After nearly a year planning this trip we are finally here and enjoying this island paradise! – From my Journal entry for day one. This was the view from our hotel on our layover day in Tahiti before jumping on our departure flight to Anaa. Good times ahead!
We had a whole day to explore the island of Tahiti. We woke up super early (I love flying West), we devoured the all you can eat breakfast buffet, we rented a car and drove around the island, we looked for GT’s, we found a sick little neighborhood, we hiked to a waterfall, we found an incredible lunch spot, we found a blowhole in the coral, Turner stopped and chatted with a local non profit about preserving the coral reef, we stopped for beers a few times, we met a guy who climbed a tree and hacked open coconuts for us. It was an awesome way to spend a day in Tahiti. Travel teaches you to be ready for anything. You may be hot, you may not have your seatbelt on, you may be swerving in and out of traffic, you may be tired and over it, but if you’re not open to these weird and uncomfortable experiences than you may never find that one ideal experience that you are looking for.
The following morning we boarded our flight to Anaa. On the way we flew over countless motus, which are just little islands of paradise scattered all over the place. The Tuamotu archipelago is one of the largest island chains in the world. I just kept picturing those tailing bonefish or the countless GT’s smashing baitfish on the breakers. I longed to see it all but knew I never would and never could. It may not be as exciting if you had forever.
This small plane was more like a bus than a plane and it was hilarious. I thought LIAT airlines in the Caribbean was bad, after all LIAT stands for Leaves Island Any Time, but this flight stopped on two of these small Motus and we had a good half an hour to get out of the plane and stretch our legs. I even went for a walk on the beach and spotted two sharks. Island time was already settling in and I tried to chat with the lady next to me who was probably 70 years old and had lived her entire life on one of these beautiful little islands. I wondered what it was like for her to live at that pace. She seemed just about as happy as anyone I’ve ever met so I’m guessing the quality of life was pretty good down there.
On arrival we unpacked our things and settled into our home for the next week. The beautiful Anaa Pension Lodge did not dissapoint. We were greeted with cold beers and a platter of delicious appetizers from Joel, our chef for the whole week. I had a hunch that we had found a very unique and special place in the world. I just couldn’t wait for daylight so we could truly see this magical place.
That night we had a delicious dinner and beers and plotted for the days ahead. We knew we were in good hands and really had no idea what to expect. Rain was in the forecast though, and we couldn’t help but think the worst. Luckily the rain only lasted one day before the brilliant sunshine beamed down on us for the following 5 days.
The reef edge was an incredibly profound place. Standing on the edge of the reef where the Pacific Ocean has pounded away at the coral for years, it was a slick surface perfect for walking. On either side of those pounding waves you certainly had to watch your step!
The GT Brush fly. Nearly the perfect fly for everything we encountered on the reef and on the inside of the lagoon. What truly matters is the hook. It was very important to have Owner and Gamakatsu hooks on the reef edge. You never know what your going to encounter! We had many break offs and hooked into things that we didn’t really want to tangle with. There were sharks everywhere and you definitely want to watch your step!
Jeff Currier Photo
We found the Bohar snapper fishing to be incredible. These big brutes will break a 12 wt rod if your not careful. When fishing the reef edge it is so important to fish 130 lb Fluorocarbon leader. The fluorocarbon is resistant to abrasions so when these fish eat the fly and go back down to their snapper holes, you can ease pressure and they will swim right back out. You may still only land one out of ten!
Everywhere you looked there was a fish trying to eat another fish. It was absolute paradise. We got broke off by more than we landed for the most part. Jeff and Tim decided to go off of the deep edge of the reef with sinking lines and wanted to see what they could hook into out there. They came back with insane horror stories of sharks jumping in the boat and fly lines snapping and total chaos. Currier was a total wreck from the rod butt jabbing into his ribs numerous times when a big fish would go for a run, and Tim broke a fish off at the surface which resulted in a fly line coming back at him and giving him a funny welt on his arm. True champions.
Scott Smith Photo
Finally the day came where I got to fish with my good buddy Scott Smith. Scott and I have been dreaming of this place for over a year. Nothing beats the white sand flats of Polynesia. You won’t find a more beautiful flat in the world than this flat on Anaa we called the Church flat. It was fitting as I can’t think of a more spiritual place for a fly fisherman. There we were walking one of the most beautiful flats in the world. I felt like stopping and just let the fish swim to me. I could have stayed there forever. Eventually after about an hour of walking my guide Ruben decided to tell me that his house was the small blue one next to the church! In broken French I tried to tell him that his life was pretty good, with a funny laugh I knew he already knew that.
Scott Smith Photo
While we were taking a break and having lunch on a small spit of white sand, I had a shot at a monster GT. There were sharks all around us and we were messing with them, throwing flies breaking them off. Then all of the sudden a shape appeared on the edge of the flat near deeper water. I pointed at it and my guide Julian started yelling GT! GT! So I quickly grabbed my 12 wt rod and 6/0 black brush fly rig and started stripping off line like crazy to make a cast. I quickly started wading out to deeper water and threw my fly as far as I could. By now the fish was almost past me and I quickly tried to haul more line and land the fly with an announcement. Knowing my fly was still 30 feet away from the fish I hoped he would notice it if it landed heavy in the water. Not a chance. The fish slowly swam off never to be seen again.
Scott Smith Photo
Finally the day came when I landed my first Napoleon Wrasse on the fly rod. It was a beautiful day walking the reef edge. The water was calm and the visibility was perfect. This was the fish we were all so interested in catching. I have never seen a place like Anaa for Napoleon Wrasse. They are everywhere and such a special fish. This is a minnow compared to some of the beasts we saw patrolling the reef edge!
Jeff Currier Photo
Jeff caught the most Beautiful Napoleon I have ever seen. It was the beast of the trip for sure. Between Tim, Jeff and I we landed 6 Napo’s for the trip.
Jeff Currier Photo
Currier is the master at catching these beautiful little reef fish when the fishing is slow. When there is nothing much going on Currier focus’s on the fish the angler doesn’t see. He will tie on the smallest crab fly in his box and pick them off one by one.
There is something to be learned form that style of fishing. The guides would sometimes blow off the tailing Parrot fish but I always tried to get a cast to them. Currier did too and was finally rewarded with a fish most people ignore!
Jeff Currier Photo
On the third day of fishing Turner and I were exhausted so decided to head in early and check out the local spear throwing competition on the island. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I’m so glad we did it. Each competitor had ten spears and using just their pointer finger they had to hit a coconut way up in the air. It was amazing how accurate they were. After it was all over they asked us to try. Turner nearly hit the coconut first try but I couldn’t throw it more than 15 feet. It was pathetic!We met a group of kids who just loved being in front of the camera. They were shy at first, but once they became comfortable they wouldn’t leave us alone. It was awesome to have a few beers and hang out with the locals for a while.On Our final night Joel prepared a lobster feast for us. I ate like three lobsters to myself and loads of delicious poke and coconut rice. We all had ice cold local Hinano beer to wash it down with of course.
We invited our guides in for a few beers on the last night. They were so great to hang out with for the week. I’m guessing they had a good time with us as well. It’s fun to see a different culture as always and no matter how long or short your stay you may learn a thing or two. On Anaa the pace of life was different and refreshing. Really the only thing on the schedule for the day was to go fishing and eat delicious food and drink ice cold beers on the beach. All the while surrounded by some of the most beautiful water you will ever see. It was a true paradise.After our delicious dinner on our final night, we were serenaded with some of the most beautiful island music. JP and his friends played for us into the late hours. They were taking requests but all I really wanted to hear was their local music so I kept insisting they play their style. It was such a fun night and later on I picked up a guitar and a drum and was jamming back and forth with these guys.
The following morning we thought we were leaving super early until we got an email that the flight had been delayed. So we had an extra few hours to drive around the island, and drink beers with our hosts. We were all checked in for our flight and were literally just waiting for the one plane per week to come pick us up. The entire island comes to the “airport” to watch and it’s quite the spectacle. People are sitting on coconuts all over the place just chilling drinking beers waiting. Our plane was delayed two more times so we had plenty of time to have a few more Hinanos. We ended up leaving the airport for a second time and this time Joel stopped at his shop and we grabbed ice cream and more beers.
When the plane finally arrived some of the guides had shown up to see us off and gave us these beautiful palm leaf bags they had woven for us. Currier was passed out in the back of the truck so we had to wake him up and jump on the plane. It was hard to say goodbye to our hosts as they had shown us their beautiful island and opened our eyes to a different pace of life. It was a magical place and I’m really looking forward to my next trip there early March. I can’t wait to get back to this incredible place!