Tag Archives: barracuda

F3T1

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

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Diary of a Baby Tarpon Addict

I’ve been to a fair number of baby tarpon spots but I finally got a chance to spend three July days chasing them in Campeche, Mexico.  Here’s a sample…

5:35 AM:  The hotel van driver drops me off at the pier in total darkness.  I’m a little worried ‘cause the parking lot is completely empty.  Where is the guide’s vehicle?IMG_0018

5:43 AM:  Ah-ha!  The drone of an outboard answers my question and the guide pulls up in his panga.

5:55 AM: We’re driving through complete blackness at what seems like full throttle.  The only immediate illumination is the guide’s flashlight.  It is my second day fishing and the guide is taking me to the very edge of the usual fishing grounds.

6:09 AM:  The sun begins to peek over the horizon.  With a bit of light, the boat speeds up.  I’m quite relieved that we weren’t going as fast as possible through the dark.

6:50 AM:  The guide pulls up to where a creek pours into the mangrove shoreline.  The channel is about five feet wide.  With the first day jitters behind me, I get a fly tied on and my first cast off reasonably quickly.IMG_0027

6:54 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the left into the mangroves.   And it’s gone…

6:57 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the right into the mangroves.  And it’s gone…

7:01 AM:  Fish on!  This one  remains cooperatively in the middle of the creek and I land about a 3 pound snook.  I’m pumped!  It’s only the second snook I’ve ever caught.IMG_0046

8:21 AM:  I haven’t seen anything since the snook.  But my casting is dialed in.  I’m actually feeling rather smug.  I haven’t snagged a mangrove in at least half an hour.  I’m dropping my fly in every juicy little pocket that presents itself as we pole down the shoreline.

8:22 AM:  The guide calls out, “Tarpon!  By mangroves! 11 o’clock!”  I see a couple dark shapes in the clear water.   Naturally, my casting ability instantly implodes and the fly ends up in the mangroves about 4 feet above the tarpon. The tarpon simply melt away.

9:15 AM:  A small barracuda grabs my fly.  Luckily he doesn’t bite me off and I unceremoniously strip him in.  When he is ten feet from the boat a gang of three tarpon show up.  They are large for babies – about 20 pounds each – and look like they have mayhem on their minds.  At least as far as the barracuda is concerned…IMG_0050 2

9:20 AM:   The barracuda is unhooked and back in the water.  Somehow, the tarpon don’t notice as it darts away.   They are circling about 30 feet from the boat and they still look like a bunch of thugs.

9:30 AM:  Evidently, the tarpon are shrewd thugs.  They ignore two or three different flies and drift into the mangroves. IMG_0108

10:45 AM: The guide poles us by a large tree that has toppled into the water, extending well beyond the mangrove shoreline.  I crawl a Seaducer along the length of the tree.  Blow up!   A tarpon clears the water three or four times.  He is still hooked; I’m hopeful that this could be my first tarpon to the boat.

10:50 AM:  Yes! It makes it to the boat for a picture and a release.IMG_0045

11:45 AM:  After eating lunch further down the shoreline, we return to the fallen tree.  It’s a good call on the guide’s part because another tarpon inhales the Seaducer and comes to the boat.  But not quietly, of course – thrashing and churning all the way.

1:05 PM:  We’re on a large flat covered in turtle grass.  Every few minutes or so a tarpon comes within range.  It’s like this for about an hour and a half.  These tarpon are pretty cagey and I get mostly refusals.  Nevertheless, three or four end up leaping skward with my fly in their mouth.  But – sigh – all but one fall back down to the water with the fly indignantly tossed aside.  I have to admit I’m used to that.

2:35 PM:  We start the run back to Campeche.

4:00 PM:  I’m in the neighbourhood bar, enjoying a superb Margarita.  Life doesn’t get any better ‘cause I’ve got one more day of fishing left….

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Here’s a few notes about Campeche and the fishing…

Campeche is a great place to take a partner who doesn’t want to spend everyday in the boat.  It is an amazing city with stunning and historical architecture.  There are lots of comfortable hotels and good restaurants. IMG_0021

An 8 weight rod with a floating 9 weight line was perfect for Campeche’s baby tarpon.  I found a leader that was 11 or 12 feet long led to more grabs than the standard 9 footer.  Puglisi patterns, Seaducers, and Mayan Warriors a little better than 3 inches long worked well.   There was a lot of blind casting but a fair bit of sight fishing to both rolling and cruising tarpon.

The tarpon were generally between 5 and 10 pounds.  They were plentiful and grabby.  I never seemed to have to wait very long for my next shot.  Most baby tarpon locations seem to suffer a definite slow down during the heat of the day but the action in Campeche stayed reasonably consistent.  On an average day, I would get at least 10 or 15 strikes.  For the sake of brevity, I left out a few grabs in my diary above.

The diary also left out a couple noteworthy spots that were fished on another day…  Quite close to Campeche, there are some beautiful mangrove islands that seemed to hold rolling tarpon all day.  There are also hidden lagoons tucked into the mangrove shoreline where I literally watched schools of baby tarpon swim laps.  Although my partner never caught a fish, she fished those spots with me and had a great time just soaking up the scenery.

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Although he didn’t speak much English, the guide was great.  As well, he had a good panga with a casting platform.   My outfitter for the trip was Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures; they also have operations at Isla del Sabalo and Tarpon Cay Lodge.

**Editors Note: Fishwest hosts a yearly trip down to Campeche Mexico with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Spots on our 2015 trip are still available however they are going fast. For further details please contact us at support@fishwest.com or visit the “Destination Travel” page of Fishwest HERE** -JC

 

 

 

Destination Travel: Deneki Andros South Lodge

I have been lucky enough to find this wonderful sport of fly fishing and I have had the chance to check out some really neat destinations both locally, regionally, and abroad in pursuit of the ultimate fly fishing adventure. Today I want to take a moment and talk about one of my favorite places I have had a chance to go, The Andros South Lodge run by the great folks Deneki Outdoors. Andros South

Getting to the Island:

The Andros South Lodge is located on the eastern side of the Island of South Andros in the Bahamas. Getting to South Andros is a relatively easy endeavor and can be accomplished one of two ways that I have experienced.

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Andros From The Sky

The first (and my preferred method) is to take a plane into Fort Lauderdale FL and then take a charter plane from a company called Watermaker Air direct to the Congo Town International Airport on South Andros.The second (and more difficult) option entails a flight to the Capitol city of the Bahamas, Nassau.  From Nassau it is a short flight to Andros via a Western Air flight. The thing that makes this difficult especially for anglers like us coming from the west is that this results in having to spend a night in Nassau.  Accommodations in Nassau can range from staying at the luxurious Atlantis Casino to the beach front Orange Hill Inn for the evening. This is not bad however I would not recommend a Bahamian taxi ride. That was an eye opening experience for sure.

I for one would much rather take the more direct route via Fort Lauderdale and the charter flight. Customs in Congo Town are much easier than the counterparts in Nassau.  Traveling, Airports, and Security checkpoints are not my favorite things in the world therefore I would opt for the path of least resistance.IMG_0108

Lodge Accommodations:

Upon arrival at the Congotown you are greeted by the Deneki bus and Kermit the lodge bus driver.  After handing you a cold Kalik (National Beer of the Bahamas) or a bottle of water, Kermit proceeds to take you on the short journey down the one road on the island to Kemps Bay. Within 15 minutes you have arrived at the lodge.

IMG_0159I would describe the accommodations at the Andros South Lodge to be “Rustically Comfortable”. Each angler or anglers is assigned a room aptly named something fishy (Bonefish, Permit, Cuda ect). The rooms are quite comfortable, clean and simple.  The rooms consist of an extremely comfortable double bed, a dresser and a small bathroom.

accommodations-1
The Slack Tide Bar

One of the nicest parts of the lodge grounds has to be the “Slack Tide Bar”. This small palapa of beachfront paradise is located just steps from both the dining room and “hotel” rooms at the lodge.  Each night after fishing appetizers are served and tales of the days fishing conquests are shared before dinner. The “Slack Tide” is also stocked head to toe with just about any beverage somebody could want ranging from a great selection of beer to liquors and everything in between.  Everyone seems to convene at the bar after dinner to continue the party.IMG_0166

Meals are served twice a day (In the dining room that is). Breakfast is served starting at 6am. Breakfast usually consists of some variation of the following. Eggs served with some type of breakfast meat with Toast, Grits, or pancakes. Lunch is served on the boat while fishing and it consists of filling out a deli style menu which involves sandwiches, chips, fruit, and beverages.  Dinners at the lodge are served family style and highlight local cuisine. Meals are exceptional and may include dishes like cracked (fried) conch, grouper served with cassava root boiled in coconut milk or my personal favorite… Wait for it Lobster tails.  These meals are arguably the greatest part of the stay at the Andros Lodge apart from the fishing of course.

One more thing about the accommodations of the lodge, this is not a five star resort by any means. If you are looking for white tablecloths and something of that nature please look elsewhere.  If you want somewhere to consider home while experiencing the ultimate bonefishing adventure please look no further.

The lodge staff at Andros South is some of nicest people you will ever meet in your entire life. All of the folks are extremely friendly and treat you like you are part of the Deneki family.  From Gloria and the kitchen staff, to the self proclaimed “director of security”, Mr. Gerrard and everybody that I forgot will do everything that they can in order to make your stay awesome.

The Guides & Fishing:

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Let’s just say I saved the best for last. Any saltwater fly fisherman knows that the Bahamas is considered the arguable Mecca of Bonefishing.  I would argue that the flats around South Andros are the crown jewel of Bahamian bonefishing.  The network of flats and number of bonefish alone found within a 15 minute boat ride of the dock at deep creek is simply astronomical.  This is the perfect place for all different types of anglers from rookies to salty vets due to all the different situations and types of fishing one may experience with the Deneki guides.

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All the guides at the Andros South lodge are top notch. Bottom line is that these guys know their stuff.  These guys are some of the best guides and teachers I have ever had the opportunity to fish with hands down.  They will both challenge you as an angler but give you all the tools and instruction in order to be successful and also leave the Bahamas as a better angler. I have had a chance to fish with all of the guides except for two over the last couple of years and I have to say each one of them has there own distinct personalities. Take Freddie for example, He will sing all day from the poling platform while pointing out fish. Or Josie, who is all business, who expects the best from his anglers but will put you in prime spots to catch what he calls “bonezilla” or better yet “wife of bonezilla”.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can expect to see all sorts of fish throughout the fishing grounds near the lodge.  From shots at single and pairs of bonefish to schools of ten to twenty or even hundreds at certain places one thing is for sure. You are bound to get casts at happy bonefish. The bonefish generally range anywhere from 2 to 10 pounds with the average fish tipping the scale around 3 or 4. These fish will be seen either on flats throughout the island or while exploring an extensive network of mangrove creeks. These fish usually are found feeding or cruising in 1 to 2 feet of water and can be stalked either via poling the boat or on foot. If the bonefishing ever gets boring (which it wont) make sure you have a 10 weight or spinning rod on hand in order to throw to some rather angry barracuda or Jacks. No matter how you slice it the fishing on the island is spectacular.  Don’t fret over missed shots… You will get plenty.1618418_10152328492692845_158668094_n

I hold this place with such reverence because this is where I tasted my first success as a saltwater fly fisherman. Everything that is aforementioned makes this place amazing. The staff and guides will do all they can in order to make your stay and angling the ultimate adventure. However don’t take my word for it. Pack up an 8 weight, some mantis shrimp and gotchas and check it out for yourself.

Fishwest runs a yearly trip(s) to the Andros South Lodge. For all those who are interested you can check out the details HERE. Spots are still available for our March 2015 trips.

 

Florida Keys

Great Days 5: Florida Keys Flats Fishing by Smith Optics

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If you don’t know already own a pair of polarized glasses is worth it’s weight in gold when fishing. I would argue a nice pair of sunnies is probably the most important fishing accessory.  Since the days of Action Optics the staff over at Smith has been committed to bringing some of the best technical eye wear to the fly fishing industry. Smith glasses are a favorite of the shop staff here at Fishwest. From Jake with his Frontman’s to Richard with the Backdrops they can be seen time and time again.   If you haven’t had a chance to checkout the offerings from Smith Optics I would urge you to do so.

Without further adieu, check out this awesome video put together by Smith highlighting the excellent Florida Keys fisheries.

Crab

’55 Chevys, Mojitos, and Bonefish – A Cuban Adventure

From the title, you can probably guess that this article is about fly fishing in Cuba. Cuba is an amazing place and its fly fishing is definitely one of the reasons why.

To be honest I only fished two days in Cuba. And one of those days wasn’t even a good one. Nevertheless, from what I saw, I would recommend fishing in Cuba to anyone…

Typical flat
Typical Cuban Flat

A quick web search will reveal that most Cuban flats fishing are controlled by an Italian outfit named Avalon. Any monopoly has drawbacks but in this case I think it has been very healthy in preserving the fishery and the environment.

Avalon has fishing operations throughout Cuba, including Cayo Largo, a beautiful island south of the mainland with a handful of all–inclusive resorts. So when my girlfriend Deb and I booked into one of these resorts, it took about 5 minutes for me to send an email off to Avalon. I was hoping to book a day trip and chase some bonefish.

Here’s one of the drawbacks to a monopoly… “Not possible,” they replied. “We only do full weeks. Contact us closer to the date of your trip and we’ll see what we can do.”

I had previously devoured the Avalon website and really wanted to experience their fishery so it was an agonizing wait. Finally, a few weeks before we departed, I begged and pleaded with the Avalon representative and managed to book two day trips. I won’t mention the price – that’s another drawback of a monopoly!

Havana
Havana

Our very first night in Cuba was in Havana. It was actually New Year’s Eve and we saw a grand Cuban tradition – hurling a bucket of water into the street from the front door. Luckily, we saw it from a distance…

The flight from Havana to Cayo Largo was on board a big dual-prop plane that looked like it dated from the 1960’s. It was terribly noisy but it still gave us a good view of the immense flats that spread out from Cayo Largo.   The landing – on a modern airstrip – was surprisingly smooth.

Cayo Largo is an idyllic Carribbean island with only a handful of resorts. A white sand beach? Scenic, rocky coastline? Palm trees? Scub pines? Starfish in pristine water? You can take your pick and with a little effort, you won’t have to share with anyone.

On our first day of fishing, we taxied to the Avalon fishing center and were met by the fishing director and three guides. Yup, our guide and two others. It was a bit like a NASCAR pit stop; we had five outfits with us, and they had them all completely rigged in about 2 minutes. Another minute passed and we were in a state-of-the art skiff, planing towards the flats.   I had in my hands a fly box that the fishing director gave me; it held a dozen proven local patterns.

Deb's fish
Deb’s fish

I have to admit, however, our first day fishing was not too remarkable. Deb is not a fan of long boat rides so we fished the closest spots to the dock – a few large flats that were fairly deep and often held permit.   However, a cold front had blown through a couple days before. Unlucky for us, the temperatures were still down and the winds were still up.

I think I spotted three fish that day; most of the time the guide was directing my casts across wave-rippled water.   Regardless, he was excellent, with eagle eyes and a very patient manner. By the time we pulled up to the dock, both Deb and I had landed a couple bonefish.

We spent the next couple days exploring the island and sampling the excellent mojitos at the resort.   When the cold front had thoroughly passed – and the winds lay down – I showed up for a second day of fishing. Deb had elected to spend the day at the resort.

I was paired with a different guide – although his patient, professional demeanor was very much the same as the first. Our plan, he said, would be to fish along a string of small cays that stretched outward from one end of Cayo Largo.

The first spot we pulled up to held an immense school of bonefish. They circled away from us and then towards us. I had absolutely no problem spotting them.   It was about as easy as it gets in flats fishing – cast your fly about ten feet in front of the wriggling, cruising mass. Wait ‘til it gets close… A couple strips… Watch five or six fish peel after your fly… Fish on!

With my reel buzzing, the guide would pole like crazy away from the school. We’d land the fish. And then repeat. These were solid 4 pounders. Every one of them went well into the backing. I’d wish I could say that after five fish I was ready for more of a challenge but to be honest – it my personal bonefish paradise. Lots of good-sized, eager, easy-to-see fish!

Bigger fish
Dale’s Bigger Fish

Nevertheless, the guide didn’t want to educate too many fish and he suggested we push on. And so it went for the rest of the day – from one tiny little cay with a gorgeous flat to the next… It was perhaps the most perfect day of bonefishing I’ve ever experienced.   There were no more huge schools, but plenty of singles and doubles and small groups. The water was gin clear, perfectly calm, and never more than knee deep. The bottom was a magical white sand that didn’t hide fish very well. I landed 10 or 11 bonefish that day with a couple going 5 or 6 pounds. I could have landed more but the guide talked me into so many other things…

Like checking out a tiny cut through some mangroves for tarpon. They were in there – four or five good-sized juveniles! They finned lazily, wickedly obvious in the clear water.   And just kept on finning lazily as my fly swam past. After a few casts, they melted back into the mangroves.

I also chugged a popper across a couple deep channels for barracuda. One showed himself but turned away. In disdain? I really think that barracuda are way smarter than most anglers think.

The guide even had me tossing a jig on a spinning rod into a couple more channels. He wanted me to sample some of the snapper fishing. Success! A four or five pound mutton snapper grabbed the jig and pulled like only snapper can.

Actually, that mutton snapper was quite an inspiration. Because shortly thereafter, we were about a mile offshore, and my tarpon rod was rigged with a sinking line. I was working a Clouser down among the patch reefs. To no avail, unfortunately. But just the anticipation of a big snapper on a fly rod made it worthwhile.

Before we headed back in, we checked out a couple deeper flats for permit. Truth be known, Cayo Largo actually has quite a reputation for permit. Maybe it’s a good thing that none showed themselves that day; I was riding a bit of an adrenaline high after all the action and a permit might have pushed me over the edge.

Back at the dock, in the comfort of the Avalon fishing center’s couch, I had a couple beers and a slice of pizza and gradually came down. If you ever decide to come to Cuba, bring a lot of gear. It seems the possibilities are endless…

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Here are a few additional notes if you every make it to Cuba…

It might be a tad inflexible, but Avalon runs a first class operation. They rotate anglers through well-defined zones to spread out the pressure. Both guides and boats are top notch.

A day or two in Havana is mandatory! Catch a jazz club, stroll the Malecon, admire the architecture, get a cab ride from a ’55 Chevy (or maybe a bicycle) – it’s gritty and grand at the same time.

The countryside near Vinales – about an hour from Havana – is incredibly exotic.   Lush green farms with red soil are butted up against huge domes of vegetation and limestone.

Did I mention the great fishing?

**Editors Note: Being that Dale hails from Canada, It is very easy for him to be able to travel to Cuba for excellent adventures like this one. On the other hand us Americans are not so lucky…

Helios 2

A Shop Favorite: The Orvis Helios 2

 

The Orvis Helios 2 is a new arrival to the shop here at Fishwest. The 905.4 is  quickly becoming one of most sought after rods in the shop collection to fish for the day. The reasons are simple. These rods are super lightweight with a nice crisp fast action. Simply put the 905.4 is a fine tuned, high performance, trout catching machine. Don’t take my word for it stop in the shop and talk to Jake or Morgan about it and see what they have to say. While you are there give this rod a test cast or two. You will surely be impressed as well.

Fishwest - All Things Fly Fishing

Thoughts on 2014 from the Fishwest Staff

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions and here at Fishwest we have been thinking about how that relates to fly fishing. The staff here at the shop has compiled our respective fly fishing resolutions and would like to share them with you.

Jake WellsJake W. – Shop Manager

“One of the great things about the sport of fly fishing is that there’s always something new to learn.
But with that being said, there is so much to learn that anglers may find it necessary to solely focus on only one or two things over the course of a year in order to full perfect his or her skills and knowledge in that specific area of the sport. For 2014, I have decided to focus every magazine article that I read, every internet video that I watch, and much of my time on the water to the art of spey casting with a two handed fly rod and the world of steelhead.”

Scott “Scoot” – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

“I just want to keep it simple and have my fishing year focus around friends, camping, and spending time with my dog. I think it will be a good year and hopefully I will get to be a part of the other goals on this list”

Morgan G. – Shop Staff

“My goals are simple for this year. I would like to buy some kind of boat. Do more pike fishing and finally I would like to learn to use a Spey rod and do some steelheading.”

Scott N – Web Team / Shop Staff

“Last year was a very good fishing year for me. Every time I went I was met with great success. The biggest problem was that I didn’t get out as often as I should have. In all I don’t think I was on the water even 20 times for the whole year. This must change, and so my resolution for the year is to get out a minimum of twice a month every month, once the days are longer(and warmer) increase to 4X with after work jaunts to the local spring creeks. Finally I am also resolved to fish on at least three new waters this year and expand my species list to include carp, pike, ect”

Will M – Customer Service Rep

“This year I resolve to help bring respect to the grossly underrated  and underappreciated whitefish.  From their blistering runs to their  willingness to readily eat a sow bug, these majestic native fish
have it all.  I resolve to not only fish for them and fish for them  hard, but tell anyone willing to listen about why these craft river dwellers are the bees knees.”

Richard L – Web Team / Shop Staff –

(A recent Maryland Transplant who just discovered how awesome Utah is) “Looking forward to 2014 I’ve only got a few goals, catch larger trout on dries, explore more of Utah and the west’s watersheds, and land new species on the fly, specifically pike, stripers, and carp.

Last but not least I would like to share my thoughts and “goals” for the upcoming year.  I would like to spend more time fishing with friends and having a good time no matter what water I find myself on that day. Hopefully I also can be a part of all of these other resolutions as well.  All I know is that the ole Subaru is going to be spending a lot of time on the road this upcoming year in search of new water and new adventures with old and new friends alike.

On an unrelated note I just wanted to express my gratitude to all of you who take time to read our blog here at Fishwest as well as those of you who read my articles as well. As long as you guys & girls keep reading we will keep writing and sharing our experiences. But on that note we would always love to hear your stories as well. So from all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a happy 2014! Tight Lines!

Thanks,

JC

Web Team / Shop Staff

Marina Flags

Teasing In Cabo

(A sample of the fishing and – the non-fishing – in Cabo San Lucas.)

To me, a “non-fishing” vacation involves fishing – just not the majority of the time.  So even for a “non-fishing” vacation, I research the fishing possibilities well before any flights get booked.  And I’m sure you can imagine why my girlfriend and I wound up in Cabo San Lucas this past March…

Halfway through the trip, I had a full day charter booked with Baja Anglers. At about 7 AM that morning, I hopped on a very fishable 26 foot Glacier Bay catamaran with my captain and mate. Our first stop was getting the bait part of “baiting and switching” from a local pangero; $20 got me a half dozen, 8 inch goggle eyes.

We started fishing almost as soon as we left the marina.   The mate ran the boat slowly along likely beaches and rock outcroppings while the captain bombed out long casts with a spinning rod and a hookless surface plug – the teaser. My job, with a 9 weight and 350 grains of sinking line, was to land a Clouser just beyond the teaser as the captain skipped it back into range.   And then strip like crazy.  Sounds simple, right?

The persistent swell, which was likely great for surfing, was not terribly noticeable when just sitting in the boat.  However, it felt like a mechanical bull was out to get me while  casting.   I have to admit that for the first 15 minutes I was pretty sure that my entire day would be stumbling around the stern of  boat while trying to avoid “clousering” myself and the crew.  Eventually, however, my casting smoothed out.

I actually found it helpful to throw my fly on alternate casts of the teaser.  Every other cast of the teaser, I would merely watch, ready to throw if a fish showed behind it.  The whole routine was a bit hypnotic, even zen-like…

Cabo JacksUntil fish crashed the party.   About every third spot we tried, a gang of jacks assaulted the teaser.  It was very visual – sometimes they were a dark, swarming mass and sometimes they churned the surface.   Regardless, before they could touch the surface plug, the captain jerked it away and I replaced it with a fly.

The jacks were hyper-aggressive.  The first struck so violently, I seriously thought my rod was going to break; I froze and the fish shook off.  A second jack was well into the backing before it came unbuttoned.  I finally landed jack number three and was shocked by its lack of size.  The way it tested my backing knot and bore under the boat, it felt much larger than its 6 or 7 pounds.

When the action slowed down for jacks, the captain harnessed a goggle eye to the spinning rod and slow trolled along the shore, hoping to attract a roosterfish within casting range.  Unfortunately, the roosters did not make themselves available and we changed gears again.

This time we headed about a half mile offshore, towards a loose gathering of other charter boats.   I should point out, that up to this point, we weren’t exactly fishing in the wilderness .  One of the jacks was taken with a construction site as a backdrop; many of the other spots were just off major resorts.  So heading into a pack of boats seemed like no big deal.

“Spanish mackerel and maybe some yellowtail,” said the captain as we took our place in the formation over about one hundred feet of water. Fishing this depth was VERY relaxing.  I believe I polished off a sandwich as my fly sank toward the bottom.

However, once more, the fish interrupted. Something pulled my rod into a deep bend and kept pulling until the backing knot was deep in the water.   I thought it was a big yellowtail, but it turned out to be a 5 or 6 pound Sierra mackerel.

And so it went…  Another half dozen sierras reluctantly came to the boat and a couple were kept for delivery to our resort’s kitchen later.   As strange as it may same in that deep water, the sierras occasionally boiled on the surface and offered a visual target.

With an hour left in the charter, the captain still wanted me to experience a roosterfish, so we went back inshore to a couple more beaches.  However, the roosters played shy and we were soon heading back to the dock, escorted by a squadron of low-flying gulls.

As I left the marina, a few locals filleted my catch for a few dollars.  That night, with the wizardry of our resort’s kitchen, the sierras provided our best meal of the trip.  Sierra mackerel definitely are definitely too tasty for their own good..

Overall, it was a great part of a non-fishing vacation.  But what about the truly non-fishing aspects?  Here’s a few things both my girlfriend and I would recommend:

  • Rent a car and drive out of town. Visit Todos Santos, a picturesque village with quaint shops and galleries.  On your way, pull down a side road and look at the giant cacti. Maybe even find the beach at the end of the road….
  • Take a guided hike to a waterfall in Baja’s interior mountains.  The scenery is incredibly unique. And the water is incredibly refreshing (icy?) if you decide to take a dip.
  • Stay at a resort that is off on its own with a quiet stretch of beach.  Pueblo Bonita Pacifica is one such place. Watch the surf roll up. Watch for whales in the distance. Stroll down the sand to the rocks at either end of the beach.

A kayak tour and some snorkeling – those are a couple things we didn’t do  in Cabo San Lucas.  Someday, I’d like to get back there and try’em.  Maybe in November, ‘cause I heard that’s a good time for striped marlin…

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(P.S. For non-fly fishing significant others and family, Baja Anglers is adept with ALL types of light tackle.)

Bahamas: Wild Kingdom Style

In June last year, Dustin Carlson sent my wife, LeeAnn, and I an invitation to join him and other Fishwest customers for a week of bonefishing at Deneki’s Andros South Lodge in March 2013.  LeeAnn got real excited about the prospect of going to the Bahamas and we immediately committed.  We are both freshwater fisherpeople with saltwater experience limited to surf fishing, we really didn’t know what to expect.

With nine months to prepare, Dustin and the Fishwest staff gave us all of information, advice and guidance we needed, from tackle selection (they found an 8wt rod that Lee could throw all day and not get worn out) and casting lessons to advice on packing lists.

After much anticipation we finally arrived at the lodge and we received the warmest welcome from the Andros South staff (see the post from JC about his sage advice on international travel) Now I am not the kind of guy that likes the white table cloths, fancy furnishings and swanky cuisine, I like the simple approach with a local flair and this place really fit the bill, it exceeded our expectations.  The trip was all inclusive and cooks and staff were local residents that treat the guests like family.  The food was AWESOME, fresh spiny lobster (crawfish), fresh conch in both fritters and fried, grilled grouper that was swimming 2 hours before it hit the home made BBQ, ribs and fried chicken, fried plantains, kasava root boiled in jelly coconut milk, made to order sandwiches for lunch, and coconut macaroons made with shredded coconut that Lee just had to get the recipe for, the best beer (Kalik) that has crossed my palate in a long, long time.  The beach that was postcard perfect and not a soul on it judging from no footprints was just a few feet away from the lodge’s self serve Sack Tide Bar (a tiki hut) and the ocean that’s the most beautiful shade of blue.  The Slack Tide has an interesting piece of memorabilia, a broken poling pole, but more on that later.  We found the guides just wonderful, all of them have their personalities, and are willing to coach and help with casting and catching as long as you listen and you may have to ask for it, depending on the guide as they don’t want to intrude or be pretentious.  Each one of them expressed a genuine concern for being stewards of the environment and only take from the sea what they need, never more and they protect those bonefish like they are their kin.

We got there the day we were supposed to start fishing, on Sunday at 1030 as we were delayed over night in Florida due to weather on the island and the plane could not land (the international airport in Congo Town is very small) and the lodge staff swooped down on us and rigged everything up so we went fishing on our travel clothes and our guide, Freddie, got us on fish within an hour.  There is an old defunct Navy Sub base on an island not far from the lodge that we fished around the early part of the first day and it reaffirmed why I don’t scuba dive, we had a gianormous bull shark that looked bigger than the 17 foot skiff we were in swim past us.  Believe it or not, when I saw the shark I immediately, actually said to the guide without any thought, “We need a bigger boat!”.   Freddie said not to worry, he has seen and dealt with bigger sharks than that “small” one.

The rest of the week we fished the west side as the weather was good, just a little cool, it took an hour boat ride to get there through a tidal creek system, sometimes having to get out and push the skiffs through skinny water.  It was like being at an aquarium.  We saw hundreds of sharks, alot of stingrays, multiple species of fish, sea turtles, various types of crabs, 5 dolphins herding the bonefish on the shore to eat them.

On Monday we were fishing along in the morning, with our guide named Ellie and he said “Good ‘cuda 9 o’clock, 90 feet”.  The locals eat them so I threw a tube lure over it and the barracuda followed the lure to five feet from the boat.  Then I saw a blender, the size of a five gallon bucket, full of razor blades open up and all hell broke loose!  I looked back at Ellie who was on the poling platform and he looked like this may have been a mistake judging by the look on his face.  The barracuda tried to jump out of the water through the fight but it could only get a third of its body out of the water.  A half hour later, I got it alongside the boat so Ellie could get it unhooked as he wanted to let it go, he said it was at least 15 years old and full of eggs.  He really didn’t want to bring it in the boat but had to in order get the hook out of it.  It was five and a half feet long and at least 40 lbs, Ellie said probably 45.  Ellie said it was the biggest barracuda he had seen or landed in 18 years of guiding and they work 6 days a week, October thru June.  We got a picture of him holding it, he (I) didn’t want me to hang on to 45 pounds of real bad attitude that could take my hand, arm or head off.  That fish was the talk of the day in the bar in town and at the resort.  Other guides that saw the photo could not believe the size of the ‘cuda.

On Tuesday we fished with Sparkles, a guide who has a passion for big bonefish and seeing his anglers catch them.  He wanted Lee to show him what she could do with a fly rod, so she threw a cast for distance, he then told her to cast to a small mangrove so she nailed it first cast.  He then did not question her abilities the rest of the trip.  Most of the fish we missed, we couldn’t see but Sparkles could, so we were blind casting at his direction.  Later in the day, we were motoring out of a mangrove creek when Sparkles pointed in front of us and shut the motor down and got the pole out.  He was pointing to a land point that was a convergence between two creeks and there was a great commotion going on in the water against the bank.  Three adult and two juvenile porpoises were knocking schools of bonefish against the bank and swimming almost out of the water to get them.  He poled us to the point as the dolphins went up the other creek and we watched them feed, breech and frolic in the water.  They are loud when they click and sing, we could hear them in the boat.  Sparkles said that they knock the bonefish against the bank to knock the scales off them so they cannot swim then they gorge on the fish.

On Wednesday, between me and Lee we caught over 25 bonefish, all thanks to Ellie and his keen sense of fish habits and eyesight that would make a hawk jealous.   He took a great deal of pride in our accomplishments that day. Most other days it was between 15-20 bonefish with too many blown casts, mostly because of the wind, but we had some good coaching and mentoring from all of the guides.

On Thursday Lee and I fished with apart with friends from the fly shop, she with Dustin, I with J.C.  Dustin is a superior photographer and wanted pictures of Lee to post on his fly shop website.  And he got some good ones during the week.  In the afternoon, Lee caught a bonefish and was bringing it in when a good sized lemon shark decided to try and eat it.  As Dustin reached over the edge to get the fish for Lee, the shark circled around the boat, came underneath it to get the bonefish.  Lee kept telling Dustin “get your hands out of the water!”  When the shark came out from under the boat, the guide, Charlie, jumped down from the poling platform cursing the shark and hit the shark in the head with the pole and scared it away.  Back to the pole at the Slack Tide, if you YouTube “Hammerhead Hammers Boat”, you will see an incident like what happened to Lee and Dustin.  The guide in the video is Sparkles.   When I was with J.C., he got his first barracuda that our guide, Norman gave a headache too.  JC gave me a lesson in casting unintentionally and showed me that he can sing too.  We caught numerous barracuda over the week and I lost count of how many we hooked.

On Friday it was slow for bonefish because of a cold front, but great for barracuda, we got into schools of them and Lee caught her first one, a nice 3 footer that fed the locals.  But we did catch identical bonefish on two different islands within an hour of each other and have good video of it, both of the bonefish were 26” long and just over 10lbs, which are considered trophies.  I hooked mine first and thought it was big, and when Ellie got excited, I knew it was a good one.  He was jumping around the boat to get a tape measure and the scales to weigh it.  There was a shark that Ellie thought might take it and it got a little intense playing the fish away from the shark.  Lee caught hers when we moved to another island and again Ellie got real excited grabbing the scales and tape.  He was surprised that it was within 1 oz of the one I caught earlier and gave Lee accolades for her angling skills.  He took us over to Leaf Key and I swear we were so far out that I thought I saw Florida.  That’s where we got into a school of barracuda and had a heyday casting and catching them.

Saturday we traveled home, a close to a trip of a lifetime that LeeAnn referred to as “Bahamas Wild Kingdom style”.  This is a trip that I would recommend to anyone, the lodge was clean, comfortable, and with a staff that displayed hospitality unrivaled anywhere we have ever been.    There were fishermen while we were there brought their wives who didn’t fish, but based on our conversations with them, they thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the beach and shopping in town while their husbands were on the boats.

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 I had been tying flies for months prior to going on this trip and one of goals I had set was to catch fish on every style of fly that I had tied.  That goal was met within the first day and a half and I am already starting to tie for our next visit.  In case any of you go, I am taking orders for custom flies.

Blue Water Shelf (Snapper Central)

No Boundaries in the Bahamas

The 20 foot Maverick was immense. If I were a track and field official, I would have demanded a urine sample. Hanging off its back was a 200 horsepower Yamaha framed by twin trolling motors.  “They do the work,” said my guide earlier.  “The push pole is just for course corrections.”

Nevertheless, I had signed up for what H2O Bonefishing calls its “No Boundaries” program.  And at that particular instant in time, it was really well named.  We had left Grand Bahama Island about 15 minutes ago and there was nothing but ocean all around us – no cays, no flats, no rocks – just ocean.  Apparently, we were headed to some isolated cays.  Luckily, it was flat calm.

Another 5 minutes passed, and the cays showed up as a couple specks on the horizon.  In another half hour, we were hunting tarpon in a shallow bay.

Nothing but a couple of big nurse sharks showed themselves as they lumbered along… We drifted outside the bay to a small point… Tarpon!  40 to 50 pounders rolling luck crazy!  I think I got bit on my third cast.  Nevertheless, as tarpon are prone to do, it jumped off.  And the remaining tarpon, as tarpon are prone to do, got lockjaw.

So off we went in search of bonefish…  The rest of the day is a bit of a blur – but a good blur.  We fished mostly deeper flats from the boat.   We saw huge schools of bonefish, small groups of permit, groups of bones with permit mixed in, singles, doubles, barracuda, sharks…  You get the picture.  The bonefish weren’t pushovers, but they were pretty grabby.  And the 8 or 9 that visited the boat averaged a solid 4 pounds.  The permit …  Let’s just say they were permit.

It was hard focusing on just bonefish and permit; there were too many other distractions.  Like blacktip sharks and barracuda.  Don’t let anybody tell you that sharks and barracuda are reckless predators; they knew exactly what I was up to…

I remember one brash 4 foot blacktip and an equally ballsy bonefish. I was winding the bonefish close to the boat when the blackip charged – not the bonefish, but the boat!  At high speed!  The guide gave it a solid crack between the eyes with the push pole and the shark settled, skulking about 30 feet off our stern.   At this point in time, the bonefish ran directly toward the shark.  As far as I could tell, the bonefish gave the shark a solid head butt in the flank.  The shark, obviously disturbed by the sheer madness of the situation, finally moved off.

Needless to say, that bonefish got unhooked with extra respect.

As we wandered from cay to cay, a lot of fine looking rocks and coral were worked over with a sinking line.   The odd jack or snapper was happy to play.   Occasionally, a thunderstorm would pop up in the distance, but we’d adjust our course and skip around it.

It was a long day on the water.  I left my hotel at 6:30 AM and came back 13 hours later.  But those kinds of long hours I can get used to.

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The “No Boundaries” program runs during the summer months.  It actually consists of 2 days fishing the plentiful flats close to Grand Bahama and 2 more days plying the offshore cays.  The quiet summer winds (and the big boat!) help make the offshore forays possible.  The offshore cays offered amazing fishing  in terms of size, variety, and numbers.  (If you’re a gear head, bring lots of stuff!!!)  The closer in waters offered excellent bonefishing, although the fish were a smaller and the variety less.  The accommodations were in Freeport and boat got trailered to launch sites around the island.