At 5:15 AM this morning I headed for the Belize River Lodge kitchen for coffee under a sky full of stars. Visibility on the flats was not going to be a problem today. I was so stoked I could hardly concentrate on catching up on yesterdays blog and went on to blow off my email for the 3rd straight day.
Granny and I woofed down breakfast fast and before 7:30 we were at the mouth of the Belize River casting to rolling tarpon. But just like yesterday, the tarpon wouldn’t cooperate. We tried several different flies, different strips and different sink rate lines but not even a strike. Jose pulled our anchor after nearly an hour and he poled us into the bay next to Belize City. There were miles of scattered bait, diving pelicans, terns, dolphin and the wallowing manatees but no tarpon to be found. The only fishy excitement, a huge triple tail that wouldn’t eat my fly.
From there we motored out to the flats near Key Chappell to find some bonefish. The flat we stopped at was mangrove ridden and about 18” deep. You could see a mile with the sun and there were plenty of fish. Granny hopped up in the bow and she landed the first bonefish she saw. We went on catching six cruisers.
After a fill of bonefish Jose poled us around some deep mangrove areas. The tide was at its lowest and things seemed quiet. Jose knew a snook hole and sure enough we saw one hiding deep in the roots of a mangrove. The snook was impossible to land a fly near so I purposely splat my fly as close to the edge of the mangrove roots as I dared. I let the green and white baitfish imitation sink and stripped it away slowly. Often times a snook like this never moves but this one turned ever so slightly. Each cast he moved like he was sneaking up on fly and at the same time closer to the edge. Finally on my fourth cast he darted out and nailed my fly. He was a little guy around 24” and he was no match for my 10-weight. I turned him on his first jump and brought him in.
Say the word tarpon and Granny goes nuts. Jose called on a tarpon search so I turned the bow over to her. He took us out near the reef to a classic turquoise water colored flat. It’s truly as beautiful a tarpon flat as you have ever seen. Unfortunately, just as we started poling across, a boat full of sightseers came speeding out of nowhere and zipped right over our flat. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We were ticked! Just as we were about to freak out we got the ultimate satisfaction – the driver got too shallow with his massive panga and stuck it on the flat. They weren’t going anywhere for hours!
Our last stop today was home of some baby tarpon. This was another mangrove area with turtle grass butting up to them. We heard some popping tarpon way back in the roots of the mangroves. We patiently waited until three of them came out near the edge of the open water. Getting the fly in their sight wasn’t easy but Granny made an incredible cast. Out they came in single file. Granny kept her cool and stripped the fly until finally the lead fish grabbed it. At first she strip set but couldn’t feel him and then she panicked and tried to set the hook with the rod – the worst thing you can do with tarpon. The hook freed and they tore back deep onto the mangroves not to be seen again.
Tarpon have one of the hardest mouths of any fish and can be ridiculously hard to hook. I have flies on hooks that make me nervous to think about casting over a humans head because they are so sharp. If I get near them they always seem to catch me. Yet then a tarpon completely eats it and you set with all your might and they just blow it out. It’s incredible.
We had another fun day on the flats. I’m not sure how I kept away from here for so long. We are having a great time!