After the Superfly, Kathryn and I took a day to pack up the rest of our gear and headed out of town. Our destination was Belize, which has become an annual thing at this point, and our plan was to fish with our good friend Eworth Garbutt. This year, since we brought Michael Hetzel along as our guest, we also booked Scully, Eworth’s brother. Our plan was to split up the fishing so that everyone had a chance to fish together and also spend a couple days on the water alone.
We arrived on the 13th, and readied ourselves for the onslaught of fishing that was headed our way. In years past we’ve started in Placencia and fished down the coast, ending up in Punta Gorda. Since I didn’t want to deal with the ongoing cruise ship dredging in Placencia (for my thoughts on why, exactly, cruise ships are the worst thing to ever happen to the world you’ll have to call me, though be prepared for a few hours of listening if you do), we elected to spend the full six days of our trip in Punta Gorda at the Garbutt’s lodge. Dennis Garbutt snapped this picture of us all before the fishing started:
Since we had two guides for three anglers, we scheduled the fishing so that we would all rotate through a day with each other and a day alone, twice round. Given that it has been a minute since Michael and I had seen one another, let alone fish together, the first day we decided that the boys would fish with Scully and Kat would fish with Eworth.
For Michael and me, the day started off with a bang. We ran into some calm back water, and immediately saw some fish waking around the flat. I was up first, and after a few casts at the school that could have been better was able to get the fly out in front of the tail-tipping pod of fish and come tight on the strip. I fought small permit for a few minutes before Scully netted our first fish of the trip:
With the first fish in the boat in the first hour of fishing on the first day, we all thought amazing things were in store. I sat down and watched Michael go to work. There were fish in enough places that we could see the next group as we were casting at the one in front of us, and Michael was getting the fly easily to where it needed to be despite more than a year off from fly fishing. In twenty minutes, after three shots, Michael had a pair of fish in front of him and put a cast perfectly out in front of the fish. One rushed forward and made a mistake, which Michael promptly met with one of his own. The rod tip came up on the bite, and the line went slack from a missed hook set.
Michael stayed on the bow, and soon another opportunity presented itself. The fish was pushing a wake as it passed by the boat, and Michael made another perfect cast out in front of the wave. The fish sped up and stopped at the fly, and this time three was no mistake: Michael strip-struck the fish perfectly and cleared the line as the fish ran. In a few minutes we realized that this was not a permit, but a fine bonefish instead. Michael released the fish, and soon had another. Today, and at times in the upcoming week of fishing, we were often surrounded by bonefish. Two caught bonefish and a missed bite from a permit is cause for a rotation, and I got up on the bow for another crack at the tails. I had a few shots and hooked a bonefish that we again thought was a permit, and after another missed hook set on a permit (we thought) I stepped down and gave the bow back to Michael.
We traded shots on a fewer number of shots than we had in the first two hours for the rest of the day, and while we had a few almost work out we came home with only one permit and a few bonefish to show for our efforts.
Kat had tough luck the first day, though despite the tough conditions she was still able to hok two permit. Both of these fish came off after the hookset, which reminded me of a similar issue I had had last year in this same palce. She and I made plans to fish with Eworth the following day while Michael went alone with Scully.
The second day the fishing was tough. Kat and I, with Eworth, had a small number of shots to work with. We heard early on the Michael got one early with Scully, and spent the rest of the day trying to catch up to him.
Of note was a shot that I had at a single large fish. I put the fly way out in front of him, and when he saw it he rushed over and tailed hard on the fly. I thought for sure he’d eaten it, but when I stripped to feel the weight I was met with nothing. Again the fish rushed the fly and again he tailed on it, and again we were greeted with no fish on the end of our line. The fish swam off, and we almost changed anglers until we saw the fish inside a nearby mangrove edge, tailing away in the roots. I took four or five casts at the fish, even changing the fly, and finally when the fish exited the tangle of tiny trunks it took off for good. Kat had another few shots that day, as did I, and we left for the day without a permit.
When we got home we saw pictures of Michael’s fish, of which Kat and I were both jealous:
For the third day of fishing, I fished alone with Eworth and Kat and Michael both fished with Scully. Eworth and I worked hard for what shots we had, and the fishing seemed to have deteriorated further from the day prior. Eworth and I spent a large part of the day fishing some new water, which was great, but only provided a few shots. I had a fair (if close) opportunity for a single fish in some deeper water, but the too-close shot expired before we could get a grab. Farther down the bank, we saw another fish on the flat. I threw the fly out in front of the fish, and watched it tip down and eat. I came tight but the fly came back at us, and the fish didn’t seem too bothered by the near miss. I threw the fly at the fish again, and came tight on the drop. The fish launched out of the water–from when we saw it, through hooking it the second time, we never figured out that this was not a permit, but a small tarpon. A hopeful mind is, unquestionably, a powerful thing.
We continued through our day without another shot, and headed home in the late afternoon. Back at the dock, I heard from Michael and Kat about their day. From the sounds of it they had good fishing, particularly for bonefish. Kat hooked two permit, and while one of them broke off on the hook set for no reason, the other was brought to hand for Kat’s first permit of the trip. At the dock I watched some video of the break off (honestly, I couldn’t see a reason why the line broke) and got a look at the picture of her fish, a nice one:
For the next three days, you’ll have to check back for part 2….
I’m fishing with Ted Margo and Doug Kilpatrick tomorrow, and Kat and I leave on Monday to fish with Fitz Coker and Dotty Ballantyne in Louisiana.
Much more to come, as soon as I can upload it all.