27 April 2010

Landed, DFW

We slept in, finished packing, Antonio prepared our lunch, and we left El Pescador around 12 noon, Belizean time.  We waited in the San Pedro airport for about 30 minutes and boarded our Tropic Air flight for Belize City.  In air, I was able to see a mudding sting ray and three large tarpon circling a flat.  We picked up our bags, checked them in at the AA counter, and looked for the air-conditioned area in the airport.  While there, many Belizean soldiers came through and then, four U.S. Air Force personnel came through as well. 

Our flight left a little early, had few passengers, and arrived about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  One thing that I thought was particularly fun on the flight was seeing my house and Mom and Dad's house from the air.  We were able to spot it rather easily. 

After arriving at D/FW, we waited for our gate to clear so our plane could dock; we disembarked, and began the hardest part of the trip--re-entering American soil.  We cleared the border check, and walked on, when the beagle sniffed my bag.  From my El Pescador lunch, I had left over three cantaloupe slices and a honeydew melon slice.  Since I did not get to finish them, I just put them in my purse, and did not declare them on my Customs form.  We proceed to the customs check through, where are bags are x-rayed, and my passport is withheld.  After scanning my bags, I had to have each individually searched.  The Customs guy was nice, but he told me that even though I had accidentally forgotten those four pieces of fruit were in my bag, a first-time, non-declaration of items is a $300.00 fine.  Of course, they let me go, and we were on our way to Chick-Fil-A and sweet tea!  We had a great time, added to our species list, and fished new waters, but Dorothy was right, "there is no place like home!"

26 April 2010

Belize, Day Seven

We fished Belizean waters for the last time today. Decidedly so, it was the day for Tarpon. Luis guided us in the Preserve waters, and immediately, we saw tailing Permit and some big Jack Crevalles. After briefly casting to them, to the Mangroves we motored. Luis knew several tarpon holes, but his honey-hole lagoon paid off. Those young tarpon rolled in the water flashing their pretty greenish and silvery scales at us, so Cody took the platform. Using a pretty chartreuse bunny that Cody tied himself, he began stalking those rolls. Eventually, the stalking paid off, and Cody landed an 8 pounder. We snapped some good photos with Cody and the King Tarpon, and Cody even managed to obtain a Tarpon scale. For the picture, Cody tried to lip that baby, and its mouth ripped Cody's thumb into several layers.

My turn. I tried several flies in several colors, but was not having much luck. Eventually, Luis stood on the casting bow with me, and while I casted at the 9 o'clock position, Mr. 13 ft. crocodile suddenly appeared at the 12 o'clock position. It startled me and the tarpon, because they stopped rolling. Luis told us that crocodiles eat tarpon!! As a result, we left and headed out to a much shallower and clearer lagoon. Being at low tide, we had to push the boat in and out of the lagoon, which produced no fish. As a result, we headed back to our original tarpon-rolling, honey hole lagoon.

This time, I brought my A+ game. My casting was perfection, but my flies were too small. Finally, Cody and Luis tied on a Black Death and second cast, a 30-40 lb. tarpon aggressively swam out from under the Mangroves and took my fly. Tarpon have a bony mouth, so setting the hook is important. I had forgotten to slip-set the hook until Luis reminded me; that done, the game was afoot. I jumped him once, and then Cody said reel in line not to just strip in line. I jumped the tarpon a second time, and Luis moved the boat back to keep the tarpon out of the Mangrove roots, and Cody videotaped. I jumped him a third time--King Tarpon did a one-and-a-half back flip--and I being an overly excited subject had my fingers pinching the line against the handle and I did not bow. When you don't bow to the King, you get punished. I did not land that tarpon, and Cody has it all on video. Being overly excited and wanting a second chance at that beast, I began casting for him and fell off the casting platform in to the boat. Somehow, my rod did not break, and even though it landed outside of the boat, the drag precariously balanced it on the outside of the gunwale. I beat my arm, knees, and chest up, but Cody managed to save my 8 wt. rod, the first one I built at Norm's, sporting my beautiful, purple Nautilus reel.

I wish Mulligans existed in fly fishing. This King Tarpon was my first hook-up and will haunt my mares for many years to come.

25 April 2010

Belize, Day Six

A non-fishing day for us, we toured the Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Orange Walk, Belize. We traveled by airplane from San Pedro to Orange Walk; then, we took a boat up the New River for 28 miles. Along the trip we saw Spider Monkeys, Iguanas, Fruit Bats, Cormorants, a baby crocodile and a 11/12 ft. crocodile. We watched the Jesus Christ birds on the water lilies. People were fishing for what looks like rainbow bass, but that they call snook (freshwater version). An osprey flew overhead and raced us, as did red-winged blackbirds. There are a number of Mennonite colonies located along the New River, as well.

We toured the ruins and opted not to climb the Jaguar or the main temple, due to the extremely high humidity. Howler Monkeys hawked out their grunts and marked their territories. Cody recorded them on his iPhone for anyone to hear, should they desire to do so. We saw wild okra, the nut and tree from which Imodium AD is made, banana orchids, spider cactus, and many other beautiful plants and palms. It was a wonderful trip, but in-country Belize receives almost no wind, and the chopping and production of cane adds a kind of sickly-sweet odor in the air. A Texan owns a ranch near the cane mill and rum factory, and he has a herd of water buffalo. With the exception of them, the cows here are very, very skinny. At its width, we were told Belize is 67 miles wide (almost my one-way drive to work)!

A wonderful trip, barring the humidity.  Cody and I are both glad we took the day off from fishing to go take this tour!

24 April 2010

Belize, Day Five

What started out as a rough day, turned in to one of the finest saltwater fishing days for Cody and me. Being in a humid climate whose facilities only provide salt water with which to bathe, cleaning clothes, getting them aired out, and smelling somewhat civilized becomes a chore. Needless to say, we bought a shirt from the gift shop, so we wouldn't offend. Due to the extra-curricular shopping, breakfast was light and rushed.

We load up the Panga and aren't 30 seconds from shore, before my visor blows off my head and takes a drink. We retrieve it, but now our socks, gloves, and hat are wet, wet, wet. Cody and I are both thinking this is just not the way to start a good fishing day. We were wrong!!!

Head to the Permit flats--three boats are already there and no Permit. Head to the Bonefish honey hole and hook up with six. Move over to a beautiful reef flats where Erlindo poles us through. We see two nurse sharks and a black tip, in addition to some really big Bonefish. We cast, and I ended up with a Barracuda and a Mojarra. Cody caught two Barracudas and promptly dropped one in the boat. A flailing 'cuda with gnashing teeth is more excitement than I wanted. I just wanted to catch a beautiful little Nurse Shark is all.

 Erlindo moves us back towards the Permit flats, but there are no fish there, so we cut through the channel, and lo and behold, Erlindo spots Permit and Jack Crevalle swimming together in a rather large school. Cody and I casted to them but no hook ups. We follow them around the channel for a while but decide to throw anchor for lunch, which is interrupted by spotting the school several times. Cody and Erlindo talk about the school, when I spotted two at 11:00 from the bow. I shoved Cody out of the way, stripped out that blue Rio line, and cast that size 2 Gotcha, and the prettiest, but small, Permit chased and ate my fly. Then, "the girliness" came out. Yes, Cody caught it on video, but I caught my saltwater dream fish today, and that was the prettiest, little Permit.

Okay, so my heart finally settles down, as the reality sinks in that I caught my desire, and Cody's on the casting bow. We had to hunt down that school, but again, they came in really nice at 11:00 off the bow. Cody casted and caught another pretty Permit, as well. Cody's Permit was slightly larger than mine, but two Permit for the boat is a wonderful day! Cody decided to cast again, and this time, he hooked up with a pretty Jack Crevalle.

Cody wanted the grand slam for the day, and while we looked for Baby Tarpon, we could find none. We ended the day bonefishing.

Day 5 grand total: 3 Barracuda, 10 Bonefish, 1 Jack Crevalle, 1 Mojarra, and 2 Permit. An excellent day at sea!

23 April 2010

Belize, Day Four

Day 4 turned out to be a day of size, not numbers, and new species. We marathon waded for big Belizean bonefish, of which we caught six--Cody 4 and me 2. We arrived back at the boat to move to the Permit reef. Erlindo found one, and Cody cast to it, but the Permit swam on the outer edge away from our casts. Cody then decided to use his Permit fly to catch a Barracuda. Thankfully, the Barracuda kept the fly intact. Of course, that made me want to catch one too. I tied a pretty Needlefish fly before we left and was dying to get that on the end of my line. Erlindo graciously took me to a great Barracuda spot, and sure enough, I caught, jumped, and landed that bad boy! Cody's cuda was bigger, but it is a new species for me--#31.

Tomorrow--we'll see what the tides hold.

22 April 2010

Belize, Day Three

Well, we had a little trouble with Internet connection, yesterday, so there were no posts available. Temps are humid, but we are right on the eastern shore of Ambergris Caye (pronounced key) about two miles north of San Pedro, so we receive a nice ocean breeze, which also keeps the mosquitoes away. Crayola Crayon must have come here to develop their aquas, greens, and turquoise colors. We boat over green turtle grass, white sands, and small coral beds.

El Pescador provides good food and nice accommodations, but I have learned what "being green" means in a lodge. We have desalinated water in our showers and sinks, which means the water is salty. That is driving us nuts, because we never feel like we are getting completely clean, but our skin is soft. Also, toilet paper can not be flushed; instead, it is thrown away. Personally, I like my little ole' aerobic septic system, even if I have to pay an annual maintenance fee.

Our guide is Erlindo, an older gentleman, who has put us on fish both days. Cody and I have fished for tarpon both mornings, and while we have seen and cast to them, no tarpon for the boat, so far. We each will add to our species list--Cody caught a Ballyhoo, today, and I caught a Needlefish, yesterday. Mine was foul-hooked but landed nonetheless. All our other fish have been bonefish.

We eat breakfast around 6:15 and are in our Pangas (a fishing boat that has an Adirondack chair for us to sit in while we are not fishing) by 7:00. We usually come off the water around 3:30, eat a snack, and have dinner at 6:45. Our lunch is prepared for us, and we take it out on the Pangas.

Erlindo showed us the tree from which gum is made; he also showed a tree that is poisonous, like Sumac. Needless to say, I gave that tree a wide birth. Mangroves abound down here, and the Mangrove channel cut we pass through that takes us from the east side of the caye to the west, was cut by the Mayans. It used to be a tollway, but now it is not. Blog is quirky, so no pictures, now, but they will be available on our Rods n' Reels site. More, tomorrow.


20 April 2010

Landed, Belize

Well, we made the very quick 2 hour and 25 minute flight, gathered our belongings, and loaded on a smaller plane for a 16 minute flight to San Pedro Island.  Jason got to ride as co-pilot.  Eight members comprise our Tailwaters crew.  Strong winds, blue and turquoise water, white sands all make for a great beginning.  We will head out at 7:00 a.m. for 8 hours of fishing.

18 April 2010

Belize in two days!

Have tied most of the flies we'll need, but organizing all of them is another task, itself; bought some new clothes for the trip; washed and folding clothes and packing; making the list and checking it again and again (yes, that is right, I'm making a list; the last list I made was in April 2009 for the Seychelles, so a list is a big deal); copies of passport are made and am excitedly waiting to clear customs to get to the lodge and fish!! Have taken my reels in to Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co. to make sure lines, reels, spools, and knots are ready to handle Bonefish, Permit Tarpon, Jacks, and a Barracuda or two, and maybe even a Nurse Shark! We are very excited to be fishing the salt again!

Here's to bent tips and happy days,


17 April 2010

Loy Lake

Not wanting to get "out of fishing shape," Cody and I participated in the DFF's club outing to Loy Lake 10 April 2010.  Being the cold-temp sissy that I am, I talked Cody in to waiting to fish in the afternoon, warmer temperatures.  It paid off--bluegill, white crappie, green sunfish, redear sunfish, fingerling largemouth bass, grass carp, and two 2+ lb. largemouths.  Black was the color for the day, and with the exception of a bluegill on a Miss Prissy popper, all were caught on the CodyBugger!

The waters were crystal clear, a good thing, since catching the cursed carp caused my archaic BlackBerry to fall in the lake, where it remained for approximately seven minutes.  Having to strip down to my sportsbra and skivvies, I entered the four foot deep (cold) water, slid my left foot under the phone, right foot on top, pulled my legs up, and grabbed the phone, which was vibrating madly.  Cody immediately took the battery and SIM card out, and we shook, dried the phone, and let it bake in the sun inside the car.  All our efforts worked and so does the phone.  Pay homage to the BlackBerry, 2006!  I dried off, doned all of my fishing clothes, and fished on!  The big bass came afterwards, so a good decision to fishon! 

Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

The DFF volunteers with many organizations with members donating their time.  Of course, I don't see it as donating my time; I see it as another opportunity to play.  The second week in March finds five fishing clubs helping out at the TFFC for the annual Fly Fish Texas event.  Cody and I volunteer to fish the ponds, so guests can see that fish are indeed caught on a fly rod and anyone can do it. 

This year, I was targeting this three pound bass that kept skirting along the reeds and brush of the catfish aquarium.  I didn't get what I wanted.  Instead, I hooked up with five catfish, all weighing 20 lbs or more.  Of the five, I only landed one, but with a minimum of 25 minutes to fight each fish, it was a blast.  Break off #3 (after viewing the video, click the browser back button to return to the blog) was truly the one that got away.  I was getting ready to lip it, so Cody could help me pick it, when it finned the leader and swam away with my fly!

I thought the craziest experience of all was that the fish were taking a size 10, Skip Morris pattern, black SMP and a size 8 Kevin Hutchison, Swamp Monster, both of which I tied.  Cody hooked up with five as well using a size 14 flashback pheasant tail!  Unbelievable if I had not seen it myself. 

However, ultimately, I landed the largest fish of my career--a 20lb. Channel Catfish.  While holding that bad boy, I could not decide which of us was more tired.  With the exuberance he used to swim away, I think I ended up the worse for wear, but not too tired to grin!

Photo and video by Cody Bell

05 April 2010

Good Meeting with Dave Hughes

Our fly fishing club was treated to a great evening with author Dave Hughes.  Mr. Hughes spoke to the club about matching the hatch, and really had some sage pieces of advice to offer.  Afterwards, members and guests had the opportunity to purchase some of his books and have Dave autograph them.  If only I had known 1/10 of what Dave suggested tonight before I spent last summer in Montana, I would have caught even more fish.  What a wonderful treat!
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