Fanning Island, or Tabuaeran as it’s also known, which means “heavenly footprint” in the native Polynesian language, is an atoll situated in the Central Pacific Ocean. Part of the Line Islands, it’s located just over 1600 kilometres southwest of Hawaii, 273 kilometres north of Christmas Island, and 228 nautical miles above the equator. Covering a land area of over 33 square kilometres, it features a vast, spectacularly beautiful interior lagoon spanning over 100 square kilometres. Yet, with only nine villages and a population of just over 2,000 inhabitants, it’s often referred to as the island that time forgot.
It’s celebrated and famed for its white-sand beaches, blue-green waters, friendly residents, and over the past few years, its wealth of incredible saltwater fly fishing opportunities, it’s a destination that is starting to appear on many anglers bucket lists. However, with no regular flights until 2016, the number of visiting anglers can be counted on just a couple of hands, and travelling rods who’ve been lucky enough to visit this incredible destination haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
A trip to Fanning Island is designed only for the serious saltwater fly fishing angler, for those who yearn to visit some of the most remote places on earth to wet a fly in pursuit of their quarry. It’s perfect for those who don’t need a luxury resort but for those who want to explore a year-round tropical paradise and experience island culture at its finest.
Described as the island that time forgot, Fanning is an exciting tropical island paradise with abundant saltwater fly fishing opportunities. Travelling rods who’ve been lucky enough to visit this incredible destination haven’t even scratched the surface, and the range of saltwater species that inhabit its waters have rarely seen a human, let alone an anglers fly.
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"Over the last few years, I've fished heavily in the Caribbean, however this year I fancied something slightly different and more adventurous. After a good week of research, I came across Fanning Island and after a few phones calls and emails, I was booked on a trip. The journey there looked extremely daunting and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't long, but once there it was worth every minute of travelling time. The fishing was wild and crazy, I landed plenty of Bonefish and what a really wanted, some Giant Trevally. I didn't hook into any of the true giants, but I did manage fish to around 30lb. The accommodation was incredibly basic, but the food, guides and staff were excellent. If you're looking at something truly off the grid and an adventure of a lifetime then be sure to check out Fanning Island."
"I was lucky enough to visit Christmas Island many moons ago when the fishing on the island was still relatively new, so I did have some idea of what Fanning Island would be like, but I must say it was everything I expected and more. The fishing was incredible and reminded me of those first few exploratory trips to Christmas. I had a great week landing a bunch of Bonefish and the fish I was really after the Giant Trevally. Over the week I landed at least one GT a day, with the biggest weighing in at an estimated 60lb. The accommodation was very basic, but I was prepared for that and it's as you'd expect with somewhere so remote. In short, I loved it and would certainly like to return one day."
"The journey to get to Fanning was incredibly long and it has been one of the most remote places in the world, but was it worth it? Absolutely! I would do it all again tomorrow. The fishing and the island is unspoilt and every day you felt like you were fishing virgin water. Throughout my trip, I enjoyed some of the most fantastic fishing I've ever experienced landing Bonefish, GTs and even a couple of big Parrotfish. If you like your home comforts then it's probably not the place for you, the accommodation is incredibly basic and more like camping, but to me, it was comfortable and ideal for just getting your head down in the evenings."
The fishing on the island is traditional saltwater flats fly fishing, with most of it done on foot, wading, sight fishing for your quarry – just the way it should be. The fishing grounds on the island get navigated by deep hulled Panga style boats, but unlike on Christmas Island, where it’s two anglers per fishing guide, travelling rods visiting Fanning have the luxury of a one-on-one guiding experience. Each day the Pangas set off to the fishing grounds with two anglers, two guides (one junior and one senior) and a boat driver – meaning you’re in excellent hands and well looked after. The island is limited to only 6 rods per week.
Featuring swathes of hard white sand flats that stretch for miles, Fanning Island offers the perfect habitat for various Pacific flats species. Even though the fishing is still relatively in its infancy, the small groups of anglers who have been lucky enough to visit its shores and ‘test fish’ have encountered Bonefish, Giant and Bluefin Trevally, Napoleon Wrasse and the Bumphead Parrotfish. The latter is quite a rare sought-after species and one which doesn’t seem to inhabit all the atolls in the region.
Due to its incredibly remote nature, there are no emergency rooms, hospitals, WiFi, air conditioning and limited power. There is a refrigerator, lighting and charging points, but these are all solar-powered and not always one hundred percent reliable. The accommodation is a rustic camp and not a luxury Lodge, and it’s purely designed as somewhere just to sleep and rest after a hectic day on the flats.
Fishing an average of ten or more hours a day in a tropical climate, we recommend that you’re in good health if you decide to take a trip.
The simple answer is anytime. Fanning Island is a true all-year-round destination. Due to the island’s proximity to the equator, it doesn’t have seasons as we know them and temperatures in February are almost identical to those in August, a consistent 75-85 degrees.
When deciding on the best time to visit, it’s certainly worth considering the various moon phases of the month. Anglers looking for a well-balanced, productive time to fish the flats, or want to focus on Bonefish, should book during quarter moon cycles that provide neap cycle tides and long sweet spots of moderate water depth on the flats.
Anglers looking for great opportunities for Giant Trevally should look toward the full moon and new moon periods of the month. These times provide the most significant alignment of the earth, moon and sun and generate the most considerable tide swings. Hybrid weeks with either a full or new moon towards the beginning or end of a week provide good opportunities for both.
The best way to get to Fanning Island from the UK is to fly to Los Angeles before connecting to Hawaii. You will then stay overnight in Hawaii before getting the flight the next day to Christmas Island. You will then fly to Fanning Island from Christmas Island, a flight of around one hour fifteen minutes. Once on the island, the camp is a short boat journey away.