Apr 17

7 years

Facebook memories… gotta love ’em.

This picture popped up today letting me know this scene played out seven years ago. This was in Nuevo Vallarta on the beach watching the sunset with my then three year old daughter.

On Saturday I’ll be taking my now ten year old daughter on a daddy-daughter trip to Belize (Caye Caulker).

It feels like I’m doing something right.

Apr 17

A plan comes together, like a phoenix from the ashes

Just days ago I was bereft. My beloved tarpon trip died and untimely death. Too soon… too soon. So hard to lose that trip. The fishing gods seemed to have insisted on a pre-payment plan, paid in karma, over the previous Florida trips with rain, rain and more rain, and no adult tarpon landed. This was going to be the year for the payoff!

Alas… it was not to be.

So I was adrift… slightly buoyed by the fact I’ll be in Belize next week, but still a bit bummed at the dashing of Florida dreams.

But, not all is lost. The world of saltwater fly fishing, maybe even those same fishing gods, seem to give as well as take. And so it was that a new trip possibility emerged in my consciousness. I’ve managed to fish a few places, the Bahamas, Belize, Cuba and the Keys, but I have never fished the Caribbean side of Mexico. Many moons ago I used to have family (different from my current family) trips to Nuevo Vallarta and I fished from the beach there for Jacks and lookdowns and whatever else I could fool with a clouser, but I never made it over to the Yucatan with a fly rod. I really wanted to change that. If only I had some sort of guide to the fishing in the Yucatan. If only there was some sort of book that laid it all out.

Oh look! A book, a guide of sorts, to fly fishing the Yucatan.

Just a couple of mouse clicks later (thanks Amazon) and I was reading said guide and getting more and more convinced this is what I should do.

So… I’m going to the Yucatan. I’m going despite my almost non-existent Spanish (maybe babble.com can help there). I’m going despite not having anyone, for sure, to go with.

I’m flying in July 24 and out July 29. I’m going to be staying in Mahahual, a place I honestly had not heard of until a couple days ago. I’m going to be fishing at least one day with Nick Denbow, a guide working out of Mahahual and co-author of the above book.

If YOU want to come along, well, we could fish with Nick another day. I figure if we want to put a group together, we could do that, probably no more than 4 guys total though, some being guided, some DIY on alternating days.

I’m excited about the trip and about seeing new water in a new area.

My wife is a fluent Spanish speaker and this general area (although I hadn’t thought about going this far South before) is where I’ve been thinking we could target for future family vacations, so I’m interested in seeing what the region is like.

So, let me know if you’d like to come along. Could be fun. I’m perfectly fine to do this trip solo… that way I get all the delicious water to myself, but, ya know, always good to share the experience (and cost).

To whet your appetite…

Apr 17

El Pescador in the New York Times

A great Belizian lodge in a great American newspaper.

The New York Times ran a piece in their travel section on El Pescador in Belize. I’ll be close to there in about a week when I’m down at Caye Caulker, but I have some fantastic memories from El Pescador including my first (only at this point) grand slam, my first (only) permit, a great trip with my friend Shane where we persevered through horrid weather and a great trip with my wife for our honeymoon.

Check out the story here. 

Honeymooners, Belize, 2012.

Apr 17

Trip Implosion – May in the Keys

May 6, 7, 8… Plan A was fishing with Davin in the Upper Keys. We’d just stake off, for three days, and wait for the fish to come to us. We’d be ultra patient and just let it happen. Davin has a friend with a boat, a good, broad, steady ocean-side tarpon boat. It was going to be three days of just that. Nothing else. Just staking off in Tavernier and waiting for the migrating tarpon to intersect with our stationary skiffness.

And then… I get a message. He’s out. Family thing. Nothing to be done.

Well… crap.


Me, realizing my trip was tanked.

So… what to do? Without a fishing partner, someone to split the house with, no boat and no guide… there wasn’t much of a trip left to be had. So… I pulled the plug. My every-two-year Florida trip just went away like it was never on the books at all.

I was really looking forward to that trip, but I am slightly consoled by the fact my wife readily accepted that this aborted trip would need to be replaced by some new trip. The balance sheet will be evened out.

The task before me is clear. I have to figure out where to fish. I have specifications, as we all do, although mine are maybe a bit more constrained than those of you without the present encumbrance of steady employment and young children. The trip needs to be something I can do in about 5 days, six in a pinch. I need it to be reasonably priced, which means there is almost certainly an element of DIY to it, although not necessarily. It needs to be on a week I don’t have custody of my daughter. It needs to not conflict with anything my wife has down on the calendar.

Easy, right?

I’m open to suggestions.

A few possibilities I’m currently eyeballing:

  • Grand Cayman to visit Davin’s island and have him show me where to find fish.
  • Punta Allen for a mostly DIY walk-around, maybe points further south, maybe a lodge if the price is right.
  • Back to Belize.
  • I’ve always wanted to go fish Puerto Rico.
  • Something like Acklins or Crooked.

Maybe July? August is probably out. September is a possibility, as could be early October.

Let the games begin. We’ll see where I end up.

Apr 17

Maybe my one moment of guiding awesomeness

A client on the Power House 2 Riffle

Many, many years ago I spend a season guiding. I only guided that one season as life kind of happened in the off-seasons and by the next Spring I had a steady job I was interested in and that was that. I enjoyed guiding, although I was still learning and I certainly took more away from the experience than others likely got from me. In any job you have a learning curve and I was still on that curve when my career took a different direction.

Still, there were a couple of really awesome moments in my short time guiding. I was reading The Alaska Chronicles (by Miles Nolte) last night (yeah, I’m late to this party, but I’m enjoying the book), and it got me thinking about the successes and failures in my own guiding. One story comes to mind and here it is.

A lot of people might have heard of Hat Creek. It is a Spring Creek in a land of Free Stones. It is located in the North East part of California, about an hour from Redding and about an hour from Lassen National Park. It meanders through a landscape that sees forest and something akin to plains, almost like the landscape around the Madison in Montana, just a bit smaller in scale.

Hat Creek, like a lot of the rivers in California, is interrupted by power houses. It has been significantly altered to suit human demands. The section of Hat Creek that most people think of is below Power House 2 where the river emerges from the power house, makes a 90 degree turn and goes over a riffle that might be 30 yards long before taking on the smooth, even, slick and difficult flat water section that looks like what you tend to think of as a spring creek.

The riffle is a really interesting place, or at least it was back then (about 1999 is when I was guiding there). The fish live in the flat water but cycle in and out of the riffle to feed. It is one of the very few places in California where success does not depend on covering water. You can find a place and stay put. The fish come to you. If you have your weight set right, you just cast out, 15 feet or so, again and again and again and eventually, you catch a trout.

It is also one of the few places in California where 15 people can fly fish on the same piece of water at the same time. You get two rows of people, one on the near side of the riffle, the other on the far side of the riffle. So long as no one goes and walks through the riffle and screws up the circulation of fish, everyone can catch fish.

This was a favorite spot for guides from the lodge I worked at. You could get someone dialed in with their indicator casting without worrying about anyone falling in. You could work a group of anglers and have everyone within 30 feet of one another. You could station someone who was maybe a bit older or unsteady and they could stay put and catch fish. You might spend the morning on the Hat and then head off to the Pit or a creek somewhere or maybe even the Lower McCloud. Mid-week, the riffle usually wouldn’t have too many folks on it and since it was about 10-15 minutes from the lodge, it was a frequent stop.

As summer wore on you’d start to see a trico hatch and spinner fall on the Hat and that could offer a couple hours of decent dry fly fishing, although with size 20 spinner, a bit hard for some folks to see. The spinner fall was hit or miss. Sometimes it just didn’t seem to happen, others it got going pretty strong (for a CA river, I’ve seen spinner falls other places and ours never seemed to rise to epic levels).

One the morning I’m thinking of I had three clients, one more than is generally a good idea, but it was a father, son and the son’s friend. The son and his friend were 13-14, well behaved, good sports. That morning the spinner fall was a bit light and the fish weren’t really grabby.

I noticed on the edge of the current there were little fish, I mean, really little fish, throwing themselves at the light spinners with reckless abandon. These three inch troutlets would fling themselves at the #20 spinners, cartwheeling out of the water.

While I had the father and son keeping after the sporadic rise, I decided to do something different with the son’s friend. I put him downstream a little bit and changed his #20 trico spinner for a sparse black leach in a #8 or so. I told him to cast out, quartering downstream and let the fly swing into the seam and then I wanted him to slowly twitch the streamer back up stream.

Now, I had never tried this myself. I had never seen another angler do this. None of the other guides at the lodge told me this is something they had tried. I had no reason to expect this to work, but I just thought “If I were a big brown trout and I were looking for a good meal, those little trout don’t seem to be very on-guard right now.”

It worked. Five minutes after I got the kid sorted out he had a strong pull and was fast to a good fish. I helped him land what turned out to be an 18″ brown trout, which for Hat Creek is both rare (It is about 95% rainbows) and a really good fish.

It would have maybe been better if I had the dad or his son land the biggest fish of their trip, but it was such a low percentage shot, I didn’t want to risk it with the guy who was actually paying for the trip.

I miss being that connected to a bit of water where I even have hunches about things that might work. You lose that when you become an infrequent visitor instead of a daily visitor.

It was a highlight from my year on the water. I had a couple other moments of guiding success, maybe more than a couple, but that life was short lived for me. I hang on to those moments.

Apr 17

Slam the Flats – El Pescador

Check out the video here. I can’t embed it, you have to go to the website to see the video, but it is well done and it features El Pescador in Belize, one of my favorite places.

Love this place.

Apr 17

Two weeks from today

In two weeks I’ll be in Belize with my 10 year old for a daddy-daughter Spring Break. There probably won’t be fishing this day, but there probably WILL be snorkeling and seeing sharks and jacks and all manner of cool fish. The fishing will be the last two days of the trip, although, knowing me, I might get a little bit of fishing in before that.

Belize… I’ve been twice before. Once in 2010 to El Pescador for a trip that produced my Grand Slam with my friend Shane. The last time was in 2012 for my honeymoon, again to El Pescador.

This time I’m headed to Caye Caulker, which is, admittedly, not that far from Ambergris Caye, so I’m not spreading my wings too far.

Two weeks out, I need to put my gear together and get all my daughter’s stuff packed (I wont’ have her again until the day before we leave). I need to sort out my fly situation and put the spinning gear together, make sure I have what we need. I need to find some travel-sized sun screen. I’m getting excited, but I also have a mountain of work to do between now and then.

It will be here before I know it and I am going to need to soak up the time there with my girl. If this goes well, maybe we go back next year. Hoping at 11 she’ll still want to go hang out with her dad. We’ll see.

Apr 17

Permit to be demoted from Grand Slam pedestal.

Well, the IGFA looks set to demote Permit from its Grand Slam place of preeminence. Impending rule changes would put permit along side any fish from the Jack family. Permit would still count, but so would a Horse Eyed Jack, Jack Crevalle, Bluefin Trevally or a Lookdown.

An unnamed IGFA source said “Look, permit are assholes. Why have we elevated this moody and uncooperative fish to a place of honor? They are like cats. They turn on and off their affection at will, totally ignoring the efforts of the angler. Is a cat even a real pet? We’ve had it with permit. We are going to include some fish that actually eat for a change. We think this rule will help preserve the sanity of many an angler and at the end of the day, let’s face it… permit are jerks.”

Total jerk of a fish

Total jerk of a fish

This certainly is going to change the record books.

The rule looks set to take effect on April 1st 2017.

Mar 17

It is always sunny in Florida

Just a reminder… the idea we hold in our head of a thing does mean that thing is actually going to be like that.

Here’s to low expectations.

This is June in Florida.




Mar 17

Six Years Ago – Andros

South Andros Bonefish. Photo by Andrew Bennett

Six years ago I got invited to Andros South for a week of fishing and blogging, something called FIB FEST 2011. This was back when maybe blogs were a bit more relevant and before the age of… well, whatever this is the age of.

The trip was great and the people I met were awesome and when I got back, after being in bonefish heaven for a week, I found out my marriage was pretty much over.

Photo by Cameron Miller down at Andros South.

So, Andros serves as a kind of line of demarcation between the life I had before Andros and the life I had post-Andros. I still feel profoundly grateful to have had such an amazing experience be the buffer between those two periods of my life.

Fishing trips are kind of like that. I think back to important times in my life and I tend to think “Now, that was just before Cuba” or “That was just after my 2010 Belize trip.” The trips serve as milestones in so many ways. They are a map to my past.

Andros South in the morning.

Thank You Andros (and Andrew).