The annual July/August trips covering the eight week period have concluded with all participants arriving home safely. All went smoothly even with the changes that have happened at the lodge in the last 12 months. With the unfortunate loss of Neemia in a car accident late in 2015, Eketi has stepped up to take the head guide position even though he initially found it difficult to disengage himself from being one of the guides to one of leadership. He is doing a good job and is well respected by all visiting fishermen.
Recently, there has also been a change in the lodge management. The previous manager, Mikarite Temari has been elected as a Cabinet Minister for the Line Islands and Tetaeka Nangka is now the general manager of the lodge. He has been at the lodge since its inception and many will recall him as the manager of the reception so he has a good working knowledge of the lodge. He is well respected by the staff and I’m sure he will continue to maintain The Villages as a top fishing lodge.
Building and Improvements
The new meeting and bar area located at the end of the original one has now been completed. The supporting structure is a work of art and some, for obvious reasons, have nicknamed it the “madonna” structure. Whatever the thoughts about the design, it is a great area to relax in at the end of the day.
The tiling and plumbing in a number of the accommodation rooms was installed close to 10years ago and is due for replacement. The operations/construction manager suggested that many of the workers require some basic skills training and this would be a great opportunity to provide some training.
One proposal would be for a couple of tilers and plumbers to be offered a discounted trip in exchange for 3 days teaching the guys the basics. Obviously there would need to considerable co-ordination to make sure supplies are prepositioned on the island. Any “tradies” interested can send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the proposal.
Towards the end of last year $6,500 worth of tools were shipped to the island in a container together with equipment for the new power stations. All arrived safely and most were put to immediate use apart from the nail guns.They were reluctant to use these due to a lack of knowledge. Fortunately a builder, Craig Hawkins was there in July and gave them a quick lesson on their use. When I left at the end of August, all you could hear during the day was the nail guns being used and they are now making good use of them to help speed up construction work.
The workshop and vehicles are currently located inside the gate as you enter the compound. To tidy up the area of arrival and reduce noise, the proposal is to relocate them into the back corner where they are less conspicuous.
Tekamaeu Burieta who is the operations manager is a very talented man. He can quote the scientific names of all the fish, draws all the building plans used and freehand drew this large scale lagoon map on the wall of the new bar. It is a great addition to identify where you have fished during the day.
The quality and variety in the meals has improved markedly from what it was a few years ago. This can be attributed to the new cook and to the purchasing agent in Honolulu who acquires the required supplies and sends them on the monthly private freighter flight. Fresh perishable vegetables still come in on the flights from Fiji and Honolulu each Wednesday however this comes at a cost as charges are very high.
In an endeavor to control the rising costs, the manager will allocate some of the staff to fishing duties for tuna and crayfish instead of purchasing them from the local markets. They are also looking at re-establishing the garden provided that they can get some seeds in through customs.
Now that the ownership of the communications system has changed, wifi is available at reception for a small weekly charge. It is slow but quite acceptable to send messages home. Don’t try sending live feeds of your trip as you will more than likely be disappointed.
Mobile phone reception is good however you will need to purchase a local sim card ($2) and purchase recharges in increments of $5 or $10 as required. Text messages are cheap but phone calls are expensive.
The first offshore fibreglass boat is up and running. It is set up primarily for the diving operation however, if there are no divers using it, it can be used in the lagoon. The size of the motor means it can carry 4 fishermen plus guides and get to fishing locations and reposition quickly. Unfortunately, the delivery of the second boat for offshore fishing has been delayed pending sourcing of a different supplier in Fiji and repair of the freighter to get it to the island.
There are now five outrigger boats fitted with four stoke motors owned by the lodge. All will have marine radios in lockable waterproof boxes installed in early 2017.
The diving operation with the new boat is up and running. If you have the necessary qualifications, the cost is $350 per day shared if there are 2 or 3. The price includes all equipment and air. All reports indicate that it is spectacular even though there has been some bleaching of the coral in a couple of locations.
Guides and Training
Twenty potential guides, including 2 ladies, participated in the training sessions conducted over 6 weeks. Those showing the desired attitude and abilities were referred onto the head guide for further assessment during on the job training.
Four of the more advanced trainees were thrown into the deep end when there were large groups and some of the senior guides were sick. They all acquitted themselves very well and received good reports on their enthusiasm and abilities from the fishermen they guided for.
The El Nino system that had a dramatic influence on water levels and the weather in 2016 has dissipated resulting in the weather patterns returning to normal. Even though overcast on occasions, there was only one day where there was considerable rain.
The wind that we have come to expect was ever present and, during one week in particular, the water was so cloudy that the majority of the week was spent in the Ysite area to get some clear water and a bit of protection from the wind.
The permit for the commercial tuna boats with the associated factory ships has not been renewed again this year. We hoped that this would result in a bumper yellowfin year but on the three occasions when weather permitted the trips proved a wash out with only a few skipjack tuna being caught. Even the local fishermen had a hard time finding fish and, as a consequence, fish on the menu was a bit rare at times. The reasons put forward were water temperature caused by the passing of the El Nino system and overfishing.
Plenty of bonefish were caught and numbers in the region of 40 and 50 were common with the average size being in the 2-3 pound range. Larger fish were observed sometimes caught and some lost. Craig Hawkins caught this fish in the Paris flat area…..think it was on Eddies Flat.
Trevally captures in the 10-20lb range were common but big fish were illusive and very choosy when they did appear.
Unfortunately, chumming by one lodge in particular is still being practiced. Once a fish starts eating the chum it will seldom take a fly. To get results the next step is to thread a piece of flesh onto the fly. If the fishermen think this is Ok that is up to them. The problem lies in the fact that if you happen to go onto that flat, the bonefish will be swimming around your feet and aren’t interested in any flies. Not before time, a law is in the process of being passed to outlaw the practice.
A lot of the groups spent time targeting trigger fish. Although there were some good specimens caught there were numerous tales of broken or squashed hooks, bite offs, escapes into holes and over the flat edges that simply highlighted what a tough and challenging species they are to catch on fly.
These are just a sample of triggers caught. The head shot shows why they can bite through hooks and why you avoid putting your fingers anywhere near their mouth. Some of the bigger specimens were landed in the Korean Wreck area. With global warming, some can even now be observed wearing sunnies.
My old wading boots were laid to rest and, as an alternative, a pair were purchased from an army disposals store. After 8 weeks of use, apart from fading in colour, they are still in as new condition. The upside is that they are cheaper than the well-known brands of wading boots that only last 3-4 weeks of continual use before starting to deteriorate. The only shortcoming was that the laces were very tasty for the local crabs which had a good feast of them one night when they were hanging over the side of the balcony to dry.
The windy conditions meant that the majority of rods used for bonefish and triggers were in the 7-8wt range. To make quick presentations a bit easier, these were usually uplined by one or two weights depending on the stiffness of the rod. The orange head on the Rio Qickshooter lines (same weight as rod) proved very helpful for those of us with failing eyesight as it makes it easier to see where the fly is positioned in relation to the fish. Learning techniques to help overcome the wind before the trip is a definite advantage
Although there are many brands sun glasses used, it is still amazing that some fishermen pay a lot of money for the trip and pay little attention to the piece of equipment, besides rod/reel, that improves their catch rate. The ability to see fish is greatly improved by using good quality sunglasses which more than justifies the extra expense involved. There are a number of brands that fill the bill and it’s a matter of personal preference. Bronze lenses seem to be the colour of choice and are best under a variety of conditions. I normally use Spotters but as they were a couple of years old, I splashed out on a new pair of prescription glasses from Tonic Eyewear and was more than happy with their performance.
For bonefish, the normal selection of orange or salmon pink thread with tan wing Gotchas and Crazy Charlies tied sparsely worked on the majority of occasions. A couple of variations of these colours shown below also worked on the white sand flats. On the top, salmon thread, body wrap over thread is pink UV krystalflash and tan wing. On the bottom, beadchain eyes, tan thread, body rootbeer krystalflash over thread and tan wing.
For milkfish at the lagoon entrance, scum type flies in a yellowish, dirty white colours that suspend just below the surface still seem to get the best results. Weather conditions were not very favourable for chasing the milkfish and the limited of opportunities we did have resulted in a couple of hook ups but all were lost.
The go-to patterns for trigger fish and, also bonefish on a few occasions, were “shrimpy” looking patterns with rubber legs tied on strong #2 hooks. The rubber legs float and must move enticingly in the current which makes them more realistic and attractive to the fish.
Update on Rates for 2017
The poor state of repairs that still plagues the supply ship from Fiji/Tawara means that a lot of the purchases such as fresh food are now coming in on a monthly charter flight from Honolulu. A three monthly supply ship from Honolulu brings non-perishable supplies such as water and beer. In addition to the added costs associated with air freight, the fall in the Aussie Dollar against the US dollar means that the costs to the lodge have risen sharply.
The price for the block booked weeks in July/August 2017 will be maintained at $2,750AU per week, however, for any other period in 2017 and 2018, the price will be $3,150AU. This brings the costs for Australian and New Zealand guests more in line with the US price of $2,450US. It should be noted that the US fishermen only get six days fishing as opposed to six and a half for fishermen coming in through Fiji. The single room occupancy will be $350 for 2017 and 2018.
What will happen to the prices in the future will depend on the currencies. They will be reviewed on a regular basis to keep in line with any changes that occur.
The deposit to hold a spot will be $550 within 14 days of making the booking with the balance payable 90 days prior to the trip. The time period has been extended from 60 to 90 days to allow trip payments to be finalized prior to transfer to the Island. There is a considerable saving on bank fees when the total is transferred in one transaction.
Nevertheless, even with the anticipated price increases, compared to other destinations, this still represents good value for those going to the Island from Australia for six and a half days on what is arguably some of the best flats fishing for bonefish in the world.
Refer to the Christmas Island page for the available dates during the 2017 season. If these don’t suit, email me with your preferred dates and I’ll check availability. Bear in mind that the first 6 months of the year are usually fairly heavily booked by fishermen from the US and, as a consequence, vacancies during that period may be limited.
Flights and Luggage
Luggage is still being off loaded in Fiji because of flight weight issues. Numerous representations have been made to Air Fiji and they have assured us that the problem has now been addressed. Time will tell.
I have also queried why guests from the US can carry rods on the incoming flight from Honolulu to CXI but the same is not allowed from Fiji. The response is that they come under a different regulation to us. A word of warning….include reels in your carry on at your own risk as there have been instances where all the line and backing has had to be removed as it is considered unsafe.
To be on the safe side we recommend that you take the following steps to ensure your luggage arrives on the island with you or to minimise the inconvenience if it does not arrive..
- Make sure your bag is under the 23kg checked luggage allowance. Business Class, Qantas and Tabua Club members have an allowance of 30kg for checked luggage and 7kg as carry on.
- Clearly label your luggage as fisherman’s luggage for the CXI flight. This will hopefully prevent the baggage handlers removing your luggage from the flight if the payload is too heavy.
- As an additional precaution and to have a bit of comfort for the day instead of sitting around the terminal, some people collect their luggage, go through Fiji immigration and spend the day at one of the local hotels/resorts. They then check in again about 2 hours before the midnight flight to CXI.
- Probably the best tip is to pack your boots, a couple of pairs of socks, a pair of fishing clothes and more importantly any essential medications in your carry-on luggage. Rods and reel can always be borrowed. Bags are being weighed at check-in so make sure you abide by the 7kg allowance.
- Another option if you are travelling with a friend or group, distribute rods, reels and flies across a couple of bags.
The building that will house a dedicated gift shop will be completed before December. It will be stocked with local craft souvenir items, flies tied by the guides, some tackle supplies and the CXI shirts below.
A supply of the Villages CXI shirts below made of a light weight 145gram, breathable eyelet mesh SPF 30+ rated material in either white or aqua colours have been ordered. The preorder cost will be $55AU each.
A generic style shirt in the aqua colour with “Bonefishing” substituted for the words “The Villages Lodge” wherever they appear, will also be available for those fishermen who stay at other lodges. The cost will be $55AU
To preorder one, send me an email at email@example.com or phone 0417426282 with a size and colour. Expected arrival time will be 6-8 weeks.
Gifts for Children
As in previous years, if you have spare space in your luggage in 2017, the preschool would be grateful for any items you could bring. Items such as balls, colouring pencils, colouring books and reading books suitable for 3-7yr olds, any posters relating to counting/alphabet, plain coloured paper, stencils and plastic scissors are always welcomed.
To reiterate the request in the last newsletter, do not throw items such as balls and balloons out of vehicles as children tend to run on the road without checking for oncoming traffic. The kids have very little and it does not take long for a begging situation to develop. The best option is to give gifts to an adult for distribution.
The condition of the Villages liquor licence is that the bar ceases trading and is closed at 10pm…..no exceptions as it could lead to a suspension of their licence. If you wish to drink past 10pm then you need to purchase the supplies you require before the closing time. If you wish to party on, consider the other guests and keep the noise level down.
Given the problems associated with alcohol consumption on the island, fishermen should not purchase alcohol or invite guides to drink with them of an evening or at the end of the trip. By all means buy them a soft drink but strictly no alcohol.
A shirt/singlet and shorts are minimum dress for meals and the meeting/bar area.
Lodge Policy on Visits of Employees of Other Lodges
It is appreciated that a lot of fishermen have stayed at other lodges over the years and have a friendship with staff and guides from those lodges. Consequently, a couple of basic rules have been applied by the management of the Villages Lodge.
- Employees of other lodges may visit with fishermen to enjoy their hospitality. They should not be invited on a regular basis and stay for extended periods. As a guideline they should exit the lodge by 7pm unless prior arrangement has been made with the General Manager.
- Information relating to the operations of the lodge must not be given or shared with the employee of another lodge.
- No employee of another lodge or any person shall conduct any form of business whether paid or unpaid within the lodge grounds without prior approval of the General Manager.
Try on Fly
Australian and New Zealand Booking Agent for The Villages Lodge
firstname.lastname@example.org or Phone o417 426 282