WRITTEN and SUBMITTED by JOEL BAIOCCHI
This unsolicited (but much appreciated) post is from a happy Vedavoo Customer who took the time to share his story and details about his setup for others in our community. Though there is no right / wrong way to load up your pack, Mr. Baiocchi clearly has found a way that works well for Christmas Island! The post has been presented without edit and in it’s entirety. Enjoy!
I’ve been on the hunt for a pack for flats fishing at Christmas Island for some time now. I am the type of angler whose philosophy is that the best gear is gear you never think about. I need all my brainpower to try to catch fish!
Been fishing at Christmas for five years and have gone through six packs of varying design, including two slings. One of the slings, an Orvis Gale Force, had a zipper fail the second day of a two-week trip. Christmas Island is primitive, a third-world country at best, and there was no way to replace or even repair it. I improvised a surf bag which did not work out very well. I was not at all happy and vowed to find a better way.
The Patagonia Stormfront sling is much beefier, and held up fine. But ultimately I found it non-user-friendly in situations where fly pattern changes and tippet replacement are frequent. For example, suppose I get a refusal from a bonefish. The guide gestures to change the fly. Unhook the third strap, rotate the sling, unzip the sling, rifle through the black hole (no matter how I tried to keep things organized, what I need has migrated to the bottom and is covered by a jumbled mess). Then reverse the process, step-by-step. And, maybe do it all over again two minutes later, because a small barracuda sliced through the tippet on the very next cast. It was a never-ending pain in the ass.
Over time I grew to hate the third strap with a passion. It seemed to have a life of its own, and in the constant trade winds, the strap would play hide and seek when it was time to re-fasten it. I’d eventually find it, but it was maddening. Unfortunately, that bastard of a strap was a necessity, because without it, the moment I’d lean forward to do something, the whole shitaree would cascade around and down, a veritable millstone around my neck. There had to be a better way.
So when I saw the Vedavoo packs I was intrigued. On the island, flats fishing is all done on foot; everything for the day’s fishing has to be carried on the angler’s person. An angler doesn’t have the luxury stowing a gear bag on a boat. So I bought the Tightlines Deluxe, and based on my experience at Christmas—I am no expert, but have learned enough to know what works and what doesn’t—proceeded to outfit it for the island.
THE CHRISTMAS ISLAND DIFFERENCE
Here’s an accurate quote about Christmas Island from my friends at Flywater Travel:
“Only the toughest, most high-quality … will survive!”
That last quote is about GT reels, but I’ve found it to be true as whole for fishing gear in general on Christmas Island. It’s been said that GTs break everything: lines, rods, reels, hearts, and minds. But it’s not just the below-the-belt fighting GTs that challenge tackle; it’s the very environment in which they live.
When people think of tropical flats fishing, they usually think of a sunny, lush, and benign setting. Not exactly true at Christmas Island. It is beautiful—stunningly so—but it is also an incredibly harsh environment. There is no soil; much of the island is comprised of abrasive coral sand which wears out a set of tires after a few hundred miles. Being on the equator, the trade winds typically keep the temperature from getting too hot, but the UV is very intense—the most intense in all the worldwide destinations of Flywater. Things are always breaking down; anything man-made is in a state of accelerated decay. Only the salt scrub, the sea birds, and the fish thrive.
And there is no getting away from the ever-present salt humidity and salt. I had a pair of nippers completely rust in 10 days. The fishing lodges have running water, most of the time anyway, but rinsing everything at the end of the day simply isn’t my cup of tea. I’d rather spend apres-fishing relaxing, and drinking beer with my friends while regaling each other with the day’s highs and lows. Besides, given the high humidity, things don’t really ever get dry; you can hang your fishing shirt on a clothesline overnight, but it’ll still be damp in the morning.
MY CHRISTMAS ISLAND VEDAVOO
The Vedavoo certainly is well-built. Built like a tank. I don’t see any fail points. But of course it needs to be outfitted, like a new boat. To give it the instruments needed to operate in this extreme environment, and to operate well, I did the following:
Humidity and salt? Bring it. All metals are pure titanium. There are two exceptions: nippers, which are made of steel, which better than titanium for cutting and holding an edge. The second is the knife, which is made out of H1 steel, a manufacturing process which results in steel that does not rust.
Why a knife? I’ve had personal experience in whitewater situations where I needed a knife immediately after capsize. And a friend nearly witnessed his fishing partner get dragged into the water and strangled when the fly line somehow looped around his neck after a fresh 150-lb. Nicaraguan tarpon took off and parted the seas. Only a quick-thinking guide with a knife prevented that tragedy. So I always carry a knife that can be deployed immediately.
The knife I have is a Spyderco Ladybug folder. A fixed blade is simpler and doesn’t need to be unfolded. But I didn’t like the idea of an unprotected sharp blade, and sheathed knives were too cumbersome and heavy for my liking.
So, with the setup for this knife, I can reach it with either hand. It’s also attached with a quick-release. Once released, I pull downward. A pair of rubber-coated rare earth magnets hold the blade until it’s fully extended and locked. The knife can be deployed in a snap, maybe not as fast as a fixed-blade, but damn close. The titanium breakaway- chain you see is there in case the quick-release snap fails. It has an 18-lb. pull, the same military spec for dog tags.
Tool attachments: The S-biners offered by Vedavoo will work. I’ve used them in the past, and they are good for several weeks before they will start to rust. I just don’t like the notion of replacing things, and/or wondering whether something will fail. All the tools have nylon side-squeeze quick-release buckles which can be operated with one hand. So, if the guide needs my hook file, I just squeeze the buckle and hand it to him.
In one of the pics below you can see all the flies the Vedavoo can hold. Pretty impressive for such a small, lightweight pack. By the way, I have a small Zerust tab in each fly box. I tried waterproof boxes and they’re just too heavy and bulky. And they don’t always work. I figure that since everything’s going to get exposed to some degree of salt and moisture anyway, may as well accept it, and the Zerust tabs do seem to work as advertised.
Two fly patches. The first is a Simms patch for large GT flies. They’re big and bulky so I want them out of the way, so they’re at the bottom of the exterior. I used Velcro to attach it over the Vedavoo logo strap—hated to cover the logo but it’s just the perfect place for the patch. For smaller flies I am going to try the Tacky Tube. I thought the Tube’s interior magnets were a bit weak so I got a couple of rare earth, rubber-coated magnets and just dropped them over the OEM magnets. Now, rather than have to angle the tube when loading a fly, as suggested by Tacky, I can drop a large, heavy lead-eye #4 Christmas Island Special straight down and the magnets capture it every time.