May 11

You’d learn… like… a lot at this thing.

The Fourth International Bonefish & Tarpon Symposium provides the venue to share this much desired information. Scientists from around the world will present their latest research findings, and angling legends will share their knowledge of the flats. The event will culminate with an Evening with the Legends banquet, where legends will share some of their favorite stories of fishing the flats. This will be an event that every serious flats angler should consider attending.

via Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

Yeah… there is nothing in my new job duties that would see me attending this thing… but it would be kind of awesome.

Look at the list of folks that are going to be there…

An Evening with the Legends banquet will round out the Symposium. Emceed by Andy Mill, the banquet will feature: Joan Wulff, Bill Curtis, Lefty Kreh, Flp Pallot, Stu Apte, Chico Fernandez, Sandy Moret, Mark Sosin, Ralph Delph, Steve Huff, Rick Ruoff and George Hommell. You can even reserve a seat at the table of your favorite legend.

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Mar 11

Grand Slam Reflections… The Permit

Carried over from Grand Slam Reflections… The Getting There.

The Permit

On the third day of the trip Shane and I were in the boat of Katchu, a guide from El Pescador, headed up to the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. We were looking for more action than we’d had the previous day on the tarpon flats of Savannah Cay. We wanted to catch fish, which is sometimes not what happens when you are hunting permit or tarpon.

Chillax'n on the boat ride north.

We set up on the inside of the lagoon, drifting silently over turtle grass, Katchu on the poling platform with his long, wooden push poll in his hand and his eyes scanning the distance. We were looking for permit. Shane and I didn’t really want to look for permit. We wanted to wade for bonefish. Katchu wanted us to look for permit and it was his boat. Katchu told us that the bonefishing would get better later in the day and we should drift along the permit flat first. I think, largely, the line about the bonefishing getting better later was fiction, but Katchu had a plan and he was going to execute on it no matter what we told him we wanted to do. So… we were on a permit flat looking for big black tails and not silver or blue ones.

I was up on deck first with a ten weight in my right hand, the fly in my left and fifty feet of fly line on the deck. I was scanning the water, looking for tails or nervous water. Now, a tail is a damn hard thing to miss on a wide open flat, but the stirring of the fish below the surface that creates “nervous water…” well… I have a hard time spotting that. My brain just isn’t trained that way. Every breeze that came up looked like fish. Every current that ran into a clump of turtle grass looked like fish. What doesn’t look like nervous water, though, is the flash of permit in the sun and that is exactly what I saw.

“Permit, 12:00!” We had found them and they were on the move. I had one shot and, well, it was the first cast of the day. It didn’t all come together and the fish passed out of range, heading up wind and away. There would be more, I was told. I didn’t really believe it.


As I stood on the deck, thinking back just a few minutes to me botching a good permit shot, the guide spotted two bonefish cruising the mangroves. I was very conscience that I had a 10 weight in my hand and I was thinking that the presentation would be too heavy. It is a dangerous thing, thinking. I made the first cast to the bones and tried to ease up on the power so the line wouldn’t smack on the water. Totally underpowered, the cast landed in a heap. I cast again, but my head was too much in the game and the result was the same.

My friend Shane, who is a certified casting instructor couldn’t hold his tongue. “Those are the two worst casts I’ve ever seen you make.” he said. It was pure truth. Those casts were just horrible. I couldn’t help but give a little laugh at the ridiculousness of the casting and the degree to which I could rain on my own parade. It was also glad that Shane had just shown that he wouldn’t hold back the truth and when you are out there to learn, you need the truth.

There wasn’t too much time to dwell on things. Permit were again spotted. “Permit, 1:00!” said Katchu. I pointed my rod. “More right! More right!” The rod passed 1:00 to 2:00. “More right! More right!” I was pointing at 3:00 now. We joked that Katchu’s clock went something like 12, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 6, 11, 11, 11, 11, 11. I pointed my rod at 3:00, but saw nothing. “Where?” I asked. “Nervous water, don’t you see it?” I didn’t… I didn’t see anything. “There, 800 feet, do you see it?”

“WHAT? Of course I don’t see it!” Again, I could do little but laugh. I might not be catching fish, but at least I was seeing the humor in it.

Just as I was about to step down and give the bow up to Shane we saw more nervous water, permit, moving at speed. Downwind. Moving our way. Katchu said “Cast Now!” and I did. The fly, a Christmas Island Special, landed in the middle of the school and the school parted. I let the fly sit for a second and then started stripping as if I were casting to Jacks. The school came back together and balled up around the fly. As the fly swam fast out of the school one permit broke off and followed it. The fish chased the fly down just an inch below the surface, water sheeting over it’s face as it opened its mouth and ate the fly. I saw every detail. I set the hook. The fish was on, the line was cleared and the reel began to sing its beautiful song. Soon the permit was in.

Per Mit. Not a big one, but an honest to god Permit.

This was my first permit ever. Someone later told me that there are two kinds of permit. There are “permit” and “big permit.” I had caught the former and I had done so pretty much completely to the contrary to almost anything you will ever read about how you cast to and catch permit. There was no crab pattern. There was no leading the fish and letting the fly sink or settle. I cast on top of the fish and stripped as if I were trying to keep a strip of bacon from a hungry dog.

This is where the guide shines and local knowledge burst to the fore. On my own I never would have selected that fly. On my own I never would have made that cast. On my own I never would have made that retrieve. On my own I never would have caught that fish. Katchu knew. I think Katchu has been down this road more than once and also knew that first permit and first tarpon tend to come with first big tips. He may not be able to read a clock, but he knows his waters and he knows how to catch fish and thank god for that.

Next up… the Bonefish.

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Jan 11

Good Job Puerto Rico

Got an email from Chris Goldmark over/down in Puerto Rico about recent good news for bonefish and bonefish lovers.

Great news!  Puerto Rico has officially passed into law protection for Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit and Palometa. It is now a minimum of a $100 per fish penalty and possible seizure of boat and nets or other gear if found guilty of violation of this new law. Lots of credit should be given to Fernando Monnlor and Capt Pochy Rosario as well as our “guiding light”, Craig Lillistrom for all their hard work in getting protection for these valuable marine resources. I myself have been involved in this fight from the beginning and hope now with legal protection we can begin to rebuild the stocks of these fish that have been abused for so many years. Good things do happen!

That sounds like good news to me, alright. Good job guys!

Chris down in Culebra, Puerto Rico

The trick, of course… will be enforcement.  A fine is all well and good and the intention is great, but if there is never a fine given and no nets ever confiscated or checked, well… like I said… enforcement is the key.

Dec 10

Buccaneers and Bones – the Trailer

The follow up to Pirates of the Flats, Buccaneers and Bones moves channels and locations and looks to be every bit as interesting.  One of the sites this year is… you guessed it, El Pescador Lodge.


The new show starts DECEMBER 26!  Set your DVR!

Dec 10

Lee Haskins ties a foam bonefishing fly… and catches fish.

I was on Blanton’s Board, looking around and I saw “Belize Report” from Lee Haskin.  Good stuff about permit and tarpon and a little about bones.  The pictures though… well… the “Shrimp Neutralizer” pattern… well… what?!?!  FOAM?!  I certainly hadn’t seen that before.  Really creative and it looks as if it caught fish.  Now that would have been handy to see before my Belize trip.

The Shrimp Neutralizer was very effective on bonefish and even had an “eat” from a big permit!

Great to use a fly that suspends and doesn’t hang up in the grass or coral!

via Trips, Flies and Fish: Belize-Rumble in the Jungle!.

Lee's bone and FOAM fly. Cool.

Lee... that's innovation. Well done.

Check out the trip report… you’ll see that Lee’s permit and tarpon were a littttttle bit bigger than mine… like… A LOT bigger.  That’s what Belize has to offer.

Dec 10

Belize Report – The Last Day

We woke up the last morning at El Pescador knowing the clock was running down.  We had to be back and packed by 11:45 before we took the boat to San Padro, flight to Belize City and then to Dallas before we’d go separate ways.  Since it was 5:00 AM, we still had some quality fishing time to get after and that’s what we did.

We got the canoe out in the lagoon and hit our favorite spot from the first DIY day.  When we got there the water was glassy smooth and, as you might expect, there were a few tails working, easily spotted from a couple hundred feet.   It was a nice scenario for our last day.


I got to the tails first and managed the first fish of the morning, which was nice.  Unlike the last time we had fished this spot we didn’t find large schools of fish, but smaller groups.  Shane stuck a couple more and then we moved.

In the transition the weather started to change… up came some wind, in came cloud cover and the threat of rain.  We came upon a clearing between mangrove chutes that looked pretty good.  Shallow.  Good bottom.  Spooking fish as we paddles.  We tied up the canoe and went to work.

Here, Shane managed one of the better Belizean bonefish we saw.  It was a single, cruising the edge of the mangroves.  Shane pulled some ninja stalking techniques out and the fish ate.

An honest 4 pounder... maybe 4 1/4.

Shane really came into his own here… seeing fish I couldn’t see and then casting to them and catching them.  I walked through the muck to get to another spot and managed to have a decent bonefish come unbuttoned.  I also managed to have THREE mojarra beat bonefish to flies… damn mojarra.  I managed a couple more bonefish, included one small enough to make me think I was fishing a creek back home.

This IS the other side of the rainbow... it ends in Belize.

Not a big fish... but pretty.

Shane ended up catching something like 15 bonefish just that morning before we paddled back.  I caught three.  This bit of ass-kickery kind of illustrated exactly how much the Grand Slam from the day before was up to fate and luck as opposed to skill.  I knew I wasn’t as good an angler as Shane and this re-enforced that belief.  The guy can flat out fish.

The release

Soon we were paddling back across the little lagoon, wind in our face.  We made it back with plenty of time for showers and lunch.  While Shane was eating lunch I took 15 feet of tippet and a small velcro crab out to the dock.  I had a hunch I wanted to test out about those dock bonefish.  I managed to convince a little snapper to eat the crab and then I saw a little school of 5 or so bonefish.  With the wind to my back I tossed in the crab.  One bonefish came right up to the little fly and ate it.  I tried to set the hook, lifting the head of the bonefish up, but the hook simply came right out.  Damn, I thought… that would have been a good end to the trip!

The trip had been a good one… a great one even.  I had caught my first ever permit and my first ever tarpon in a magical day that had landed me a Grand Slam.  I had caught my largest fish to date… a 25 pound Jack.  I had caught many smaller bonefish to add to my overall bonefish knowledge for future bonefish trips.  We had fished through crappy weather and good weather and some tense times with Katchu and fun times with Katchu.  I had shared the trip with a good friend in a kind of magical place.

I hadn’t caught as many bonefish as I had really thought I would, but then I hadn’t figured on chasing permit and a day on the tarpon flats, which were both great experiences.

Thank you El Pescador for having us.  You have a special place and a special fishery.

Nov 10

Belize Report, Day 5 – The Grand Slam

We set our alarm for 5:00 AM so that we would be totally ready by the time Katchu, our guide, got to El Pescador with the boat.  All showered and fed and ready to go, we were looking forward to a day of more productive fishing than the previous day’s tarpon hunting.

We were going to be headed up along the Mexican/Belizean boarder where we hoped to stay north of the clouds.  The day looked promising as we headed out.  There were no other boats headed our direction as we made the 45 minute ride up the interior of the bay.  A good sign.

We got up to the park and paid our $5 USD entrance fee and in 5 more minutes we were set up, drifting along near the shore, looking for permit.  Katchu told us that the fishing for bonefish would be better in a couple hours and that at this time in the morning (about 7:50 or so) we should try to find some permit.  I was on deck again first and had the Sage Xi3 10 wt. rigged for permit, which in this case meant 15 pound tippet and a lightly weighted Christmas Island Special.

Along the shore were cruising a couple nice bonefish and Katchu positioned me to cast to them.  I was maybe too keenly aware that I had a 10 weight in my hand and I tried to have a delicate presentation and ended up totally under-powering a couple of casts.  It was such shocking casting that even Shane had to say “Those are probably the two worst casts I’ve ever seen you make.”  It was objectively true, so I couldn’t argue.  It was a case of dramatic over-thinking.

Luckily, things changed quickly when nervous water was spotted coming towards us… a school of permit.  I made the cast, right in the middle of the school, and just like their cousins, the Jacks, the permit parted and quickly regrouped.   I stripped fast and one fish became hell bent on eating.  He chased the fly with reckless abandon. Just like with Shane’s Jack the day before, I could see the fish, water sheeting over it’s head as it chased down the fly to eat.  It did.  I set the hook.  It was off to the races.

Permit. Not a world record, but a frigging permit!

Now, fishing for permit presents some interesting gear choices.  The fish I ended up landing was not really a fish you’d throw a 10 weight for… maybe it went 2-3 pounds, but out there on that same flat were permit going 20+.  The Orvis Helios 8 wt. probably would have been better, but, ya know… probably better to be over-gunned than under.

The permit was my first.  A milestone in its own right.

I'm ready for my close-up!

Shane was up and after being out of position for most of the other permit we saw, we headed to a little Caye riiiiiiiiight up against the Mexican boarder to look for bonefish.  It must be said that while we struggled with light and clouds, we could see the Mexican side bright and sunny all day.  It will give me extra reasons to root for the US when next we play soccer.

The fishing along this little caye was just fantastic.  There were about a million bonefish there, but also jacks, barracuda, snappers and permit.  We fished one little school of bonefish and if I missed the fish the drill was to cast out to line the school so they would retreat.  This they would do, totally according to the script, and then they’d come back in a couple minutes.  We could have sat on that school of bonefish all day.  We traded fish for a good amount of time and fun was had.

Point, cast, catch... Shane at work.

When Shane was on deck we saw, right mixed in with the bones, permit.  There were actually two schools of permit and there were some tense exchanges between Shane and Katchu about what cast was the best to make but in the end Shane made the cast that needed to be made and he was soon watching his line rip through the water, attached to a permit at the other end.  Then… the fish just came unbuttoned.  No reason… it just came off.

We fished down to the point of the Caye and got to do some wading.  Shane is at his most content when he gets to find his own fish, so this was a good stop for Shane.   It was a good stop for me too as I stuck a fair number of bonefish there myself.

Belizean Bone rocking the Skinny Water Culture mask.

We fished here until it was about time to head back and Katchu said “If we want to get you the Slam, we better go now.”  So, we went.  It took all of about 5 minutes to get to the canal and another 5 minutes to get to the little mangrove enclosed lagoon where we’d be looking for “baby” tarpon.

I had never caught a tarpon.  But, ya know, before that morning I had never caught a permit either.  I had hooked a tarpon (the day before) and made quick work of botching the job, so… I was glad to hear “baby tarpon.”  They sounded maybe a bit easier.

Just on the other side of this tunnel, I botched TWO tarpon eats.

Newsflash… the babies are not really babies… they are more like young-adults full of testosterone and anger.  The first fish I cast to (which was totally not small, by the way) attacked the fly like my wife going after a pair of comfortable black high-heels… like me after bacon… it was savage.  I felt totally unprepared.  Actually, I WAS unprepared and quickly botched it.  I then botched the follow-up.

We retreated further into the mangroves and I found myself in a mangrove-lined dead-end mini-lagoon with a tarpon at the other end and my grand slam on the line.  An off-shoulder backcast was called for and delivered.  The fish showed some real psychological issues as it threw itself at the fly and I nearly had to seek immediate psychological help after I botched THAT attempt.  The fish, however, was still looking for the fly after I had just pulled it from its mouth and two more strips and the fish ate.  I didn’t botch this one. I didn’t give an inch.  I bowed to the fish when it jumped NINE FRIGGING FEET in the air.

There it is. Amazing.

The fish was in.  The grand slam was in the bag.  I was amazed.  A Grand Slam that featured my first ever permit and my first ever tarpon.  This sort of thing just doesn’t happen.  But it did.  What an amazing day.

Thanks for being there Tarpon.

One of the best beers I've ever had. A Grand Slam Beer.

Nov 10

A very, very, very good day in Belize

I didn’t expect it.  But it happened.  Amazing.




A Grand Slam at El Pescador.

My Grand Slam Pin from El Pescador.

Nov 10

Bouncer Flies, the Avalon and something new.

I was looking around for some different flies to tie and came across the Avalon Fly, named after one of the big boys of Cuban fishing.  It had a mono loop on the underside of the fly with beads hanging loosely on the loop.  This was something I hadn’t seen before, so I tied a couple up and asked around about the theory behind the fly.  I was directed to the Bouncer  Flies website, which sheds some light on the topic.

A new construction method that can make exciting new patterns, and will improve many old favorite flies.


While I didn’t have all the colors that I saw on the Avalon, I did try to tie some up to see how it might all come together.  The Avalon is supposed to be primarily a permit fly, but it might be fishable for bones and maybe even tarpon… we’ll see if it even gets broken out of the  fly box in Belize.  Something new at the vice, which is always interesting.

A first go at the Avalon.

Oct 10

El Pescador – Belize – a la Youtube

About 40 days to go…


Kind of looking forward to it.