Scrolling through work emails before heading into a daily operation, one email stating ‘short notice annual leave available’ freshly popped up at the top of the list. I recently returned from a month of family holiday in Europe, this sort of leave is usually first come first serve, mostly approved straight away after a quick chat to your manager. All I need to do is take 4 days off between my rostered days to have a total of 8 days……my eyes widened. In a heartbeat I ran into my manager's office yelling “I will take it man, I will come back after the turnaround”
The best part about working for Air New Zealand is the perk of staff travel. All I really need is a bit of luck and one seat available on an aircraft.
Where should I go....????
“Welcome to the beautiful Island of Aitutaki” a little slice of heaven.
Considered one of the most magnificent lagoons in the world with small uninhabited islands on its surrounding reef. It is without doubt the most picturesque of the southern group islands. Aitutaki is 220 kilometers north of Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands.
There I was... sitting on a sparkling white beach overlooking a flat at outgoing tide, trying to create a master-plan. All the local guides were unfortunately booked out, I was therefore left to proceed with a DIY trip. I had done some solid research prior to leaving for the trip, I did not expect it to be an easy task as I am a virgin to bone-fishing and in a new environment.
Day one saw me trying to figure out the tide, how to approach the flat and mostly adjusting my eyes into spotting fish. I understood that bonefish are not the easiest to pick out, to my surprise I was able to see them with relative ease and in good numbers. Undoubtedly many passed my eye, I feel my chances would have been greater in the presence of a local guide. All I had to do was convince myself “man I recon I can do this" were the words echoing in my head. I spooked a solid number of fish before finally setting hook into one, admittedly a smaller catch but stunning, nonetheless. It’s no wonder why these ultra-fast body shaped fish are called ‘Ghosts of the Flats’. Throughout the day I gradually caught more bones of varying sizes, each bigger than the last. My Primal Mega #9 finally got the test it desired and was handling the situation with ease. I found this crucial to be able to throw tight loops, deliver the fly with accuracy and get the attention of these predators. They need to see the fly!
Fortunately for me the good population of yellowfin trevally was also present. Cruising the edges of the flat providing great entertainment while putting some solid bend into the rod. The sun set on my first day in Aitutaki. I was so hyped and ready for the next day of adventures!
Early the next morning I ventured out to a different flat, one that is well known as a challenging prospect. The bonefish were much larger here mostly riding solo rather than in schools. I struggled on regardless in the hope I’d succeed.
They did not want a bar of it, I was not ready to give up so easily. Feeling the same way when exploring new trout rivers back in New Zealand, I always want to see what’s around the next corner. It did not happen on the day, after an exhausting 10 hours I finally pulled the plug, ready for a Sailor Jerry’s and reflect on the day.
This became somewhat of a pattern for me over the next few days. Got some bones, then pull up blank, more success, then blank again.
Aside from bonefish and yellowfin trevally I hooked up to some funky looking fish, mostly when stripping bait fish patterns along the corals.
Peacock Grouper, Hexagon Grouper, Yellow stripe goatfish, Needlefish and Lagoon Triggerfish.
I was having an amazing time and using the whole trip as a massive learning curve but did not feel entirely satisfied, thinking there was still more to accomplish and remembering I only had one day of fishing left.
I spent the last day of my trip in the company of Butch and his son Cleto, over a couple of beers the previous night at the Boat house, he kindly invited me to hit the flat with him on his day off from guiding. I woke up to the calmest day you could imagine. The lagoon was glassy with zero wind, perfect conditions. Within 5 minutes I was hooked into my Sunday #1 bone. Butch followed shortly after with his, then me, then Butch, then the school of 50 swam past. The first double hook up was on!! I ended up losing mine, it wasn’t long before another bone was on. In the timeframe of about 4 hours we landed a dozen bones plus some yellowfin. It felt seriously nuts. I had caught 7 bones over the previous five days which I would describe as some of the hardest fishing experiences I have ever had. Then, the last day happened’ and what a day, I landed 8 bonefish and 2 yellowfin trevallies both showing me the colour of my backing on multiple occasions.
We were sitting at the Boat shed having a cold one with big smiles on our faces. I could not help myself and asked Butch “why in the hell was today so different?”
He sipped his can and said. “Man.. Aitutaki does not get much better than that”
Primal Mega 9wt
Hatch Finatic 7+
Airflo Flatsmaster Intermediate tip 9wt
Hatch Leader and Tippet material 16, 12 pound.
Tim Angeli’s shiny flybox full of goodies