Friday 28 June 2013

Aitutaki - Land of the giant bonefish

Felix Borenstein with an 11lb Cocos Island's bonefish caught on fly

The Wet & The Dry is proud to be a small - but vibrant - part of the global flyfishing community so we are delighted to welcome our first international guest writer - FELIX BORENSTEIN, general manager and owner of New Zealand's legendary Owen River Lodge on South Island. When Felix emailed us a couple of photos of bonefish he caught on 12-day trip to the Cocos Islands with his "long-suffering" girlfriend, Nikki, we just had to see and read more. Felix kindly sent us the who, where and why of Aitutaki Island - the home of some massive 'bones'.

Getting there
Aitutaki is a small island some 45 minutes (by twin turbo prop) from the main island of Rarotonga. Air New Zealand have daily direct flights to Rarotonga from Australia and New Zealand.

Interestingly, for people flying to New Zealand from the US, Air New Zealand offers a free stop over in the Cook Islands on their Sunday service from LA, with daily connecting flights to Auckland. Or if you wish to stop over on the way home to the US, the Saturday flight from Auckland to LA stops over in Rarotonga on its way to LA.

Where to stay

Nikki and I have stayed at the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa on all four visits to the Cooks. The resort is the only major resort facing the beautiful Aitutaki lagoon and has recently undergone a major update of its facilities. The resort is in excellent condition, the rooms and public facilities are kept spotlessly clean and now have Wi-Fi (at extra cost) in all their guest rooms and public spaces.

The staff are friendly in typical Cook Island fashion. The service is good (one has to remember Island time is a little slower than Sydney or New York) but is always friendly and accommodating. I'd rate the food as good, but its not on the bleeding edge of international cuisine. Nikki has developed allergies to wheat and dairy, the Head Chef and restaurant managers went out of their way to accommodate her strict dietary requirements.

Accommodation options/room types

The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort offers 4 different room types. Three of these face the lagoon whilst the entry level rooms face a canal which looks onto other properties. It's for this reason I would recommend you book a room that face the lagoon - it's a stunning view!

The Overwater, Premium or Deluxe bungalows all face the lagoon. Nikki and I have always spoilt ourselves and opted for the Overwater Bungalow option. These rooms offer the most privacy and are the quietest located a little further from the restaurants than the other room types. They also offer guests the opportunity to literally snorkel right from their rooms.

The Fishing!
The lagoon offers anglers fly or spin fishing for Bonefish and  Giant Trevally. The guide I recommend is
Itu Davey (or one of his brothers). Itu comes from a family of bonefish netters. A few years ago they decided to give up on netting bone fish and focus on creating a sustainable guided fishing operation. It's a wonderful story of a family that moved from subsistence fishing to create a truely sustainable guided fishing operation. Itu now employs his 2 brothers and 2 cousins in his guided fishing operation. They operate well maintained boats, equipped with new outboard motors and safety equipment.

Now I'm here to tell you that I'm just an average fresh water angler. When it comes to waving a 9 weight rod chasing bonefish - I'm a babe in the woods. My total experience salt water fishing is some 20 days - all of them on the stunning Aitutaki lagoon. And yet, I've managed to land several "double digit" bonefish - how is this possible?  It all comes down to the guide, in my case Itu Davey.

Aitutaki is not like Christmas Island; your clients are very unlikely to land 30 or 40 bonefish a day. But there is a very strong likelihood of catching 4 or 5 good bonefish, and maybe just maybe, catching a bonefish of a lifetime!

The gear
I used a Sage Xi3 9 weight rod, with a Sage 6080 Reel (in champagne – very nice) 250 metres of backing (I saw almost all of it!) and a RIO Tropical semi sink line, as a lot of the time your fishing in 3-4 feet of water.

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