Saw this in an email from Yellow Dog, promoting the conservation efforts going on in Belize. Kudos to the folks at Yellow Dog for including that in their email marketing… a step they don’t have to take, but are.
The folks behind this could use a bit of a financial bump. Consider donating.
I love Belize and I’ll be clicking a few dollars their way for sure.
The Trump Administration recently announced some expanded travel restrictions for Cuba, because, ya know… they are super, super, super duper a threat to our way of life and, also, he’d like to keep Florida red in 2020.
I talked with Kristen Tripp, Program Director for Cuba at Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and I asked her what the impact of this latest news would be on their program.
First, Kristen expressed her frustration and sorrow for the people of Cuba who have been through a lot, make due with very little and are certainly being hurt by some of these very backward looking policies. There’s a shortage of just about everything in Cuba, including chickens, and people really are being put through unnecessary harm.
Second, Kristen explained that things have changes since I went to Cuba back in 2012. The whole operation has worked hard to make their trips legal (read, not just sneaking in from Mexico). This new policy makes that harder, but not impossible and they’ll be trying very hard to maintain above-board Cuban trips this year and into the future. Trips are still being booked to Cuba and any already on the books are grandfathered in. Still, there will be changes and the exact fall-out is a bit still to be worked out.
Cuba was a fantastic experience for me… one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was pretty obvious how bad the Cuban people were hurting back then and it hasn’t gotten better since. It is all a travesty and I hope some intelligence seeps into our Cuban policy that doesn’t revolve around Presidential politics.
For the latest developments, there are few people better suited to answer your questions than the folks at Yellow Dog and Kristen in particular.
I’m not the only one who thinks this is a bad idea. So does Foreign Policy (that liberal rag). The Guardian thinks sanctions don’t work. Fortune seems to think it is a bad idea.
It is bad policy… a failed policy that didn’t work for 50 years. Let’s get past this.
I kind of love Caye Caulker, Belize. This year was Year #2 for Spring Break and if I can avoid any legal trouble stemming from this trip, next year will be #3.
We booked this trip through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and stayed, for the second year in a row, at Sea Dreams, near the northern tip of Caye Caulker just shy of “The Split.” We even stayed in the same room, #5, a modest courtyard room with two single beds. The travelers were just myself and my 11 year old daughter.
Caye Caulker sits off the mainland, about a 40 minutes water taxi ride from Belize City. This year the taxi driver at the airport took it as his personal mission to get us on the boat set to depart in just a few minutes. He did. It was Indy 500 stuff. I tipped him well, but won’t seek him out in the future. We got to the port and walked on the boat and it took off. The kind of timing you see in the movies when no one is ever sitting around waiting for anything.
When you get to the island it is just another world. Shoes optional. 2-3 cars on the whole island. Kids, families and tourists walking, biking or golf-carting around. It is intimate. It is tight. It feels safe in the way the mythical 50’s sound safe.
We got to Sea Dreams, got our room, went to get dinner and then I went back to catch a bonefish off the dock… which I did almost immediately. That’s my kind of place.
The next day was a chillax day. We arranged for a snorkel trip later in the week and I strung up all the rods (a total of four). We fed the tarpon… man I love that… we went through three bags of bait. We had a day of guided fishing set up the next day with Haywood, owner of Sea Dreams.
Haywood is, to be totally clear on things, a damn fine person. His whole family is pretty awesome, as we’d find out later in the week. Haywood is pretty much the perfect age (read the same age I am) and he has an 11 year old daughter, in addition to another younger daughter. His wife co-founded the local high-school and he gushes about her very much in the same way I gush about my own wife, who I think is amazing. I like Haywood. I’d even be friends with him in real life.
Our fishing day on Tuesday started off with me on the deck, but nursing a bit of a headache that didn’t come from booze. In the back of my mind I was starting to say “Man… something is off here.” One bonefish down and my daughter got a chance to be up on deck. I relished the opportunity to sit down a bit, which is very, very out of character. I was feeling achey. My head was pounding and I needed a rest. Haywood got my daughter a snook on some live bait, which was nice, and I had to admit to the boat that I was not feeling very good and maybe she could take more time on the bow.
Me… giving up bow time. Whaaa???
A couple Tylenol, lunch and a bit of a break and I did get up and try things again for a bit, missing one or two snook grabs, breaking off a cuda and landing a couple other small cudas. But, by the time we got back to the dock all I wanted was bed. I laid down and didn’t get back up. My daughter actually got us dinner. I ate some rice, but that was all I could manage.
Haywood with my daughter’s snook
I woke up at 4:00 AM wondering if I was going to be ill. At 6:00 AM I found out that, yes, I was in fact going to be ill. Vomiting ensued and kept up until about 10:30, the tanks empty… scoured out in fact. I was not going anywhere. I was not capable of going anywhere. We were not going snorkeling. We were not doing Mayan Ruins. We were going to be lucky, super lucky, if my daughter didn’t catch whatever it was I had. The trip kicked into survival mode.
My daughter took care of me, our roles flipped. She went out and got me gatorade. She went out and bought me bananas after watching a YouTube video about what to do when you have a GI bug. She entertained herself around Sea Dreams, at the little dock, walking about the streets near the hotel. She stepped up. I was super proud of her.
A view of my bedside table shows I was on the Fluids train.
Fluids… it is all about the fluids.
Later in the afternoon she told me she was going to take a bike out. It was a comment over her shoulder as she walked out. I wasn’t in shape to chase after her to talk more about it. She’s not a hugely experienced bike rider, but the streets are sand, everyone’s out, there aren’t cars… seemed OK. A while later Haywood came in to tell me she’d fallen off a bike and she was OK, but did I want to take her to get checked out by a Dr? I put some clothes on and went with Haywood and my daughter to the private Dr. She checked out pretty quickly and we went back to Sea Dreams and I went back to bed. Haywood stepped up there. He was huge.
Later that night Anna even ate dinner with him and his family. I wasn’t going anywhere. They took her in for the evening. It was pretty much pure awesome, just a family helping my family out when we needed some help.
The next day my stomach was still off, but I was feeling, oh, let’s call it 50%. I could at least go out and get breakfast and lunch with my girl. Her bike fall had injured her shoulder a bit and so there were some activities that were just not going to be workable. Our vacation options were pretty much down to walking around, eating and watching island life go by.
There was some fishing in the evening… thank the fates for dock lights, and that was pretty much it.
The last night we were out on the dock and I set Anna up with a fly rod and a heavy shrimp fly. The fish were eating the fly without it being moved, but she wasn’t connecting. I hooked her some fish and she got to land them and we got to enjoy a little bit of what the trip could have been. It was a really nice few moments.
The island is just a wonderful place. There are activities a plenty to sign up for, even if we didn’t get to participate in much of it this year. It is just a great place to be, even if you are puking your guts out.
I’m at the point where I’m excited, but I also know high expectations are a killer.
Not great weather
As fantastic as last year’s Caye Caulker trip were, the day of fly fishing was mostly washed out. I got one nice snook to hand before the storm enveloped us in it’s dark and watery embrace. We spent at least an hour in a hut trying to stay out of the rain. It was not, in pure fishing terms, a super day, although it was still a wonderful day in terms of being on the water with my daughter.
This year should be easier with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and taking care of many of the getting-there logistics. With the airport on Caye Caulker out of service for repairs, they are making sure I’m getting met at the airport and taken to the water taxi and getting picked up at the dock. Nice service.
I have one day of fly fishing coming up in Belize. Other days will be ruin tours and snorkeling and hanging out. I have just the one day with a guide and we’ll have to keep my daughter happy at the same time.
It could rain hard again.
There could be thick cloud cover and the fish could be hard to see.
Wrong tides… that happens when you don’t have a week of fishing.
My daughter might not be feeling well.
I could get stung by something in the turtle grass and have agonizing nerve pain that keeps my from sleeping at all the night before (as happened during my honeymoon to Belize 5.5 years ago).
There are a million (ok, a few dozen) things that could go wrong.
So… I won’t get too excited.
Need to mentally slow play this.
But still. I’m excited. Jittery (and only on my first cup of coffee).
Can’t wait to get down there and I don’t have to wait long.
I guess they are bigger out in NJ and the one in Atlanta? Maybe others too? We have one out here in Pleasanton, not too far away from where I call home. I have been to that show more often than not over the past decade. I have worked that show a few times… once for BTT, twice for Friends of the River, maybe once for Clearwater, back when it was Clearwater House.
I love the show. I see old friends and seem to have interesting conversations every year. I don’t really go to buy anything and I didn’t eve cast a rod this year (fewer and fewer ron makers seem to be showing up). But there are still lots of people I like at the show, people I generally only see there.
This year I brought my 11 year old daughter and she didn’t want to leave. I heard her on the phone with a friend later say “I spent the day at a fly fishing show… it was actually pretty fun.”
I’m going to put that in the parenting win column.
I got to introduce my daughter to Camille Egdorf, of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and from the movie Providence. It was funny because my daughter kind of fan-girled her, although I’m not sure she knew who she was. I made her watch Providence when we got home. Now she knows.
Instructors include Jim Klug, Bryan Gregson and Jess McGlothlin.
I’ve had the privilege to be on a boat with Jim and to see his approach to photography (which is the kind of focus the Cookie Monster has toward cookies, and by that, I mean intense and singular).
I know a lot of you want to take better pictures of your time out there and these instructors, and that place (El Pescador, one of my favorite places on earth)… I mean… how could you NOT count that as one of your all-time highlight experiences???
I know those Yellow Dog guys are kind of crazy for permit. I have yet to come down with that particular bug. Everyone tells me that I really should be crazy for permit and maybe someday I will be, but for now, I still have bonefish on the brain (and a bit of an interest in tarpon).
People will go to great lengths to chase after permit. It seems to be a deeper sort of infection. It would have to be. Permit make bonefish look plentiful and crazily easy. Permit anglers are destined to fail way, way more often than they succeed. You don’t go out to catch permit, you go out to find them and have a shot.
Well… who knew? I was just at Barnes and Noble and saw an issue of The Drake.
I don’t have a subscription and while I have heard really good things about the magazine, I had not ever purchased one. I had decided that this was the time to do so and as I thumbed through the magazine on the way up to the cashier I saw there was a poster insert. I took a peak and recognized, instantly, my own hand. Well… that’s kind of awesome. My tarpon is in The Drake. Jim Klug took the photo, and a damn fine photo it is.
We started off today getting an unexpected shot at a nice permit… a black tale sticking up through the wave about 40 feet away. I made the cast, had a follow and a little jack grabbed the fly before Mr. Permit could.
After that I broke off a bone, lost one in the mangroves and was starting to get a little frustrated. Then… the day turned around. My boat-mate, Charlie, caught his first fly caught bone, then his second and third. We found a school of bones that just wouldn’t spook and we caught bone after bone.
Then, we went looking for tarpon. We found them. We fished a deep cut with sooooo much life, it was just amazing. There were jacks busting bait and tarpon rolling and cudas crushing little bait fish. It was happening all around us and it was awe inspiring. Felt like being transported back in time to some virgin bit of paradise.
I had a tarpon eat my black death bunny about 20 feet off the boat. I was sure I had a good hook set on him, but he spit the hook on the first jump. I was shaken… literally. Took me a few minutes to get composed (but it was the kind of being ruffled with a big smile on my face). Had a second shot and a good hoot set. The fish took off and then jumped (caught on camera, I’ll get it up when I can) and then came off. I even jumped a third tarpon. A nice tarpon. Maybe 60 pounds. Awesome.
It was just a fantastic, wonderful day with Avalon guide TiTi and boat-mate Charlie. I caught somewhere around 5-7 bones, three snappers, a horse eyed jack (15 pounds) and jumped three nice tarpon.
We’ve even seen Franco this evening, the saltwater croc that hangs around the houseboat.
One of the most enjoyable days I’ve had on the water.