The end of a great trip to Belize!
The last day is always sad. Granny and I’ve had such good time down here at Belize River Lodge. This morning we awoke to developing clouds. This would normally deter us from the flats; however the tarpon weren’t rolling at the Belize River mouth either. So off Granny, Pedro and I went to test our eyes in tough flats conditions in hopes to see wakes, nervous water and tails.
We made about a ½ hour run to Hicks Key. Hicks is one of my old favorites and you can find about any species here. The plan was to look for permit tails. When Pedro cut the engine I wasted no time taking the bow. One thing with permit, if you’re not ready they’ll be there. I don’t know how many times I haven’t got a rod out quick enough. Sure enough a school of what looked like permit swooshed from fleeing cormorants. Pedro yelled, “Permit moving right”. I already had them in my radar and was ripping off line. My first cast was short but two more huge line pulls from the reel then a new cast and my crab was sinking in front of the fish. In a split second I felt a vicious thump. Fish on!
At first we thought I had a permit. With the poor light some dorsal fins cutting above the water looked black. But as my fish and his friends got on our right I could see the fins of big jack crevalle. The initial run was all my 10-weight Ross RX could handle. Seriously, the jack crevalle is an underrated gangster of a fish. These guys courageously eat anything and then test your forearms and equipment to the max. If you’re inexperienced, expect to fight a 10lb jack for at least 20 minutes. And if you know what you’re doing, fight him hard but remember, jacks have busted up more fly rods next to the boat than most fish. About eight minutes after hook up I was gripping the tail of a respectable mean looking crevalle.
When done with the jack, it looked like it was about to rain. I noticed a wake in very shallow water. I reached for my 7-weight rigged with an un-weighted pink crazy Charlie and made a short sidearm cast in front of the V. Wham! My hands still reeked of jack and I was hooked to a small bonefish. After I landed him Pedro looked to me and asked, “How about some snappers?”
It was Granny’s turn however she knew how much fun I was having. She’s still celebrating her tarpon. She told me to grab my snapper rig and get read to have fun. For snapper, especially if there are big ones around, you need mono shock tippet. I picked up my 9-weight RX already affixed with 60 pound mono shock and a red and white whistler. I checked the hook and nodded to Pedro. He told me to get line out as he motored to the edge of some mangroves. On the first cast I landed this handsome gray snapper (also known as the mangrove snapper).
A cloudy day fly fishing in Belize couldn’t have gone any better. During the next hours Granny and I boated more snappers, two baby black groupers, a horse-eye jack and some small barracudas. It was a fantastic multispecies day. So what if we couldn’t find the permit and tarpon – what a great way to end a fantastic trip to Belize!
November 26, 2012
I opened our room door at 5:30 expecting a whim of cold air like the last few days, but there wasn’t. A t-shirt would suffice for my first cup of coffee. More delighting, there were few clouds overhead. Today we were going permit fishing with Pedro.
For starters we motored right over the rolling tarpon at the mouth of the Belize River. Then we zoomed by the channel markers where I landed the tripletail. We skipped the snook holes and skirted south past Belize City and made a 45 minute run to Pedro’s favorite permit grounds.
Once there I handed Granny my 10-weight RX with a brown crab pattern securely loop knotted to a 16lb leader then I scanned ahead for tails. “I’m fishing?” she pointed to herself with a look of surprise. Granny was fishing and she knows how hard permit are on the fly. She didn’t have the confidence in her cast. But I convinced her that after yesterday, you never know.
Two minutes later we found three more permit and these were tailing. These were nice permit, easily 15lbs judging from the width of their flopping black trimmed tails. They were a good 80ft out and due to calm conditions we couldn’t go any closer for fear of spooking them. Even with encouragement, Granny wouldn’t attempt the long toss. Any other fish species in the world and I’d of insisted. But I go crazy for permit.
I grabbed the rod and ripped off another 20ft of fly line and quietly perched myself on the bow of our panga. Then I side armed the crab right in front of the lead fish (A heavy crab lands much softer with a side arm cast. Then there’s less chance of spooking the fish). His tail rose and flapped as I pulled ever so slowly. There’s no doubt he saw my fake but rather than eat the fly he did a quick circle around it. I bumped it again with several short strips but he refused it again and moved away.
I stripped in like a mad man and launched another cast right in front of them again. Now they were near 90ft away. My crab sank inches in front of all three. I pulled slowly then added several short strips. The finicky fish twirled around with interest but moved away again. I ended up with five good casts to these permit before they finally got suspicious and slipped to deeper water out of sight. Damn!
When fishing the flats you almost always encounter something else cool other than the fishing. Today we came across a herd of manatees feeding in a bay. I see a lot of them every time I come to Belize but today was unique in that we got to essentially hang out with them for as long as we wanted. They are so strange!
November 25, 2012
I needed my fleece again this morning. It didn’t feel quite as cool as yesterday morning, but still, in Belize you shouldn’t need a fleece. Today we have a new guide, Pedro. I requested Pedro because back when I came to Belize River Lodge a lot he was my favorite. Pedro knows his stuff, enjoys an angler that tries all species and hence we became great friends. It’s been about eighteen years since he guided me, however I saw him about eight years ago when he visited Idaho.
Granny and I were about burned out on the tarpon at the mouth of the Belize River when we ended yesterday. We’ve put in a lot of hours for them this week and we’ve not hooked any of the maddening silver kings. Yet they’re there. They’re huge. And if we catch one of them, there’s a good chance it will be the biggest tarpon of our lives. Naturally, when we met Pedro this morning the first thing he said is we need to fish for the giant tarpon at the river mouth. “Ok, but not long Pedro”, I said. “We’ve spent a lot of time casting to them. We’d rather enjoy the flats while we have good sunlight”. But Pedro was confident, if they were rolling, we’d catch one.
When we got to the Belize River mouth the tarpon were rolling just like every other day. It’s Granny’s dream to land a good tarpon so I handed her my Ross RX 12-weight with my 400 grain Scientific Anglers Tropic Express and she went to work. I grabbed a seat and re-rigged our flats rods like the barracuda popper set up, our bonefish rod and then I had Pedro pick out his favorite permit crab from my fly box and rigged that too. Meanwhile Granny was dropping her fly in the holes of rolling tarpon.
Once satisfied that our flats gear was well rigged, I picked up my other 12-weight and flipped my fly over the side and began to work out line. That’s when there was a grunt along with some fancy foot work by Granny. I thought she was falling off the bow of our panga. But she wasn’t, Granny was driving a Mark Kuhn tarpon fly deep into the rock hard mouth of an amazing tarpon, a tarpon that would test her stamina to the fullest as well as the strength of my Ross rod and reel.
Granny was hooked up! I frantically reeled my 12 back in. Pedro hopped down from the polling platform and pulled the anchor. All while loose fly line rapidly left the deck and hissed through Granny’s rod guides. Once the line cleared the deck my Ross F1 reel spun to life and Pedro and I sighed in relief. The chance of a nightmarish tangle was behind us and the fight was on. By now I had my new T2i Cannon locked in the direction of the running tarpon waiting for the jump. But I waited and waited. This big boy wasn’t jumping. Granny’s tarpon was all about deep line crackling, forearm cramping runs.
About 40 minutes into the fight Granny’s tarpon made one half body jump about 200 yards from the boat. Of course I wasn’t ready with the camera and that was the only jump. And due to the lack of tiring jumps the tarpon stayed strong for another 40 minutes. Then finally, with her arms quivering in pain and sweat beading off her forehead, Granny had her tarpon at boat side.
Normally the guide would lean over or hop out and land the tarpon, but Pedro offered me the honor. I accepted but with anxiety, this is my wife you know and this tarpon was long awaited. I couldn’t screw up. Over the side I went into the murky water up to my waist. In one incredible rod bending hoist Granny slid the tarpon to me and I grabbed his lower jaw. The tarpon thrashed and while he nearly slipped from me the fly popped out. A close call but I had him well enough!
We spent the next couple minutes photographing and measuring Granny’s tarpon. The giant was nearly 7ft long with a 42” girth – truly a monster. Granny has taken a lot of incredible fish but I could tell this one meant the most. She was awestruck by its size and beauty. Then we turned the tarpon for release and she swam away strong for another day.
Needless to say, I’m one heck of a proud husband. After a few beers and some relaxation we took for the mangroves and fished for snook. Granny made a few haphazard casts throughout the afternoon but spent most of the time grinning and drinking more Belikin Beers. Snooking around wasn’t great anyhow although I managed one nice one.
Tomorrows forecast looks to be mostly clear skies with light winds. We’ve yet to cast to permit this week so we’ll spend most of the day hunting them. No matter what happens this trip is already a magnificent success. Indeed, one fish can make a trip!
It’s never a good sign when you wake up in a tropical fishing area and begin the day by frantically digging for a fleece. This morning was that day. When I stepped out the door of our air-conditioned room it was colder outside. The cold front is still here and stronger than ever.
At 7:20 when Granny and I left the dock with Jose I ditched my fleece for the run to the fishing grounds. It’s Belize. The minute the sun pops add twenty degrees to the temps. But the sun never popped and while Granny and I chucked 12-weights for the rolling tarpon at the mouth of the Belize River we were actually shivering.
With the cool temps and clouds it’s hard to sight fish the flats so we stayed after the rolling tarpon for a couple hours. If there’s any one goal on this trip it’s for Granny to land her first big tarpon but they won’t eat her fly. These fish roll all around us. They’re huge fish and they get you all pumped up when you see their massive heads break the surface with the mouth open and the eye seemingly looking at you. Then the hugely scaled back slips through the surface followed by one push of the tail and he’s gone back down.
Once we got a little sun we could see it wouldn’t last long. Tarpon fishing was frustrating to say the least so I asked Jose for a tarpon break and if he would pole us through the area where we saw the tripletail the other day. He seemed surprised as I’m sure he gets few requests from clients to leave rolling tarpon to seek out a tripletail, but off we went about a ½ mile out into the bay in front of Belize City.
Your average angler doesn’t know much about the tripletail. They’re their own deal and a strange fish at that. They float on their sides like a flounder only suspended and usually near structure. I’m not sure how big they get but the one I spotted the other day was about the size of a big bass. And he didn’t look all that much like a fish. He was more a silver gob that looked like a plastic grocery bag. However when you smack your fly down next to one they upright themselves and charge after it.
We didn’t go far before I spotted that first weird looking gob in the water. Without hesitation I smacked down my Puglisi fly next to it. Sure enough he up righted and charged. I gave short fast strips and he quickly inhaled and I stuck him. Then he thrashed on the surface and spit my fly. I lucked out in that I looked back out and there were two others. One was huge. I splatted my fly next to him but the smaller of the two got it. My strip set was jolting this time and a few minutes later Jose netted this beauty for me.
The rest of the day was tough. The sun went in and out and the normal Belize heat never happened. I’ll be temps never left the 70°s. But we never stopped fishing and we added a small silk snapper and jack crevalle to the day. I should add that I missed a snook and Granny had a good sized cubera look at her fly but not eat it.
Granny and I are fishing long hard days here at Belize River Lodge. We’re happily exhausted from it. Because of this I apologize for short blog entries and falling behind. As always I’ll catch up.
There’s not a whole lot to be written of today anyhow. A terrible cold front moved in with a strong north wind and the tarpon won’t eat and we can’t find a permit to save our lives. Actually I shouldn’t say the tarpon won’t eat because the other couple staying here, our new friends Steven and Lee, landed a 135lb tarpon yesterday (all fish are released here and weight is determined by length and girth measurement formula). A truly awesome fish but that was their only bite in two days. And now with the cold front it might be impossible to make one tarpon eat.
When fishing is tough the Curriers fish harder however. Jose poled through the challenging conditions and with our combined efforts we scraped up four bonefish. As a bonus, while Granny was tossing big streamers to structure in hopes of a snapper she caught this barracuda. She was extremely lucky because she had 60lb mono shock tippet and not wire. The cuda was hooked in the corner of his mouth, any deeper and he’d of bit her off on the strike, yes, right through the 60lb.
There doesn’t appear to be any relief in the cold front in tomorrows forecast. This may change our approach. Perhaps we’ll go back and look for that tripletail we saw yesterday. As long as we chase stuff with fins Granny and I will be happy.