Dec 15

New Season of Buccaneers & Bones

Buccaneers & Bones

I was surprised to see a new episode of Buccaneers and Bones record on my DVR last night. I guess there is a new season and that, generally, is a good thing.

This year they are back at Deep Water Cay, a place I got to fish out of for half a day. It is an amazing lodge, definitely on the high end of things. My wife was with me when we toured the private island a couple years ago and even she was impressed.

I love that there is a show about bonefishing and conservation and about the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. I get to spend a half-hour on the flats of the Bahamas even when I am a couple thousand miles away and it is 39 degrees out (as it is this morning). So… I’m a fan of the show and a fan of the concept.

That said… let me register a few gripes.

  • Same old crew. This year there doesn’t appear to be anyone new (or anyone under 60). It is the same folks as years past and while that may be fun for them (I mean… yeah, it would be, wouldn’t it?), it is pretty stale.
  • Same old story line. Yes… Lefty is a legend. That was true the first time they said it and the time after that and the time after that and by now… well… I’m kind of over celebrating Lefty every episode.
  • “When you make the perfect cast…” On this episode Tom Brokaw says something about “when you make the perfect cast, it is just tremendously gratifying…” or something along those lines. However, here’s the thing… his casting is not exactly much good. I’ve seen really good casters and I have not seen good casting out of most of these guys. Tom… not so much. Huey Lewis? No. Lefty? Sure. Bill? Yeah. But most of the time the casts I see laid out there are absolute turds. The good news is that it demonstrates you do NOT need an excellent cast to catch bones (sometimes).
  • Fish fighting editing. They recycle underwater fish fighting footage and none of it captures the actual fight of these fish. The footage is of the very end of the fight when the fish is done and they are pulling the fish in front of the camera. If this is what bonefish fought like no one would be interested in catching them.
  • Too familiar. I wasn’t sure if it was even new. They’ve been to DWC before and these same guys have been on the show almost every year. It was difficult to tell if this was, indeed, a new year. That should tell you something.

Still… I’ll watch. Yvon is a personal hero and I love the Bahamas more than is reasonable and BTT is my favorite nonprofit. So, I’ll watch. I’ll watch, but I’ll also be hoping that if they do this again next year there is a new crop of characters, maybe even some folks below 50. Maybe they could go fish Mexico or Cuba or Hawaii or Christmas Island or anywhere they haven’t been before. I’m looking for a little bit of new and maybe we’ll get that in 2017?

Feb 15

Bucs and Bones and South Andros

Somehow the new season of Buccaneers and Bones (which supports the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust) started without my noticing. But I’ve noticed now and watched the last episode, which was on South Andros at Bair’s Lodge.

bucs and bones

Oh, South Andros. I love that place. Only spend one week there, but it is etched in my memory forever. It was an important trip and the line separating one period in my life from another.

My trip there was FIBFest II, a thing that has gone by the wayside, an experiment of sorts.

The Buccaneers and Bones crew this year is pretty interesting with Jimmy Kimmel among the cast. South Andros is a special place. Glad to see it again, even if it is on TV.

May 14

Jimmy Kimmel is a Buccaneer.

A photo from the next season of Buccaneers and Bones, grabbed from the Nervous Waters Facebook page.

Jimmy Kimmel… that should liven things up a bit. He’s out there with Oliver White at Bair’s Lodge in Andros.

That should be some entertaining television.

A new buccaneer.

A new buccaneer.

Jan 14

Grand Slam – Bucs and Bones

I watched the “Grand Slam” episode of Buccaneers and Bones last night. It was great to see the show back for another season and it was great to see the familiar cast of characters at El Pescador in Belize.

I’ve been to EP twice, once in 2010 with my friend Shane and in 2012 with my wife for our honeymoon. What can I say? I love that place.



The show itself was fun to watch. Yvon Chouinard gets a grand slam, but gets the finish (the bonefish) out of a mud, something he says he was not very proud of. His permit was a thing of beauty, caught after three casts and complete with the spool falling off his reel. Pretty classic awesomeness.

The permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

My El Pescador Grand Slam permit. Not a big permit, but a permit.

El Pescador continues to be the best place to get a Grand Slam of any place I’ve heard of. That’s where I got mine, featuring my first ever tarpon and first ever permit. Hard to beat.

There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to flyfishing shows, so it is especially nice to have a show like Buccaneers and Bones featuring people I respect in places I hold dear.

The show is intended to raise awareness of conservation issues and supports the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, which I am very much in favor of.

Feb 13

Interview with April Vokey

To understand April Vokey, you may want to check out her interview over at Eat More Brook Trout, or read this blog post she wrote herself.   I don’t know much about April, but I know that she can fish and women who can fish are a role model for my little girl. April is a steelheader, primarily, as makes sense if you are up in BC. As happens to all sorts of anglers, the salt finds a way in. April was also recently included in Buccaneers and Bones, a crew I’d very much like to be a part of.

Nice fish, April.

Nice fish, April.

April, you are known more for your pursuit of freshwater chrome than for silver bullets or kings. How do bonefish fit into your fishing life?

 Saltwater fishing won my heart some time ago. 

For me (with every fishery) it is the allure of the hunt that fills me with excitement; the stalking, the silence, the necessary precision and ‘no room for error’ tendencies…

Naturally, the ever skittish bonefish keeps me in predatory mode and I have admittedly fallen in love with large solo flat wanderers who peel me straight to backing.

I saw you were included in Buccaneers and Bones. How was that experience?

It was a fun one (a short one as I was only there for three days)… but certainly a good time.

The guys were nothing short of entertaining and each of them was a pleasure to fish with.  The Bahamas is a very special place and this particular location had some beauties strolling the flats.

April and Tom, just two Buccaneers

April and Tom, just two Buccaneers

Is there someone you can think of that had a particularly big influence on your saltwater fly fishing life? Who were they and what did they share with you?

Hmmm, good question.

From a casting standpoint, it was relatively simple to just apply the techniques from freshwater fishing to the salt. 

As far as gaining an appreciation for tides, species, techniques, etc., I have a few friends who come to mind; Travis Holeman taught me to pole a boat and helped me to understand the ocean’s behavior (from the marshes of Louisiana to the Florida Keys flats), James Christmas (in the Seychelles) helped me to understand permit and kicked my butt until I was competent on a 12 weight, Wil Flack in Belize touched my heart with island culture and opened my eyes to the importance of conservation of the flats.

What steelhead skills have you developed which have proven particularly useful for chasing bonefish, permit or tarpon?

Understanding the ocean current and how my fly might react to the flows (no lie, I hooked a permit while swinging my fly) and having creative casts when the wind is blowing in my face.

Ms. Vokey knows Steelhead.

Ms. Vokey knows Steelhead.

I’m wondering if being a woman is a plus or a negative when you head to a place like the Caribbean to fish. Is it a negative, a plus or a mixed bag?

This really depends.  I would say that the number one commonality is the assumption that I won’t be able to cast (though to be fair, I would say that this is the number one assumption of all of us guides towards a new client). 

From a cultural standpoint, with the exception of strange stares from people in the airplane, I don’t receive much more attention than what I would assume the guys get.  I get far more response in North America (both positive and negative).

What’s your go to rod/reel for bonefish?

An eight weight Loomis NRX (or Cross Current) and a Hatch 7 Plus.

Which do you feel is more important when it comes to bonefishing… the rod or the reel, and why?

This is a hard question…  instinctively, I want to say it’s the reel.  Palming a screaming reel on already sunburnt and cut hands simply doesn’t sound that appealing to me.  However, without a properly loaded rod, I risk the chance of a sloppy turnover and that excites me (and the fish) even less.

If I had to choose?  I’ll say the rod as I would rather hook the fish and deal with the repercussions later.

Thanks April. I appreciate the time you took to get this done. Thanks for all you do to promote the sport, the fish and the fisheries.

Jan 11

Buccaneers and Bones – Episode 1 – El Pescador, Belize

Well, I was happy to see Episode 1 of the Outdoor Channel’s series Buccaneers and Bones on the DVR for my (I’m trying to make it) daily stint on the new treadmill (the show also has a Facebook Page).

It was like a return home as the location for the premier episode was El Pescador Lodge on Ambergris Cay in Belize.  It is a joy to see this show back on the air after ESPN dumped all their fishing and outdoor shows this year.

On the show we get to see Zach Gilford catching bonefish with Lori-Ann Murphy out in the lagoon behind the lodge where my buddy Shane and I fished.  There are tarpon and snook caught as well by other members of the Buccaneers.

This show is aimed to support the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, an organization I support and I urge you all to support too.  Really… if you aren’t a member and you like to fish for bonefish, tarpon or permit… well… you should be.  You can be a better person in 2011 by signing up now.

I really liked the show.  The only criticism I’d have was some outbound clicks put onto the soundtrack in a place where Michael Keaton had about 20 feet of line on the deck while landing a tarpon.  Still… beautiful scenery, some interesting anglers, some magnificent fish and all with a conservation message.

I’m a fan.

A nice place to be.

Aug 10

Interview with Lori-Ann Murphy

Lori-Ann Murphy has a job that I would consider killing for.  Not really… well… maybe… depends who is asking I guess.  She is the Director of Fishing at El Pescador Lodge in Belize.  She didn’t luck into it though (which is the only way I’d get that kind of job).  She was the first female Orvis endorsed guide.  She’s been a guide for 21 years.  She splits time in Montana and Belize… basically places with fish.  She founded Reel Women, which I’ll try to tell my wife about in the vain hope she’ll desire to cast a fly some day.

Not huge, but they count.

Lori-Ann with Wil Flack and a couple little permit (although one may be a pamoleta). Double Date.

Lori-Ann called all the way from Belize for this interview, which my three year old daughter crashed at least twice.  Thanks Lori-Ann.

Your title is “Director of Fishing.” What does that entail there at El Pescador Lodge?

I’m a liaison between the guests and the guides. Today I’m going to do a fishing orientation… I bring a big map and show everyone where we are and I tell everyone about the lagoon in the back and all the fishing they can do around here on their own and what the guided experience is all about and get them ready for that.  I look over their flies.  We have a full quiver of fly rods here, 8-12 wt, so if they need to be outfitted with one of our fly rods I’ll take care of that.  In the morning I introduce everyone to their guides and explain the day. I work with the guides. I have a great team of 11 that I love to pieces.  The day before yesterday I had a guide meeting.  I’m also a nurse, so when I first came here in November they were asking why we were having all these meetings, and I said “I’m a nurse, we have meetings.” We have monthly meetings with the guides to discuss all the things that come up, guest relations to environment to whatever the current thing we might be doing is.

For the people that come out to El Pescador, where to you think their expectations are compared to the reality of the experience?

I’m amazed that beginner saltwater angles come here and say “I want to get a Permit” and they do. El Pescador is a great place for beginners because we have a bagillion bonefish and while they might not be as big as the Bahamas, but they are all hot fish, 2-6 pounds… a 6-8 fish is huge.  I was just reading an evaluation from a beginner and he was fully expecting, as a beginner, to land a grand slam.  I think people probably have been reading too many magazines and watching too many TV shows and some people are quickly humbled in the salt.  I usually do daily casting lessons at 4:30 on how to have an efficient cast and how to pick it up and shoot it and how to change the speed of your haul and all that stuff.  Expectations are all over the map. Generally, people come here with really high expectations and it works, somehow.

It seems Ambergris has become very popular.  I’ve seen the Currents of Belize and my overall impression is that there is a lot of development and that over-development is either happening or about to happen.  What’s your impression being down there?

Wil Flack and all the guys who did Currents of Belize, those guys are all my friends.  Twenty years ago it was a small fishing village.  Ten years ago it really changed.  The government was able to sell land and when you sell land people were also able to dredge up the flats.  So that’s been going on a lot. A lot of my time in Belize was in the 90’s and that wasn’t happening.  Allie, the owner here dedicates 20% of her time trying to preserve the land around here so we can keep the mangroves intact, keep the flats intact so we have a sustainable fishery for future generations.  That’s a really big discussion down here.  There’s Green Reef and other organizations that are trying to do good things. Allie had investors buying land.  Leonardo DiCaprio bought a Cay, Black Door Cay, and Allie bought four small keys to preserve and put it in a land trust.  We hope to see more of that. The San Pedranos here have seen SO much change in the last 20 years.  At first it was wonderful since people went from a small fishing village to actually having some money.  The guides here make a lot of money, between $60K and $100K.  We’ve all seen a lot of change.  There is a huge push to keep Ambergris from just getting sold right off.

BTT’s Aaron Adams scouting out El Pescador

I was a big fan of Pirates of the Flats and have been watching the news coming out about Buccaneers and Bones.  What was it like to be part of that project?

I was really flattered.  It was a lot of fun.  I had that week off my  regular responsibilities because I was involved in the fishing and filming end of it.  It was great to get to know the whole crew. Of course, Tom Brokaw, Michael Keaton, Tom McGuane, they all have a place up on the Bolder River in Montana and I live close to there (I live here for 9 months and in Montana the other 3).  That Montana connection was wonderful and being able to see the passion and commitment from Yvon Chouinard.  Tom Brokaw would say something, we were talking about the oil spill and he said “We have to stop calling it an oil spill because it is a catastrophe and it will affect our lives for our future.”  All off a sudden you realize that is Tom Brokaw speaking there and he’s had his foot on every place on the planet. Michael Keaton was really passionate and really fun… pumped up and excited to be part of things.  We had that tropical depression Alex come in and that was interesting.  Everyone bolted out of here a day early.

Pirates, er, Buccaneers

Lori-Ann with Wil Flack and, on the right, Zach Gilford

Going to Florida, Stu Apte has been a friend of mine but I’ve never been able to fish with him before, so that was quite an honor to be tarpon fishing and hanging out with Stu Apte. I hadn’t met Jerry Alt.  Being able to hear those guys talk and be right there at the ground level talking about tarpon migration and data and being a part of tagging fish, both bonefish and tarpon. It was fantastic.

I had a nervous breakdown in Florida over a tarpon, so I can’t wait for that episode.

El Pescador, Ally and the crew really work as a team around here and it was such a big production.  We had guests here too… it was a big deal.

What’s your go-to rod and reel right now?

Jerry Siem is one of my very dear friends and I’m very fortunate to fish Sage Rods and Reels.  I also fish Hatch Reels, I have a few Tibors and I like those as well.

My favorite rod right now is the Xi3  7 wt.

You throw a 7 because the bones are a little smaller there?

I just love this rod. I just love the action of it.  The bonefish are smaller here so you don’t need to throw a whole lot of line.  Today I went down to 16 pound because I saw some Permit, didn’t get them, but it sure was fun.

I have Xi3’s in 7, 8, 9 and 11.

When you are out on the water a lot you see things that others just don’t see.  Do you have any stories of things you’ve seen by virtue of being out there on the water as much as you are?

Sure, I have two stories right off the bat.  One, I was fishing with my friend Wil Flack and we were bonefishing out in the lagoon out back, which is stellar. We canoed out and then got out to wade this little bay. It’s a muddy bay and we were both up to our knees in mud.  We were on opposite sides of the bay. We were probably 200 yards apart.  I saw a 7 foot long dark thing come right in between us from the mangroves.  I’m thinking “Tarpon!”  I can’t wait to see the big tarpon back.  I’ve seen lots of baby tarpon, but I’m thinking I’m seeing big tarpon.  I cast to this thing (I had a bonefish fly on, but my nature instinct is just to cast) I give this thing a cranial and it stops.  I’m yelling to Wil and he’s just so focused because he has a ton of bonefish in front of him.  He looks up and the thing gets sideways and the tail goes “wahwahwah.” He yells “That’s a Croc!”  We didn’t move.  At the end of the day we were talking about it and said “I’ve never waded with a Croc before.”  At the time we were just in such bonefish fever we didn’t want to give it up.  We had waves of bonefish coming at us.  This Croc just swam right between us and just left.  We continued fishing all day and didn’t really think about it until the end of the day.

Another time we were out there fishing with Wil and Paulie, these guys are steelhead guides up on the Sustut, and Paulie is out there catching his first bonefish.  We turn around and this Frigatebird (Frigatebirds can’t land in the water, they can’t take off and die if they land in the water) nearly turns itself inside out and nails about a 3 pound bonefish and flies off with it. I’ve been fishing since ’92 and I’ve never seen that.

Thanks Lori-Ann!

Jul 10

El Pescador, Buccaneers and Bones

More news on Buccaneers and Bones from the filming down in Belize and El Pescador.

…this past week Ambergris Caye was host to some heavy weights in the entertainment industry as they filmed “Buccaneers and Bones”. El Pescador (Lodge) was chosen from three locations in Belize to host Orion Multimedia, Michael Keaton actor/director, Tom Brokaw news anchor/author, Yvon Chouninard founder Patagonia, Bill Klyn director Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Zach Gilford actor, Thomas McGuane acclaimed author, Lori-Ann Murphy director of fishing at El Pescador, and Aaron Adams, scientist, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. According to Ali Flota of El Pescador, this was the “Coup de grace of fly fishing”, and truly an honor.

via El Pescador hosts Stars, Belize News, San Pedro Sun.

Don't you wish you were there? (photo from San Pedro Sun)