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Marrakai
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Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Cocos Island Interlude
      #382561 - 15/02/24 01:22 AM

The Cocos Keeling Islands comprise a large atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, representing Australia's most remote piece of real estate excluding Antarctica. A visit has been on my bucket list for decades, especially since its reputation as a flats fishery for flyrodders has been growing exponentially with each passing year!




Dismayed by the prospect of imminent military "upgrading" of the airfield on West Island in response to China's southward expansion, and possible erosion of the unspoiled laid-back island charm, I realized I
had better get cracking! So when a spot opened up on a week-long flyfishing odyssey with Hello Backing, organized by local fisho 'Wattie" of Angling Adventures, I jumped at the chance!

The mainstay is bonefish of course, there in large numbers, with permit, bluefin trevally, and triggerfish also present. For the true enthusiasts, GTs to a metre will trash your gear, and bump-head parrot fish will likely drive you to despair. And sadly, the prolific black-tip reef shark population is beginning to learn that following wading swoffers around is the means to an easy feed of bonefish! Makes for exciting fishing!

Despite the sharks I still managed a few 20-plus bonefish days, even with a couple of rain days thrown in. The best results for me were wading and sight-casting to tailing fish, or stalking the bigger specimens "shark-finning" or "belly-scratching" in the real skinny water of a run-in tide. Also spent a half-day trolling teasers outside the reef with the 12-weight in my hands, but failed to attract a bill into the spread. Only saw 3 permit, and managed to elicit a curiosity follow from one but sadly no realistic shots. There's always next time!

Here's a few pics from the trip:



Average fish were 45 to 50cm fork length.




A bigger fish at 58cm fork fength sight-cast in less than 100mm of water!
Words cannot describe the speed of these fish in such skinny water, or the ripping sound the leader makes tearing through the shallows with rooster-tail of spray flying! Highly addictive fishing!




Nice bluefin trevally taken in exceptional circumstances. Laid out a perfect long cast to a trigger seen tailing on the coral flat, landed a foot away. He zipped straight onto the fly and tailed on it, but wouldn't eat. So I moved the fly just a smidge, and the bluefin askari accompanying him dived on the fly and I got a nice hook-set. No probs, it was my first bluefin and I really wanted one anyway, so all good!




Silver biddys were common on the flats and would accompany tailing bones in the shallows. Particularly difficult to distinguish in the rain! Although small, they go hard for their size, and are great eating. ...at least, when served up by the Malay ladies at Tropika on West Island!




An average fish, but again, context. Along the beach inside the northern end of West Island are the so-called "surfing bones". Need to see it to believe it. Bonefish deliberately wash themselves up onto the beach with the waves and try to grab small crabs that momentarily surface as the water washes over them! The window for casting a small creature-fly is tiny, and its positioning relative to the surfing fish is critical. I had watched a few surfing bones for a while a few days before, and on the last afternoon decided to have a crack. First cast, on the first fish I saw. Bloody miracle!

Managed to avoid the GTs (!) with the exception of a single ~40-pounder bow-waving the shallows that absolutely inhaled my perfectly placed #2 shrimp-fly right in front of my 3 buddies, all of whom were smart enough not to cast! I strip-struck hard and the fish just exploded, leaving my line dangling. ...and my buddies laughing their Rses off! The 20lb fluorocarbon leader was shredded! On that occasion at least, I was rewarded with the results I deserved!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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NitroXAdministrator
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Reged: 25/12/02
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382565 - 15/02/24 01:48 AM

A remote fishing adventure.

--------------------
John aka NitroX

...
Govt get out of our lives NOW!
"I love the smell of cordite in the morning."
"A Sharp spear needs no polish"


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DarylS
.700 member


Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
Loc: Beautiful British Columbia, Ca...
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: NitroX]
      #382568 - 15/02/24 05:21 AM

GREAT story. Gotta love it. I'd love to fish the Islands on the GB reef, covered by Strick and Fran.

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: DarylS]
      #382576 - 15/02/24 10:56 AM

Daryl:
Strick and Fran spent a whole year at Cocos just a year or so ago, and it was a source of deep regret that I didn't get over there while they were in place.
Sometimes life gets in the way of truly living!

My cousin (Strick's dad) and his missus had their cruising catamaran there for a few weeks as well. That would have been free accommodation!

Anyway, some degree of atonement in my recent trip.

And I'm hearing you: those islands of the outer GB Reef are another itch that definitely needs to be scratched!
God willing...

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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DarylS
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Reged: 10/08/05
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382577 - 15/02/24 11:36 AM

Must say, I do enjoy watching their videos. My hesitancy concerning reef sharks has diminished somewhat - however.
So much to do and see, so little time, with everything else life throws your way.

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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bwanabobftw
.375 member


Reged: 29/12/04
Posts: 665
Loc: Texas
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: DarylS]
      #382666 - 18/02/24 10:19 AM

Iím green with jealousy, Well done, great pics and story !!!!!
Thanks for sharing.
Robert


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500Boswell
.400 member


Reged: 21/07/06
Posts: 1276
Loc: Queensland
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: bwanabobftw]
      #382669 - 18/02/24 02:47 PM

Went there in 1998 ,scuba diving and fishing ,caught a Tuna on a boat with some others, nearly killed me pulling it in ,this blokes 15 year old son was in front of me pushing on the rod toward me .
Was remnants of a Liberator there ,evidently they cleaned up all the other War relics and dumped them in the ocean ,met the only,cant remember exactly only Australian Naval Commodore [?] there ,told me how he'd met Hailie Salasi and was give a Statue as a gift ,but by the Rules wasnt allowed to accept it ,sure it was a marble Lion ,Salassi being the ''Lion of Judah'' .


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500Boswell
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Reged: 21/07/06
Posts: 1276
Loc: Queensland
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: 500Boswell]
      #382670 - 18/02/24 02:47 PM

I wanted to dive on a sunken Catalina Flying boat there but didnt happen in the end

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NitroXAdministrator
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Reged: 25/12/02
Posts: 39163
Loc: Barossa Valley, South Australi...
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: 500Boswell]
      #382676 - 18/02/24 06:14 PM

Quote:

Went there in 1998 ,scuba diving and fishing ,caught a Tuna on a boat with some others, nearly killed me pulling it in ,this blokes 15 year old son was in front of me pushing on the rod toward me .
Was remnants of a Liberator there ,evidently they cleaned up all the other War relics and dumped them in the ocean ,met the only,cant remember exactly only Australian Naval Commodore [?] there ,told me how he'd met Hailie Salasi and was give a Statue as a gift ,but by the Rules wasnt allowed to accept it ,sure it was a marble Lion ,Salassi being the ''Lion of Judah'' .




That's interesting. Pity he couldn't accept it, even if donating it to a museum here.


Our old member EricD stopped in there decades ago, sailing a sail boat from Australia to Africa. Met one of the daughters of one of the original owners of the islands, Clunies-Ross family. She was later front page news I believe in Darwin, some deviancy ,..

--------------------
John aka NitroX

...
Govt get out of our lives NOW!
"I love the smell of cordite in the morning."
"A Sharp spear needs no polish"


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: NitroX]
      #382768 - 22/02/24 08:09 PM

That was my first ever guided trip, and I have to say it was great! We mixed and matched 3 guides for the week, all of whom were brilliant in their own way.
Can't thank them enough!
I learnt pretty quickly that the casting deck of a flats skif requires a whole new set of skills over wading, and I still hadn't mastered it by week's end.

Now have a bunch more pics from the guides and other clients, so here's just a couple more for context.

View from the poling platform:




Bringing a nice bone to conclusions through gin-clear lagoon water:






Personally preferred the wading though, especially stalking tailing bones in the shallows.
There's a nice-sized bone "shark-finning" just to my 1-o'clock in this pic.
...and I got him!






How's this for a backdrop! The Cocos Islands are certainly well named...



On that little flat, I stopped counting at 15 and caught a bunch more after that.
I heard the guide joking that evening that every time he checked on me to see how I was doing, I was hooked up!
Bloody hard to drag myself away.

My two friends have booked with Wattie to go again in October, and they have already given me a nudge!

Certainly warrants serious consideration!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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DarylS
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Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382772 - 23/02/24 05:43 AM

Great pictures, Tony. Getting a little warm there in October, isn't it?

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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93x64mm
.416 member


Reged: 07/12/11
Posts: 3971
Loc: Nth QLD Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: DarylS]
      #382779 - 23/02/24 07:34 AM

Are bonefish just that Marrakai - all bones or are they good eating as well?
Looks like our whiting here in NQ just on vast amounts of steroids!


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: 93x64mm]
      #382782 - 23/02/24 08:51 AM

My understanding is that they are full of fine bones, but unfortunately some indigenous cultures like the Kanaks in New Caledonia do eat them, favor them even, and net the flats relentlessly. Main target might be mullet, but no bonefish are thrown back!

They don't appear to be harassed by the Malays on Cocos, however can't say the same about the wrasse, and puffers of all things! Always thought puffer-fish were poisonous, but saw locals spearing them in the shallows. Seems unlikely, but maybe they do the fugu thing?

Surrounded by ocean Daryl, so can be quite humid through the monsoon season but not hot by Darwin standards!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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Waidmannsheil
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Reged: 19/04/13
Posts: 2372
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382784 - 23/02/24 10:50 AM

Great story Tony and looks like you had a great time as well, plenty of nice fish.

Don't think I have ever seen a pic of you in long pants and a long sleeved shirt. LOL


Matt.

--------------------
There is nothing wrong with vegetarian food, so long as there is meat with it.


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NitroXAdministrator
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Reged: 25/12/02
Posts: 39163
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Waidmannsheil]
      #382799 - 23/02/24 04:06 PM



Where Australia's Cocos Island territory is located for those that don't know.

--------------------
John aka NitroX

...
Govt get out of our lives NOW!
"I love the smell of cordite in the morning."
"A Sharp spear needs no polish"


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DarylS
.700 member


Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: NitroX]
      #382805 - 24/02/24 04:48 AM

That's about where I pictured it. Long way from "home".
Tks Tony, for the weather update.
Kinda like Hawaii then, moderate most of the year. I absolutely love Hawaii & would go back in an instant.
Yeah, it's kinda expensive, but I think no more than Australia. The beer is cheaper in Hawaii.

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: DarylS]
      #382817 - 24/02/24 11:58 AM

Quote:

The beer is cheaper in Hawaii



Well then its settled!


Quote:

long pants and a long sleeved shirt



Unfortunately needed to cover the melanoma scars...
Vagrant youth on Queensland beaches. Trying to pretend I'm smarter these days!

Can't measure the UV on a white-sand bonefish flat coz its off the scale!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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NitroXAdministrator
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Reged: 25/12/02
Posts: 39163
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382819 - 24/02/24 04:50 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

The beer is cheaper in Hawaii



Well then its settled!




But it's aweful ... If US Budweiser is any standard.

Maybe a new thread on good beers around the world.


Quote:

long pants and a long sleeved shirt




Sorry about the skin cancer scars, but it's rubbish. It probably was only 25 deg C and Tony you were cold.


My doctor wants to do a whole of body skin examination to look for melanomas. None so far, fingers crossed. Like all youth I got horribly sunburned more than once.

--------------------
John aka NitroX

...
Govt get out of our lives NOW!
"I love the smell of cordite in the morning."
"A Sharp spear needs no polish"


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DarylS
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Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
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Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: NitroX]
      #382831 - 25/02/24 04:09 AM

Interesting. As a young person, through to about 20yrs. old, I never burned, just turned VERY brown. Blonde hair, blue eyes and all. I cut out the statin last summer and the sun wasn't as bad, but still had to wear long sleeves, light trousers and fingerless gloves when out in the sun. WE hates that.
I can't remember the kind of beer I consumed in Hawaii (3 trips), but it was OK.
Here in BC, I absolutely love Pacific Pilsner - either that or Old Style Pilsner.
There are others, brown ales and lagers that are OK now and then, but those two Pilsners I do enjoy.

John, is your Dr. a young beautiful lady Dr.? My first thought about that.(of course)

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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264
.375 member


Reged: 15/02/11
Posts: 596
Loc: NT Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: DarylS]
      #382833 - 25/02/24 08:32 AM

Great report and pics, hoping to do Cocos next year. catch up with my brother at Xmas island as well.
Have Kiribati, booked for last week of July.
"Bones are all they say and more"
What weight did you fish , reel etc.......?


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: 264]
      #382841 - 25/02/24 01:29 PM

G'day Mick:
Sounds like bones have gotten under your skin too!
Just wish there was a more local opportunity: Airfares are murder these days.

On Cocos the general run of fish is larger than Kiribati according to those who have fished both destinations. No need for small flies, so the general day-to-day working fly seems to be a #2 (or perhaps #4) mantis/shrimp/flats-creature pattern in sand or tan with a hint of orange. One of the guides liked a chartreuse or green hotspot. The guides didn't particularly like pink variants but I'm sure they would work OK. Bead-chain eyes for a soft landing when wading skinny water, and lead dumbell eyes for a quicker sink rate when casting from the skiff.

An 8-weight rod would be fine on Cocos IMHO but 9-weight is recommended for two reasons: there will be frequent occasions when a big bonefish will need to be controlled quickly to get it away from the reef sharks, and the possibility of shots at truly large fish including permit and bluefin trevally (and dare I say GTs!) is never far away!

My saltwater reels are the Danielsson F3W 7ten, bought directly from the company in Sweden when our dollar was strong. They are priced in kronor but the actual cost in AUD fluctuates with the US dollar. Danielsson made Loop flyreels in Sweden for decades before the Korean connection. I'd love to support local maker Harfin but the Daniellsons are much cheaper while still top-quality gear. Pricing issues with US-made reels these days unfortunately, especially the ~50USD asking for shipping and "import costs". Bloody pirates!

I should add that my 12-weight reel for billfish (and GTs!) is a Loop Megaloop that I picked up second-hand in unused condition many years ago. If I ever quit fishing I can always strip the line off and use it as a spare motorbike wheel!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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Marrakai
.416 member


Reged: 09/01/03
Posts: 3481
Loc: Darwin, Top End of Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382876 - 26/02/24 05:51 PM

Shouldn't leave this thread without a pic of the creature-flies I love tying for the tropical flats.



Never seem to be able to follow existing recipes exactly, so every fly tied is different from the last! Great fun experimenting...

Also tied a bunch of Flexo Crabs in response to youtube videos recommending them for trigger-fish etc but never found the need to tie one on. The Moon Crab in the above pic is not mine but recommended as a dead cert for permit by one of the guides. Never tied that one on either!

Lost a few flies in shark-attacks on hooked bonefish, and a couple were busted off trying to lift bigger bones away from sharks right at my feet! There is a youtube clip that shows the shark phenomenon well. The theme is chasing bump-head parrot-fish but in the lead-up Kane Chenoweth gets pack-attacked a few times trying to land bonefish. Fast-forward to 4:45 for the action. Mind you, he does the wrong thing IMHO by leaping around all over the place getting the sharks excited. Best to hold your nerve and stand still. If you're going to lose the fish anyway, no need to escalate the situation.

In the absence of sharks, I totally wore one fly out on bones and biddys. One eye was missing and most of the EP fibres were chewed off, but it was still catching when I retired it! Wanted to keep it as a souvenir but sadly it got tossed.

Now time to start turning my attention to the much bigger flies needed for the smash-and-grab of run-off barra fishing, but hard to get those remarkable Cocos flats out of my mind!

--------------------
Marrakai
When the bull drops, the bullshit stops!
--------------------------------
www.marrakai-adventure.com.au


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DarylS
.700 member


Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
Loc: Beautiful British Columbia, Ca...
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382885 - 27/02/24 05:12 AM

Those flies are wonderful, Tony. Sooo shrimpy. That little white crab is delightful. Steelhead gear for the flats, then. 8/9 weights. That means 10's or 11's in double handers.
I am surprised that double handed rods have not become popular on the 'flats' for bonefish. I guess a 9 weight would work in a shorter 2-hander.

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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264
.375 member


Reged: 15/02/11
Posts: 596
Loc: NT Australia
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: Marrakai]
      #382898 - 27/02/24 10:24 AM

Nice flies, much heavier / bulkier than flies for Kiribati. Tying is half the fun. Ive got to get busy before July with flies for our trip.
Here's a pic of some I tied for previous trip to Kiribati.

atomic Gotcha , #2 destroyed and still working


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DarylS
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Reged: 10/08/05
Posts: 26472
Loc: Beautiful British Columbia, Ca...
Re: Cocos Island Interlude [Re: 264]
      #382902 - 27/02/24 10:47 AM

I think those popper flies would be fun on a decent rod, but targeting fish and seeing the pickup - wow.

--------------------
Daryl


"a gun without hammers is like a Spaniel without ears" King George V


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