Sorry for the late blog, but work, family and life has slowed me up just lately, but I dearly wanted to write a small blog about our recent trip to the Cocos Keeling Islands.

This trip has been on my fly fishing and personal bucket list for a while now, and 12 months ago, with some friends, we bit the bullet and booked flights rather than continue talking about visiting.

For those who don’t know, the Cocos Keeling Islands are off the North West of Western Australia, and are closer to Indonesia than Australia. Considering they and nearby Christmas Island are Australian Territories, it feels a little strange. (NOTE: different Christmas Island than the one in the Pacific Ocean.

To get there it’s a 4-5 hour flight from Perth, and as of today, the flights only go twice a week and there’s only one carrier going there. As such the flights are heavily booked and expensive. Nothing like a good old monopoly!!

The islands consisting of many small to larger sandy atolls covered in coconut tress, with the 2 main islands being West and Home Island. West being where the airport is and most of the administration and tourism is (accomodation, tours etc). Home Island is populated by Cocos Malay people still living there post the Clunies-Ross copra plantation operations. It’s an interesting read regarding the history of Home Island and the islands themselves. Do yourself a favour and start with this Wiki Page.

As you may have guessed, if the islands are hard and expensive to get to, once you are there it’s also reasonably expensive and everything is limited. From accomodation to food, it’s limited so don’t expect everything to be laid on. Self catering is a must as there’s not a restaurant on every corner, and the ones that are there only open at certain times and days. Do bring a foam esky with your choice of cheeses and frozen meat etc, but do check with the airline and Cocos tourism for the latest quarantine restrictions. There is however a reasonably well stocked grocery store (a bit pricey, but remember everything comes in from Perth via plan or boat), a club/bar, a coffee shop/cafe (not open every or all day), car hire etc. Look up the Cocos Tourism page for more details.

The Cocos Club is a great place to have a cold beverage after a hard day. They sell take away alcohol (which is cheapish) and they do single choice meals a few days a week. See the board or ask the friendly staff.

Accomodation, ranges from small bungalows to full houses for rent. We chose the later as we had a few families, and our choose was Beachcombers which was absolutely fantastic and had everything we needed. Right on the beach, walking distance to everything in the “town”, and Chris the manager was on hand to look after all of our needs.

Now the fishing:

My friend John who is also a keen fisherman, took enough gear to open up a large tackle store and go into competition with BCF or Bass Pro!!

John hasn’t taken my hints of going more into fly fishing and used predominantly lures and a bit of bait here and there. He and our other mate Scott did take the plunge with me and came along with a local guide one day. I probably won’t get them back to fly for a while, as we didn’t see a fish all day. We must have walk what felt like 10KM across the flats (great flats they were) during the day, and all we caught was a very very small Biddy.

Outside of the one days guiding, we waded the flats early morning, late afternoon or anytime that took our fancy. The place just has fish written all over it.

Before I headed over I reached out to Leslie at West Oz Flies who set me up with a great selection which he had the guides on Cocos test run. Took them all PLUS a lot I had from previous trips to Belize etc, but the hit fly was Leslies shrimp pattern. I also tried his clousers and they were also great, but the shrimps were the ducks nuts. Thank you Leslie.

West Oz Flies – Cocos selection – shrimp patterns were the go – for me anyway!!

As mentioned previously, we did use one of the local guides who was super helpful, but the fish just weren’t on that day, so no cigar! If I went back, I’d still use a guide for one or two trips as they know the local conditions and can give you the latest info on what’s “working”.

The species of fish are varied but the fish we caught were predominantly medium reef perch/emperor types along with blue trevally, GT’s (Giant Trevally) and bonefish. Oh and about a thousand small rock cod that would hit the fly every and all day. If I caught one, I must have caught 50 every outing. A bit of overkill using my 10wt Orvis Recon on them!!!

Another small rock cod takes the West Oz shrimp!!

The standard fare – blue trevally

Many GT’s were seen but alas none were landed. As were a few other species, but they will be there for another day!!

We had a total of 10 days on Cocos, and on our last day whilst cleaning up the house, the manager advised that we wouldn’t be going home as the flight was cancelled. No reason given by Virgin Australia, but we had another night. WOOHOO!!

That gave us one more chance at catching some of the elusive species like a bonefish. As yet I had not got hold of the legendary Cocos Bonefish. John and I ventured to the North end of West Island on the seaward side. To cut a long story short, not long after arrival and blind casting, I had my first Bonefish, and man did it give me a workout. Much harder fight than those in the Caribbean (Belize).

One thing you learn on Cocos is to try and get your fish in pretty quickly or deal with one of the many small black tip reef sharks. This was probably my demise as I ripped in a bit to hard and it got off just at the waters edge. Straight back out and within 4-5 cast, bang, another. This time I wasn’t as hard and landed my one and only Cocos Bonefish. Not the biggest but cross it off the list regardless.

Cocos Bonefish

Last day Cocos Bonefish

If you want a break from fishing then there’s always something to do but plan ahead as although activities are varied, they can get booked up. Things like diving and motorised canoeing are fun and very popular. The population on Cocos is small, and everyone knows everyone. Everyone is super friendly. So if you’re after anything, just ask and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

Speaking of direction, Direction Island (NNW of Home Island) is a must do for any visitor. The ferry only goes there twice a week, so treat yourself. Great snorkeling at the “Rip” and also great fishing on the northern side. It also has a lot of war history with trails and information plaques outlining the role “DI” played.

DI was busier than normal as an around the world yacht race was passing through.

Hermit crabs on mass on DI

See Ash and Kylie for a great day out island hopping in the motorised canoes

In closing, if anyone wants more details, drop me a note, but also look at the Cocos Tourism page for excellent info and links. They are very accomodating in getting back to you as are the other tour operators.

There is a bus service that goes from the West Island town to the Ferry terminal, where a very modern and cheap (Bus 50c one way, Ferry $2.50 one way) Ferry travels between West and Home Island on an hourly basis. Get the time tables for both on arrival or download from the web. Bus TT, Ferry TT

We also hired a twin cab ute (pick-up) whilst there and this was very useful traveling around West Island. There are a few places that hire these, but we used Cocos Island Adventure Tours (canoe tours also).

Tight lines.

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Yes the lack of bears and snakes are a big bonus when pushing through the bush along the many rivers in the world while searching out an elusive fish to throw a fly at. I don’t know about others, but snakes and crocs I can handle, BUT bears scare the c$%# out of me. As such New Zealand not only plays great Rugby Union, it is a Fly Fishing dream.

My dream came true earlier in November, when my wife and I took a well deserved break. We hadn’t been to NZ for a long time, with the last being 2002 and the trip where I told myself I need to learn how to Fly Fish. As you can see from earlier post, I have now learnt (although you never stop learning) and I can now cross an NZ Brown Trout of my Fly Fishing Bucket List. TICK!!

We flew into Christchurch on the South Island, and we didn’t have any firm plans other than we had to be back at the airport 12 days later. As my wife isn’t a fisher-person, and we both have a common love for sightseeing and sampling a nice wine, we also wanted to include these types of activities. So we headed to the west coast to Fansz Josef and spent a few days hiking to the ever decreasing Glacier, had some great local food, but also managed to do some fishing whilst sightseeing. Yes a local tour has a covered  boat that will take tourists out on the lake, and at the same time you can troll for a few fish. Not on Fly, but is wet my apertite for the NZ fishing ahead, which resulted in a few nice Lake Brown Trout.

Nice little Brown Trout

After spending a few wet days on the west, we high tailed it to the Nelson region in the North of the South Island. This area is bloody beautiful, with great natural and man made attractions. The area has some great small towns with a vibrant viticulture (wine!!) industry. The wine growing area is no where near as big as the Marlborough area to the east, but makes up for size in the great wine and food. There is also the Abel Tasman National Park, which is a must visit for the nature lover. After spending a few days here, we left to head about 2 hrs drive south-east, to have a real good crack at catching one of the wild Brown Trout of New Zealand. 

The day of driving to our accommodation was non stop rain, and I was getting nervous that the next day of fishing was going to be a wash out. My guide, John Gendall, was a lot more positive though and was confident tomorrow would be better weather. Well true to Johns word, I woke to the sun blaring in through the window of our Bach (NZ for small self contained room or granny flat)

I took with me all the gear I thought I needed, like waders and my 6 and 4 wt Orvis rods. I even managed to make sure I had olive coloured fly line. However in my eagerness to get to NZ, I clear forgot to pack my reels!!! Oh well, lucky that John being the true professional guide he is, had a reel I could borrow.

We headed out to a river somewhere, (John asked not to name it) and the first view was very daunting as all I could see was a large wide river, with a very rocky bed. Anyway we headed off and John soon had us trekking across the rocks to this magnificent river. After giving me directions on how the day would pan out, i.e. How he wanted me to stay back about 15metres, and not to make sudden movements, it wasn’t long before John had sighted our first target. I must say that straight up, I could not see the fish he had spotted, even though I had a very good set of polarized sun glasses. I learnt from the rest of the day, that’s why you pay for a guide in a place where you know nothing about local conditions.

Anyway after getting into position down stream of said target, I launched into what was nothing more than what probably looked like a mad man waving a stick above his head!! As I hadn’t had a fly rod in my hand for a while, John politely asked me to stop, breath, slowdown and to think about what I was doing. He advised that we didn’t need to rush, but if I didn’t get the cast correct, the fish would be spooked. False cast all day he advised, but the only time the fly hits the water is when you present it to the fish. Good advise, beacause as soon as I dropped the dry Parachute Adams about 1/2 a metre upstream of the fish, it was a very short time before my first ever NZ Trout launched up to grab that fly. And man were we in for a ride!!! With the fast flowing river, boulders under feet and the thrill of trying to land this magnificent fish, all I could do was hang on and listen to Johns encouragement and advise. 

I’m not sure how long, but I did land that first Brown, which was about 4o minutes from arriving at the river. Luck I’m sure played a big part, as I think some people spend a life time to get the same thrill I had just experienced.

My first NZ Brown Trout on fly

 After taking a quick photo and releasing the fish back into the river, the rest of the day was spent zig zagging up the river, with John well ahead of me (no problems with me staying back as I couldn’t keep up!!) spotting fish along the way. As mentioned above, a good guide is worth their weight in gold, and John is one of those guides. Without him, I wouldn’t of even seen the fish, let alone catch them. I’m sure I would of went away very disappointed if it wasn’t for having a guide. 

After landing 4-5 good sized Brown Trout, and missing 2 or 3 due to either me pulling to early and not setting the hook or just bad luck, it was getting late in the day. After walking what felt like about 300km, but was probably more like 7km, John suggested we try one more spot further down river. So off we go in his very comfortable Landcruiser for what turned out to be a stroke of genius. We arrived at an area close to a dairy farm, and which was probably used at times by local fisherman. Although it was the same river, same boulders etc, it didn’t look “fishy”, hey but who am I to judge? Within 5 minutes of walking along the water way, John had spotted another local Brown lurking between 2 large rock. I mention these 2 rocks as that’s all I could see. Again, for the life of me, I struggled to see the fish. But with guidance and direction from John, I soon had an almighty battle on my hands which turned out to be not only the biggest fish of the day, but my biggest Trout on Fly. After 15-20 minutes, we had the big sucker in the net, photo taken and released back to his home.

A lot of people I know still cannot understand why I release the fish I catch on fly. But after releasing this 4kg or 8.5lb creature, I had more joy than anything. Especially more than taking that fish and eating it. Swim again my friend. 

This smile is worth more than anything. To release a great creature is a fantastic feeling.

So after releasing the “big fella”, that was it for me. I just said to John, we can go home now, our work is done. Thank you sir.

Having spent the day with John revitalized me and what ever worries you have disappear. I for one will be back to NZ to try my arm and luck again. NZ, you are a fantastic country, and Australians are close neighbours and friends. Thanks for the time we spent, we’ll be back.

As mentioned earlier, my first trip to NZ many years before wet my appetite for fly fishing, and a few years ago when I had the opportunity to live in Houston, I bit the bullet and learnt. I would like to thank Chris the manager from the Houston Orvis store for introducing me to the sport and for hooking me up with Dan Cone (see earlier post) who both fostered my eagerness in the sport.

Anyway all the best everyone, and tight lines as they say. Cheers Grego

POST NOTE: Only 2 days after we drove back to the airport, Northern South Island suffered a major earthquake. We reach our and wish everyone the best in the recovery. 

Links:

John Gendall, champion guide

Glacier Country Lake Tours – see Dale and Bronwyn

Mapua accommodation – lovely little town to relax 

Seeing is Belizing

Posted: February 18, 2015 in Belize, Caye Caulker, Fly Fishing

Sitting back here in Perth a week or so after being to Belize, seems like it was a year ago. Yes we finally got back to Belize for 10 days of fishing, relaxing and a few thousand Belikin Beers!!!

I had a significant birthday late last year (50th), so while I was traveling to the US for work, we took a side trip to beautiful Belize, and in particular, the little coral atoll of Caye Caulker.

I had been here before but with limited to no success, with only one or two Bonefish landed, and hooking up on a Permit – not landed. It was also as windy as hell last time, so I promised myself that I would try and fish whenever I could, depending on weather and the gaps in between beers!!

Prior to arriving on Caye Caulker, I purchased a new 10wt Fly Rod, a new Orvis Recon. Chris the Manager from the Houston Store once again fitted me out fully for the trip. Thanks to Chris and his team. I also own a 8wt Orvis Hydros, and I think now with the Recon, I’m pretty set for saltwater unless I want to go after the really big stuff – Tarpon etc. That’s what I told my wife anyway.

We (my wife Vanessa and I) arrived on Caye Caulker after a fairly un-eventful flight from H-Town to Belize City and a short boat/ferry ride to Caye Caulker. The only downer is the absolute crap service from United Airlines in what they call their First Class seating. Nothing but a disgrace. But I won’t let that spoil a great trip. Getting through customs etc on arrival was very quick and easy. For those that want a few cocktails while in Belize, you can buy all of this on arrival at the Belize City Airport. Great selection and prices. Although beer is very cheap at bars, spirits and wine is expensive. We stayed at Caye Reef apartments on Caye Caulker, and the manager Bobby arranged for Jason, a local driver to pick us up from the Airport and drop us off at the Ferry Terminal. We had an hour or so to wait at the ferry. Terminal, so what else to do but have our first ice cold Belikins!!! 

For the first 3-4 days I waded the flats right in front of our apartment, picking up the odd reef fish in the channel between the two islands. The tide was perfect in the mornings, just on sun up, and fishing this area is fairly productive but also very scenic and relaxing. I must thank a local expat for A) giving me a few tips on the tide etc, and B) for giving me a few flys he uses. Local knowledge is everything. So thanks Jack.

Veiw of the flats from Caye Reef apartments

My good mate from New York arrived one day late due to snow storms, but Rick soon got into the swing of things with the local beverages and food. Rick and myself actually share the same birthday, just he’s still a year younger so I have to take him under my wing!!!

Our first guided trip we organized was with a well renowed local Fly specialist. Ken from Chasin’ Tail. Armed with Fly Rods and the odd beverage, we boarded Kens boat and headed out to chase us some Bones, Permit and maybe a baby Tarpon. Pretty much for the whole day, Ken had us on fish the whole time. In the end we landed 4 Bonefish, and 3 Permit, using both the 8wt and 10wt, as well as a spinning reel baited with a small crab.

Ken and myself with my first Permit

We did try for a baby Tarpon, but the creek where Ken like to try was full of offshore weed. The Bonefish and Permit did however give us more than enough entertainment  for the day, with them taking my flyline very much into the backing and Rick losing more metres of braid then he retrieved.

A nice size Bonefish



Rick and his monster Permit

Our second organised trip was delayed for a few days due to bad weather, but we finally got out onto the reef and deep sea to try our luck “Bottom bouncing” with some bait. We hooked up with another well know local, Esley Usher. The day wasn’t totally successful, but we did get a few small reef snapper which we did start to use for bait (whole), which I caught my biggest ever Barracuda on. After a few beers, and a nice leisurely ride back, Rick grabbed the left over “bait” (10-12 inch snapper) and put his Chef skills to work turning it into Sashimi.

Nice Barracuda

Like all good things they must come to an end, but not until after a very quick visit from Rick’s wife Tina  who could only come down from NYC for the weekend. As such, not much more fishing was undertaken, but we did ccatch up for a few more beers, polished off the duty free, told a few more fishing stories, and reminded ourselves of what we would do if (when) we came back to Belize. We all agreed it would be for longer. Although Vaness and I had a full 10 days, another 4 or 5 would have been great. But then again, after 14 days, we’d probably say 21 days………. Take out the fishing, and there’s  still heaps to do and see, or not. Just chillax.

I fully appreciate Belize is a long way from Australia (just south of the eastern side of Mexico), but if you can, do yourself a favour and get down here before it gets spoiled.

GO SLOW CAYE CAULKER.  Thanks again

Well it’s taken a while but I have finally fitted my Lowrance Elite 4 fish finder to my Jackson Cuda Kayak. Haven’t had it out as yet, but planning to do so in a few weeks down in Walpole SW Western Australia. But I did test it in my pool!!

Anyway will update after the Trip

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It’s all about Accessorising!!!
As the title eludes to, after my first guided trip I was hooked better than a Cut Throat on a Wooly bugger. My next stop was my very first of many trips the my local Orvis Store. Yes I know some of you don’t like or won’t use Orvis for what ever reason, well I like their gear and service, so I won’t bag Sage, TFO or other brands as they are also great products.
Anyway, my very first visit to my Orvis Store was probably the reason I have been back many times and spent many hard earned dollars. Everything from my first Rod and Reel outfit to all of the accessories all of you Fly Fisherpeople know you just have to have.
As with any business, good service costs nothing and the service, info and support I have had from Chris at the Houston Orvis store has been nothing but excellent. So for those of you just discovering fly fishing, once you find a good shop, stick with them.

And once I found my shop, that’s when I just had to have this item, that nick nack, every little thing that may just give me that extra edge over the fish. Also I had to have about a million different flies, plus buying others where ever I went fishing, just to ensure I had what was hot at the time. So it wasn’t long before my wife was telling me never to comment when she buys a new handbag or pair of shoes!!!

I look at it this way. As my Rugby coach once said, “you may not be the best player, but at least go out there looking like one, so pull your socks up”. Fly fishing seems a bit like that. I may not catch many fish, but at least I look the part!!
Tight lines everyone.

Can you catch anything?

Well firstly I must apologise for not blogging for so long, but our life has been very hectic recently, and as such a big lack of fishing, I really haven’t had anything worth blogging about.

So I thought I would at least try to do a regular blog even if its not about anything I’ve done recently. Over the next few months, I will post a few short blogs just to wet the appetite about how I got interested in Fly Fishing, and some of my past Fishing exploits.

This first trial I have called “What’s Fly Fishing anyway?” This is what I get asked by some people who still haven’t evolved from using 100lb line, a hook and a lump of meat!! I will try and outline in this Blog, how I got into and become hooked on the art.

Sowing the seed

Way back when I first started traveling, I saw beautiful rivers, streams and lakes, nothing like we have in Australia. Although Australia is my home, and the best country in the World (my opinion), we just don’t have water courses in countries that have regular snow on massive mountains, or plenty of rain. Places like Norway, the USA, and Ireland where the first places I traveled and during these trips, not only did I see majestic rivers etc, but these guys skillfully waving a rod backwards and forwards waist deep in water.

Although it doesn’t sound like fun to the uneducated, but to me observing these gents, I saw that as the ultimate in the noble art of fishing. So that’s when I said, I NEED to learn how to do that. Not want, NEED.

Little Steps

It was probably after 5 to 7 years of yearning to learn the art, until I got my chance by way of moving to the USA for work. Unlike my attempt to learn Golf, I wanted to know everything I could before buying any equipment. This was mainly due to the fact that similar to Golf, Fly Fishing equipment can cost a little or a lot. So I wanted to make an educated decision when and if I went to by my first outfit.

After a quick “Google” search for “Texas Fly Fishing” and “Fly Fishing Guide” I had hooked myself up with a guide on the Guadeloupe River, who was more than happy to teach me the finer point of the art. This noble man was in the form of Dan Cone from Castell Guide Services

20130123-183854.jpg My very first lesson.

I met Dan on the River and he proceeded to start from the basics and technical explanation of Fly Fishing (FF) before we even hit the water. Everything from what a leader was, to how the line is made, what is a tippet, as well as explaining how the rod and reel worked etc etc.
My next task was getting into the signature uniform for Fly Fisherpeople around the world, yes the figure hugging waders. Since getting more into FF, I don’t care what anyone says, they look crap on a fat man, but they are comfortable and necessary.

Once I had the fashion statement waders on, we peacefully slipped into the raft, and procedure down river. All along the way, Dan started to give me expert instruction, without yelling once. But one thing any newby to FF, you soon keep getting reminded by your guide to “Mend”, “Mend”, and continue to”Mend”. Those who FF know exactly what I’m talking about.

Fish On

Yes that feeling of hooking my first Trout on a fly will not be forgoten, as from that point on, I have been hooked on this wonderful art. And any good Fly Fisherperson knows, the next step is the endless task of buying your first outfit, and gear. By endless, I mean I now have 6 or 7 rods of different weights, reels and spare spools with several different line types, and numerous other gear and hundreds of flies!!!!
In my next blog I may try to outline why!!
Cheers Grego

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My first trout!!

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Well the time has finally come, we are fully packed and just about to jump on the flight back to Oz.
Our time has been great in H-Town, and although we are happy to be going home, we will miss Houston and the USA.

For me it has been my long time wish to learn how to Fly Fish, and thanks to my time here, I have fore-filled that wish. My first time out with Dan from Castell Guide Services, was a the making of a Fly Fishing junky!! From there the bank balance has continued to get a hammering buying new rods, reels and flies, and also my new Jackson Cuda.

I must also send a note of thanks to Chris the Orvis Store Manager in Houston for supplying me with great advice, gear and a trip of a life time to the Blue Damsel Lodge in Montana, and to Robert from Matthews Custom Rods for supplying me with an awesome custom 4wt rod that I will treasure for a long time.

So everyone in Texas thanks again, and hope to see yowl soon.

Here’s the Cuda packed for the 10 week trip home

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Oh and I had to post this. Only in Texas. This guys stopped at our Bottle Shop the other day to pick up a few kegs!! Good on ya mate.

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