At the beginning of October, I again went to Belize. This is the second time I have taken this trip in as many years, and after last year’s slam-fest with Michael Hetzel I was looking forward to more of the same. Joining me was Kathryn Vallilee, and we fished with my friend and great guide Eworth Garbutt. Here’s how it went down.
We arrived in Placencia on a Sunday evening, and had six days of fishing planned. The weather looked decent, but the tides were giant. Living in a part of the world where large tides are often preferable, particularly for permit, it was strange to me that these large tides have a reputation for making the fishing tougher there. No matter; with two eager anglers and six days with a great guide and nowhere else to be, how bad could it be? As it turned out, not bad at all.
Our first evening was interrupted by a small turtle, which Kathryn found in the surf as we took a post-flight dip in the water. It was impossibly cute, and I took a few pictures to look at later:
Following that we rigged up our fly poles and prepared for a next day assault on the Belizean permit population.
We started in some of the same spots I fished with Michael last year, and while the conditions were great to start they deteriorated in lock step with the giant rising tide. There was simply too much water to fish many of the places we wanted to be, and a permit could have been anywhere. We had a few shots in the morning, and by the end of the first day only had a handful of shots to show for our day on the water. Eventually we looked for tarpon, and found some that did not want to play ball. With no takers we finished the day hoping things would turn around.
We continued our permit quest, though my midday we were in the same permit-less boat we had been in the day before. Eworth had an idea where a tarpon might be, and we pulled up to a spot we had been in the day before. Where yesterday they had been surly, as we pulled in to the spot and Eworth jumped up on the platform we saw a single sliding down the sand towards us. I took a shot, and the fish ate the bug in true form. I set the hook and we fought the little pon for ten minutes before we got it next to the boat and got ahold to it. I jumped in, and Kat took the following picture to mark the occasion:
After that Kat was up and had two bites from a small pon that didn’t stay connected. As we were near where we had tarpon fished, Kat and I spotted a permit tail near the shore and we left the boat to wade after the fish. One tail turned into three, then four: a small group of permit were happily flagging us down. Kat had a few shots at them, finally spooking them on the third cast. Here’s what it looked like:
We hung around and had another few shots at small bonefish as well as a few more tarpon shots before we called in a day.
The toughest weather of our trip came on the third day, and we stuck it out in the teeth of the wind and rain. I had a lot of bow time, as Kat (smartly) sat out most of the torture. I had a shot at a single tailing fish in the mid-afternoon, and while the fly landed right the fish acted as if I’d thrown a bowling ball at its head. Bummed, we continued on. The next shot was at a large group of tailing fish that I was walking after. I couldn’t get in range, and when I finally caught up with them I threw too close, blowing them out with a mean merkin slap.
The last shot of the day was at a place we knew to be our last. I hopped out of the boat, and at that moment heard Eworth call that there was a fish tailing on the bar. I threw the fly in front of the approaching sickle, and on the second strip it was eaten. I pulled the fly out of its mouth with my hook set, but it came back and ate the fly decisively a second time. I set the hook again and cleared the fish to the reel, then walked after where it had been to get ready for the keep-out-of-the-coral game I knew was coming. As I pulled back on the fish, my line went slack. I figured he had broken the line, but when I reeled in the fly line there was my fly in all its fishless glory. I felt awful, as it would have been great to put one on the board in these conditions, and to process my feelings of awfulness I stayed on the bar for a few more minutes hoping something else would happen. Nothing did, and I trekked head-low back to the boat.
This day marked the end of our time in Placencia, and we made the move to Punta Gorda the following morning.
I’ll upload the second half of our trip soon.