The bonefish were easy, at least when we had the light. We were playing a school of bones that really, really wanted to cruise past us. All we had to do was cast a line ahead of the school and they would turn around, head down the beach about 50 feet and then slowly come back to us. They just kept coming back and we just kept catching them, trading off on the bow and having a great time.
As Shane was up on deck things got suddenly very tense as the guide spotted a school of permit just beyond the bones while Shane simultaneously spotted three or four permit mixed right in with the bones. Katchu was saying “Cast! No, not that school, the other ones!” while Shane was saying “I don’t want to cast to that school! I’m going to cast to this school!” The debate was a tad heated and Shane ended up casting to the fish he had found. He made the cast, made the strip and the fish ate. He stood there, relaxed and happy as the fish peeled off line at top speed. Then the pull just stopped. The line went slack. The fish had come off.
Shane didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand it. Katchu said something about “you must have hooked it just a tiny bit,” although I don’t know why you’d say that to an angler who has just lost a decent permit. For whatever reason, Shane’s permit didn’t stay on. Another 20 minutes of looking in vain for more permit and we were ready to get back to the bonefish.
Katchu finally took us to the point of a little cay we were fishing and presented us our opportunity to wade. We could see bonefish milling around over a rare patch of white sand below the point of the cay. This was going to be fun. Shane set off to find his own fish, which really is when he’s the happiest. The guide wanted to reposition him but I told him just to let him fish. He continued on his own and his rod was bent plenty.
We could have stayed there caught bonefish for a good long time. The fish weren’t monsters, but bonefish in Belize don’t tend to be scale tippers. What they lack in size they make up for in numbers and we were finding enough bones to keep us interested. It is this kind of action that really draws me to bonefish. When you are finding the fish and they fish are happy, there are few other things I’d want to do more.
I was told that fish in Belize grow slower than fish in other parts of the Caribbean and the current thinking is that this has to do with the size of their prey. The crabs and shrimp are smaller in Belize when compared with Andros or Abaco and so the fish grow at a slower rate. That four pound bonefish in Belize is probably a bit smarter than the four pound bonefish in Grand Bahama because it is likely a couple years older. The smaller prey phenomena has impacts when you are looking at what flies to pack as you’ll be filling your box with more #6’s and #8’s than you might for other Caribbean destinations.
Bones in Belize are different in another way. They tend to be darker in color and there is no surprise why that would be the case. Turtle grass is almost everywhere down in Belize, waving in the tidal currents and snagging your flies if you don’t have weed guards. If you love wading over hard packed white sand flats… well… you should probably go somewhere else.
The bonefish were really what I had come to Belize to find. Ever since I had seen my first bonefish back in Hawaii a few years earlier, I had been fairly obsessed with them. Coming from a small river/pocket water background, I was enthralled with the hunting and visual nature of flats fishing which was such a departure from what I had come to think of as fly fishing. Going from a thousand casts a day to forty casts a day and from never seeing the target to only targeting those fish you see… it was a revelation and a beautiful one at that.
Next up… The Tarpon.