Tag Archives: Destination Travel

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Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.

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Great Days 13: Fly Fishing the Lost River

” A bad day of fishing beats a good day at work anytime” is what you commonly hear from others on the water. Although this statement is usually true it doesn’t really speak justice about the scenery and adventures we come across. Here’s a short film from our friends at Smith Optics, highlighting the fishing opportunities in the Sun Valley Region of Idaho and a little insight on what makes fly fishing so enjoyable.

 

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How Run Down Does The Man Get?

I watched the trailer for “Running Down the Man” and I was hooked.  I like wading for bonefish.  I like running for fitness. What could be better than sprinting down some beach after a large, exotic-looking roosterfish?

After a fair bit of research, I booked a trip with Grant Hartman of Baja Anglers in Los Cabos, Mexico. Out of all the guides available, he had the most experience at beach fishing for roosters. He generally does week long trips, but I nabbed him for 3 days as his prime season was winding down at the end of June.

He met me at the Cabo airport and we hopped in his pickup for the hour long drive out to Los Barriles, a small town on the East Cape of Baja – north of San Jose del Cabo on the Sea of Cortez. As we drove, Grant’s passion for roosterfish, especially on the fly and from the beach, bubbled up. He compared them to permit and maintained that even a single big one, or “grande,” in one trip was a real accomplishment

Los Barriles is a very comfortable place for tourists and visiting fishermen, with good restaurants and a variety of accommodations.  A beautiful, white sand beach stretches the town’s entire length.  Grant dropped me off at my condo at the Villas de Cortez. (Note:  On the East Cape, booking a condo through a site like HomeAway is a great alternative to a hotel room.) “See you at 9AM tomorrow and don’t forget to wear something drab,” he said.

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At 9 AM the next morning, we were in Grant’s truck again, bouncing down scenic back roads through cacti and low hills. After about 20 minutes, we pulled up at a fairly deserted beach; a couple of vacation homes were the only things around. Immediately, we started rigging up my 10 weight. Before knotting on one of his custom 10  inch long flies, Grant asked me how much backing was on my reel. “About 225 yards,” I replied confidently. “Better use this,” said Grant, and he handed me his personal reel with about 400 yards of gel-spun.

What followed was a crash course in Grant’s highly refined tactics for beach roosterfish – the approach, the cast, the retrieve, and the hook set. I’d love to describe them but I’ve been sworn to secrecy!  It was all based on wading the shallow surf and spotting the fish before it spotted you. One thing I can mention is that the line of choice was a tropical Outbound Short with an intermediate head.

The preliminaries took about half an hour and then we were walking along the beach looking for roosters. After about 15 minutes, the first one showed – a dark shape I’d get quite familiar with over the next few hours, swimming parallel to the beach and maybe 60 feet out. Grant had done a great job at prepping me but I don’t think anything can really ready you for that first shot. My running line got tangled in my feet and my fly got impaled in my pant leg; there were no more chances for that fish.

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Nevertheless, another fish showed minutes later and my second shot fared slightly better. The running line and the fly both steered clear of body parts but the latter was a disappointing 15 feet short of the target. I frantically stripped in line and started to run down the beach for another cast. And promptly tripped, tangled in the running line again.

A third rooster showed up and I finally managed a good cast – right across its line sight. The fly had absolutely no impact on the fish and it kept motoring down the beach. So I stripped in my line and sprinted to get ahead of it. The next cast was also shunned. More stripping and more sprinting led to a third cast… And a third refusal.

I was about 200 yards down the beach from my starting point, breathless and sweat-soaked. (Remember, this was Baja in the summer!)  Mercifully, the rooster had disappeared to deeper water.  Grant seemed like a speck on the horizon and I trudged toward him.

Then another fish appeared… That meant three more reps of casting, stripping, and sprinting. Now I was three hundred yards from where Grant stood. When I finally got back to him he grinned broadly, “Some good casts, bro, but I think those last three were to a milkfish…” I very quickly learned to make out the characteristic tube shapes of milkfish and ignore them.

The action was quite consistent that first day.  We visited several beaches, ranging from completely pristine to somewhat populated.  Sometimes we walked along the beach.  Sometimes we drove.  Sometimes we just waited at a likely spot.  I probably had shots at upwards of a dozen roosters.   They often just swam past me – no running required.  But some needed a burst of speed – along with the requisite heavy breathing and perspiration – to overtake the fish and get in position. Roosterfish are not like bonefish, meandering along and rooting around here and there.  Most roosterfish seem to have a pace that is unfailingly linear and brisk.

The end of the day came around 4 PM, due to the lack of a high sun for spotting fish.  I had experienced nothing but refusals, but a couple of them were spectacular…

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One “grande” – that Grant estimated at fifty pounds – broke from its flight path and closed the distance to my fly in an instant.  I stripped frantically, desperately trying to move the fly, move as fast as possible.   The rooster tracked the fly perfectly, always an inch or two behind it.  When the leader was a couple feet from entering the guides, all I could see was the mouth of the roosterfish trailing my fly.  It looked enormous, like it could swallow my fist whole.  I was on my knees in the shallow surf, trying to stay invisible to the fish.  As the leader entered the guides, the fish abruptly swam off.  I was almost shaking with excitement and didn’t even try for a second shot.

Not too long after, a rooster of about 25 pounds peeled off towards the fly and followed it from about three feet back, staying deep enough so that all I could see was a dark shape.  When the leader was almost in the guides, it accelerated towards the fly and its spiky dorsal fin, or comb, broke the surface.

To me, the comb is what gives a roosterfish rock star status. When I saw it bristling out of the water, I braced myself for a hit and thought, “Strip strike… Strip strike.”  And then the fish vanished, leaving me with no more than a permanent image of its comb in my brain.

The second day of fishing dawned much like the first.  The sun was bright, perfect for sight fishing.  But the wind was howling, making the water on the turbid side.  Grant said it would be a tough day and he was right.   We tried most of the same beaches but saw absolutely nothing.  Grant even tried teasing some from the deeper water out of a fly rod’s range. He used a nine foot spin rod to bomb a hookless surface plug about the same distance as most golfers hit a five iron.  Then danced it back into shore. My job was to throw the fly in behind the plug when it came into range. Regardless, nothing showed itself.

Finally, about an hour before quitting time, we staked out a spot where a couple near shore troughs ran towards each other and met on a shallow bar. A roosterfish swam out of one trough and onto the bar, close enough for an easy cast. Unfortunately, it ignored my fly and quickly made its way towards the blue water. This happened twice more, in quite rapid succession, before we called it a day. I had been quite discouraged but the flurry of action gave me a shot of optimism for the next day.

My third and final day looked pretty hopeful. Grant took me on an isolated highway through the mountains and the sun shone brightly. Although the road was paved, it was still very much an adventure.   We stopped to help three young locals with a flat. “Never pass anybody in need in the desert,” said Grant. Their spare wasn’t the proper size, so Grant gave them his aerosol tire sealer and inflator.

A little further up the road, sections of roadside pavement were missing. The only thing taking their place was a steep drop down a cliff. After about an hour, the “highway” transformed into a rocky track through scrub and cacti. I was glad Grant drove a 4X4. Eventually, we steered off the rocks and headed down a sandy path toward the ocean. After about 100 yards of this, we emerged onto a very isolated beach. It was rockier than those we fished the last couple of days. As well, the hills seemed to be crowding it into the ocean. Although there was one beach house off in the distance, I got the impression that we had somehow left civilization far behind.

Geographically, it seemed like an ideal place, but meteorologically, things had gone down hill. It was completely overcast and the wind was howling. The water was choppy and dirty; sight casting was impossible. To be honest, back casting was also impossible. The wind had a fierce tendency to blow my fly into the back of my head with every forward cast. The only thing I could do was lay the fly line down behind me on the beach and launch it without a backcast. (You have probably heard of water-loading a forward cast. … This was beach-loading.)

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Nonethless, Grant had me blind casting and working my way down the beach.

And then I got bit! Strip strike! Rats, I missed it… Then another hit and another miss on the same retrieve. With the next cast, 18 inches of silver torpedo rocketed half a rod length out of the chop. “Ladyfish!” yelled Grant. I grinned. It sure felt good to have a fish attached to the line.

And so went the day. The ladyfish action was incredibly entertaining and almost non-stop. Every so often we lost contact with the school; however, with a bit of moving around, we always found it again. I have now seen why ladyfish are sometimes called a poor man’s tarpon; they are amazing leapers. They are not big but they certainly are fun. Grant cut back the 10 inch roosterfish fly to a ladyfish-friendly 4 inches. “Careful,” he warned, “Roosters like to snack on ladyfish and that fly is still big enough to tempt a rooster.”

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The certainty of a jumping ladyfish and the possibility of a hulking rooster kept me busy all day. The wind and the clouds never disappeared but they did not bother me in the slightest. As we drove back to town at the end of the day, I thought about the last three days. I had not caught a roosterfish but the trip was still a success in my mind. I had seen a rooster’s comb bristle at my feet and also caught a bunch of ladyfish. For me, both were firsts…

The trip still was not quite over. The next day was spent snorkeling at Cabo Pulmo, a marine preserve south of Los Barriles. The tropical fish below the water and the stark headlands above the water were both beautiful. Even though I didn’t bring a fishing rod, I have to admit that I kept glancing around, looking for the dark shape of roosterfish gliding alongside the beach…

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Destination Fishing: New Zealand’s North Island

With fall approaching and the summer season ending our minds here at Fishwest have been wandering towards fishing destinations around the world. As the season is starting to cool off here it’s about to heat up in the southern hemisphere. The crew at Gin-Clear Media has put together another great video highlighting the great fishing opportunities found in New Zealand.

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A Look Inside: Fishwest’s Yucatan Adventure 2014

Editor’s Note: Dave Zanardelli from Pennsylvania recently returned from the 2014 Fishwest hosted trip to Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe, Mexico in cooperation with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Here is what he said to say about his experience:2014-08-22 14.18.55

Tarpon Cay Lodge, in cooperation with the Hotel San Felipe de Jesus, may be the perfect destination for the first time tarpon fly fisher. From my first impression upon arrival of complimentary margaritas to ease the travel fatigue, to the last impression of making a detour on the way to the airport to visit a Mayan ruin, everything is just about as good as it gets. Comfortable accommodations, excellent housekeeping, and the highest quality food make a visit here an experience that will remain a pleasant memory for a very long time.2014-08-20 17.58.36

Now, the important part…tarpon! Baby tarpon are not everywhere, but one is never out of sight of them   for very long. Every day provided multiple opportunities at fish, from singles to schools of a dozen or more that had one thing on their minds – eating! The fishing is not difficult, and the casting is not all that demanding. Never before has a guide on a tropical flat instruct me to make a short cast, at nine o’clock, at 20 feet! A raw beginner will have reasonable opportunities to boat fish. Of course, being a capable caster greatly increases the number of chances. And when a tarpon does eat your fly, good luck boating it! These guys jump, fight, jump, run, jump, and bulldog all the way to the boat. One tarpon to the boat in three hook ups seemed about average.2014-08-17 12.05.30The second most important factor in any trip – the guides. These guides are friendly, expert at what they do, enthusiastic about what they do, and top notch at providing instruction. Carlos and Chris are among the best fly fishing guides I have encountered.

2014-08-22 12.36.16For those of you who want numbers, here they are. In six days of fishing, I jumped between 40 & 45 tarpon and managed to boat 16 of them. They weighed from about 7 pounds to nearly 20, averaging at about 12 pounds.

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I will be back next year. Along with a companion too skeptical to go on this trip, but is now convinced of his error!

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Last Thing: The team here at Fishwest is proud to announce we will once again be hosting a trip to the Tarpon Cay Lodge in conjunction with Yucatan Fly Fishing in San Felipe, Mexico. Join us from August 15-22nd of 2015. Please check out the Fishwest Outfitters Travel Page for more details or call us toll free at 877.773.5437

Sage Salt Rod

Perfecting Performance: Sage Fly Rods

Check out this video from Sage that highlights the best part about Saltwater fly fishing. In my opinion one of the greatest aspects of this type of fishing is Location, Location, Location. The fish themselves aren’t too shabby either! I mean think about it, If the fishing is terrible for the day the sunshine and the flats are hard to argue with.  Maybe I am the only one that thinks that way though. All I know is I am constantly dreaming about getting back to places like this.

Having the right tool for the job in a situation like this is absolutely critical. The Salt Rod series from Sage is the latest offering in a long line of great saltwater rods. If this rod preforms like the Sage One or the Xi3 in the field, anglers will be rejoicing all around the world.

Seeing The Rainbow: GEOBASS Nicaragua

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This is the latest installment of the “GEOBASS” series from the Motiv fishing crew and Costa Del Mar. This adventure takes the boys deep into the Nicaraguan jungle in search of the extremely impressive Rainbow bass. What they find is simply amazing.

I for one would do just about anything I possibly could to go on adventure like this one. I cannot imagine how fun yet taxing an adventure like this one is. I think the coolest part about this whole experience for these guys has to be the fact that no one has ever fished these waters that they are lucky enough to throw flies into. Granted they had to work extremely hard for it but still. Those boys will have stories to tell for the rest of their lives.

 

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.

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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.