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!


16
Dec 17

2017 – A review

What an odd year it’s been.

I got out, I went some new places, I had some different experiences, I caught some new species, I met some new people.

It was another year where my days fishing for trout diminished. I think I fished for trout exactly three days… all with my daughter and a bit with my son (who landed his first trout), and for fewer combined hours than I’d normally fish in a single day. It just gets harder and harder to get away and make the drive North or East to find trout water. Kids. Work. Wife. It just isn’t fitting into an increasingly full life. I can’t really even complain about that, it’s just an observation.

I continued to find some time around the edges to get to the Bay and fish for stripers. I didn’t do this as much as I would have liked to, but I caught some, even the odd halibut. I saw plenty of seals and pelicans and very few other anglers.

My first trip of the year was to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. It is a trip I’ll look back on with sadness, given the later actions of my fishing partner, but the fishing itself was pretty interesting. I caught my first Peacock Bass, which was pretty fun, as well as my first Mayan. I went night tarpon fishing in Biscayne Bay (remember, my son’s middle name is Biscayne) on a night of high winds and low expectations. We didn’t catch anything more than a single jack, but we did have tarpon rolling on the shadow line of the bridge and it is something I really want to do again. I got to fish with David as well, who showed me one of his spots.

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

A Mayan on David’s water

My second trip of the year was to Belize for Spring Break with my girl. We went to Caye Caulker and stayed at Sea Dreams. It was a pretty awesome trip, full of bonefish caught from the dock and very little time wearing shoes of any kind. The day of fly fishing resulted in one nice snook and a really good soaking from the rain. Lots of great memories from that trip.

My Belize Snook

One of the highlights from Spring Break 2017.

Awesome

Nice cuda.

My third trip of the year was to Oahu for a family vacation. I had a day to fish and I managed to break my O’io curse, landing three, hooking seven and seeing my first adult Giant Trevally and my first ever milkfish. It was a pretty good day on the water… opened my eyes a bit to the Hawaii bonefish game.

My fourth trip was to Mexico, Mahahual, with my dad in July. I think it was maybe a bit too late in the year as it was HOT. This was, in retrospect, not the best trip for my dad. The heat and unsteady footing were not his friends. Still, he caught his first tarpon (baby) and had his first grabs from adult tarpon. I caught some babies, had more than one eat from the big guys and caught my first trigger fish. It was a good trip that would have been made better by maybe 8 degrees less heat.

Nick with my trigger

Dad’s First Sabalito

My fifth trip was down to the marshes of Louisiana, DIY kayaking for redfish with a group largely from Alabama. This was a great experience. I had never fished out of a kayak like that and was a bit shaky, but managed to catch three reds and my first speckled trout. I met James, another blog reader, and enjoyed our day on the water.

My first DIY redfish

Don’t you love the hazey GoPro pictures?

That rounded out my fishing for the year. It is now approaching mid-December and I might, might get another day or two of throwing for stripers in the Bay, but beyond that, my fishing is pretty much wrapped up for 2017.

New species: Peacock Bass, Trigger Fish, Speckled Trout
New guides fished with:
New fishing friends made:

 


31
Jul 17

Mahahual 2017 – The Report Part II – Things that went right

As with life, on any fishing trip there are things that go well and things that don’t. This part of the report is going to focus on the stuff that went right.

Sabalito for Dad

Key requirement of the trip was a tarpon, of any size, for my dad. This, guide Nick Denbow accomplished within an hour. He knew of a ditch, formerly a river and potentially a river again after a lot of rain, that had some penned up sabalito (baby tarpon). Dad got his baby tarpon on the first day. Success.

Dad’s First Sabalito

Tarpon in the Lake

Now… the first day my go-pro ran out of battery and my back-up didn’t have a SIM card… nice… so, I have no pics. I got some baby tarpon in one of the lakes with Nick. I was making some pretty good casts and we were getting some responses. I botched a few. I converted others. Nothing big, although bigger fish were around. It was a little unsteady standing up in the jon boat, something that proved much harder for my 75 year old dad.

Nacional Beach Club

Nacional Beach Club is a fine place to stay. AC in the room. Right on the beach. Good food. Evan, the care-taker, made ribs one night that were simply outstanding. Breakfast included. Cheaper than it seems like it should have been.

Nick Denbow

Nick, a Brit, is a fine guy to share a day fishing with. He’s really knowledgeable about… well… everything. Birds, wildlife, fish… Nick seems perfectly placed in Mahahual. This is just where he should be. He knew where the fish were going to be, even if they wouldn’t eat. I mean… he knew pretty much exactly where we’d find permit. Who can dial up a permit?

Nick with my trigger

Speaking of triggers

I got a trigger. That wasn’t on my radar, but I got a trigger. Fun fish to stalk. Kind of easy to find, if you get the habitat right. Harder to hook, but still… a cool fish. I hooked one more and had two other confirmed eats. Super interesting fish.

That same trigger

Food and Drink

Mahahual was a fine place for food and drink. Montezuma didn’t get his revenge on us (which makes sense, we’re Scandinavian by genetics). I had ice in my drink. I drank water provided by the hotel. I even ate a salad. All those things you might be warned away from. I did them all and I didn’t get sick. The food was tasty and cheap. I had no complaints.

Octopus tacos from Fernando’s.

Permit

Nick found permit. I found permit. Finding permit is hard. Getting them to eat is harder. Nick had a great saying about permit, “The permit you catch is easy.” That rings true. I didn’t find any easy permit. I did have one circle my fly and then give it a pass. On the day we looked for permit on the flat, in the jon boat no less, we saw at least 5, maybe 8. I got one cast in.  On my last day of fishing I saw 4 and had three shots. I didn’t get a follow, but I found them. So, that’s something.


07
Jul 17

Another fishing video… this time Mexico

This is three years old, but damn, it is really well done. This is fishing out of a place called Pesca Mahahual. I’ll be heading to Mahahual (although just the regular Mahahual, not Pesca Mahahual) here in a couple weeks, also with my dad. We are hoping to get into some tarpon (maybe getting my dad his first ever after a rather miserable failure a couple years back in the Keys).

Sooooo looking forward to it.


20
Jun 17

Some good news from Florida

It didn’t escape my notice that something good happened in Florida last month.

Here is that news, from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. 

Basically, this move should help with those horrid, toxic discharges from earlier this year.

And in case you are wondering why that matters…


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.

 


22
Mar 17

Tarpon Genetics Reveal a Surprise

Martin tells me they also come in Men’s sizes.

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust wrapped up their tarpon genetic program and the results are a bit surprising.

You know those tarpon in Florida? And the ones in Louisiana? And the ones in Mexico and the ones in Belize? Also, you know those tarpon in West Africa? They are all pretty much the same fish, genetically speaking. That’s pretty amazing. All those fish and all those places are basically the same fish, genetically speaking. The fish in West Africa are basically genetically indistinguishable from the fish in Florida.

Read BTT’s blog post about it here. Pretty interesting stuff.


08
Mar 17

Why you should book with an outfitter, Belize Edition

I’m going to Belize next month, as I think you all know.

I ended up not booking the trip through a booking agent although the price was almost identical and in the end, probably would have been completely equal. I didn’t have really good reasons NOT to book through an agent but part of my brain was thinking this wasn’t a real fishing trip, even if there was going to be 1-2 days of fishing.

So, I booked myself.

Fast forward to a couple days ago when my procrastinating brain figured “OK, let’s get the guides sorted out.” Well, there were no more guides available. Disaster. Scramble. “OH NOOOOO.”

Pretty sure if I had booked through a booking agent I would not have has the 24-36 hours of panic I just endured.

I found a guide. The trip is saved, but only just. It is Easter Weekend. People are booked well in advance. I had just let the details slip because I hardly have two seconds to rub together these days and I adopted a distinctly “Island time” mentality about this trip.

Mistake.

When and if I get to go with my daughter on some other exotic fishing trip I’m going to go through an agent… because, yeah, I’d like to not sweat the details.


03
Mar 17

Silver Kings chasing silver kings at El Pescador

I mean… come on. The awesome levels here are off the chart.


21
Feb 17

Silver Kings, Season 3, Episode 8, because… Florida.

For your viewing pleasure.

I’d be OK with this.

One of the anglers is Mark Richens. I got to meet him and stayed at his place back on my first FL tarpon trip. His home on Upper Matecumbe Key was once owned by Ted Williams. It is on the market and can be yours for only $4.2M.