This trip, to SE Idaho/SW Wyoming, has been magnificent in some many ways, but it has also been a time for growth and learning.
One of the big things I wanted to do was to get the boy in the raft. He’s 9, coordinated enough to figure some stuff out, but not yet a fully-formed angler.
We had one misfire where we went looking for some small water to fish and basically failed. The boy got tired of walking. He got bored. I didn’t react well to his complaints and there was a spiral that suckes allllll the fun out of what we were trying to do.
Then, I got him out on the raft. I towed this raft ~890 miles to get here. It was not a small endeavor.
He took to it… he loved it… said he prefered this kind of fishing to creek fishing/river fishing. He went out with me twice and talked about about how much he loved it. And, after some amature net work on the first day, we finally got the money shot.
He was stoked. He had a few fish on and many dry eats, but this is the one he got to hold in his hand, knowing that he caught it.
There was a lot of good dad/son time on the water. We saw bald and golden eagles. We saw a moose and a fawn. We saw more osprey than you could shake a stick at. We saw stoneflies and caddis and mayflies. We had a great time on the water.
The cast was put well past where I expected to find the fish, I didn’t expect a fish in the first couple feet, but that is where it took the fly. When it tore off past me, my eyes went wide. This was a big fish.
I was drifting by myself on one of those big, epic, well-known tailwatater. I was trying to not to get in the way as the guides put their boats in and I was trying just to not mess up backing up with the trailer. I had a day to fish solo because I had taken a two day drive and knocked it off in one day. My family was flying in the next day. This was a day to play, the sort of day I haven’t had in a while.
I had to fish when stopped as I haven’t figured out how to cast to a bank while rowing.
This was one of those spots. I secured the raft and started fishing. It looked promising.
Then… all hell broke loose. The fish exploded past me, moving water with it that let me know this fish had girth.
The second though I had, after “oh shit!” was “I’m going to lose this fish.” I was just sure it was going to come unbuttoned… I mean… don’t most big fish slip off? The longer it goes the the odds start to tip in the fish’s favor.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. I landed the fish in my boat net, got to admire it a bit and let it go.
This was my largest brown to-date. I figure it went between 23″-24″ and was FAT. I’ve caught maybe 5 or 6 larger rainbows, but you just don’t get too many like this. There is an allotment and this was one of those… a special fish.
If you fish, you need some shades. That’s a given.
Roughly 95% of everyone seems to have a pair of Costas, and that makes sense. They make a fine pair of sunglasses. I’ve had a few over the years myself.
My current pair is the Rincon and while I like them, the lenses got a bit scratched, so I was looking for an alternative. A look on-line and the price to replace was high so I decided to go cheaper and got a pair of Sunclouds which had a good rating on Amazon.
Well… they sucked. Like, they really sucked. The lenses scratched early and often and pretty much defeated the whole purpose of having a pair of sunglasses. I’m guessing the good rating was thanks to a room full of for-hire reviewers somewhere overseas. These were not good sunglasses. That was not the way.
Because I had looked for sunglasses on-line I got alllllll the targeted ads for sunglasses and some for lens replacement services too (in this case, Fuse). I hadn’t really heard of lens replacement services, but it seemed a pretty good idea. The frames still look great on my Costas and the lenses from Fuse looked good. I could customize exactly what I was looking for at about 1/6th the price.
So, that’s what I did. The customer service from Fuse was SUPER helpful as I would have ordered the wrong size/fit, but they got me sorted out and the lenses arrived in about a week. They took about 30 seconds to install.
Now I have the frames I still like with new lenses that are supposed to be scratch resistant.
The only thing that is weird in the Fuse lens-buying process is the marketing. Now Fuse wants me to “join the community” and for me to start racking up “points.” I just needed new lenses. I’m not looking for a new hashtag and I’m pretty good with my existing community. If I am buying more lenses it would mean the ones I just bought have failed, in which case, I won’t buy more.
That’s it. That’s the post.
(Note, none of this was discounted or free. I think the days of people sending me free stuff has passed as I’m not actively cultivating an on-line following like I might have done a decade ago… now I’m just an aging fart who spends way more time on youth soccer than I do fishing, cuz… life.)
I’m sitting here on the north island of Caye Caulker, stinking a bit, thinking about packing up as we catch a boat back the Belize City here in a couple hours. It has been a good family trip. We snorkeled the reef. We visited an awesome Maya ruin almost all the way to Guatemala. I got fishing with my boy. I had plenty of morning patrols with a fly rod in hand.
Morning patrol was the most effective. I managed a decent snook and a baby tarpon right out front, which was pretty rad. Beyond that, well… the wind has been blowing about 20 mph pretty much non-stop since we got here. The sargasso is all over the place and between that and the wind the water on the ocean-side is something like café-au-lait in color. That has made it a challenge.
I honestly don’t remember being anywhere for a week that had wind like this so consistently… but maybe I’ve never been in the tropics in June before? I don’t know, but it has been less than ideal for fishing.
But… to the fishing.
Earlier this week I went out with Dennis for a full day with my 9 year old. A full day with a 9 year old is an iffy thing. Kids get bored, so I didn’t know if we’d last the whole day.
Right off the bat we ran into a pod of dolphins that showed off for us a bit. That was pretty cool and a memorable thing. We ended up seeing 2 different dolphin pods and about 5 manatees.
My son used the spinning rod and bait and he crushed it. He well out-fished me, which was fun for him and a thing he was not shy in sharing with random strangers.
For me… I had one good tarpon shot and I blew it. Wind at my back, I saw the fish first, moving over white sand at 12:00. My shot was good, but I dumped too much line with the strong wind and I struggled to get tight to the fly. So, when the 5+ foot tarpon ate the fly, I couldn’t get a hook set on it. That was it. That was my tarpon shot. I didn’t get another.
We looked for bonefish for a bit, but the water in the lagoons was really warm and all the feed marks were rays, not bonefish.
I went fishless, save for two accidental small cudas.
That’s the way to goes sometimes. I got to share something I love with my son, which was really special. The kid hung in there too. He said the fishing was his favorite part of the trip.
I got another half-day with Guide Kyle and that trip was fun and I had plenty of bonefish shots and even a couple good permit follows (seriously, no idea how I didn’t end up with a permit… so… close!). Kyle got us out of the wind, back in some deep lagoons and he found fish for me.
I’m rusty. I put the fly on the heads of bonefish more often than not. I guess you can get out of practice with this stuff! I was also casting with my 8 weight that I managed to break the tip off of. Yup, second broken 8 weight in about 2 months.
We also had a guide pull up behind us and then pole directly on top of us. I mean… that’s just total dick-head-maneuver guiding. Kyle did well not to spear the guy with his push pole. If you are the client in this situation, tell your guide you’d like to not do this.
And there we are… that’s the end of the trip. We leave here shortly. I’m not packed up yet… maybe hoping if I just never pack, I’ll get to prolong my stay in Belize? It’s time. Work beckons. There is soccer club work to be done. There’s a whole life up there in the Bay that I need to get back to… but I do love it here, even with the relentless heat and this aggravating wind, I do love it. Caye Caulker in Belize and East End Lodge in the Bahamas are probably my two favorite places. Glad to get to be here with my wife and my son and I look forward to getting back, whenever that might be.
It’s a family trip, but, ya know… maybe I’ll bring some fishing stuff along.
A couple of fly rods and a spinning rod. We’ll see if the boy can throw a fly and if not, there’s aways the spinning rod. I’ve been brining the spinning rod pretty much every time I head to the salt. You just never know when it is going to come in handy and I’d rather be in the game with a spinning rod than out of it.
My Cliff boxes are getting a little rough around the edges, literally, cracking, foam loose. They’ve done good service though and each is over a decade old at this point.
I bought flies and then… well… realized maybe I didn’t need to. I’m bringing several hundred flies, most that I tied. I told my wife that the flies in the boxes are the ones that I decided not to use on previous trips. The flies that aren’t in the boxes are the ones that I liked/that worked! There’s some truth there, although I am not sure exactly what percentage.
I had a trip to Abaco planned for March 2020 to follow up my 2019 Xmas Island trip. Bonefish trips were yearly things back then, maybe a couple times a year when I was lucky, and I got lucky more often than I deserved.
Then, COVID and the world changed. I have not touched a bonefish since that Xmas trip. I had a chance in Kauai, but on the day I had lined up to hit the flat the swells were over the reef, the water stirred up, visibility negligible and the fishing was cancelled. I did managed a blue fin on a spinning rod, but that was it. I also managed, a couple years ago, a small trigger in Maui. A bonefish though? No… no bonefish.
This weekend though, I’m headed to Belize, a country that holds a lot of big memories for such a small place. Thirteen years ago I stumbled into a Grand Slam there. I had my second honeymoon there. I had two trips with my daughter there. Now I’m headed back with my wife and son.
I’m very much looking forward to it, but I haven’t had much time to prepare. The vice is gathering dust, I just had a 36 hour trip to and from Boston. I just celebrated ten years at the company I work for. I’ve been neck deep in soccer club stuff. So, I had to do something I haven’t had to do in a long time.
I bought flies.
I love catching fish on flies I tie and I really only tie for the salt at this point. Still, this year, for this trip, at this point in my life, I just couldn’t find the vice time.
I have a hunch I may enjoy catching a bonefish, or seeing my 9 year old son catch a bonefish, with one of these store-bought flies almost as much.
One of my favorite writers is Carl Hiaasen. I’ve pretty much consumed everything I can find from him and have enjoyed almost all of it. He’s Florida… deep in his bones and it comes through. He’s a warrior for the natural world and for truth and for doing-what-is-right and I just adore that it comes out in his books the way it does.
His character Skink is one of the all-time greats.
I know bonefish get big. I’ve seen a few monsters. I’ve maybe hooked one large, really large bone. I’ve landed none of those. A lot of it comes down to where you are… some places seem to grow big fish, others provide good fishing, but not big fish.
My mind doesn’t wrap around it really well. My largest bone to hand is about 7.5 pounds and I mean a real 7.5, not a guide’s 7.5 (aka, a 5 pounder). I’ve seen bones over 10, for sure… in Grand Bahama, in Kauai, in Cuba even… but I’ve never landed one and have maybe only hooked one and it didn’t stay on long.
COVID has not been kind to my bonefishing. In fact, I haven’t had a chance to throw at a bonefish since 2019. That’s too long.
Back at Thanksgiving we made it to Kauai, although we were on the South Side, not up in the North where the only place I know of to catch bones on Kauai can be found. Still, is was beautiful and we had a good time.
Now, this wasn’t a “Bjorn fishing trip.” It was a family trip and so we did family things (zip-lining and tubing) and while I had fishing stuff, it wasn’t clear when I’d be fishing. Additionally, we were there with another family and I was supposed to go fishing with our friend’s dad. I brought gear. I was ready to go, but I realized that the elder was not going to be up for wading a flat. I checked with Rob, who guides on the Island, and we planned a day later in the week.
The day came and Rob told us that the surf was crashing over the reef and the flat was unfishable.
Just like that, my bonefishing shot was gone. I finished another year without a bonefish. It kills me a little bit inside.
I did throw a bit off some rocks with a spinning rod down in the South and managed to catch one pretty nice Blue Fin Trevally. I tried with a fly, but didn’t get another eat. I also fell on the rocks and bloodied my back a bit. My son said “We should leave. If mom was here she’d tell you to go back.” Of course, I didn’t… but wasn’t rewarded.
That was my almost bonefishing in 2022. That was it.
Next year I’m going bonefishing. My passport application is sitting in front of me filled out, but without postage. Still, it is happening. Family trip to Belize is on the books. It is going down.
I miss it and think about it often. See y’all in 2023!
I’m just back from a grand adventure. I towed my raft from the SF Bay Area to Idaho and drifted the S. Fork Snake River from Palisades Creek to Byington, covering ~37 miles of river over three days/two nights, camping along the way, with two other anglers/friends (John and Mark).
The trip ticks many boxes on the “epic adventure” checklist:
~1900 miles of road covered
Drove through 3 Western States
~37 miles of river covered
New, renowned river fished
This sort of adventure has long legs… the stories will persist from here on until my memory fades. Things I saw, things I did, the conversations, the friendships deepened, the fishing… I’ll carry it with me for a long, long time. I love these epic adventures, be it a trip to East End Lodge to pursue bonefish in calf-deep Bahamian flats, or rowing a legendary Western river in search of giant cutthroat and browns.
To be clear, this trip really was madness. This fact started to come into focus about mile 4 when the immensity of the task ahead started to sharpen. I had rowed about 4 miles in the previous year and somehow I thought “Sure, I’ll row 27 miles… nah, make it 37.” I mean… what was I thinking? I did it… and we didn’t die… so, I COULD do it… but there were certainly times I was questioning my sanity. It felt like I bit off more than I could chew, but I didn’t choke on any of it and we made it safely down the river. My hands are a bit swollen and I have a few blisters, but that’s a small price to pay for what we got.
I had never fished the Snake and I’m unsure if I’d ever even seen it in person before. I had been thinking about it ever since I got the raft (Outcast PAC 1300), but it was a conversation with guide Kris Kennedy that pushed me to do it. From there, it went fairly fast as I collected gear, put the crew together and planned the route. Before I knew it was was pushing off and the river currents were taking us down river.
The way you have something in your head never maps totally to the experience and there is a certain danger in high expectations.
Our first day on the river was rough as we were figuring things out. We just weren’t fishing this great water very well and I’m sure if we went with a guide we would have all had fish-weary arms, but that isn’t how it shook out. We got to camp having covered 15 miles in a monster first day and we had very, very few fish between us. At camp I managed a couple more, including a nice brown I took a bit after the sun went down that was crushing salmon flies about two inches off the bank. That was a little shard of what I thought we’d be doing the whole time.
Day two was a canyon day where we saw, roughly, 9 billion eagles. If you threw a rock in the canyon section there was a not-small-probability you’d hit an eagle. We saw both Balds and Goldens and they were with us the whole way.
We had our best fishing of the trip on this day, but it was also much different that what I expected. What I thought we’d have was consistently decent fishing along the drift, but what we actually had were a few spots where we got out of the raft and had great fishing in small spots/slots/buckets. We never really put it together in the raft as I think we had conflicting ideas about what was going to be effective and just needed more time to gel as a crew. Out of the boat though, we could throw what and how we wanted and that worked.
So, our productive water went from 37 miles to a hundred yards. That, I think, isn’t how it is supposed to fish, but that’s how it worked for us. That hundred yards was pretty cool.
We ran into the tail end of the salmon flies on the Snake and that was… fun. At one point there were so many of the big stones out there they were dropping from the trees and bushes onto the water where the trout awaited and any cast up along the bank stood a good chance of an orca-like attack. We called one spot Salmon Fly Alley and made a fair number of memories there.
The third day the weight of ~13 miles to cover, how exhausted I was, how little sleep I’d had, the drive ahead of us all looked like a lot and we decided we’d push through a lot of the water, pick our spots and get off the river early. That’s what we did and managed to pull into the Byington boat ramp about 3:00 in the afternoon and John and I managed to get almost 600 miles down the road by the time we pulled into a Super 8 for the night.
Of course, as we closed the trip out I felt like I was just starting to understand a bit of how the river fished, where to find the fish, how to get us where we needed to be. Takes some time for things to come together, but time and the river don’t really wait.
I learned a lot and I’m a better angler now than when I set off from home. My horizons are just that much broader and I have a few more tools in my tool box.
I encourage you all to get out there, wherever out there is for you… Bahamas, Belize, Christmas Island, Montana, Yellowstone, Wyoming, Idaho, Louisiana, Florida… wherever it is you have lodged in your head that keeps tickling your thoughts. Do the thing. Take the trip. Make the memories. In the end, that’s all we really have.