02
Aug 17

Mahahual 2017 – The Report Part III – Things that didn’t go as planned

Not everything went awesomely in Mexico. Here are the things that didn’t end up in the plus column.

Donde estan los bonefish?

I fished on the flats for two days without Nick and on those two days I saw one group of 3 bonefish (I saw other fish, but just not many bones). I was on flats that certainly LOOKED like they were going to hold bonefish. The habitat looked right. The depth was right. There were other fish around… saw a lemon shark and a nurse shark and several cudas… a jack… and just almost no bonefish. I know they are there. People see them. People catch them. I am not a novice. I can spot fish. So… what the hell was I doing wrong? To be honest, this was the single biggest disappointment of the trip. I has thought it would be kind of like Belize, which isn’t too far away, and the bones would be, ya know… kind of everywhere. It wasn’t that way, at least not for me in late July.

come out bonefish… where are you?

Hot much?

Dear god it was hot. I needed to hydrate like it was my means of providing roof and sustenance. It was hot. It was center-of-the-sun kind of hot. The heat was a bit of an issue for my dad. The last day he had to stop fishing before most of the fishing was really even started. Keeping my dad from having heat exhaustion was a priority and we certainly came close, or crossed over, that line… fast.

Sargassum

There was a lot of the stuff. It clogged a few flats that should have produced. It seems when there is 30 or 40 feet of the stuff at the shoreline, it heats up and discolors the water near it. I think that might have discouraged fish to hang around. Sargassum is a hit or miss thing. Some flats were free of the stuff. Some were full of it. One flat I went to was so full of sargassum there was a cliff of the stuff, three feet high.

The future is plastics

My god. There is a lot of plastic on the beaches. Washed up from who knows where, it has ended up in Mexico. Tons of it. Roughly a bazillion, gazillion tons of it. A bit depressing. So, when do we start using this stuff to 3-D print houses and stuff?

dude… that’s a lot of plastic

There it is… the getting there, the good and the less good. Mahahual 2017 is in the books and I’m facing a long lay-off until I end up somewhere salty with a fly rod in my hand. It was a good trip. It was a tough trip. It was a memorable trip.

Thanks Mexico.


31
Jul 17

Mahahual 2017 – The Report Part II – Things that went right

As with life, on any fishing trip there are things that go well and things that don’t. This part of the report is going to focus on the stuff that went right.

Sabalito for Dad

Key requirement of the trip was a tarpon, of any size, for my dad. This, guide Nick Denbow accomplished within an hour. He knew of a ditch, formerly a river and potentially a river again after a lot of rain, that had some penned up sabalito (baby tarpon). Dad got his baby tarpon on the first day. Success.

Dad’s First Sabalito

Tarpon in the Lake

Now… the first day my go-pro ran out of battery and my back-up didn’t have a SIM card… nice… so, I have no pics. I got some baby tarpon in one of the lakes with Nick. I was making some pretty good casts and we were getting some responses. I botched a few. I converted others. Nothing big, although bigger fish were around. It was a little unsteady standing up in the jon boat, something that proved much harder for my 75 year old dad.

Nacional Beach Club

Nacional Beach Club is a fine place to stay. AC in the room. Right on the beach. Good food. Evan, the care-taker, made ribs one night that were simply outstanding. Breakfast included. Cheaper than it seems like it should have been.

Nick Denbow

Nick, a Brit, is a fine guy to share a day fishing with. He’s really knowledgeable about… well… everything. Birds, wildlife, fish… Nick seems perfectly placed in Mahahual. This is just where he should be. He knew where the fish were going to be, even if they wouldn’t eat. I mean… he knew pretty much exactly where we’d find permit. Who can dial up a permit?

Nick with my trigger

Speaking of triggers

I got a trigger. That wasn’t on my radar, but I got a trigger. Fun fish to stalk. Kind of easy to find, if you get the habitat right. Harder to hook, but still… a cool fish. I hooked one more and had two other confirmed eats. Super interesting fish.

That same trigger

Food and Drink

Mahahual was a fine place for food and drink. Montezuma didn’t get his revenge on us (which makes sense, we’re Scandinavian by genetics). I had ice in my drink. I drank water provided by the hotel. I even ate a salad. All those things you might be warned away from. I did them all and I didn’t get sick. The food was tasty and cheap. I had no complaints.

Octopus tacos from Fernando’s.

Permit

Nick found permit. I found permit. Finding permit is hard. Getting them to eat is harder. Nick had a great saying about permit, “The permit you catch is easy.” That rings true. I didn’t find any easy permit. I did have one circle my fly and then give it a pass. On the day we looked for permit on the flat, in the jon boat no less, we saw at least 5, maybe 8. I got one cast in.  On my last day of fishing I saw 4 and had three shots. I didn’t get a follow, but I found them. So, that’s something.


30
Jul 17

Mahahual 2017 – The Report Part I – Getting There

I’m back from Mahahual. It was a good trip, although it was certainly different than I had anticipated. There were highs and lows and a lot of sweat.

The Getting There

AeroMexico is not my favorite. The point of flying a redeye on Sunday night was to get into Cancun in the morning and have a nice leisurely drive down to Mahahual, a four hour drive south from Cancun. That is not how in panned out. The flight leaving SFO was late and the connection out of Guadalajara wasn’t waiting for anyone. Missed that flight. In Guadalajara they also told me I couldn’t bring my fishing rod case as a carry-on. It might have been the cuda poppers in the box (the big ones for a spinning reel), although they seemed to say I couldn’t bring any hooks on, period. Can’t find anything on-line with Mexico-specific regulations. Missing the connection to Cancun they told us we had to fly to Mexico City to make it to Cancun. This we did, although it became clear at some point on the flight that they had actually booked both of us under my dad’s name. So, landing in Mexico City, I was going nowhere fast. My dad was going to Cancun. About two hours later I was on my way to Cancun. I would land about 4 PM, not at 9:30 AM, as we had hoped. I’ll also add the seats are tiny and I am 6’3″. Not a great combo. I’m going to avoid flying AeroMexico in the future.

The whole point of getting there early was to NOT drive at night. I now know from experience that I don’t like driving the less-traveled highways of Mexico at night. Some sections had no reflectors or lines indicating where the side of the road was. It was often white-knuckled stuff. We survived and there was only one tope (crazy Mexican speed bumps) that I had to brake hard for, and that was just out of Mahahual.

I had never driven in Mexico before and was a little apprehensive about it, but it really wasn’t too difficult. You needed to understand that you were expected to use the shoulder lane when folks wanted to pass you and you needed to watch the speed limit, which could go from 100 km/h to 40 to 80 to 100 to 50 to 90, all in the span of about 5 minutes. Whatever the posted speed limit was, it seemed most Mexicans drove about 110 km/h, fairly consistently, unless driving through an actual town (where the dreaded topes) would be found.

Making it into Mahahual it occurred to me I should have maybe mapped out exactly where the National Beach Club was. I had read on Verizon that my voice, text and data plan would port over to Mexico. 2/3. No data. No data = no mapping or access to the internet. Lucky for us… Mahahual isn’t that big and if you just keep driving straight, you’ll find it. We found it, getting in about 10:00 PM.

Celebrating getting there with a beer.

We were never pulled over, so got to avoid the whole “bribe” thing and we didn’t hit any wandering cows or run into any 2 foot deep potholes.

Success.


21
Jul 17

The cost of getting there

There was a recent story that caught my eye talking about how the Bahamian tourism industry is losing out due to the high cost of getting to the Islands.

This has been my experience.

From Abaco, 2015.

A few years back I brought the whole family to Abaco for Spring Break. We found a great place and booked it and then looked at flights. WOW. Ended up costing us $1,400 a person to get to Abaco on the days we wanted at the times we wanted. $1,400 a person. That’s too high. This year I took my daughter to Belize and airfare was about $600 (and would have been $450 if I had booked earlier).

It costs too much to get to the Bahamas. I won’t take a family trip there if it costs me $5,600 just to plant my feet on the ground with my family of 4.

A quick look right now shows if I wanted to get to Abaco in September from the SF Bay Area it would cost $800-900.

With the same dates a trip to Cancun is just over $400.

Havana – $452
Honolulu – $504
Miami – $330
Puerto Rico – $691
Belize City – $630
Seychelles – $1,400
Cayman Islands – $616

Oddly… Congo Town (South Andros) from $493… but up to $700 when you want only one stop.

The travel costs are a barrier. I don’t know what has to be done about it, but I’d agree with the article. It doesn’t help and it doesn’t capitalize on the close proximity of the Bahamas to the US. Hoping to get back to the Bahamas in 2018… and hoping not to break the bank on airfare when I do.


07
Jul 17

Another fishing video… this time Mexico

This is three years old, but damn, it is really well done. This is fishing out of a place called Pesca Mahahual. I’ll be heading to Mahahual (although just the regular Mahahual, not Pesca Mahahual) here in a couple weeks, also with my dad. We are hoping to get into some tarpon (maybe getting my dad his first ever after a rather miserable failure a couple years back in the Keys).

Sooooo looking forward to it.


06
Jul 17

Bonefish Revolution (Cuba vid)

This looks pretty nice. Well done. Cuba remains one of my favorite trips ever.

 


02
Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).


29
Jun 17

My Hawaiian Bonefish Skunk is Dead

It is a family vacation we are on, but, of course, there is a little fishing in the mix.

We are on Oahu and I managed to convince my wife to part with me one day so I could try and break my Hawaiian bonefish hex. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve seen bonefish, but caught none, until yesterday.

I saw my first bonefish ever in Hawaii about 9 years ago. I didn’t catch any.

I spent four days on that same beach a few years later and I got 4 casts in the whole time. I didn’t catch those bonefish.

I went with a guide in Maui last year. There are bones there, but I didn’t catch any.

I had always heard the fish are big, but there are few of them and it isn’t unusual to get blanked. All that was in line with my past experiences.

This year on our family vacation I went out with Kenny from Hawaii on the Fly. He has a modern flats skiff, is from Florida originally and has been guiding out here for several years. He found, almost immediately, one of these elusive Hawaiian bones, known as o’io locally. He then found another, and another and another and… hey, wait a second… these things are all over the place!

He warned me these fish are particular. You have to lead them by 9 feet. Not 6 feet. Not 3 feet. And dear god not on their heads. I can tell you this is almost entirely true. They knew the difference between 9 and 6 feet and were out of there if a cast was anywhere near them. I made a LOT of casts too near the fish. Kenny can tell you.

I caught my first o’io and my second. I ended up hooking 7 and had maybe 40 legit shots out of the 200+ bonefish I saw on the day.

I had no idea you could see so many bones in Hawaii in a day.

While you can find them, you are not likely to catch them. Fly selection was very different from what I’d normally cast. In fact, I doubt a single fly out of my 200+ would have been appropriate. They just act differently. Presentations that would have gotten eats in Abaco or Andros freaked these fish out.

They make me think of the bonefish I saw at Crab’n Bay in Grand Bahama. An easily driven to and waded flat, the flat is full of bones, but they are epic in their toughness and that has everything to do with the same bonefish usually returning to feed on the same flats. These fish are trained. They are weary. They are wise to us all… unless you break out some top level angling.

It was windy, really windy (Hawaii is kind of known for that), but the shots were fairly close (some at redfish distances). The wind ended up being way less of an issue than I thought it would be.

Bonus was seeing about a 40 pound GT and a not-small milkfish, two fish I had not seen before (no casts made at either).

It was a great day on the water. Kenny was easy to spend time with. He’s not a yeller. He’s easy with conversation. He worked hard and he put me on fish after fish after fish (and didn’t complain when I broke off four of his flies on fish).

I have a whole new appreciation for Hawaiian bonefish. Thanks Kenny.

To book go to Hawaii on the Fly. (No promotional exchange for this post, I paid full fair, and would again.)


22
Jun 17

What do the new restrictions mean for Cuba fly fishing?

Well… don’t ask me. Ask Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures… because, those guys know.

They put out a detailed piece about the new Trump travel restrictions and what it means to you, the anglers who want to go sample what Cuba has to offer.

Here it is. 

I went with Yellow Dog’s Jim Klug back in 2012 and they had things buttoned down, even back then. Solid operation.

Jim + Cuba + Cameras


15
Jun 17

Ugh… Cuba Edition

Cuba

Trump getting ready to make it harder for Americans to go to Cuba… because that makes sense.

Looks like he won’t get rid of all the gains we’ve made, but Trump is set to make it more difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba and to do anything when they get there.

This is a policy straight out of the cold war that makes as much sense as rompers or vegan soul food. It doesn’t make practical sense.

I mean… come on.

Here are a few things our President has done to screw up fly fishing in his short time in office.