I open the door and look up and my heart sinks, just a bit. There are clouds… thick clouds, and a bit of wind and it is only 6:30 in the morning. I’m heading out to the dock to look for bonefish on this day, when we’ll be going out with a guide to fish the waters near Caye Caulker.
As I get out to the street and look in the direction of the reef I see a dark wall of weather coming this way.
The dock is in the lee and the bonefish are there, because they seem to always be there when people or boats don’t drive them off… and even sometimes when it seems like they really should be scarce.
One comes to hand. Not a big one, but a bonefish. I’m on the board so the rest of the day is gravy.
Anna wakes up, or I wake her up, and we get breakfast up on the rooftop bar and she gets all kitted out in flats fishing gear. She’s wearing the uniform.
The guide pulls up at the hotel’s dock, a panga, no poling platform, but the pole is there, so I’m pretty sure we are in good hands. Purnell, I think he says his name is, isn’t optimistic about the weather but he tells me we’ll do what we can do and I tell him I understand he doesn’t control the weather.
The game plan, in my head, my aspirational game plan before we got here was tarpon. That plan is out the window with the weather. Instead, we run North. Crab Caye. This is a series of mangrove islands and lagoons somewhere in-between San Pedro and Caye Caulker. This seems to be the place the guides run to when something wicked is coming up from the South, and something wicked is certainly on the way. As we run north the storm is moving faster than we are. The panga’s twin 40’s are having a hard time with the sargassum, which was everywhere and in great amounts. Every 100 or 200 yards we have to stop, reverse and commence our forward progress again. It makes for slow going, but we wouldn’t beat this storm no matter what we had on the back of the panga. It is a fast mover.
As we get to the spot the guide wants us I get up on deck. While I want my girl to get into some fish, this isn’t really a spot that will work for her. She needs a mud to get a bone and I don’t think that is in the cards today. So, I am up on deck and as we turn the corner we see another boat with another guide who is trying just like we are to find a little bit of fishable water before the storm steals the day.
Another corner turned and another boat… two actually.
The guide has one more spot to check. We head into a mangrove lined channel. I love places like this.
As we emerge from the mangrove channel I see before us a picture perfect lagoon and, just as we cut the engines on the other side of the lagoon we see… another boat. They aren’t going to leave us to it. They are going to fish the lagoon as well. We go one way, they go the other. We’ll share.
We tuck over to the left where there is a little corner to the lagoon, a little tongue heading back in and on the fringes of that opening we see something move. First thought from me is bonefish, because that’s what I have seen in places like this before, but the guide tells me it is a snook.
A snook, eh? I’ve caught few of them. I’ve fished for few of them. They aren’t a game fish I know well, but, hell, I’m game.
We set up, waiting to see if the fish comes back and… it does.
Along the inside of the corner I see a fish moving towards us.
“Put it right in front of the fish. Close.” says Purnell.
I make the cast and the gurgler lands somewhere around a foot from the snout of the snook. One pop and the snook has keyed on it.
“Slow strips, not to fast” says the guide.
This is advice I need because I don’t magically know how to present a gurgler to a snook. I haven’t done it before.
I strip slowly and the snook comes casually up to the fly and then eats it like a trout taking a dry fly. It is an awesome take. Is this how snook eat? I have no idea but I do know I can’t let this fish have any line or I’ll lose him in the mangroves. Luckily, this in my tarpon rod, a 10 weight with 40# fluorocarbon and I hold the fish out of the mangroves, manhandling it to the boat in short order.
It is a nice snook. I’m sure there are nicer snook out there, but this is probably my nicest snook to date. A fine fish. The leader is worn, substantially, from the rough mouth of the snook. It looks and feels like a tarpon was caught on this fly. I don’t remember that from the few snook I’ve caught before, but maybe the smaller ones don’t wear so much on the leader? What I do know is that this was a great moment.
My daughter gets to touch the fish, gets to look at it.
“Cool” she says.
“Thank you,” I tell the guide. I always thank the guide, for every fish.
And that is pretty much it. I get one cast in at a pair of snook just a couple of minutes later and it is a good cast/presentation, but the fish don’t show any interest. I spot three bonefish nearby, but they are turning away, presenting their tails as targets, never promising.
The weather is coming on fast now. We’ll be in a deluge if we don’t make a move quickly. The fly rod gets put away. I tell the guide that the next fish we get should be my daughters, no matter how we have to do it.
With that, my fly fishing is pretty much done for the day. The weather comes. It rains hard, but we find shelter in a one-room shack built out over the water, probably for this very purpose.
Just the one snook, but it was a good fish. It was a good take. Memorable. I’ll savor that experience.