22
Nov 17

Seven Years Ago – I got lucky

Oh thanks Facebook Memories. I saw a pic today from seven years ago of me holding a tarpon from Belize.

There it is. Amazing.

That fish capped of a really wild day of fishing out of El Pescador with my friend Shane from The Fly Shop in Redding.

That tarpon was the final piece of my grand slam, made even more special because it was with my first (and only) permit and my first tarpon.

What a wild day that was. I know, looking back, and I knew at the time, that the biggest factor in all of that coming together was my tremendous skill luck. Really, I had no business tying into a grand slam. My friend Shane certainly did have a claim to one as he’s one of the best anglers I know. He actually hooked both a permit and a tarpon that day (as well a mess of bonefish… it is Belize after all). He already had a grand slam to his name and he is good enough to catch a grand slam on skill.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

Me? I needed luck.

Now I’m a much better angler than I was back then. I’ve put the time in. My casting is better. My understanding is deeper. I’ve now been spurned by a few permit and understand on a better level than, basically, permit are jerks. I’d be more likely to catch a grand slam on skill now, but back then, it was luck.

I’m OK with that.

Bone


08
Aug 17

Franklin plows into Mexico & Belize

I JUST left there and Tropical Storm Franklin comes barging on through. By the time this gets posted we’ll know how things are looking, but a named storm is right on top of Mahahual and Punta Allen as I write this. It looks like the brunt of the storm is likely passing north of San Pedro, but the eye is going to go right over Espiritu Santo Bay.

The area has needed rain, so this storm might be a good thing for them, assuming it doesn’t do too much damage. It isn’t expected to be a full hurricane until it passes through Yucatan and emerges into the Gulf to strengthen.

Wishing everyone well down there.


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.

 


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.


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

 


22
Apr 17

Belize Spring Break 2017

 

The girl stuck this big jack on some live bait.

The sky looked threatening… really threatening. There was a dark wall coming in from the South, a direction no one likes. Nothing good, weather wise, comes from the South, said the guide.

We ran North. So did everyone else. Too many boats all looking in and around Crab Caye. We found some space and I stuck a snook, a nice one, and then we ran for a little one-room shelter built out over the water. There we waited out the rain. There was a lot of it… years worth for many parts or the world. When the first and second walls of water passed, we changed the game plan. There was not going to be much more fly fishing. Next was getting the girl up on the board… any way possible. That meant bait. I was down.

A few minutes after setting up in a spot that looked absolutely no different from any other part of the Caribbean within a mile of us the girl’s live sardine was crushed by a big jack crevalle. She fought the thing for 30 minutes. It was iffy at times if she’d pull it off, but she did.

Damn fine fish for a 10 year old. 15-16 pounds from the guide’s mouth, which seems about right to me. Thing pulled like a champ.

I know the feeling. This was my biggest jack to date from Belize in 2010. We have a shared experience here now.

A not-small Jack from Belize.


12
Apr 17

Belize getting really close

I get butterflies. Even just heading to one of my old rivers, I get excited the closer we get. I find myself clapping as if I were in the stands of a sporting event. I kind of get jazzed on this stuff. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing the blog for as many years as I have.

I’m assembling gear (two go pros, a waterproof point and shoot and another action cam, so, the trip will be well documented) and ordering too many last minute items off Amazon and also packing my daughter, who I won’t even see until Thursday.

The flight to Belize starts off at 6:00 AM. That means I’m going to have to get my daughter up at about 4:00 AM. I’ve been trying to prepare her for that for weeks… months even. We’ll see if it works.

I’m bringing two 8 weights, a 10 weight and 1-2 spinning rods and I’m trying to remember this isn’t a fishing trip, it is a daddy-daughter adventure. This fact may be either significantly helped or hindered by news that there are some dock bonefish that come by at night. I love dock bonefish having caught 2 at El Pescador and having hooked and busted off two at Abaco Lodge. Maybe I’ll sate some of my bonefishing desires by just trying to smack one of those guys.

It is going to be a great trip.

 


10
Apr 17

Culling

Oh man… so many of these things need to be retired. So many more need to be tied. Maybe I don’t need to tie anything for Belize (I don’t, I’m sorted there), but for the Yucatan I’m going to need some different flies (like, flies with lead eyes, which I have found zero use for when casting to bonefish in 12 inches of non-tidal-action water).

I dig my boxes. There’s some serious time invested in there.


10
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.