Nov 10

OK… Belize Report, Day 2

I’m back from Belize now… it was 55 in the house when I got home.  I miss Belize already, but I look forward to seeing my wife and daughter again (which I’ll do on Friday).  I’m going to pick up reporting on the days of the trip, starting with Day 2.

Day 2 started out in Miami and from there on to Belize City and from there to Ambergris and El Pescador.

As we descended into Belize City my heart kind of sank a bit.  There was a lot of rain on the ground and buckets still falling.  The puddle jumper from Belize City to Ambergris was a cool flight, but still the rain was coming down.  Lori-Ann met Shane and I at the dock for the ride to El Pescador.

After we got our room, we got ready to hit the beach in the rain in search of tails.  We found them (the first fish spotted was actually right when we got to El Pescador… right by the dock… crazy). The turtle grass was so thick it was tough to get flies to the fish and we ended our first actual day there without a fish to our name, but at least we had gotten out there and paid some rain soaked dues.

We were scheduled to go out with guide Katchu the next day, but decided to push that off for a day to let the weather settle.  We’d day the canoe out in the lagoon system behind El Pescador for the second day there.

Dinner was great and we met the other anglers and divers staying at the lodge.  Everyone got on well and we were looking forward to the next day, despite a less that totally awesome weather forecast.

Stay Tuned for Day 3.

Nov 10

This trip brought to you by…

The whole blogging thing is interesting, for sure.  I don’t have ads and don’t cash a Bonefish on the Brain paycheck.  This started as a hobby and largely remains that (just one I am kind of ridiculously dedicated to).  However, the distance the blog has come in the last year is pretty obvious to me when I think about all the folks who have helped put some shape to this upcoming trip to Belize.

Thanks to El Pescador for hosting me for this trip.  We are still paying for guides and I’m still paying for a couple of flights, but the lodging… that was huge.

Thanks to Sage for the loaner Xi3 Seven and Ten weights.  Good sticks for Belize, me thinks.  Lori-Ann’s go to is the 7 wt. Xi3, so I’ll be in good company.

Double my pleasure... a 7 and 10 Sage Xi3

Thanks to Orvis for the loaner 8 wt. Helios and the line for the 10 weight. Steve offered and I couldn’t turn down a chance to see exactly how good these new Orvis rods are.

Orvis... nice stick.

Thanks to Nautilus for the loaner NV Ten-Eleven.  This is actually something anyone can do…  you can test drive a Nautilus, just check out the website.

Mr. and Mrs. Tarpon... I'm ready to see you now.

Thanks to Skinny Water Culture for two replacement sun masks (I somehow lost three in the last 6 months), a microfiber shirt and a new hat.

Skin cancer is bad... SWC is good.

Thanks to Patagonia for a sling pack for alllllll those flies I’ll be sporting, plus a sun mask and hat.

Flies go here.

Thanks to Off the Hook Fly Shop, where I bought most of the materials used in the flies I’ll be throwing.

That’s a lot of help… and if you look at my FFSI, you’ll see that I think the help you get has a lot to do with reducing suckiness… so, I have that going for me.

As someone recently wrote to me, “This is the most exciting bonefishing trip I’m not going on.”  I hope to have some good stories to share and hope to be posting from Belize and El Pescador, assuming I have the strength left after milking each day for every ounce of fishing possible.

Nov 10

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and El Pescador

Hey, look… you can help out BTT by heading to El Pescador.  Doesn’t that kind of rock?

I’m headed there myself… 18 days from today and I should actually get a line wet.

BTT Auction: 7 Nights at El Pescador Lodge in Belize

El Pescador Resort on Ambergris Cay, Belize, has generously donated a trip to be auctioned by BTT to raise funds for research. Have you been looking for a place where you can take a non-fishing spouse (or a spouse that doesn’t think about fishing all day), and haven’t been able to find just the right place? El Pescador may be what you have been searching for.

via Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

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!