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PUBLISHED: Sunday, November 18, 2018 by MARK BONAME

Fly Fishing Review Of Aitutaki - Lagoon Of The Giants

One Foot Island - Photo Mark Boname

Between Hawaii and New Zealand lies a beautiful little chain Islands known as the Cook Islands. The Cooks have always fascinated me and have been a destination of mine ever since I read Mutiny On The Bounty The Trilogy 
in Junior High School. Aituaki Island became inhabitied 900 AD but the first outside visitors came from Captain Bligh and the crew of HMS Bounty when they arrived in Aitutaki on 11 April 1789. In my research I found this quaint little Island known to have the most beautiful lagoon in the world and also know as Honey Moon Island. The island is about 6.9 square miles with a population of 2194. Other than Government Jobs, tourism is the main driver of the economy. After a little research, I found that Aitutaki does indeed have a quality sport fishery both inside the lagoon and outside in the Blue Water. However until recently the bonefish were being netted as a food source. The local government realizing the decline in Bonefish numbers decided to try something different, so they contacted and converted the main bonefish netting family into bonefishing guides. Click here to watch the story of Itu's Bones. I also found many species of Trevally inhabited the lagoon and were potential targets with a fly rod. Outside the lagoon you can find Trevally, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, Snapper and Sailfish depending on time of year.

Getting There From The U.S.

There is only one flight a week to and from the Cook Islands from the U.S. operated by Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Roratonga (the main Island in the Cooks), which is about a 10 hour flight. From Roratonga to Aitutaki is a 50 minute flight and there about 5 flights a day.

Currency - Lodging - Groceries - Island Transportation

Currency exchange rates are in our favor and have trended between 1.45 and 1.5 New Zealand Dollars for every U.S. Dollar. I exchanged $2000 U.S. Dollars and received $2800 New Zealand Dollars.

You wont see any five star high rise resorts on Aitutaki with most resorts consisting of beach bungalows, cabins or you can find some vacation house rentals. Accomodations can run anywhere $150 New Zealand Dollars/night and up. My wife and I decided to rent and reserved the Ootu Beach Villa, which cost around $300 NZ / night for a two week stay. Not sure how we got so lucky but we picked the spot with the best beach and view of the lagoon. Not only that, there was a Bonefish Flat right out the front door. The tan house on the left is Ootu Villa. The one on the right is also a cheaper rental but not quit as nice.

Food and groceries will be the most expensive part of your trip. Everything has to shipped into Aitutaki which drives prices up ten fold. If you want quality dining experience you can figure on spending $150 NZ Dollars a day on food for two people. My wife and I bought groceries to cook breakfast and make our own lunches. We found the best food on the Island (I'm talking 5 star with reasonable prices) at a little cafe not more than 5 minute walk from our house rental called Koru Cafe.

Transportation on the Island consists mostly of mopeds which can be rented from $25/day or car rentals run around $70/day. My wife and I rented a car for 3 days to tour the island and get groceries. Mopeds look like fun but it only takes one little spill onto the asphalt and your vacation is ruined.

Fishing Guide Operations

aitutaki fishing guides 
There really is only two Bonefish Guiding operations E2's Bonefish Way (this is the one I used and recommend) or Butch Leone (Butch strictly guides for bonefish). E2's Bonefish Way also does offshore guiding along with another outfit called the Black Pearl ChartersI had two guides that were twin brothers from E2's Bonefish Way. Both Rua and Tia will blow you away with not only there knowledge of the Island but there eyesight spotting bonefish in deep water along with spotting Trevally hiding in the coral bommies. I was definitely humbled thinking I was an excellent fish spotter.....not sure anyone compares up to these guys. All the guide operations are very booked all year long so advanced reservations are highly recommended. A fishing license is required to fish the lagoon and prices are: $10 for one day, $50 for one week, $80 for 2 weeks. You are limited to fish certain parts of the Island and Lagoon on your own without a guide, but there enough areas to keep you busy.

The Fishing & Gear

First let me say if you expect to readily catch fish, this is not a trip for beginners and I would only recommend those that are advanced intermediate to expert casters. You will need to be able to double haul cast 60 feet line accurately most of time in windy conditions.

I took two 8wt, two 10 wt, and two 12wt rods with me mainly consisting of the Hardy Zephrus Saltwater Rods and came home with only the 8wt and 10wts still intact. I would delete the 8wts and bump that up to a 9wt on my next trip. In fact I ended up putting 10wt lines on my 8wts to quickly load them. I used Galvan Torque Fly Reels which I still think is the best reasonably priced big game reel on the market. The best fly line for bonefish I brought for shallow to medium depths was the Cortland Ghost Tip lines and for slightly deeper water the SA Sonar Titan Intermediate Clear Tip Lines. For Trevally I took Airflo GT (50lb core), SA Titan Big Water Taper (100lb core), and a variety of Rio GT Lines (50lb core). I broke one AirFlo Bruce Chard GT line on a the biggest Trevally I hooked, but I really can't blame the line as I was trying to keep the Trevally from going into a coral bommie. The line broke right in the middle of my fly rod and in turn hit or wrap itself around one of my middle section guides. The two top sections of the fly rod shot through the air like a nuclear missile. So here again not the fly rod's fault. The line I landed most of my GT's on was the SA Titan Big Water Taper not that I liked the way it casted but I knew it had a 100lb core to hold onto those fish. I thought it actually was a horrible line for any kind of distance casting. So there is still a lot of room for improvement on fly lines with a heavy core and distance casting. I did catch some smaller Trevally on some of the Rio GT lines and they were the best for distance casting.

Other gear I found to be valuable on the trip was a Patagonia Stormfront Water Proof Backpack for wading and swimming the inlets along with Simms Solarflex Shirts , Sungaitors and Wonder Cloth to keep sunglasses clean.

Bonefish flies consisted mostly of Gotcha's tied in a variety of styles and colors on size 2 and 4 Gamakatsu Saltwater Hooks with medium to large dumbbell eyes. The ones that worked the best were tied with Finn Racoon Hair or synthetic marabou dubbing as they sank faster. Keep those wings sparse and thin!!! As far as Trevally Flies go, I tied a variety of flies from 4 inches to 6.5 inches on 4/0 and 6/0 Owner Hooks. Black was definitely the color to have. Overall I found that natural feather flies (deceiver type patterns) with reverse bucktail collars casted a lot easier than flies tied with synthetic type materials like BP Brush Flies and yet still had the same kind of movement in the water.

As far as the fishing goes, with a guide you will get a lot of shots at trophy sized bonefish. And when I say trophy size, I mean trophy size. I saw bonefish that were easily over 15lbs, in fact I had one that tormented me every day in front of our vacation rental. I named him "Walter" and I know he is a potential world record. However, if you think the Caribean bonefish are tough to catch, well then you are in for a surprise because the Pacific Bonefish are even tougher. First they don't travel in large schools, they hang out on deeper flats, they won't take the fly if it's up off the bottom. So you have to make long slow strips and they don't grab your fly like Caribbean Bonefish, it's more like a tap (they will pick it up and spit back out quickly). Anyhow I left Aitutaki with "Walter" laughing at me and the largest I landed was around 10 to 11 pounds. I had three bonefish that I would have liked to have seen but they straighten the hook out on their initial run. A fellow fly fisherman I met on Aitutaki showed me his little secret for hooks.....Tiemco Size 4 Steelhead Hook...yes it's freshwater but it has two things going for it, it's black and it's strong. All my future bonefish flies will be tied on this hook. Getting back to the fishing....if you catch 3 or more bonefish a day, you've had an exceptional day. I never got skunked but I had quit a few days with only one or two bonefish. Just be prepared for a lot of frustration and patience!

The Trevally! There are numerous species of Trevally on Aitutaki and the ones I know about are Giant Trevally, Blue Fin Trevally, Yellow Tail Trevally, Golden Trevally (looks like a Permit), Stripped Trevally and had the guide tell me there were a few Rooster Fish roaming around the Island. I was only able to catch the GT, Blue Fin and Yellow Tail, but had shots at a couple Golden's. The first GT's I had shots at were in a heavy coral bommie area and I really had no business even trying to catch them. I recommend if a guide takes you in that kind of area for fish larger than 40lbs you tell him no thank you. It's combat fishing and you will tear your gear up. This is where I broke a fly line and lost the tip sections to Hardy Zephrus 12wt. Anyhow I lost three GT's in that area before I said that's enough. I suspect there is a higher population of Trevally on the outside of the reef in the blue water, but there are enough inside the lagoon to keep things interesting. I landed 4 out 7 GT's I hooked, two Blue Fin and a couple of smaller GT's and Yellow Tails. Caught some by doing bait and switch with a teaser plug on spinning rod, some wading along the reef and fishing the inlets and most of my GT's were caught inside the lagoon out of a boat with the exception of one that I caught from shore on my own. Click Here to read story and video.

All and all Aitutaki is the lagoon of Giant Trevally and Giant Bonefish. It's not easy fishing, and your not going to get numbers, but if your after quality and size then this is the place for you. The biggest plus's about Aitutaki are no sand fleas, only a few mosquitos when the wind shuts down. It will be the cleanest/friendliest Island you will ever visit with the food and water safe to consume without getting sick.


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