where we picked up our scooters, to take care of all of the details that can cost time and cause grief if you don't know what you're doing. So we found ourselves rigged and in early trip mode carrying way too much gear to our first afternoon's fishing. Little did I know that I was about to be schooled by large and wary bone fish.
Travelling everywhere by scooter gives you an appreciation of packing as lightly as possible and after the first couple of self-guided days we each had a system that suited the individual shaken down. Personally I'd break my #8 and #12 down, leaving fly and leader on and fly wound to the tip top then capture all 4 pieces in the reel cover and slide them into my Patagonia Stormfront. I've been toting this bag all of the NZ winter and its hard to fault, carrying the right amount of gear for a day's fishing, camera, lunch... the only thing I need is an exterior fixing point for a water bottle as carrying water inside your waterproof bag is counter-intuitive, and my bag came from new sans straps (I must take that up with Patagonia). By scooter we arrived together on the afternoon of our arrival and soon were in the water. Jase had procured us some of the excellent Vedavoo Rod Holsters which allowed the #12 to ride out of the way, while remaining super easy and fast to access. And so began my ed-education in bonefish. Wind and periodic cloud ruffled the water and spotting was extremely difficult against a broken coral backdrop, so when I saw a fish heading directly to me and was able to drop a perfect cast and get the eat I was in seventh heaven! The fish ran strongly and the Abel Super 7/8 N hummed. Tim joined me as I regained line and then the fish burst away again. On this run I felt something jolt as it the line had hit an outcrop and the fly pulled....
Soon though, Karl was into a fish and shortly landed his and our first bone of the trip.
We worked the flat hard through the afternoon for no further result, noting 2 other anglers on the flats.It was several days later that I realised that the accessible flats are worked quite heavily and this possibly explained in part the wariness of the bones.
Day 2 and we decided on a road trip. At the flat we split into pairs and then split again. The edge I worked was devoid of any fish I could cast at and the only bone I saw scampered across the flat 50m away. None of the other boys hooked up either and so we found ourselves drawn to the next flat where Karl caught himself a puffer fish... not exactly target species but still. I saw bones late in the morning but had no chances. Jase got on the board with a nice bone that ran and ran. I felt I was on my game but from memory didn't present a fly to a bone at all that day, however the day flew by and we soon were back at base comparing notes and eating goose mince spag bol. Our base had a perfect elevated view of the sunset and each day we'd retire to the deck, compare notes, prep gear and drink rum in the smoke of mosquito coils - every paradise needs a pest and the mozzies sure filled this spot in the food chain.
Day 3 was to be our final non guided day and Jase and I headed off in one direction while the other boys decided to fish a flat involving a swim. The weather was fickle and on this day we suffered several deluges that simply were monsoon like. As we weren't carrying jackets we simply stood in the rain soaked to the bone. On the morning of this day we encountered our first large GT, a big black behemoth that swam between Jase and I as we crossed a chest deep channel. We each drew our twelve weights but he simply cruised on through. It was after a severe drenching and against a dark black cloud outlook that we retired to lick our wounds, only to find that neither of our scooters would start. I finally got mine going but Jase's was terminal, the monsoon had affected it. Luckily we were very close to where we'd hired our bikes so he was able to get a replacement easily. Post switch over and with the weather improving we drove around to find the other lads. They'd managed to access their flat ok and as we fished they continued to traverse the flat. After a while I noticed Karl with his arm up and realised he had a fish on. After a while longer, I noticed Tim with arms above his head walking down Karl's line. After much longer I noticed both oh them in chest deep water. And after 45 minutes there was much high fiving - Karl had obviously landed his fish. It proved to be an 11lb bone fish, the largest of our trip. And what an awesome fish it was, a once in a lifetime specimen.
|Karl; @fishingpest. Credit: Tim Angeli|
The boys got a lift over to our side of the flat and I found myself fishing with Tim while Karl and Jase headed over to fish elsewhere. Finally I broke my bonefish hoodoo with a smallish fish around 3lb. But on the board is on the board and I took it! Later I hooked and lost another freight train that reefed me.
The only bummer about the day was that Karl's new roll top Simms bag had leaked and drowned his camera. Little had I realised just how tested our gear would get. It would be further stretched...
The next 5 days we'd booked guides and boats. As we traveled through to the boat ramp to meet our hosts, we must have looked a sight with rods over shoulders or sticking out on strange angles as we convoyed past on our scooters.
Jase and I would fish with Tai and soon I was being schooled again by the bones. In the fickle light a fast accurate cast was needed and even then they'd often spook when the fly landed. Jase soon landed a bone from the edge of the flat. I hooked up and the fish ran me into coral quick as you like. By now I'd cut my leaders back to the 20lb section and was thinking 25lb was probably more apt after another freight train picked the fly up and broke me in an instant. That afternoon we moved around to fish flat and I left Tai and Jase to it while I circumnavigated the flat. I found bones but they found me as well and I struggled for a hook up. While wandering back to the boat I noticed a dorsal and caudal fin poking from the water at the drop off. I moved closer and there was a bust up as a GT smashed bait... at that I threw my bonefish rod in the water, extracted the 12 and ran towards the fish.. he was swimming in a gutter on the flat and looked a sight... my first ever real GT shot and my knees were shaking... that I managed a good cast still stuns me, that the fish turned and charged the brush fly before damn near beaching himself with forehead out of water haunts me... that he turned away from the fly taunts me. If only I'd known then that they key to hooking GTs is to leave the fly dead in the water as they make their acceleration towards it rather than continuing to strip... the guides schooled me (repeatedly) on that later in the week. Well, I'll never forget that sight as long as I live. I retreated and retrieved my bone rod from where it had sunk in knee deep water and as Jase and Tai approached I tried to give a stammering account of what had just happened. I genuinely cant recall the rest of that day... in my mind's eye all that I could see was that huge fish charging towards me. Over rums that night the GT grew in stature from fridge door to VW beetle size...
The next day was pivotal in the context of the week. Jase and I started fishing with guide Tia on the flat we'd fished the previous morning. I got shots from the get go and dropped 2 fish, one self guided after I'd had a shot with Tia. The fish were about but spotting conditions were horrible.On returning to the boat we received word that bait had been spotted so headed over to the zone to check it out. This marked the turning point of the trip - the focus was switched from bones to GTs.
Both Jase and I were able to hook GTs that afternoon and we were both simply smoked... despite locking down the drag on the big Tibor Gulfstream my fish simply tore into the coral reef system and the 130lb fluoro leader snapped like cotton. Jase hooked up soon after and his fish threaded bommies like an expert, smashing him off.
Today it rained. And rained. Jase and I jumped aboard with Rua and got going. He took us straight out to the reefs where Tim, Karl and Tia joined us with the other boat. I was up first and to my everlasting delight and relief when the pack of GTs that charged my fly, a leading fish grabbed the fly and after the hook set charged the right way! Rua was after it in a flash and after a torrid white knuckled set em up smash em down fight I got the fish on its side and Rua landed it. I whooped in delight! Tim who'd previously crossed swords with 15 odd GTs and had not landed one gave me a far off high 5 and Jase gave me the obligatory fist bump. Cloud 9!
Soon after, Jase hooked up and after a torrid fight landed a freakin horse blue-fin trevally, the likes of which I'd never seen before in terms of scale.
We fished on, both getting smoked by other GTs. On the other boat, Karl hooked up and landed his first GT under clearing skies.
|Credit: Tim Angeli|
Back at the ramp we compared notes on broken gear. Factory welded loops on flylines seemed to be the biggest issue (I'd blown one out as had both Karl & Tim) and makeshift repairs were the order of the day.
|The commitment loop...|
|Credit: Angeli Media|
After a while we anchored awaiting fish to pass us by, and Karl and I had a play around with crease flies for the bluefins that passed by regularly.
We hit no further GTs that day. Back at base Jase relaid that his brand new Tibor Signature had pretty much shat itself, locking up on 2 large fish and breaking his fly line. I lent him my Riptide but was unsure as to whether it could exert enough drag - whilst my main kingfish reel I'd certainly never sunset the drag before...
Our last day on the boats arrived and again Karl and I teamed. We found GT's on the flats and soon Karl was into it, casting to and landing a real beaut.
I hit a great fish but the ever present wind had blown my running line under my heel - my flyline snapped like cotton...
Then Karl hooked up gain and an epic fight ensued. The fish ran again and again, throwing rooster tails of spray from the line. 3 times my mate had the fish boat side, and 3 times it pulled away, finally winning its freedom...
And that seemed to me, to be a very apt end to the trip.
- "Wind the drag all the way up, and hang the Fk on!!!"
- Factory welded line loops are not up to GTs...
- Old and reliable can be best. My 20 year old Tibor Gulfstream performed flawlessly. The same cannot be said for at least one Hatch 11 Plus and one Tibor Signature
- The Sage Salt is unlike any other lifting rod I've used. I knew this from the big mako sharks caught last year.. but stopping a GT in its tracks and lifting its hefty bulk is the real test, and one the rod passed flawlessly
- I thought I'd tied enough brush flies. I had, but only just enough...
- More casting practice needed, esp in the wind with a huge fly and 12 weight...
Roll on 2019. Same bat time, same bat place...