Thursday, February 23, 2012


Russ on the lookout for permit.
So, in case you were wondering, Belize is awesome.  This was the first real vacation The Wife and I had taken together, and it did not disappoint.  Our pictures are still something of a mess (my only fishing pictures are of Russ, for example) but if you're contemplating a trip to Belize here's a few quick lessons learned...

1. Just like in Alaska, fishing in Belize can be a total crapshoot.  We had two full days guided along with a decent bit of non-guided fishing.  One of the guided days was a near complete bust.  High winds meant we couldn't get out to the flats--and couldn't have cast well even if we got there--while rain and cool weather meant everything was shut down.  It's never good when the guide tells you it might as well be snowing.  With few options, at the least the reef fish cooperated.
My first fly-caught mutton snapper, also known as "Dinner."
Russ with a jack.
2a. and 2b. It doesn't get much better than chasing tailing fish on the flats; and, don't expect to catch a permit your first time out.  Our second day guided was with a local guide out of Placencia and he was phenomenal, just don't judge him by his website.  We got up at 4:30, drove the hour-plus from Hopkins to Placencia to meet the guide at the dock by 6:15, and fished until dark.  Our guide was mildly disappointed we showed up so late.
A typical Belizean bonefish.
We caught bonefish all morning, grabbed lunch on the beach, then fished the reef for snapper and jacks until the tides became favorable for permit on the flats.  
Russ wandering one of many flats in search of permit.
The panga is the boat of choice in Belize.
I have to severely restrain myself when I describe our afternoon of permit fishing lest my head might explode.  I had four or five solid opportunities at permit--ignoring all the times I flubbed the cast or otherwise spooked the fish before even giving them a chance to reject my fly.

After a morning of very soft bonefish takes, I asked the guide what I should expect if a permit took my fly.  He responded, "you'll probably break it off."  I took that to mean that they take hard.  Later, after missing an epic opportunity at a herd of permit that looked more like a swarm of locusts destroying a midwest corn crop than a school of highly sought-after game fish tailing across a flat, the guide says to me "it's just not yet your time."  I nearly shat my pants watching that school of fish tailing on top of my fly. 

Russ and I both agreed that the guide's dry sense of humor was a plus since he definitely put us on fish.  Combined with his frequent, yet appropriate use of swear words, I'd book another day with this guide in a heartbeat.
This fly will not catch you a permit.
3. You can't see everything Belize has to offer in nine days.  We easily could have drug this trip out over a couple months.  Leading up to the trip I kept joking that we should have just bought a one-way ticket.  Little did I know how right I was.
The Mayan ruins are amazing.
Mason enjoying Labaantun.
The Wife and Mason kayaking the Sittee River.
Taking the Little Man out for some snorkeling.
Mason's big fan of the beach.
4. The food and drink of Belize is underrated.  The state beer of Belize is Belikin, and if you can only drink one beer on a trip this is as good as any.  Our trip also coincided with the tail end of lobster season--and it doesn't get much better than fresh seafood, local fruit, and a healthy portion of rice and beans.
The view from our front porch.
5. Good friends make a great trip even better.  The Wife, Mason and I met up with our good friends Kelly and Russ for this trip--in fact, they were a large reason for The Wife and I finally getting off our duff and making the trip happen.  The Wife, Mason and I would have had fun in Belize by ourselves, but it's always better to be surrounded by friends.
Russ, Kelly and I in Punta Gorda, Belize.

6. Alaskans don't do well in direct sunlight.  Scroll back up to the third picture--the one of Russ holding the jack on a rainy, windy day.  The whole day was overcast and most of it was rainy.  Yet somehow I ended up with my most severe sunburn in years.  Ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Getting Ready

Fishing, especially fly fishing, in southcentral Alaska is rough this time of year.  There's often open water, but up until today things have been especially cold and the local prospects just haven't been that appealing.  Dodging icebergs in waste-deep water while casting to a near fishless river when it's five below just doesn't sound like much fun to me.

. . . which is part of the reason why we're packing up the kiddo, joining a couple good friends, and going to Belize.

I've never fished the flats, and except for chasing salmon in tidewater have never really cast a fly into the salt.  Needless to say, this will be an experience.  Hell, I'm half temped to bail on the return flight and I'm not even there yet.

So, in the absence of appealing local fishing options, I've been working on the saltwater boxes.
Someone should have told me how easy flats flies are to tie.
Our gear list is a work in progress.  The reels all have new line--with Rio's Tarpon F/I Short on the 10-weight and Redfish Floating (The Wife likes the blue color, for those concerned with that sort of thing) on the 8-weights.*  I didn't own a single pair of serviceable shorts, so I had to buy two pairs (I hear it's warm in Belize).  I scored a pair of cheap flats boots.  And I now own decent polarized sunglasses that actually fit my big ole melon, which is a significant upgrade from my last pair that I had to modify to fit properly and ultimately succumbed to Karta's puppy chewing habits.  Oh, and the fly boxes are filling up...
. . . let's just hope something in there can catch a fish.

* Really though, as I said at the beginning, it's all new to me so take everything with a grain of salt.