Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Day on the Flats Fly Fishing Around Ambergris Caye

A day on the flats in Belize is something Karen and I always look forward to. The day starts the night before ensuring rods, reels, tippet and flies are ready to go. We have two 8 weights ready for bonefish, one 9 weight for permit and a 10 weight set up for tarpon! Typically a 12 pound leader tapered down to 10 or sometimes even 8 pound tippet for bonefish, a 16 pound leader for permit with 16 pound tippet and 60 to 80 pound leader for tarpon. A day on the water begins anytime from 5:30 am to 7 am. The starting time usually has a lot to do with weather, wind, tides and our general destination for the day. Coffee and toast make the start up easy. We make our lunch the night before. We know that Hilian and Omar will have water and other drinks on the boat.

As the sun rises over the reef, we can see Hilian and Omar slowly motoring through the channel near the bridge. Occassionally they get checked by the Belizian Coast Guard to ensure they have all of their documents up to date! As they arrive at the dock, there is lots of anticipation. The wind and weather have a big say on that. The trade winds typically blow from the east or north east. When the wind blows from the north, we often head to Tranquility Bay or hide behind islands looking for permit or bonefish!

Our guys have their favourite places to take guests. If we are looking for permit, there are several great spots to look. If it is a bonefish day, there are several beautiful flats to pole along. 

You take turns casting from the deck on the boat unless you are on foot. I like fishing both ways. Our guides do a great job setting up the boat so you have a good cast at the fish.

Overcast days are tough for the guide to see the fish. On those days we go searching for tails or disturbed mud that feeding fish have churned up. We also keep a close eye on rays. Often permit travel along with them looking for an easy meal.

We do take a break for lunch although we do sometimes eat on the fly as we motor to a new flat.

Hilian and Omar will try their best to give you the day you have imagined for yourself. Karen and I rely heavily on our guides to help us determine where we will go. We always encounter fish. We have learned to just enjoy the day, let it unfold. Just soak in being out on the water.

A typical day ends around 3 pm and sometimes a bit later. The day always seems to fly by! Once we get to the dock, a cold Belekin beer always goes down great. There are fish stories to share. Hopefully the stories are a celebration of a great day.

Sunrise and here comes Hilian and Omar

We love to fly fish with small Gotchas, sometimes as small as size 10 and Bonefish Junk


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why are We Obsessed with Permit?

Will it happen today? Will you hook a permit? When it all comes together and you hook one, will you land it? You better have the right mind set when it comes to permit. Getting a perfect cast after your guide works his butt off to find the black tailed devil and then does everything in his power to position the boat and you still come up empty! Seriously!

My buddy Doug landed his first two permit this year. He has been working at it for three years and finally had the good fortune to have everything come together. His first permit was while he was blind casting for tarpon in a spot where we know tarpon hang out. The little palometto came to hand on a tarpon fly with 20 pound tippet. The guide had a great giggle when he saw the fish coming in to the boat. Omar had been working hard to get Doug a permit for a couple years. On a cloudy morning in the rain, the permit god decided it was the moment for Doug. 

The next permit for Doug was a little more traditional. Hilian had him cast at some permit and he hooked up and landed a nice one! It was a great moment and yes, the celebration included scotch!

Karen and I have had so many permit encounters in the last 7 years!

Our first successful encounter was quite unexpected. We met our guide, Nestor who told us we were going to get the hard one out of the way first. Karen and I looked at each other and kind of shrugged. We set up in a big open area and just waited. About 30 minutes later, Nestor saw them and we were off to set up. We got to a shore and Karen and I set up the way Nestor wanted us to. A POD of permit was coming down a shoreline, actively feeding. I cast my pink gotcha right out in front of the POD and I immediately got a take and as I set up to battle the permit, I was broken off. Despair!

Nestor yelled to Karen to get ready. She got an excellent cast in front of the POD of permit and she also hooked up. What a moment. Nestor ran down the shore to help Karen while I tied on a new fly. After a picture or two, we chased after the POD. They went into a small bay that was a mud flat. Oh man that was tough going. I was rewarded for my persistence. I hooked and landed two permit. Karen ran down with the camera and we got a few photos of the second permit. Wow three landed permit in an hour. Crazy!

That was the start with the obsession. In the following days, my good friend Hilian Martinez gave us the chance to catch several more permit and we did. Mostly smaller ones but that did not matter!

Over the years we have continued to chase the black tailed devil. We have learned that when it is your moment, it will happen. Last March, Hilian was guiding the Mermaids; Taryn and Karen. Early in the afternoon, a ray came wandering by and there was a permit feeding right on top of the ray. Hilian told Karen, back hand cast at 2 o'clock. Karen shouted, " I cannot make that cast."

 Hilian replied, " Try!"

 The back hand cast was short of the permit by 4 feet. The permit's lateral line made it turn to investigate. The permit charged the fly and Karen hooked up. I was excited because I was in the boat to take photos. I then realized Karen had 10 pound tippet on her line because she was bonefishing a few short minutes before. Hilian masterfully coached Karen so she did not make a mistake. She landed a 6 maybe 7 pound permit, her largest. Hilian slide over the side of his guide boat and tailed the dandy permit. Now that was cause for celebration.

My largest permit was at the feeding grounds at Blackadore. I was with the Dr. of the Flats, Omar Arceo. Omar spotted a POD of larger permit and he told me to get out of the boat! NOW! My buddy Colin slid into the water too. Off we went. Omar believes that you can get more shots when on foot. Now Omar is 62 years old and he can move it in the water. We got into position and after 5 casts, I hooked up. Omar's first question was how much backing did I have. I had 300 yards of backing. It took me 30 minutes to land the 12 perhaps 13 pound trophy. Omar coached me through it all so I would not screw up. My buddy Colin got some pictures. After several attempts, Omar tailed the permit. My heart was pounding with excitement. I tore back to the boat to get my camera. A few shots and off the permit went to join to mob! I hooked two more that day. Including a monster that snapped16 pound tippet like it was thread. I will never forget that day!

My buddy Stuart had his moment too. Stuart was out of guide days but we were able to rearrange the schedule a bit and get him one more day. It was the day before he was heading home. Hilian found a POD of permit moving down the west shore of Ambergris Caye. Stuart hooked up and landed his first. It was another happy moment. It was Stuart's time! Stuart had several great shots at permit in the days before this happened. Today was his day. I can still picture Stuart making a perfect 80 foot cast to permit at Rosario Caye. A permit went after his fly and missed.. Ugg! How maddening.

My neighbour and friend Colin has landed two small permit. He did not endure too much frustration to catch them. He was at the right place at the right time and a great cast got him his prizes.

Rick got two permit at Tranquility Bay last year while being guided by Omar! Rick was excited. It was Rick's turn and he made a perfect cast in the corner of a bay. The next day, there were 14 guide boats in the same bay. Crazy, right!

In the last two weeks I had so many chances to land a permit. I hooked three and all three became unpinned. Some casts have to be across or into the wind. Sometimes the water is so choppy that one of your legs is wrapped around the support bar on the casting platform. I know Taryn had some great shots in a howling 30 mph wind. She made several great casts. When she hooked up with the Trade Winds howling in her face, we realized it was a bonefish that beat the permit to the fly. Sigh.

When you do hook up with a permit, it is pure magic! Yes, we are all obsessed with the pursuit. That includes our guides. Our guides, Omar and Hilian know where to look. They are also incredibly skilled in setting up the boat so you get the best shot possible. The guides get excited too. They want you to hook up. I can always feel their enthusiasm and energy. When the shots come, it happens quickly and can be intense for short periods of time. I love that. The guides are very invested in the pursuit as well.

The pursuit never ends. We all await our next dance with the black tailed devil!

Colin get out of the boat NOW!