Just to clear things up, Kiritimati (a respelling of the English word, Christmas) is pronounced ‘Kirismas’ in the Kiribati language.
Having never been on a destination fishing trip, a recent visit to Kiritimati aka Christmas Island (or CXI if you’re just too busy to spell it out) was a big deal, and it exceeded expectations. I define ‘destination fishing trip’ as a distant location to which one must travel a great distance by air to go fishing. Full disclosure: I once flew from Seattle to Boise (and from there drove a few hours to Victor, ID, to fish) but it was only an hour-long flight so it doesn’t qualify.
The trip to
CXI Kiritimati was hosted by my buddy, Joe Willauer (a hobby fishing guide in Montana whom I met many years ago when he was just a boy and a dirtbag real fly fishing guide). The trip package was through Flywater Travel and was very well done. Pre-trip communication was quite thorough and included what we should expect—and not expect—on the island, which really isn’t an island but rather a raised coral atoll (and in fact the world’s largest one at that). Our guides on the island atoll were through Christmas Island Outfitters, and were excellent. We stayed at Sunset Horizon Fishing Lodge, and from what I was told by Joe (who had been to Kiritimati several times previously), it was an upgrade from previous locations he had stayed, in particular with regards to the dining arrangements.
From Seattle we flew to Honolulu on Memorial Day and overnighted at the
lavish Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel, a building that may well have been one of the first high-rise hotels in Honolulu following Hawaii’s statehood in 1959. It clearly caters to foreign tourists and despite that we couldn’t read any of the signage in the lobby, it provided us with all that we required for our one night stay on Oahu. It was the perfect transitional housing before spending the next 7 days on Kiritimati.
That evening we met up with the rest of our group for supper. Joe was accompanied by his dad, Billy Joe, and his buddy Cap’n Jesse (a real, live fishing guide who lives on Oahu). These three had been to Kiritimati several times and were all chill, like, “Yeah, CXI, no big deal.” Also in attendance were a couple of fellas from the Lone Star state, Gus and Woodrow, whom Joe had known for years as they
drive cattle travel to Montana each year to fish. We enjoyed fine island fare at Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill and shared conversation with friends new and old. On Tuesday morning we boarded a Fiji Airways flight from Honolulu to Cassidy International Airport on Kiritimati. This leg of the trip was aboard a Boeing 737-700 (not a single engine prop plane) and the flight crew was fantastic (airlines in the states could learn a little something about hospitality from the Fijian crew). The 3 hour flight went by quickly despite that we left Oahu on Tuesday and landed on Kiritimati on Wednesday (time travel is hard to wrap my head around). I’m not sure when we crossed over the International Date Line but I was completely alert and glad to have had a window seat when Kiritimati first came into view. The anticipation had been great, and seeing the island from the air added to the excitement.
Joe had prepared us for the worst part of the trip, which would be the customs “holding pen” at the airport on Kiritimati. In years past, foreigners would have to spend a few unpleasant hours in what sounded like a non-air conditioned chicken coop as they waited for their outbound flight at the end of their trip. Much to our surprise and delight, a new airport facility had been constructed in the past year, opening in February 2019. There was nothing shoddy about the modern facilities at Cassidy International airport, and while it would be several days before we had to concern ourselves with outgoing customs detainment, there would be nothing to dread.
There is one incoming flight from and one outgoing flight to Honolulu each week, so
Tuesdays Wednesdays are kind of a big deal on the island. We were greeted at the airport by Bita Kairaio, owner and head guide at Christmas Island Outfitters. We then loaded into our Uber X transport truck for a 20 minute drive to the lodge. Kiritmati is part of the nation of Kiribati which is said to be one of the 12 most remote countries in the world and is described as sub-third world (whatever that means). Along the drive (on the wrong side of the road, mind you) it was immediately clear that the people here don’t have much. Streets were intermittently lined with elevated water tanks and shipping containers as we passed schools and churches and a couple of small, simple stores on our way through the town of Ronton (London). Houses varied from 3-sided huts with roofs made of woven coconut palm leaves to tidy concrete block homes with metal roofs, and everything in between. Children frolicked and adults of all ages milled about, all appearing to have good posture (not a single one of them had their faces buried in a smart phones because, well, there aren’t too many smart phones on the island). Motorcycles and a variety of cars and trucks, in a wide variety of physical condition, zipped about town. Light duty Isuzu diesel trucks were predominant while Toyota Hilux diesel trucks were also common (wish we could get those in the states).
We arrived at Sunset Horizon Fishing Lodge, a modest but attractive facility on the beach in the heart of the town. Three concrete block buildings, two units per building, provided very simple but clean rooms that each included two twin beds and an adjoining bathroom (a sink, shower and toilet). We were glad to have a new AC unit which kept hour room as cold as we wanted it at night. A large, covered patio served as our central gathering place and dining room. The beach was just a few steps from there.
Meals were served to us by a very friendly and accommodating staff. Our hostess, Lisa, is a local employee of Flywater Travel and was on hand each evening to make sure we had everything we needed. Beer choices consisted of Heinekin and Budweiser, served slightly below room temperature. Fortunately I am as far from a beer snob as a person can possibly get, so I had no issues with the selection of
swill beer. That said, it was rather nice to have purchased some liquor at the duty-free store in the Honolulu airport. The rum went quickly (note to self: bring more next time). The food was better than anticipated, with fish, chicken, and lamb being frequent visitors to our dinner plates. Breakfast was quite good as well, with usually eggs and a breakfast meat, and there was plenty of it. I never left the table hungry. Lunch was—as we were told to expect—rather minimalist. The PB&J sandwiches were robust and filled a void, but we supplemented with protein bars, dried fruit, and jerky. On the third day I opted for the fish sandwich and was glad I did because it was delicious. A tuna type spread with sweet onions. Two thumbs up.
This gives you a very brief glimpse into what it took to get to Kiritimati, and what we encountered upon arrival. Next up, the fishing part (because that’s why we were there, right?).
The Firehole Rangers recently returned from a trip to Kiritimati (aka Christmas Island, or CXI in modern day acronym-speak). Since this trip replaced our annual pilgrimage to the Firehole this year, the temptation to compare the two destinations was impossible to resist. One would think that traveling to the a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to chase bonefish (and other odd , tropical species) would be as far from chasing trout in Yellowstone National Park as two destinations could possibly be. Ironically, it wasn’t that much different, and after this entry I’m sure you’ll agree that the similarities are mind boggling.
I want to preface that any reference to Seattle is for general purposes only. None of the Rangers actually live in Seattle. Near, perhaps, but definitely not IN Seattle.
- From Seattle, it is 738 miles to West Yellowstone, our base camp when fishing the Firehole River. From Seattle, it is 3789 miles to Kiritimati. Each distance contains the numerals 7, 3, and 8.
- It takes us 12 hours by car to get to West Yellowstone and we cross the Continental Divide. It took us 9 hours by air to reach Kiritimati and we crossed the International Dateline.
- When we visit West Yellowstone, we encounter a lot of foreign tourists (tourons). When we visited Kiritimati, we were foreign tourists (hopefully not tourons).
And now for a photographic exposé that reveals just how much the two places have in common:
I hope you enjoyed the comparison—no doubt you were as surprised as we were at how much the two vastly different locales have in common. Stay tuned for more coverage of our trip to Kiritimati.
If you haven’t paid the UA a visit since last November, I can’t say that you missed much since that was the last time I posted anything. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or something like that.
Anyway, this is normally the time of year that I’d be gearing up for the annual pilgrimage of the Firehole Rangers to our namesake river in Yellowstone National Park. It’s been that way for years, with very little change to the itinerary. Creatures of habit we are, and we like it that way.
Well, that all changes this year–we’re not going. Not all of us, anyway (I think Morris is going, not sure about Nash). But Marck, Goose, Jimmy and me aren’t.
And that can be blamed on last year’s trip (which I didn’t write about).
On our way to the Firehole last year, Morris, Marck, Jimmy and me stopped in and fished the Beaverhead with the guys from 4 Rivers Fishing Company in Twin Bridges. The next day was a down day with nothing to do but make our way toward West Yellowstone. We uncharacteristically took our time, stopping to wander around Virginia City (a place we had driven through but never stopped to see due to frantic driving schedules). It’s worth a stop to see how folks in this once-thriving gold town lived.
We then continued on to West Yellowstone and the Ho Hum, where Nash and Goose joined us after having made the Big Drive in one day. The next day we fished the Firehole, and while fishing was better than it had been the past few years, it was nothing to write home about (so I didn’t). A beauty day it was, though. A day fit for sun bathing (sorry for the following photo).
The next day we fished
my favorite river, the Madison. Then we drove once again to Twin Bridges and the following day fished the Big Hole with the guys from 4 Rivers Fishing Company.
The river was huge with runoff and we were all split up fishing different sections of the river, each boat trying to scratch out an existence. Jimmy and I were in my buddy Joe Willauer’s craft and after getting eaten alive by mosquitos at the Notch Bottom launch, we proceeded to get into some good fishing. I don’t remember the details but fishing was very solid despite really high, brown water. Fish were caught, most of them browns and many of them good sized fish.
At one point during the float Joe started droning on and on about his trip to Christmas Island from which he had just returned. He’d been a couple of times before and had had a good enough time that he continued to go back. He kept talking about Bonefish, Giant Trevally, buck-toothed fish that eat crabs, yadda, yadda, yadda. It was kinda hard to wrap our heads around that type of fishing while we drifted through flooded cottonwoods, nymphing for big browns in high water. But Joe just wouldn’t shut up about this Christmas Island place.
As it turns out, ‘Christmas Island’ shouldn’t really be called Christmas Island, because it’s not the real Christmas Island (you know, the place in the Indian Ocean with the Great Crab Migration). The “Christmas Island” where Joe goes is actually Kiritimati, pronounced ‘Kirisimas’ by the locals and then bastardized by foreign anglers who refer to it as ‘Christmas Island’. But I digress. By the end of the Big Hole float, Joe had nearly talked us into joining him next (this) year.
Long story short, in the months that followed we signed up to join Joe and some others for a trip to Kiritimati. It was a long winter (though not as long as for those of the Night’s Watch) during which the trip seemed an abstract thing. But before long the trip loomed near, and now it is upon us. On Memorial Day we’ll fly to Honolulu, spend the night, and the next day board a Fiji Airways flight, 3 hours south to
Christmas Island Kiritimati. For the next 6 days we will chase Bonefish and hope to get a shot at a Giant Trevally and maybe some of those buck-toothed fish that eat crabs. It’s going to be very interesting, and a far cry from the Ho Hum and the Firehole.
After I return, I promise to share the trip here on the blog—Maybe not right away—but eventually. After all, I wouldn’t want to post content on a regular basis.
Over the past few of months I made the decision that, since I haven’t been fishing enough to warrant writing much on that topic, I would just remain silent. There’s something very soothing in silence. Besides, how much can be written about fishing that hasn’t already been written? Even my reports about the annual Firehole Rangers trips start sounding like cut-and-paste jobs after a while. But when a recent inquiry by a
dedicated follower noted how quiet things had been lately, I decided to break my silence, to use this blog as a venue for publishing my thoughts on other matters as they strike me. It’s my blog, after all, so I can do what I damn well please. If you’re one of the 7 or 9 readers who continue to buy a ticket to the show, I imagine that—as I veer off the fly fishing topic—those numbers will dwindle to the point where nobody is reading the content other than myself and the unfortunate person who stumbles upon my blog while going down the rabbit hole of the internet. That said, the following entry is something that I feel compelled to write about. If you don’t like it, I’m sure there are still some fly fishing blogs that remain for your enjoyment. I wouldn’t know, however: once popular and plentiful, fly fishing blogs seem to be going the way of the Neanderthal.
Many of you will probably probably disagree with what I am writing about today because that’s what it seems we Americans do more and more: we disagree with one another. If you’re not American, you probably disagree with what Americans are disagreeing about, and Americans take issue with that. And in this divisive time of rampant disagreement and intolerance of opposing views, there exists a no more heated topic of debate than politics.
And this is an election year.
But it’s also Fall, or Autumn, depending upon which term you elect to use in your vocabulary (neither is wrong, it’s just a matter of preference and should be respectfully honored). Being
Autumn Fall the Leaf Season, as I sit here in my office—even with the window closed—I can hear the roar of a distant yard appliance. The sound of fallen foliage management is so loud that it nearly drowns out the the political ads spewing from the radio. Ah, yes, ’tis the season of the leaf blower.
These raging 2 cycle, gas-powered machines are as divisive as any measure on the ballot. People either love them or hate them.
Those that don’t have a leaf blower detest them for either their noise or air pollution, undoubtedly both. These same folks also probably have yards the size of a postage stamp that can be managed with a rake. More likely, they hire a service to do their yard work (and these hired hands will, without a doubt, employ the use a leaf blower so there is some irony to be found here). On the other side of the fence are those that do have leaf blowers and value these tools for their efficient means of scattering large expanses of fallen leaves.
There is very little middle ground to be occupied on the matter. Some people attempt to reach across the isle, if you will, to adopt a more neutral stance by purchasing cute, little handheld electric leaf blowers that are much quieter than their gas-powered brethren. The problem with these is that they are also a lot less
manly effective. To get the deafening power required for tackling the big jobs, one needs a backpack style, gas-burning, smoke-puking 2-stroke engine that is capable of moving acres of wet leaves (and post-Halloween candy wrappers). It’s what the professionals use. It’s what I have.
I purchased my Stihl BR320 nearly 20 years ago (BTW, BR stands for BRAAAAP) and it’s a workhorse of a machine that would make Tim Allen proud. It has never required service—other than a new spark plug and air cleaner every few years—and it always starts on the 3rd pull. Always (knock on wood). Much like the politicians flooding the media with their pre-election messages, this thing is a serious blowhard; a serious tool that generates hurricane-force wind speeds.
However, gas-powered leaf blownership is not altogether a cut-and-dried matter because, while I love mine, I loath it at the same time. It’s loud (I wear shooting ear muffs for protection) and it’s not without its share of emissions (it smokes visibly upon start up, after which the exhaust pollutants are not visible though they are still evident). As one who does, in fact, care about the environment, I’d be remiss if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt when I fire up the old Stihl. Still, use it I do each Fall when the leaves, well, they fall. I also use a rake, but the blower does the heavy work.
We have, in particular, 3 large maple trees in our front yard that yield an inordinately vast supply of foliage. These trees drop their collective loads over the span of a month, beginning innocently enough in mid October, gaining speed and intensity before finally ending sometime around the second or third week in November. A good wind storm, or lack thereof, can either shorten or extend Leaf Season by as much as a week. During the height of the madness, suffice it to say it’s an every-three-days endeavor to attempt (in vain) to stay ahead of the amassing spent vegetation. It should be noted that these leaves are nearly always wet from rain, thus requiring a bit of extra effort to remove them. Even with the right tools it’s a time-consuming and unsavory task, unless you’re like this guy:
Truth be told, the leaf blower is something I’m glad I have, but wish I never had to use. I don’t enjoy managing fallen leaves, but shy of cutting down the offending trees the leaves are just something I have to live with. Fortunately Leaf Season, as well as the election and the accompanying political ads, will be over with soon (though not soon enough). Then we can all get back to enjoying the peace and quiet, and arguing about politics for another two years.
Meanwhile, you enjoy this video. I know I did.