04
Dec 18

I’m a huge fly fisherman

It is something that creeps up on our sport… the “I’m better than you” kind of mentality. One thing I’ve seen evolving is the distaste for anyone who says they are into fly fishing by using the words “I’m a huge fly fisherman.”

I think it sucks to mock folks for expressing interest in the hobby we all care about. It smacks of that 21 year old fly shop employee who sneers at people who get out a few times a year, even though they themselves had never picked up a rod until two years before.

This guys is a huge fly fisherman.

So… next time someone says “I’m a huge flyfisherman” just say “Cool. I love fly fishing too.” Mkay?


17
Jul 18

That time Rob tried to kill me with rum

Back from a week of fishing at East End Lodge and my liver is thanking me for the respite.

The set-up at East End Lodge has a bar in the common room/dining room where you can normally find Rob, co-owner of East End Lodge, working away at his laptop in the morning as he pours over weather reports, or in the evening as he mans the bar pouring a cocktail or two.

Let me just say, I’m pretty sure Rob tried to kill me one night with rum. Every time I looked away (and even when I didn’t) my glass was magically re-filled, an impish grin on Rob’s face. Luckily, his plot failed and I survived, able to fish the next day with no ill effects.

OK, that may be a bit of an overstatement.

Truth is, the place had a great vibe, Rob and Cecil (business partners and friends) are great hosts. The whole staff was friendly and accommodating.

Missing these two right about now.

Rob and Cecil

 


15
Jul 18

The joys of July

I got back home just a few hours ago from East End Lodge. This is the second week of July and it closed out their season. After six days of fishing this last week, here’s what I can tell you about fishing the Bahamas in July (experiences may differ).

There are trade-offs in everything… opportunity costs. To get thing A you give up thing B.

What you get by fishing in July is silky smooth conditions, the only breeze being the boat ride from one spot to the next. Previously, I think I had seen one day of flat conditions and in the six days of fishing I had there was only a half-day of light wind.

Glass is forged in heat.

I didn’t know it could be like this.

The last morning

That’s what you get, but what do you give up?

The July sun without wind is a baking kind of heat. It is a “Your phone is too hot to properly function” kind of heat. If you can deal with the hydration-stealing, sweat-dripping heat, and there are those who simply can’t (I’m looking at you dad), it may be the most wonderful time to fish (I’ve heard conditions are similar in October, but I haven’t fished that month).

You also have storm cells which build in the heat of the day and can unleash torrents of rain and sheets of lightning. We were driven off the water a couple times, ending the day an hour or two early, but that seemed a small price to pay.

We did find some water which was simply too hot. When water temps get to 85 bonefish will find cooler, usually deeper, waters. There were plenty of places still getting a good flush of tidal water.

The geography of Grand Bahama and the alertness of our guide, Cecil, meant we simply dodged the storms. We could go North or South and weave our way around the dark clouds. We got rained on for a grand total of about 45 seconds, which is all credit to Cecile.

If the fishing is so good and the conditions so inviting, why do pretty much all the fishing lodges close down? Hurricane season? Maybe, but while we were there Rob, co-owner of East End Lodge, turned down several trips for August. People are still willing to come. So, what is it?

One word… lobster.

It’s pretty much about the lobster. All the guides will be out checking their lobster condos come August 1. I’d be surprised if there was a guide in all of the Bahamas who won’t be out collecting lobster once the season opens. It is a critical component to a Bahamian’s income and even more so a part of Bahamian culture.

If you are a wind hater and enjoy hobbies like smelting or glass blowing, July just might be for you.


25
Jun 18

Simon’s Revenge – A post by Nick Denbow

(This post is written by guide Nick Denbow, who I had the pleasure of fishing with in 2017 down in his home-waters of Mahahual, Mexico)

I first met Simon Chapman over 25 years ago Carp fishing in the south coast of England. Even in my youth, it was obvious to me he was a thinking, methodical and patient angler respected by all of the local angling community for his fishing accolades. I was thrilled, after our lives had taken us so far apart, when he got back in touch. Simon, now living in Canada, had a gap in his work schedule and had picked up a copy of my cowritten book as he was planning a trip to the Yucatan. He recognized my name, picked up the phone and we were planning his trip immediately.

Simon’s trip coincided with one time client now friend for life Ryan from Colorado. We met the evening of Simons arrival which coincided with me buying a large Cobia from a local spear fisherman. Over the ensuing banquet we hatched a plan to fish that next morning on a lake I hadn’t launched in for 15 years. I knew the put in would be bad, far worse than I could take most clients, but I also knew these guys were the ones to do it with me.

How Nick gets it done.

It was far worse than I feared. It took 3 trips each. Mud to the knees, a Mangrove tunnel the prefect height to hurt anyones back and hungry Mosquitos intent on getting inside your ears. Finally we launched just after dawn. We all drank a beer. I motored until i saw a shoreline that was more pole worthy. Only one cruising fish in 200 yards and I wanted more. We were in the wrong place. I knew they would be there in numbers and didn’t want to waste the early morning advantage. We motored to the southern end of the lagoon. We quickly spotted fish rolling off the shorelines in open water and poled out to investigate. The light was still too flat to spot beyond 20 feet from the Jon boat. We poled passed them and turned our back on the rising sun and were quickly rewarded by a rolling fish coming at us at forty feet. He was visible. Simon led the fish, an immediate and aggressive response, a visual grab and after an explosive fight the first fish came to the boat.

Nice lagoon tarpon.

Ryan took over and raised many small fish to a gurgler until it was flushed into a bigger mouth and Ryan brought a cookie cutter 20lb fish to the boat.

Ryan’s poon.

Having located the cenote (cave entrance) we found it to be alive with fish. The guys went on to land two more nice fish each though the real story was when a huge push of water came up behind Simons fly, was engulfed by a fish in the 60 to 70lb range that jumped, blitzed twenty yards, jumped again and spat our Clouser Minnow high in the air. This was the key moment. That fish threw down a gauntlet Simon’s way and he was going to pick it up. He said nothing at the time apart from sharing the obvious jubilation of having such a close up, visual fishing encounter with a fly rod, but it turns out he was already planning a return.

Both Simon and Ryan went on to land more fish that day amongst the birds and Crocodiles who were as surprised to see us as we were delighted to see them after a 15 year rest.

Simon fished Chetumal Bay and the Mahahual coast catching Jacks, Snappers and many, many Bonefish for the next few days. He had time to plan and the lake had time to rest, it worked both ways.

Simon was staying in my guest house next door and, as he often does, after fishing he came round for a chat. He told me what was on his brain. He had unfinished business in that lake. I should have seen it coming. He had a score to settle and knowing that I was working (and unwilling to go through that launch again) he asked to rent a paddle board and go back solo. With two other boards out, I set him up with everything except an anchor. I said “it doesn’t take much to stop a paddle board so take this spool of 50lb line and find yourself a rock”. He was happy with that. We both thought it would work.

I heard Simon leave at around 4.30 in the morning. I didnt see Simon until 6pm. He had a smile on his face and beer in his hand. The story began well. He carried all the gear on his own in just one trip down the muddy Mangrove tunnel. He fished around, caught a couple of fish and ended up back at the cenote where the one that got away was last seen. He hooks a fish of similar size and as he clamps down to set and begin the battle the 50lb anchor line gives. He’s not free floating though, he’s being dragged. Ive been there to help many people in my boat with fish that size but really don’t know how it must be on a personal watercraft with nobody to help to stop or position the boat and above all without an anchor. After a great fight recorded on Simons GoPro video he gets it board side and they part company on good terms. He had done it. The battle won, the score settled he is now free to move on feeling triumphant. A really big fish to catch from an SUP, another memorable accolade well deserved. Simon is now at the down wind end of the lake time 11.30.

After a long upwind paddle it was 1.30pm when Simon approached the take out. Happy with his achievements but exhausted nevertheless after the paddle. Feet from the gap in the trees he needs to go through, a Tarpon comes cruising casually yet purposefully through the gin clear, 2 feet deep water along the tree line. Whats an angler supposed to do? He swaps the paddle for his rod. Casts, feeds the fish at close range and is attached once more to another good sized fish. Once more he is at the mercy of the fish on his personal lightweight and anchor-less watercraft. In moments the fish runs into open water and Simon and his SUP are back in the wind in water too deep to wade to try to put any sort of meaningful brake on the fishes numerous charges and runs. He’s back to the wind, sailing and being dragged so its not too long until he finds himself all the way back to the bottom end of the lake again. Every yard he paddled hard for on the way back up was stripped from him in seconds on the return. It wasn’t until the water shallowed again at the down wind end of the lake until he was able to take more control. The fish came onboard for a couple of quick selfies and was measured at 44” to the fork before it kicked back off into its domain.

The tarpon that pulled Simon allllll the way back down the lagoon.

Simon, almost out of water in the cooler, now had to make the paddle back up wind to the take out. I am sure the adrenaline from the fishing had worn off before he was even half way back. He arrived to the exit exhausted at 3.30pm. This time it was not guarded by a Tarpon but a Crocodile which he needed to persuade to leave before he could drag himself and the kit back out. Question is… if he had seen a Tarpon instead of a Crocodile, would he have cast?

 

__

Thanks for the story Nick. Going to have to get back down there!


07
Jun 18

Next up… Grand Bahama and East End Lodge

My next trip is NOT going to sneak up on me. I started tying for it last night for East End Lodge in Grand Bahama.

I’m tying some meat flies. #2’s. Some with lead eyes, some with bead chain, all with more material that two #6’s use.

The fish of Grand Bahama, to my memory and from my limited experience, are just bigger than most places. The may average around 4 pounds and I’ve seen the photographic evidence of fish will into the 10+ pound range. Hawaii, the West Side of Andros and Grand Bahama seem, to me, to be the best places to look for your 10 pounder.

This trip is going to be an interesting one. I may finally get to meet BTT’s Justin Lewis and I’ll be accompanied on this trip by Elliott Adler, who produces The Drake Cast (the Drake’s podcast, which I highly recommend). Elliott has never caught a bonefish before and he’s going to be in the waters of my first bonefish.

Should be interesting.

A Grand Bahama Bone


24
May 18

This is what the voice of reason sounds like

Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Abaco and the Bahamas Fly Fishing Lodge Association spoke about the regulations battle today. He didn’t have any updates or news to share, but he did have some perspective to share and I think it is worth listening to. So… here’s Clint.


02
May 18

“reliably informed” on the Bahamas situation

And so it continues. The PM on one side, the Minister for Fisheries on the other.

Here’s the latest article from the Tribune.

Some thoughts.

These folks claiming the sky would fall if the regulations are revoked… I mean… that would just revert to the situation the flats have been in since, I don’t know, Bahamian Independence.
The threats to fisheries of the Bahamas go something like this…

  1. Over-harvest of conch and lobster.
  2. Poaching from foreign vessels (like from the DR).
  3. Increased demand for unsustainable catches by countries who are buying into the Bahamas in a big way, like, oh, let’s say China.
  4. Development that destroys nursery habitat or impacts spawning aggregation sites.
  5. Netting.
  6. Global Warming.
  7. Lionfish.

 

 

 

754. Impact of catch and release bonefishing.

 

But, yeah, by all means, let’s put in place some ill-thought-out regulations to regulate issues that don’t exist and let’s throw in some xenophobia, some protectionist propaganda, some fear mongering and let’s also ignore all those concerns voiced by the people who actually contribute financially to the industry.

Also… let’s make it hard to get a license (like not making it possible to get one on a weekend or holiday).

Way to go guys. Bang up job.

Cindy and the Abaco guide’s association must be tired of constantly having to issue rebuttals to this sort of idiocy. I don’t envy them.

Here is to hoping the PM wins on this one. Also, let’s hope Fisheries loses this bit from their portfolio and it heads over to the cooler heads at Tourism.


05
Apr 18

Bahamas vs. Belize

Watching Buccaneers and Bones just now and they are having a Bahamas vs. Belize comparison.

I’ll be heading to Belize for the 4th time on Sunday. That’s going to be great.

Later this summer I’ll be heading to the Bahamas for trip #8.

They are just different places. It isn’t really fair to compare the two, but, let’s do that anyway.

Bonefish – The Bahamas wins this one. There may very well be 5 pound bones in Belize, but there are many, many more 1 pound bones. There are Bahamian islands with small average sized bones, but the Bahamas also features monsters, ten-plusers. The Bahamas is just such a pure bonefish fishery, it isn’t really a comparison. So many flats, so many islands and the bones are just THE species to chase.

fat backed bonefish

Tarpon – There ARE tarpon in the Bahamas, but you don’t head to the Bahamas to go tarpon fishing. Belize is going to win on that front. That’s where I caught my first tarpon and where I lost my first larger tarpon. Tarpon are what make Savannah Caye a well known spot and there are other known tarpon spots in Belize as well.

The final piece, the tarpon.

Permit – Ya know… I don’t know. I’ve heard some great stories of permit fishing in the Bahamas, but if you want to catch your first permit, you are more likely to go and have success in Belize, so, I’m going to say Belize. Belize is where I caught my first (only) permit, although I certainly have seen some in the Bahamas as well (big ones too).

Grand Slam – If you are looking for all three, you are going to head to Belize. I’m proof you can make that shite happen.

Beer – The beer of Belize, Belikin, isn’t even 12 ounces. Kalik and Sands take this one.

mmmmm

Guides – Toss up. I’ve had some amazing guides in Belize. I’ve had some amazing guides in the Bahamas. Generally, the Bahamas is known for bonefishing guides and Belize is known for permit guides.

Freddy, doing his thing at Abaco Lodge

DIY – There is just more area in the Bahamas. You can DIY in Belize, sure, but you just can’t beat the square miles in the Bahamas.

Snook – Belize… not many snook in the Bahamas. Sure, there are some, like this one from East End Lodge, but you are much, much more likely to get into a nice snook in Belize.

My Belize Snook

I love Belize. I love the Bahamas. This year is a very, very good year, as I’m going to visit both. The very best situation is when it isn’t either/or, but both.


28
Feb 18

Fishing Rules

I was told you fish for these fish at high tide. No point in heading out at low tide and low tide here can be very, very low. The channel, at low tide, is constricted down to something you could skip a rock across. Hard to know just how deep the channel is when it is low like this. I’ve never seen a boat use the channel at this tide, but I suppose that is its purpose.

I wanted to fish at least once a month and this was, by all accounting, the last day of the month. I ducked out of work just a little bit early and raced home. There, I got some meat out to thaw and grabbed by gear and then off to the water.

The tide was as far out as it gets. The water was a long way down. But… the 28th… last chance.

I figured I’d fast about for 30 minutes or so and then I’d head back in time to make dinner.

Funny what you see out there at such low tide. In the water were sponge like plants, bright red. I’ve never seen those before.

low low low tide

I set about the job of blind casting for California stripers. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve.

Then, a most unexpected thing happened. There was a grab. I missed it. I cast again and there was another grab and I was tight to a fish. Was it a halibut waiting for more water to get back up on the mud flat? Was it one of the jack smelt I sometimes catch?

No.

It was a striper.

low tide striper

I wasn’t supposed to be able to catch stripers at low tide. I probably wasn’t supposed to catch stripers in February, or on the cusp of a cold front. But… I did.

The thing I knew just before that fish was that low tide was not the right tide (and that February was not the right month). Funny… now I know something else, which is probably also wrong in one or more of a hundred ways.

That’s what I love about fishing. Being wrong and finding out that I was wrong by catching a fish.

Trial and error.

Error and fish.

 


04
Dec 17

A post for SOs and spouses… this is what your flats fisherman wants for Christmas (2017).

Folks… forward this on to your loved ones if you’d like to drop hints, but don’t want to just fill out an Amazon Wish List.

Flats Anglers have needs… special needs… needs that are different from Rocky Mountain trout anglers or a bass fisherman. We are special.

First… there is the sun. The sun is kind of brutal out there on the flats. There’s no shade wading a flat or standing on a flats skiff. So… here are a few thing we might need to stay un-crisp.

The Patagonia Men’s Tropic Comfort Hoody II.
Long name, but a pretty awesome shirt for the sun. The hood, the high collar, the thumb holes… I like it all. I have one in blue and I want more.

M'S TROPIC COMFORT HOODY II, Tailored Grey (TGY)

And since we’re on Patagonia… let’s talk about the Guidewater II Pants.
I have several pairs of these. I love them. After a day in the salt they sort of harden to be similar to armor. I love that feeling. I’ve torn a couple pairs at this point, but those were 100% my fault.

M'S GUIDEWATER II PANTS, El Cap Khaki (ELKH)

I also have this hat
Trucker caps are cool… but if you are like me (a bit bald) the mesh doesn’t do what I need it to in terms of keeping me from burning.

Fitz Roy Tarpon Stretch Fit Hat, Navy Blue (NVYB)

And because it is part of the uniform and part of not burning… how about a Stalker Mask from Skinny Water Culture.

SWC Tail Pima Cotton Stalker Mask

Everyone NEEDS good sunglasses out on the flats. I prefer Costas, which is pretty much what 95% of the fly anglers I know fish with.

A trigger, and Costas

In terms of our feet… well… that is less about sun and more about coral/shells/urchins. There are two boots I’ve used lately. My heavy boots were from Patagonia, but a look on their website and they DON’T MAKE THEM ANYMORE! Crap!

Luckily, others do. Here’s the other pair of flats boots I have. The Simms Zipit Bootie II.
These pack down nicely to save room. I have these a size too small, sadly, which can make a day on the water a bit uncomfortable (I wear a 14 and it can be hard to get what I need in this department). It looks very much like Simms has you covered in their other designs as well. I mean… Simms… pretty solid.

You need a pack while you are out there, and I recently converted over to the Thunderhead sling pack by Fishpond. In addition to being just an awesome company (love their conservation ethic), the sling does a couple of things really well. It is waterproof. I can leave my phone in that thing without worrying. Second, it is big enough for me to carry everything I need without sacrificing. Third, with it sitting higher than a hip pack if I leave a zipper open in haste, it isn’t going to fill up with water with one deep step. I’m a fan.

Now… on to the rod and reel end of things.

Let’s start with the most important element piece of hard gear for the salt… the reel.

The best budget option out there right now, by far, is the Behemoth from Redington. I mean… at $129 you can pick up three of these for the price of one of the bigger named reels. They are not likely to fish for 20 years, but if you need a back-up or want to pick up a rig for your first trip without fully investing… this is a great option.

Other reels I think highly of..

I’ve always wanted a Galvan T8. At $430, this is what passes for a mid-range reel for saltwater. They are also a California company, which is cool.

Image result for galvan t8

It seems these days a lot of the top anglers I see are sporting the Hatch 7+. At $650, this is a solid high-end reel.

FinaticGen2_7Plus_SpoolSide_GrayBlack_LA_web

Now… on to the rods, which some would argue is just as important as the reel… maybe even more important.

On the budget side of things, the revamped Redington Predator is a good, solid option. Budget, for a saltwater rod, is about $300. I’ve got three Predators, an 8, 10 and 12. When you are going multi-species and are looking at three rods, it gets hard to fathom getting three $800 rods. The Predator helps get you around that.

For the top end of the market… I love, love, love my Orvis Helios 2. Now, they have a third version of this rod out now, so, you’d have to settle for an H3 (which is supposed to be even better).

Helios 3D 8-Weight 9' Fly Rod

Other rods that are beloved by anglers I deeply respect include…
The Meridian from Scott.
The Sage Salt HD.

In terms of fly lines, I’ve pretty much been a RIO guy for a while.
I like their standard bonefish line. They have a Quickshooter line as well, and I’d recommend that if you are going to primarily wading for your bones, or if you might need a little bit more loading on your rod. They also have a directcore line, which I haven’t fished, but seems really promising.

Bonefish

That’s it.

OK. That’s not IT. There is a ton more. There is tippet and leaders and flies and fly tying material and boat bags and then the actual boats… kayaks, SUPs, skiffs. Nippers, pliers, tippet holders, coolers… so much gear to have so much fun. The gear is half the fun (OK, maybe 10%, but still, you need this stuff to get out there and get after it.)

OTHER Stuff:

Flyfishing for Bonefish by Dick Brown
Fly Fishing Belize by Jim Klug
Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Elusive Fish by Chip Dombrowski
GT: A Flyfisher’s Guide by Peter McLeod
Fly-Fishing the Yucatan by Rod Hamilton (and others)
Yeti Tundra cooler
Fishpond Thunderhead Duffle
Skinny Water Culture Tarponist t-shirt
Estrada Art Tarpon Slime t-shirt
Body Glide (seriously)