An Outdoor View: Bonefishing, Part 8

Author’s note: This column is the eighth in a series about fishing at Christmas Island in 1987. — LP


March 1 — Tragedy! During the night, someone stole my favorite pants off the clothesline outside our room.

I’d ordered these pants especially for this trip. A garish green, they’d looked apt for tropical wear. I’d worn them yesterday, and now they’re gone. This is depressing. Who took them? One of the locals? One of my fishing buddies? I recall that yesterday someone said my pants were scaring away the fish, but he was just kidding. Or was he?

We have the punt again today. Good weather, billowy clouds and lots of blue sky. Ten steps from the punt, I see a bonefish. Good omen.

A few minutes later, I see another bone coming my way. I cast to it before it sees me and spooks. The cast is sloppy, sideways into a crosswind, but it’s close enough. The fish sees my fly, takes it, and zips off at warp speed. My Martin MG-9 reel shrieks in protest, but it eventually reels in the fish.

It’s amazing how fast these bonefish can swim. If Kenai River salmon had their speed, catching one would be a rare event.

A little later, I’m slowly wading in a narrow area between two pond-like parts of the lagoon that are connected by a narrow channel that’s now a shallow, tidal river. I see a good-sized bone ease into a shallow depression about 80 feet “downstream” from me, nosing around for food. I crouch down, so it won’t see me, and with one false cast, I have enough line out to come close. I cast, and my Crazy Charlie lands about four feet in front of the fish. He heads toward the fly, obviously interested. I strip four inches of line. He grabs the fly, and runs.

This is a good fish, my largest so far. He takes half my backing before he stops. When he finally turns, he comes in with no resistance, as bonefish usually do after a long run. He’s a beauty, maybe eight pounds. I gently roll him onto his back, and pull the barbless hook from his jaw. Upright again, he’s gone in a flash, headed for deeper water.

It’s a beautiful day, and fish seem to be everywhere. One bone, intent on eating, almost bumps into me. Whenever the sun comes blazing from behind the clouds, the fish’s shadows appear starkly on the light-colored bottom. I catch several more.

In the punt again, we venture outside the lagoon to fish for trevally. Nearing the reef, our nonchalant captain deftly maneuvers the small boat through the huge waves. I start rigging up the spinning outfit I’d brought for casting plugs, a Lamiglas rod that would easily handle large king salmon, and an Alvey reel, made for saltwater fishing in Australia. Our guide looks at it and shakes his head.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

“Trevally smart fish,” he says. “He go down bottom. Rub line on rock. Break off. Use big pole.”

I never get a chance to see if my pole is big enough. With the Alvey reel, I can’t retrieve fast enough to interest a trevally. Only one, small trevally comes up to look at my plug, and the look it gives is one of utter disdain.

While heading for the dock, we troll for trevally. Joe hooks one on a baitfish-imitation fly, and finally pulls in a bluefin travally that puts his 12-wt. fly rod to the test.

At happy hour, everyone is especially happy. We all caught fish, so the stories are long and numerous.

Back at my room, I find a crudely scrawled note on the door: “U in 110. Oui tuk yur pance. It are butt uglie. U have dem back wen U liv here.”

The note is signed: “Tukatu en tabu.”

What’s this, I wonder. Some terrorist organization has my “pance”? I accuse my buddies of leaving the note, but they swear innocence. I lie awake for a while, wondering and hoping that my pants, wherever they are, are OK.

Look for the ninth and final column of this series on Feb. 23, in which we troll offshore, catch a great variety of fish, and solve the mystery of my green pants, or not.

n n n

Les Palmer can be reached at


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