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This weeks blog is about the Aitutaki and the big bonefish, that many of my clients have been to and more are asking about.
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Over 10 yrs ago I travelled to Raratonga. After a busy guiding season in NZ, it was time to escape the winter.
The cook islands were looking promising after a lot of research, the word bonefish and an image kept creeping into my head.
So a plan was hatched, new saltwater tying material arrived in the post along with good saltwater hooks I was slightly getting pumped up!
Realizing fly orders need filled, a pile of trout fly tying materials were packed as there was lots of trout fly orders for the following season.
Sitting in the sun at a resort, loving the heat of the sun on my skin.
Getting plenty strange looks as thousands of small brown pogo nymphs came from my vice.
As soon as a majority of my tying work was finished, out came the big boy hooks and the sparkly stuff!
Before long a figure was sneaking around the shores of Raratonga armed with a Sage 9 wgt, dreaming of grey torpedos.
With the help of some wonderful locals, pointing me in the correct direction, I would cast all sorts of saltwater flies into the water and catch quite a few different species of fish, some I never did learn the name of.
Before long realization kicked in, Raratonga was not the place to target Bonefish, the name Aitutaki Kept coming up, so I cut my stay short on Raro and was soon on a small plane to Aitutaki.
Aitutaki was instantly like finding a small piece of heaven, friendly locals, good food, bikes to hire and fishing.
After a phone call to the only guide on the island - who gave me the feeling he was very busy and could not guide me. But soon he came to his senses and realized he was not busy and was just had the old island lazy disease.
His wife must overheard the conversation and may even hit him on the head with a coconut to make him realize money was to be made..
For the next 6 days I enlisted his sevices and loved every fun minute of it.
Fishing hard and casting like a demon hoping to connect with a grey torpedo. Eventually after 3 days my first Aitutaki bone fish of around 7lbs came to my hands. Lost 5 others into coral where they all managed to bust me off or hang me up.
All up in the 7 days I landed 3 bones and lost 5. Looking back in my diary I sighted only 12 bonefish in all that time and I had perfect sight fishing weather..
On nearly everyday guided in the main lagoon, we encountered relatives of my casual guide. They were out netting fish, mainly targeting bonefish as it was a local tradition and the bones were a sought after pickled fish delicacy.
It was during my time of 13 days in total on the island I started to develop my bonefish shrimp and some other saltwater baitfish patterns. An old copy of Dick Browns bonefish book was also read every night and used as reference.
From which I learned if you have a bonefish heading into the coral, take the drag off and they will slow down and most of the time will stop.
Then gradually apply tension and try and steer them into the next blistering run away from the coral.
This technique I actually learned and practiced many years later on many bonefishing & fly design trips to Christmas islands, if only it had been applied on the Aitutaki bones, lost into the coral!
In the last 4yrs the Aitutaki bonefish fishery has changed dramatically.
A great DVD called Itu's Bones has been made featuring the new highly trained bonefish guides, the turn around with the fishery and it's history, not to mention the breath taking tropical views the island.
If you are thinking of heading that way I recommend you get a copy of it.
You now need a fishing license, the new guides are all kitted out and now are nearly fully booked every day.
From all the reports coming back from my clients who have been heading over, it is turning into a great fishery and a huge new tourist revenue for the island.
Like one of my friends who had just returned said "people still go to Aitutaki think they will catch lots of bones and fall over them and it will be easy, just like big trout in New Zealand". It's not a numbers game in Aitutaki, it's fishery is all about quality and beauty.
There is a big chance that you may catch one of the biggest bonefish of you fly fishing life.
There is also a chance that you may catch a record breaking bonefish.
Some bonefish have been found years ago in the nets at 20+ lb.
The chances are you will catch one in 3-5 days fishing and will definitely see some big bones.
There are also plenty other species to fish for from the shore or a hired kayak.
One day when I was wading in the lagoon a huge black shadow similar to the size of a mini cooper car headed out of the lagoon towards the channel, a huge trevally! So you never know.
Aitutaki Bonefish- rods, reels, lines & flies
You may get some strong wind, you may have to cast a slightly heavy fly to get down, you may have to control a big bone, you may break a rod.
For these reason I suggest to take at least 2x 9wgt rods and if you are heading out on a day trip/afternoon for whahoo or tuna, trevally take also 10wgt.
Take a good sealed drag reel with you and a spare is always recommended. Yes they need have plenty of backing as big bones love taking people well into the backing.
Both reels should also have a spare spool with them, rigged with backing and another line on it, for quick changing if needed.
Saltwater fly lines have a stiffer core to cope with the tropical heat.
So do not take your trout lines with you thinking they will do. They will not and will stick to the rod when casting. I know first hand of this money saving mistake.
Most of the fishing will be done with a floating line with a sinking tip. I would also recommend an intermediate line, especially if your fishing one of the 16 ft drop off areas that some bones like to cruse along.
The intermediate line will also be good if its windy and will help keep your fly on the bottom better.
Take at least two of each fly lines, as fly lines getting cut on coral is quite normal.
A trip in New Caledonia chasing bonefish one year, left me with two destroyed fly lines within 10 mins of each other, due to coral.
A selection of different weights and lengths will be needed. 15lb+ fluro carbon tippet has always worked for me on bigger fish and deeper water.
Heavier tippet for all the bigger fish you may encounter- 20- 30lb.
Aitutaki Bonefish Flies / Wahoo, Trevally,Tuna
Even very small bone fish can crush the best hooks.
Though you are going to have a much better chance if you have flies tied on good hooks with sharp points to help penetrate the hard mouths of all saltwater fish. It's always best to take more than you think you will need. It's not unusual to lose 10 flies in a day for some people.
Remember if you are not used to saltwater fly fishing keep the rod down and strip strike - although its hard to remember after years of trout striking, where you raise the rod upwards.
Shrimp patterns - in a variety of sizes and weights - Pearl /Tan will be needed along with some worm, crab patterns.
After years of trail and error a new range of little "come and eat me " saltwater flies have been released.
They all sit on the bottom and have plenty of movement due to the materials used. These are becoming hot favorites of the guides in Aitutaki, some of Stu's Superior Flies where also featured in the great DVD Itus Bones.
A selection of baitfish flies again in various sizes are always recommend for the other species. Although some of the big bones that my customers have landed have been taken on the Big eye baitfish fly. As big bones love eating other fish.
I hope you found this informative, please feel free to share this information with your friends.
If you need more information or some equipment, Stu's Superior flies, lines, leaders, tippet for your trip please visit - www.stusflyshop.com
Since these bone fishing trips I have also worked as a saltwater fly fishing guide for a season in Australia where more knowledge about saltwater flies and tackle was experienced.
Have a great trip.