For many, Australia is a place of wonder and imagination; for Josh Hutchins of Aussie Fly Fisher and filmmaker Kane Chenoweth, Australia is home. Last summer Josh, Kane, and some friends journeyed out to one of Australia’s most remote regions and found themselves knee-deep in the waters of Cocos Keeling.
Here they found endless bonefish, feisty sharks, and the perfect, well-earned island life we all dream about. Recently we had a chance to sit down with Josh to hear all about his adventure!
FL: So, where in the world is Cocos Keeling?
JH: Cocos Keeling Islands are likely the furthest territory from Mainland Australia that is still considered a part of Australia. Basically, if you draw a line on a map between Perth, Australia, and Sri Lanka, then you’ll find CKI smack-bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
It’s a special place like any remote atoll, for obvious reasons. It was extra special for us at the time as it was the furthest we could travel from home during the height of the pandemic when Australia was locked off from the rest of the world – 9 hours flight time from Sydney, Australia.
FL: If you had to describe the fishery in one word what would it be and why?
Essentially this is a bonefish fishery. The place is loaded with bonefish, and good-sized ones too. We essentially DIY fished the whole week and had reasonable success. ‘Hello Backing Lodge’ has since brought a flats skiff to the island which will broaden the horizons of the fishery.
FL: What was the hardest part of creating this film?
JH: Travel logistics at the time were difficult. I was traveling from Sydney, Kane Chenoweth (our Videographer) was traveling from Cairns, QLD, and the other guys from Melbourne, Australia. In hindsight, it was one of the only short periods of time during the pandemic when all Australian states could freely travel back and forth with each other.
Thankfully all that mess is done, and Australia is officially reopened to the world.
FL: Take us through that GT and Shark blitz, that was insane!
JH: Yeah wow! Well, CKI is not short on sharks! But that particular session was insane!
We took the local ferry that day to Direction Island, one of the many Islands within the atoll. Not long after hitting the beach, we noted that big, black, ball of mayhem in the distance. James Norney, one of the fellas on the trip was loaded with the 12wt, so took the first shot. Immediately he got a hold of that big GT.
Interestingly, those sharks were extremely aggressive and we caught several big ones on the fly. It was one of the best bait balls I have ever seen in two feet of water.
FL: Speaking of sharks, what is the fly fisher’s guide to shark encounters?
JH: To be honest, I am typically not worried about sharks on the flats. But as seen in the film, a few of the CKI ones caught us by surprise. Generally, if I have a shark locked onto a fish I am happy to run at it, throw something at it, hit it with the butt of the fly rod, etc. But, some of the sharks we encountered were so fired up by the bonefish, nothing would deter them from coming in close. Even to the point when that shark charged me. Essentially I was hooked onto a small Trevally and it swam through my legs, the shark followed, crashing straight into my legs, catching me by surprise.
From that point, the best thing to do was to move on when sharks were in the area, for the sake of the bonefish.
FL: What is one piece of Australian fly fishing lingo you want to see spread around more?
JH: Haha. There would be a lot of this. Aussie slang in general is quite broad. A few I don’t hear too often elsewhere in describing a good fish would be “Cracker” “Ripper”, “Stonker”… Interestingly we call a skinny fish a “Slab” I believe a “Slab” might actually be a good thing elsewhere.
FL: What was the most memorable fish of this trip and why was it so special?
JH: The Bumpy.
Bumphead Parrotfish had been on my list for sometime. And CKI presented itself as the best place to check that off the list in Australia. It didn’t come easy. On the last day, in the dying moments, when I least expected it. The right moment presented itself, and the stars aligned and I managed to hold one for the camera. A very rewarding moment.
FL: Any last words before we finish up?
JH: Australia is open for business! Come on Down-under and pay us a visit. Plenty of diversity on offer.
You can see more from Josh at his website aussieflyfisher.com