07
May 17

Southern Florida… pretty darn fun

I had a conference to work in Ft. Lauderdale this last week and I packed just about as much fishing in as possible.

I got in late on Tuesday, set up my booth on Wednesday morning and then went fishing. I fished with Dr. John, a doc I have known for a couple years now who was also at the conference. We went out that Wed., looking for water, finding some, but more “No Fishing” signs than we really cared for.

I worked Wed. evening, manning the booth for a couple hours, talking specialized genetic testing for aHUS and ADAMTS-13 activity testing because that’s what I do in my job for the most part.

Thursday morning I fished with Dr. John again. That produced my first peacock bass. I went 1/2 and felt like I was starting to figure out where the fish were and how to present the fly (because the first few attempts were, basically, totally wrong).

On the board

After a couple hours of fishing I manned my booth from 10 AM to 8 PM and then, I went fishing. That was unproductive.

Friday morning I went out solo and managed two peacocks and one Mayan Chiclid (my first of that species), which was pretty. I worked from 10 to 4:30 in the booth and then took it down and got it sent back home.

My third Peacock of the trip.

Friday night Dr. John and I headed down to Biscayne Bay to fish with Capt. Patrick, trying to find some tarpon at night. We did see tarpon, we just didn’t catch any. I picked up one small jack, one of the many busting bait all around us when we pulled up. We had one good tarpon rolling just down current of the skiff which kept us on the water, throwing casts in vain until about 1:00 AM.

The weather had been rough that day and Patrick even suggested maybe we skip the trip, but Dr. John and I didn’t have anything better to do, so we went out anyway. We managed to hide a bit from the wind and it eventually calmed down to reasonable levels. We had fish to throw at and we were very well positioned. As I know all too well, Tarpon fishing in Florida is never a certainty. We were both very happy to be out on the water and glad we connected with Capt. Patrick. It was a good way to spend the evening. If I’m out there again, I’ll try to connect with him again.

Back up to Ft. Lauderdale. Got into bed about 2 with a 5:30 AM alarm set. Made the drive back down to Miami to fish with David, a fairly recent transplant, who showed me some of his water. That water produced a peacock and a chiclid and then I was off to the airport, on my way back West.

A Mayan on David’s water

Last fish of the trip.

What a trip.

This WASN’T a fishing trip. This was a work trip. I have been traveling more, but not fishing on almost any of those trips. This one provided some opportunities and I took full advantage. Just hoping to see more conferences in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale!

Thanks to Thomas Albury for some tips, and David for showing me some water and to Capt. Patrick for putting us in fish catching position.

Southern Florida, you get my blood pumping a little faster with your fishing. Thanks for being you.


05
May 17

Thanks Southern Florida

Oh, I think I like you Southern Florida. I think I like you a lot.

Two new species in the books.

My third Peacock of the trip.

My first chiclid. Pulled hard.

So much water down here… so many places to check out. I wonder how many years it would take to fish it all.

I’m working on very little sleep, but I’m enjoying the fishing.


02
May 17

FLL Bound

Ft. Lauderdale. Going to be there in a few hours. Amazing to be able to write this from an airplane.

A Google-Maps view of Ft. Lauderdale shows a really fantastic amount of water. In that water are all sorts of things I’d like to catch, including Peacock Bass, snook and baby tarpon. I don’t know if I’ll catch any of those things, but I can tell you on the margins of the three days of work I have coming up, I’m going to be fishing.

Looking forward to it.

May even get some night fishing action in on Friday for tarpon. That wouldn’t suck.


30
Apr 17

At 75

My dad turns 75 today. He’s my longest-time fishing companion.

As a very small boy we’d fish Hall Creek near his childhood home in Corning. Later we’d fish the Klamath River together for steelhead. We plugged away at our local Upper Sacramento River a bit, but didn’t really fish it until I hit about 21.

We fished the Lower Sacramento for shad on Memorial Day weekend every year of my childhood (minus flood years) and the Klamath for half-pounders every Labor Day weekend (minus one year due to fires).

We fished the coastal rivers of Southern Oregon for steelhead with me freezing my feet to blocks of ice in my plastic waders.

All of that was without a fly, mostly worms and eggs and gear. I started fly fishing when I was 21 and my dad started the year after. Since that time we’ve fly fished 10x more than before.

We’ve fished the Umpqua and the Babine together. We’ve fished our home trout waters like the Upper Sacramento, McCloud, Fall River, Hat Creek and more. We’ve fished the Lower Sacramento and the Trinity. We’ve fished ponds and lakes. We’ve fished Montana and Yellowstone.

The Babine

Dad lands a Madison Brown

A Lower Sac Rainbow

We started saltwater fly fishing together in Hawaii and then caught our first bonefish in Grand Bahama. We’ve fished Abaco together and the Everglades.

 

Our first flat in Kauai

My dad’s best Bahamas fish

Heading out in Abaco

We’ll fish Mexico together in July. One more memory to make and I hope many more to come.

Thanks for providing the spark dad.


29
Apr 17

My Spring Break Snook – Belize – 2017

I open the door and look up and my heart sinks, just a bit. There are clouds… thick clouds, and a bit of wind and it is only 6:30 in the morning. I’m heading out to the dock to look for bonefish on this day, when we’ll be going out with a guide to fish the waters near Caye Caulker.

As I get out to the street and look in the direction of the reef I see a dark wall of weather coming this way.

Not great weather

Damn.

The dock is in the lee and the bonefish are there, because they seem to always be there when people or boats don’t drive them off… and even sometimes when it seems like they really should be scarce.

One comes to hand. Not a big one, but a bonefish. I’m on the board so the rest of the day is gravy.

Anna wakes up, or I wake her up, and we get breakfast up on the rooftop bar and she gets all kitted out in flats fishing gear. She’s wearing the uniform.

The guide pulls up at the hotel’s dock, a panga, no poling platform, but the pole is there, so I’m pretty sure we are in good hands. Purnell, I think he says his name is, isn’t optimistic about the weather but he tells me we’ll do what we can do and I tell him I understand he doesn’t control the weather.

The game plan, in my head, my aspirational game plan before we got here was tarpon. That plan is out the window with the weather. Instead, we run North. Crab Caye. This is a series of mangrove islands and lagoons somewhere in-between San Pedro and Caye Caulker. This seems to be the place the guides run to when something wicked is coming up from the South, and something wicked is certainly on the way. As we run north the storm is moving faster than we are. The panga’s twin 40’s are having a hard time with the sargassum, which was everywhere and in great amounts. Every 100 or 200 yards we have to stop, reverse and commence our forward progress again. It makes for slow going, but we wouldn’t beat this storm no matter what we had on the back of the panga. It is a fast mover.

As we get to the spot the guide wants us I get up on deck. While I want my girl to get into some fish, this isn’t really a spot that will work for her. She needs a mud to get a bone and I don’t think that is in the cards today. So, I am up on deck and as we turn the corner we see another boat with another guide who is trying just like we are to find a little bit of fishable water before the storm steals the day.

Another corner turned and another boat… two actually.

The guide has one more spot to check. We head into a mangrove lined channel. I love places like this.

As we emerge from the mangrove channel I see before us a picture perfect lagoon and, just as we cut the engines on the other side of the lagoon we see… another boat. They aren’t going to leave us to it. They are going to fish the lagoon as well. We go one way, they go the other. We’ll share.

We tuck over to the left where there is a little corner to the lagoon, a little tongue heading back in and on the fringes of that opening we see something move. First thought from me is bonefish, because that’s what I have seen in places like this before, but the guide tells me it is a snook.

A snook, eh? I’ve caught few of them. I’ve fished for few of them. They aren’t a game fish I know well, but, hell, I’m game.

We set up, waiting to see if the fish comes back and… it does.

Along the inside of the corner I see a fish moving towards us.

“Put it right in front of the fish. Close.” says Purnell.

I make the cast and the gurgler lands somewhere around a foot from the snout of the snook. One pop and the snook has keyed on it.

“Slow strips, not to fast” says the guide.

This is advice I need because I don’t magically know how to present a gurgler to a snook. I haven’t done it before.

I strip slowly and the snook comes casually up to the fly and then eats it like a trout taking a dry fly. It is an awesome take. Is this how snook eat? I have no idea but I do know I can’t let this fish have any line or I’ll lose him in the mangroves. Luckily, this in my tarpon rod, a 10 weight with 40# fluorocarbon and I hold the fish out of the mangroves, manhandling it to the boat in short order.

My Belize Snook

It is a nice snook. I’m sure there are nicer snook out there, but this is probably my nicest snook to date. A fine fish. The leader is worn, substantially, from the rough mouth of the snook. It looks and feels like a tarpon was caught on this fly. I don’t remember that from the few snook I’ve caught before, but maybe the smaller ones don’t wear so much on the leader? What I do know is that this was a great moment.

My daughter gets to touch the fish, gets to look at it.

“Cool” she says.

“Thank you,” I tell the guide. I always thank the guide, for every fish.

And that is pretty much it. I get one cast in at a pair of snook just a couple of minutes later and it is a good cast/presentation, but the fish don’t show any interest. I spot three bonefish nearby, but they are turning away, presenting their tails as targets, never promising.

The weather is coming on fast now. We’ll be in a deluge if we don’t make a move quickly. The fly rod gets put away. I tell the guide that the next fish we get should be my daughters, no matter how we have to do it.

With that, my fly fishing is pretty much done for the day. The weather comes. It rains hard, but we find shelter in a one-room shack built out over the water, probably for this very purpose.

Just the one snook, but it was a good fish. It was a good take. Memorable. I’ll savor that experience.


27
Apr 17

The trip to Belize

I had been preparing my daughter for a couple months for the trip to Caye Caulker. We’d have to get up early… like, 4.30 AM early, to start the journey. I knew it was going to be trying, on everyone. This isn’t a girl who deals well with a lack of sleep, or mornings.

We start off just fine. We getup. I get coffee, even, and we make our flight, no complications. Oakland to Denver to Belize City.

A couple hours into the second flight the questions start…

“When are we going to get there?”

“How much longer until we land?”

“How many more hours are we going to be in the air?”

Despite the questions, we land, eventually. She only goes to the bathroom 3 times during the 4.5 hour flight. Landing, we emerged into a heat and humidity very foreign to those of us from California. I dig it though, because it means I’m somewhere awesome. I know there are plenty of hot and humid places that aren’t awesome, but I don’t go to those places, so I associate heat and humidity with awesomeness.

This is the first time I’ve left the airport. Previously I’ve taken the puddle jumper, but not this time. This time we are going to take the Water Taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker. It will be a new experience. I’ll see a little more of Belize and, let’s be honest, it is way cheaper.

The taxi is clean and has AC and is relatively fast. Waiting for the boat it is hot and there is no AC and it seems to take forever. People keep trying to sell me beer. I think getting tanked before we even get to the island and in front of my 10 year old isn’t a good idea. I decline.

At the entrance to the terminal area they take our bags and I am not totally sure I’ll see them again. It is all rather abrupt. They tell us they are with the company and they take our bags and give us claim tickets and away our bags go. I need those bags to show up on the other end of this little boat ride.

There is a long line to get on the boat, but there is room for everyone and the crossing is fairly peaceful. We sit at the back of the boat. It is easier to ride in the back… easier on the stomach and the back. I read that before we left and it seems to be paying dividends. Maybe I should have put on sun screen before we left though?

We pull up to the dock in Caye Caulker and it is pretty much paradise. Palm trees and beaches and golf carts, no cars. The streets are all sand. This is how I want to roll. Aspirational.

We go to pick up our bags and there is my daughter’s, but… where is mine? It isn’t there and now all my worst suspicious seem validated. Someone has walked off with my bag! They tell me that doesn’t happen and I should just relax, which is weird, because I’m rather relaxed, generally, but I’m maybe not so relaxed cataloging all the really important stuff in that bag. Medicine. Underwear. Sun Screen. Wading boots. Ugh.

There is a bar nearby, because, of course there is. I have a Belekin, because, of course I do. The girl has a Sprite, which she doesn’t finish, because ordering drinks she isn’t going to drink is one of her hobbies.

I go back to check on the bag. It isn’t there. Maybe they found it. Maybe. It will be here, they say. And I wait.

It isn’t on the next boat. Or the one after that. But they tell me it is on the next one… the last one of the day.

A taxi driver has been waiting for two hours for our bag. I try to give him some money for his time. He doesn’t take it. I’ll tip him well.

I’m stewing. I’m worried, but my girl… my girl doesn’t care. She’s in Belize with her dad. She’s playing in the water. She’s finding fish and chasing them. She’s calf deep in the Caribbean and loving it and even if this goes badly with the bag I have to think this is the right trip, the right place to be with her, this victim of divorce who doesn’t get to see her dad as much as she’d like.

The last boat pulls in. It is getting dark and this one came all the way from Chetumal, but it gets in before all sunlight has drained from the sky and and on that boat is my bag. Relax, man… it will show up. And it does and everything is perfect.

 


25
Apr 17

120 Days – Beautiful Short Film about Florida Tarpon

Man… this hurts a little bit, but in a good way. My Florida trip would be starting soon, but my Florida trip isn’t happening now. The fish are going to be showing up… the big migratory fish, the 100+ pound fish. They’ll be taking the same routes they’ve been taking for thousands of years. This is what a lot of guys live for. I wish I was going to be there, but I’m not.

This little short film by YETI and Felt Soul is simply wonderful. You need to see this. If it doesn’t make you ache a little bit for Florida, I’d check your pulse.

 


24
Apr 17

Dock fish

Oh dock fish… I could never be mad at you.

The Sea Dreams dock was kind of money for me. Every evening and every morning there were bonefish there. Not only that, but they were, well, cooperative. They went out and came back and went out and came back and just kept on giving me shots.

Maybe they would have been there later in the day, but the boat traffic and people traffic likely would be enough to even discourage these compliant fish.

These were the only bonefish I caught in Belize. I did get one shot when on the guided day, but that was at fish going away, and you know how bonefish love the going away shot. No, the dock fish were the fish that really made it happen for me.

One of those fish was maybe the second smallest bonefish I’ve ever caught. One of those bonefish was 3-4 pounds (a pretty good Belize bonefish). Pretty darn cool.

My daughter would be pursuing puffer fish in the shallows as I cast to the bones. I did give her the rod once with a good bonefish on, but I neglected to warn her about the knuckle smashing speed at which the reel handle can spin around. What followed was a pretty good whack and three solid swear words I let her get away with. She was done with the bonefish from there, but the puffer fish were never safe. She also found one of the biggest hermit crabs I’ve ever seen.

Thank you dock. I miss you.


24
Apr 17

Sage Salt Season

Check out this nugget from the good folks at Sage.

 

 


23
Apr 17

The plus and minus from Spring Break 2017 – Caye Caulker, Belize

Here’s the score card from Spring Break, Caye Caulker, Belize

We’ll start with the Negatives:

  1. The one guided day coincided with the worst weather of the stay. Big rains and winds made the day a pretty short one for fly fishing and really tough looking for tarpon.
  2. The first night we were there happened to overlap with Easter celebrations at The Split. That meant loud music thumping until a little past 2:00 AM.
  3. I did not manage to knowingly cast at a tarpon.
  4. My daughter did not manage to catch anything on a fly rod.
  5. My daughter managed to lose her flip flops on the second day of the trip.

The Positives:

  1. We didn’t notice my daughter lost her flip flops because there was no reason to wear shoes of any kind until we were leaving.
  2. I had a perfect moment on the guided fly fishing day for a nice snook before the rains took over.
  3. My daughter smacked a really nice Jack for biggest fish of the trip.
  4. My daughter got to reel in a nice cuda, caught on bait, for the second biggest fish of the trip.
  5. My daughter was the Puffer Fish Queen, catching dozens off the beach at night just using a cup.
  6. The dock provided… I managed several bonefish off the Sea Dreams dock in the morning and evening, including one that was a legit 3-4 pounds.
  7. Sea Dreams staff were really, really nice.
  8. Met some really nice people who were staying there.
  9. The day AFTER the rain, we had absolutely perfect weather for a half-day of bait fishing and caught fish after fish after fish.
  10. The food was good and cheap on Caye Caulker.
  11. So was the beer.
  12. We did manage to SEE tarpon, in a canoe, at the spot where you can feed them.
  13. I managed a few jacks from the dock as well in the evening.
  14. The snorkeling was really, really great.
  15. When my bag got misplaced on the water taxi the assured me it would be found and returned and it was.
  16. They let my daughter sail the boat for a bit on the way back after snorkeling.

My Belize Snook

What a good day for fishing looks like.

Nice cuda.

Awesome

Nice Belize Dock Bonefish

Bonus – A crab, we named Mr. Brown, came to visit from the septic system, which was a pretty good hoot (this was not normal and you should not expect this on your trip).

We named him Mr. Brown