Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Blue Bonefish in Belize

Last spring several of us decided we would go on a bonefish trip to San Pedro Island, Belize.  Bill, from Plateau Fly Shop, and Sarah had just returned and they decided to get a group to go the end of February 2015.  We ended up with a group of eleven: Bill and Sarah, Louisa (Lou), Max, Paul (Snack Daddy), and five people I didn't know previously: Richard, Curt and Julie and Doug and Beckie. Our hosts were Jim and Phyliss  Johnson who operate Naknek River Camp in King Salmon, Alaska.

Preparation involved finding what gear was necessary. I ended up with an eight weight for bone fish.  Others were looking for a slam of bonefish, permit and tarpon, so they took larger rods and some larger flies.  I believe the rods ranged in size of seven weight to 10 weights for the others.  Most of the flies I tied were sizes 8, 6 and 4.  Some were tied with weed guards and some were not.

These are the flies that I tied, I did borrow a few, but tied most.  Tans and pinks are very common.

The people that I mentioned as having known all travels together on the way down.  That's when the real fun began. As the time for boarding the plane arrived, it was announced that the crew was delayed by the bad road conditions.  Apparently the shuttle driver wasn't aware we had snow and freezing rain all night. They weren't too late, we boarded and then had to wait for the plane to be de-iced and then antifreeze applied.  There went most of the time we had to go from one terminal to another to catch our international flight.

We arrived late at the gate by about 10 or 15 minutes, but the others were just beginning to board.  Well, actually, they were just re-boarding, or we would have missed our flight.  Seems the TSA had not cleared the plane before the original boarding, so the passengers had to leave the plane so it could be cleared.  We finally got on and the pilot announced a mechanical problem that would not ground the plane.  I had to ask myself if it wouldn't ground the plane, why were we still on the ground waiting for the mechanics?  He also mentioned a problem with the air controllers in Belize, but I missed what it was. Not too much longer and it was announced the mechanics were working on the problem...something with the air conditioning.

Here's the pilot again: the mechanics that were working on the plane had their shift end, so they went home and we were waiting on two new mechanics.  Finally, the airplane is deemed fine for leaving and we were off and running, well, flying.

We arrive at Belize International Airport. There were a lot, for the size of the place, airplanes there, maybe 4. Seems the air controllers had been "on strike" and all of the scheduled flights seemed to arrive about the same time when the strike ended.  Naturally, we were last. After about 2 hours of standing in line we made it through customs and caught our flight to San Pedro.  This last flight only 15 minutes, the planes held 12 people with good room for about 9 or 10. That included one passenger in the co-pilot's seat. Here is our co-pilot Sarah.

We are three seat across behind them.  By having someone hold my carry-on I was able to squeeze into my seat and then take my carry-on to hold on my lap for the flight. Hope I can't get in trouble for this, but I wasn't able to find my seat belt to buckle either on the way over or the return.

We finally met our hosts at the airport on San Pedro and were carted to their home about four and a half miles from town.  Most people used gas powered golf carts,  A short distance out of town the "cobblestone" road became a dirt road...very bumpy. We arrived at the house and were shown our rooms and explored the immediate vicinity while waiting for supper. Not bad when your first meal is lobster.  All of our meals were served family style and all were tasty. I'll write about one in particular later. After supper, we were given advise on fishing, casting, reacting with the guides and fly selection. Our fishing partners for the next day and which guide we would be with was decided and then preparing for our first day of fishing.

Each fishing day we ate breakfast about 6:30 and met our guides about 7. Paul and I were fishing the first day and our guide was Marco. My fishing started slow, Paul missed two while fishing from the boat and I hadn't had a take.  Marco found a nice place to wade fish here I caught my first bonefish! I hadn't realized how much these little guys like to run.  I always tie my flies barbless and Marco insisted we use barbed hooks.  According to Marco "only professionals use barbless hooks.  Even I'm not good enough to do that".  I borrowed a fly from Paul to use that day. Below is a photo of Paul's and my first bonefish.

We were back in the boat before Paul caught his.  We were still wading when I got my largest.

We ended up with about 7 or 8 bonefish between us. Paul was "up" on the bow when we saw our only permit.  He did get in a cast or two, but they were not interested.  One time Marco wanted to check the fly when I cast.  I was bringing it in and he grabbed the line when the fly got close.  Just as he grabbed the line, a small barracuda took the fly.  Marco quickly retrieved the line, cursed the fish, released it, saw everything was okay and told me to continue fishing.

The next day Lou and I were teamed up and our guide was Roger.  I fished with Roger the last three days, but had a different fishing partner each of those days. As usual, Lou out fished me.  We landed 7  or 8 bonefish and one sardine.  Yes, Lou caught a sardine. Below are pictures of Lou and Roger and some of her fish from the day.

The next day six of us from Blue Bonefish toured the Lamanai Mayan Ruins.  I'll talk about that later.

My third day of fishing, some people had decided not to fish so I was partnered with Jeremy.  He is one of the Alaska guides who was spending some time in Belize.  He also guides for waterfowl. We ran into a pretty good size school of permit while Jeremy was up.  He got several good casts, but the fish again were not too interested in the flies.  Once or twice he spooked the fish.  I got a few "bones", all small. It was a good fun day.  Roger helped me with my casting and I thought I was doing much better than on my first day.

Several of us took the next day to go reef fishing in the morning, relaxing in the afternoon.  The day after that was our last day of fishing. I was fishing with Bill and we decided we wanted to chase permit.  That is what we did.  We looked and searched and saw very few.  Most of the day was spent looking for permit and tarpon.  Bill had a few follows from the tarpon, but they all turned away and refused the fly.

Just about every afternoon before supper Lou, I don't think she ever tires of fishing, would either walk or take a cart to one of the canals close to the house to fish.  Lou loves to fish for bluegill and she was told of a fish called the Mayan Oscar that looked similar to the sunfish back home.  She went after these guys with her fly rod.  Paul went with her once and so did Bill.  Me, I was always too tired at the end of the day. The last night Lou took some shrimp and a hook to seek out tarpon in the same canals.

Several people also managed to land small barracuda.

One morning we went reef fishing.  We started with the mate throwing a net to catch our bait.  The friendly pelican was watching for bait and for fish that were caught. He did manage to catch a hooked fish or two. I believe they were all rescued to be consumed by us later. On the boat that I was on we caught several kinds of fish, including varieties of snapper, trigger fish, grouper (very small),  and a grunt (definitely a well earned name). We came home, the fish were cleaned and we had them for lunch. The afternoon was free time and the day was concluded with a pig roast.  Really just the shoulder, but delicious. The pork was covered with foil, then wrapped in banana leaves and then palm leaves.  It was buried about 6 am and uncovered about 6 pm.

A few photos from the boat or beach:

Sunset from Blue Bonefish

A small portion of a very pretty island, supposedly one owned by Leonardo

After the first two days of fishing, six of us took the Lamanai Mayan Ruins tour.  It was about an hour boat ride to the mainland and a short distance up  river.  There we had breakfast served, we got into a van for a ride of an hour along the old Pan American Highway, boarded another boat to travel up the river to a lake where the Mayan ruins are located.  Along the way we saw a spider monkey, iguanas, crocodiles, colorful birds. A walking tour of the ruins followed lunch. Most of the group climbed to the top of Tower Temple.

Iguana on a high tree limb

Spider Monkey

I believe this was a Broad bill heron

What big teeth I have

I don't recall the real name, but called the Jesus Bird (walks on water)

A Mayan Calendar

Jaguar Temple

Our group on top to Tower Temple

Mask Temple

A really big crocodile
 The time spent at the Blue Bonefish was vey enjoyable.  Good hosts, enjoyed being with old friends and made some new ones. No record fish, no slams, but we all caught fish.

As bad as our flight down was, the flight back was worse. All I'll say is our flight home from Dallas was cancelled, long wait in line to reschedule, and even though Paul and I boarded our plane an hour and a half after the others, we were looking for our luggage when the others arrived.  In spite of the travel problems I had a good time and I'm already thinking about another warm weather trip next February.  Maybe fishing, maybe just looking for a break.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 2015

A little over a week ago we had beautiful weather; it was a Friday, so I decided to go to Roaring River State Park to catch my January trout.  I headed to the short stretch where you are allowed to wade and had most of it to myself. Worked down the stream, back up and down again.  Only two fish on and neither brought to hand.  I took off my waders and headed up near the spring to fish a hole where I always catch fish.  You guessed it: I can no longer say always for that hole.  I had two follows, but no takes.  Thus ended my first trip of 2015...nothing!

Today was a miserable day.  It was windy, cold, windy, damp, did I say windy?  I got to the tailwaters and the flags on the dam were standing straight out. I figured this might be my only chance left to catch a January trout and the wind would help me practice my casting for my trip to Belize next month.  It was one of those days where you time your cast to what might be a slight decline in the wind speed.  At least in Belize the guide will be able to position the boat so the wind works with you instead  of against you.

I tied on a purple soft hackle with a gold rib and dark brown hackle and walked towards the stairs by outlet number three.  The steps had yellow tape on them, "caution don't use". I don't know how long they have been closed as I hadn't been to this area to fish since at least October. So I found what appeared to be a trail to the water and headed for the stream. It was such a nasty day that when I arrived there were only about 6 or 7 other fishermen downstream from outlet number two.  Unfortunately, two of them were in my favorite spot.  So I walked downstream of the big tree stump where I couldn't see anyone down stream from me to try my luck.

On my third or forth cast I had a beautiful 15 inch rainbow.  Very pretty colors, but not much girth. In the next hour I caught several more, but they were all the silver, almost no color fish.  All of these were probably 10-12 inches in length. Most of the takes were very soft. Just as I decided it was getting awfully cold and that I should quit, I had a good hard take.  The result was another very pretty fish, this one was just about 17 inches and had a little more girth to him.  Looked a little "healthier" than the first one.  Definitely better than all of the slender silver ones.

My old bones were  getting cold, so after just a little more than an hour I went back to the truck to warm up.  While I was sitting in the truck, a lot of the other fishermen started coming out of the water too.  I decided I would just call it quits for the day.  So I cut off the same fly I started with, it would have been a good day for a "one fly" contest, and got out of my waders just as the rain started in earnest. The weather was bad but the fishing was very good.  Anytime I catch fish, I consider it a good day.  Did I mention it was really windy?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Getting Ready for Belize

Johnson's Blue Bonefish Villa

Looks inviting. The end of February several of us are going to Bill from Plateau Fly Shop and his wife Sarah on a trip to the Blue Bonefish Villa on San Pedro, Belize.  The plans are four days of flats fishing from boats, one day of reef fishing or snorkeling and one free day.  Looks like several good ideas for the free day, but I may need to just relax.

The owner, Jim Johnson, sent a list of flies (and other gear) to bring, plus I have a few friends that have given recommendations on flies, leaders, etc.  Steve, who I'll be traveling with, just gave a fantastic program on how to tie leaders and improve our knot tying.  Soon I'll get started on that.  Also, I've been trying to improve my casting with my 8 wt saltwater rod.  Its turned cold, but I still need to get out and practice more.

Here are a few of the flies that have been suggested.
Bonefish Bitters

This fly was on the list from the Villa, also some friends recommended it. I used a Tiemco U401 #8 hook on the ones shown. The head is small bead chain eyes, coated with Clear Cure Goo and then colored with magic marker. I've used two different kinds of legs: Speckled Centipede, Med Orande and Sili Legs, Sand/orange-Blk Flake. The wing is a tan Hi-vis under deer hair.  Hopefully, the deer hair will serve as a weed guard.


This fly was highly recommended by Steve and I've learned to listen to his advice. I used a #4 saltwater hook and the eyes are beadchain.  I've varied the size and color of the eyes. The tail is fox fur, as is the wing.  The legs are the same Sili Legs as above.  The body and head are a sparkle material.  I did some of the heads in pink, all of the bodies are white or pearl.  

Lefty's Bonefish Fly

This one was not recommended, but for the salt you have to have one of Lefty's patterns. Side note: I was lucky enough to meet and talk to Lefty a couple of years ago...what a character!  Also, this is a very simple tie.  I used both #8 and #6 saltwater hooks. Everything was tied in over the beadchain eyes. The fur is badger and some pearl or gold krystal flash. One small bunch of fur on top (what will be the bottom) of the hook. After turning the hook over, I tied in fur, flash and the more fur. The person who did the video used white thread, but then did the head in pink for Lefty. I did a few that way and a few all pink thread.

The Avalon

Jim recommend this fly for permit.  It is weighed much heavier than the others and is tied larger.  The hook is a # 2 or 4 saltwater and the eyes are bead chain.  The keel is 20 lb hard mono with 4 1/8" beads, this adds weight and is suppose to rattle when stripped. Mouth is orange antron yarn. Black krystal flash makes up the antennae. The legs are the same Centipede legs as above.  I just realized that you can't see the body (tan Chenille) and the shell back ( pearl flat braid) in this picture. The claws are rabbit strips, one tied to each side.

Because of the keel, this fly won't sit properly for a picture, so I put the keel in the vise to show the shell back and also how the claws are attached. Sorry the picture isn't the best.

That's what I've tied so far, going to do some Gotchas, Crazy Charlies and Christmas Island specials.  I'll add them when I get some tied.

As I mentioned before it just turned cold here, and I'm really looking forward to the warmth of Belize.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fall at the Springfield Nature Center

If you are looking for fishing, I'm sorry.  This will just be some pictures I've taken while walking at the Springfield Nature Center this fall.  I've included some animal and some that just show Mother Nature at her best. I like what I call "artsy-fartsy" pictures, so the subject matter may vary, but all photos where taken at the Nature Center this fall.

I was on the board walk watching these young ladies.  I had spotted them from the bridge and made my way along the boardwalk. Then I saw the buck shown above coming along.  He was aware of me, but didn't seem too concerned.  Usually, the buck are more skittish than the doe.  This morning I came upon one group of doe that I could have hit with a short roll cast and one that I could have tickled with my 8' 6" fly rod.  They really are that used to people.

At this point, I'd estimate the distance between me and the buck was less than 30 feet. This morning, directly below the Nature Center building I spotted the buck shown below.  There was a man and his daughter walking down the steps from the building and when they reached the bottom of the steps I pointed out the buck.  That will give those of you familiar with the area just where he was.  This is the second time I saw him in this area.

Besides the large critters, there are a few smaller ones. There is at least one more little fellow that had ran out of the picture. I believe I saw more chipmunks this year than ever before.  And there are lots of squirrels! Like the songbirds, these guys are hard to photograph, always on the move.

I really got lucky on the shot above. The focus seems to be pretty good with the background blurred. Now a couple of my "artsy-fartsy" shots.

Last week one of my Facebook friends, I forget who, posted a picture of a frost flower.  I don't believe I had ever heard of them before.  Then this morning, my good friend and fishing buddy Larry, posted pictures of some from his backyard.

Just after I saw the nice buck I saw what I thought was white plastic bags thrown close to the trail.  When I got close I saw what I believe are the first frost flowers I've ever seen. They are definitely the first I ever recognized as what they are. Here are a couple of shots of them. A few up close and then an area shot.

Near the end of today's hike I saw a flock of about 10 turkeys. These two started across the trail, changed their mind and ran along the trail for a short distance, then back toward the others.

That's all for now.  I've got to tie some flies and leaders for a February fishing trip to Belize. I might show some of the flies as I get them tied and, hopefully, some fish pictures when I return.