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)


01
Nov 17

Bahamas Regs – FFS Edition

And it just never stops.

So… Fly Fishing Chief says the sky is falling and those “special interests” are behind it. Something like that comes from this story about the possibility that the fly fishing regs put in place earlier this year could be tanked.

I mean… am I the only one who thinks the guy has something in common with Trump? He says “Watch out for special interests!” only because, ya know, he’s got his own special interests he’s interested in peddling?

He proclaims the ecology of the flats as under-threat and a sacred thing and then he bulldozes a bunch of mangroves to put in a fuel station.

He decries the poor handling of bonefish by the unwashed DIY anglers, literally saying poor handling was decimating bonefish stocks, and then does crap like this?

Mr Conservation, demonstrating proper handling of a bonefish.

The fly fishing regs were brought about purely through PLP channels, excluding and ridiculing all other voices. The legislation was brought in through back channels, not through a vote in the Parliament, where it never would have succeeded.

Then, this weird thing happened. The PLP got their asses handed to them in the recent elections. The FNM won. With such changes there were bound to be changes in the fishing regs, maybe keeping the one or two good ideas in the regs and getting rid of the protectionist tripe that comprised the rest of it. I mean… did anyone think anything else was going to happen? I’m just wondering what took so long.

Let the Emperor of Bad Ideas complain. He’s like a walking sermon of contradictions and hypocrisy. How anyone is still listening to that guy is beyond me. He can’t be the guy to carry the flag for the Bahamian fly fishing industry and I can’t wait until more Bahamians actually catch on to that.


19
Oct 17

BotB – Redfish Expert

I’m going back to NOLA, because, of course I am. This time it is a conference (anyone else going to Kidney Week???) and I have a day at the end of things to get on the water. Last year I got out there in December and managed a half day with guide Ron Ratliff, who was booked when I asked, about fishing this time around.

My first redfish, photo from Derek Rust, in the Keys. 

Ron taught me everything there is to know about fly fishing for Reds in the 3 hours we had on the water, meaning that now I am not only the world’s leading bonefish expert, but I’m also, like, one of the top experts when it comes to redfish too (if you are taking any this serious, then it means you are why we can’t have nice things).

So, no Ron this time around, I was looking for time on the water. Somehow this has turned into me getting on the water on a SUP in the marshes of southern Louisiana doing some DIY redfishing. I am sure some comedy is going to ensue.

Looking forward to it, although not the falling off the SUP which is about a 50% bet.

 


25
Aug 17

So… Sudan?

Sounds like a great place to go, right? I’m sure Sudan is on your bucket list.

The Drake had a great podcast on fly fishing in Sudan. It sounds, really, pretty damn awesome.

Map of Sudan

Also, there is this…


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.


04
Jun 17

Casterbating is a sin

Casting… work on it.

Casterbating – v – casting a fly line repetitively without shooting the line or adding much/any distance to the cast.

You see the fish, on your own, or with a guide, and you start casting… and you keep casting… you need a little more distance and you are letting out a foot at a time… the line is in the air and things start coming a little undone as the amount of line gets longer and longer… and then it all falls apart. You dump a bunch of unorganized line on the water. You can almost hear the fish scream as they run away. If you are fishing with a guide, you can definitely hear the guide screaming.

Many threats to bonefish come from above. So, in addition to just not really adding much to the actual cast, casterbating runs a good chance of just spooking the fish due to the arial movement.

Maybe you’ve fished with that guy. Maybe you are that guy. Condolences either way. We’ve all been there.

Casterbating is a saltwater sin, punished by the fishing gods with no delay.

How do you know if you are casterbating? Did you do more than three false casts? Yes? Then you are casterbating.

Maybe some day they’ll come up with a patch or some gum to help break you of this habit, but in the meantime, there are a few tips I have to keep you from casterbating, at least in public, in front of the fish.

  1. Starting point – How much line do you have out to begin with? If you don’t have enough line out, you wont’ be able to load the rod. It is pretty hard to load the rod with 5 feet of fly line out. You’ll usually need 15′-20′ feet of line out the tip of your fly rod in order for there to be enough fly line to properly load the rod on your first false cast.
  2. 3 and let fly – By the time you get to your third false cast, you should be shooting your line. Past that number and you hit the point of diminishing returns. It is harder to manage line in the air. The more line you have in the air, in your cast, the harder it is to maintain and control. If you have a good loop going and are properly loading the rod, by the time you get to your third cast you have everything you need to shoot the line.
  3. Don’t let go of the line. It may seem like a good idea to let go of the line with your line-hand when you shoot the line. That is not correct. Keep the line in your hand as you are shooting the line. If you keep the line in your hand you’ll be ready for action when the fly hits the water, instead of grasping (and missing) the line and trying to get everything under control. There are those times when a fish eats AS SOON AS THE FLY lands. Bonefish do this sometimes, as do tarpon. If you have the line in your hand, you are ready for business. This last tip isn’t really a casterbating tip, but it’s a pretty good one anyway.

If you can get away with two false casts, that’s better than three. Four casts is one too many and five is straight out.

You don’t need all those extra casts. They just put a greater chance for user error into the whole enterprise. They may spook the fish. You are unlikely to get a better cast on your 8th false cast than on your third. If you are casting, your fly is not in the water and you are not fishing. So… knock it off with the casterbating.


08
May 17

What I learned about fishing for Peacocks

Just a fun, fun fish to catch on a fly rod.

Southern Florida has a lot to offer, even to the business traveler on foot. Here’s what I learned about fishing for Peacocks around Ft. Lauderdale and Miami from just 4 short sessions.

  1. When you get to the pond/lake/canal you will see fish boiling out in the middle of wherever you are. Don’t cast at those. That’s not what you are looking for. Most (?) of those are not your targets. It seems VERY intuitive to cast at the boils, but they are false flags.
  2. The peacocks are along the shores. Don’t cast 90 degrees from the shoreline. Cast along the shoreline. Most of these places have drop-offs and shelves. That’s where the fish are.
  3. The strip that worked for me was a fast, fleeing baitfish type strip that slowed or even stopped at the shore-side of the drop-off.
  4. Fly selection is weighted, lead eye, baitfish type pattern. I had both clouser style and double bunny type flies work.
  5. Sometimes, you don’t even need to cast. You can, in essence, dab for peacocks and chiclids. If you spot them, you can just annoy them with your fly until they eat. I caught fish both doing that and casting like I suggest in #2.

Now, this is from just a few days and not that many fish. So, there may be exceptions to this and some of it may be flat-out wrong, but this was my experience and I bet this would work for you.

Bring that rod along.


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.