SALTWATER DIARIES

A skinny water story about Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish feat.: Stefan & Alexander Haider, Mark & Matt Erdosy, Adam Hope, Alexander Davidson and Stephan Gian Dombaj

Mon

31

Oct

2011

Skinny Water Bones

Week three highlight video from July. Enjoy.

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Sat

08

Oct

2011

Letdowns

 As you might expect, the largest bonefish usually have attendant pilot fish that shadow their every move. Typically small horse-eye jacks, these opportunistic little bastards have carved out a niche by surviving on tiny creatures that a behemoth bonefish's shadow flushes from cover, or the scraps left scattered after a good feed.

 

Invariably, inevitably and unavoidably these freeloaders rushed in front of their 12lbs+ shadows to eat our flies. The sight of such huge bonefish pushing a bow wave in the direction of your fly is something that you'll just have to experience to understand. The feeling of unexpected lightness, the promise of brutality and speed replaced at the last moment by a frail, pulsating life form, the tingling in your hands and feet from the sudden withdrawal of adrenaline is also something you must experience to understand.

 

It was frustrating, let me just say that, and it happened repeatedly. I think we caught it on film 3 or 4 times.  

 

So it was, that after 8 days of landing bigger bonefish than anyone can rightfully expect to bring to hand and having monstrous bonefish lost due to what boils down to a goal-tending foul on the part of those damn jacks (we should have counted them, anyway!) that we began to lose our minds a little bit.

 

Upon reflection, our time in the sand was better than we could have hoped for. We started to get on each other's nerves, but what else would you expect? We drank a fair bit of warmish beer, ate a lot of really unhealthy food, braved the elements and caught some awesome fish. As homage to that time, we bring you "Letdowns."

 

The video features blown hook sets, goal-tends on big bonefish, dancing, and some seriously bad buck fever.

 

Enjoy, and thanks.

 

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Thu

06

Oct

2011

Last Days

The divide.
The divide.
Scanning for poon.
Scanning for poon.

The last two days of our trip went by in a blur. After a week of fishing under the hot sun and sleeping on the beach, our bodies were begging us to stop, but our hearts were dragging us on.

 

Our last two mornings consisted of a long sleep in, dollar a cup coffee, and lazy attempts at coaxing tarpon from under docks. Our back casts went in between tourists coming off yachts and catamarans on their way to breakfast. Their kids eyeing our every move and asking question upon question after each jumped fish.

 

Investigating fishing boats from the dock we laid witness to why there aren't any large sharks around. They are lobster bait. Their muscular bodies are chopped up and used as lures in thousands upon thousands of lobster traps throughout the Caribbean. A near constant abuse of the ecosystem that will one day completely collapse.

 

Our last chance on the flats had some success. Matt hooked and landed our last bonefish in near perfect conditions. Meanwhile, I stalked the deeper waters looking for any sign of permit. Adam had a horse eye jack rob him of a silver ghost. The little guy missed the fly and paid dearly by losing an eyeball.

 

Exploring the northern side of the island, our rental broke down and we were stranded for several hours. We snorkeled along a barrier reef full of life, slept away at an abandoned beach bar, and bravely took the pontoon to the break.

 

The last thing we decided to do on the trip was to actually buy a meal. A decision that made us hypocrites for lamenting all the dead sharks used as lobster bait. Wearing skinny water microfibers coated in all sorts of fishiness, we scarfed down the best lobster I ever had. When a heavy down poor came, the other diners (dressed to impress) ran for cover. I simply sat and ate, while I enjoyed my first shower in 8 days.

 

Back at the camp site, we set up our tent and hammock. Our last night of sleep under the stars should have been extremely uncomfortable, but a few painkillers and a case of beer on top of fishing our asses off took care of that. Despite being soaked to the bone and covered in sand we slept like babies. In the night, we dreamt of saltwater chrome in skinny water for the last time. Awaking, we started our journey back to a life of reality, our annual taste of the dream coming to a fitting end.

 

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Tue

30

Aug

2011

Sweet Spot

The night of mayhem rejuvenated us and reminded us of why we were there: to fish our asses off. That night, we found a place to buy ice, we parked ourselves on the beach, and drank the cheapest beer we could find. It was a celebration of sorts that prepared us well for our best day of fishing thus far.

 

We hit up all the spots we could access without a skiff and catch a bone. Probably 1/50th of the entire circumference of the island. Once again, the wind and clouds were in full effect which severely hampered the first half of the day. It was slow.

 

Early in the morning on the first beach, I was lucky enough to spot a bonefish that evaded Adam and Matt working their way east. I made the cast, worked the fly, and the bonefish attacked. They are so opportunistic, that I don't think the pattern matters much. It is all about the presentation.

 

We shifted gears, and made our way to the less accessible flat and power walked it. At this point, we wanted a permit badly, but whenever we were thinking permit, they never showed up. Only when we least expected it, did they appear out of thin air.

 

Matt had a redemption of sorts against a small school of bonefish. A few days earlier a school of 4-6 slowly moving fish, snuck by him in super shallow water using mangroves as cover. Near the same spot and gifted with a second chance, he scored his first bonefish of the day.

 

The second half of the day started very slow, but ended fast and furious. We switched up our game plan and decided to walk into the wind, rather than wait on the beach for tailing fish. It was close quarters combat, where we couldn't see the fish until the last minute and they often took while we stripped leader. 

 

As we made our way up a mangrove coastline, we stumbled upon a sweet spot. Lots of fish were moving into the area in singles and pairs. The highlight of the day came when we had our first double hookup. As Adam landed a solid bonefish, Matt got his second of the day.

 

Moments later, Adam landed another great fish. Days earlier, he prepared himself for dealing with the wind by placing a 10wt. line on his 7wt. This was the day it paid off, as he routinely bombed casts to unsuspecting fish in stiff winds.

 

I ended up finding the source of all the bonefish coming our way. I began blind casting out onto the deeper portions of the flat and immediately hooked up with a bonefish that popped off during the land. On the next cast, I hooked up with the smallest bonefish we caught the whole week. We happened to find a sweet spot for an hour before it completely died down, and the fish moved on.

 

Also on this day, Adam spotted bonezilla cruising towards the horizon. The picture below is him summing up his experience chasing it. If his estimate proves accurate, the fish would have been in the neighborhood of world record size. I wouldn't have believed him if I hadn't seen another fish of epic proportions only to have a horse eye jack rob me of the bonefish of a lifetime.

 

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Sun

28

Aug

2011

Chances

Morning of day four, we awoke to a passing squall that spit rain into the tent and made anymore sleep impossible as high winds ripped across the tent. It was the beginning of a day filled with passing storms and wind that refused to die down, making the fishing challenging.

 

Despite the wind, my brother and I decided to take the pontoons out and drift farther out along the coast. Adam dropped us off near the mangroves and we rigged up multiple rods for bones, perm, tarpon, and barracuda, just in case. It didn't take us long to realize a major problem. Rather than having the wind come from the East drifting us along the coast, it was coming from the Northeast pushing us out to sea. After drifting a few hundred yards, we decided to head back to shore. Matt decided to row, while I found it futile. I hopped out of the pontoon into chest deep water and preceded to walk it back to shore. It took quite a long time as we drifted farther out than we did down the coast. We decided to follow Adam as he waded alone in the distance.

 

After only mere minutes, Matt shouted out, Permit! Under heavy cloud cover, it revealed itself only by going face down and tail up. Matt shot off a cast but the permit turned in my general direction. I couldn't see anything under the heavy glare and Matt shouted at me to make a cast. I hesitated because I couldn't see, but in the end decided to trust my brother. Following the directions of 20 ft. at 1 o'clock, I laid out a merkin styled crab with a rattle, stripped twice and paused. As I stopped, the fifteen pound permit swam perpendicular to my viewpoint finally showing himself in a lane of visibility. I re-casted and stripped. The body language of the permit changed suddenly and he was on the fly. After each of the next two strips, the permit zigged and zagged to keep an eye on my fly. I stopped, and my crab settled onto the bottom. Ten feet from my rod tip, the permit descended upon the crab in slow motion, while my heart raced. He angled downward for the feed and still I waited, my heart in my throat. I set the hook, but it was not to be. I set too soon. I exhaled deeply, adrenaline coursing through my veins. My only chance at glory darted off the flat and into the glare, never to be seen again. I was left with the fine line between a take and an inspection replaying in my mind.

 

As the image of the permit lingered in my mind, my brother and I shuffled down the flat looking for any sign of fish. The wind and heavy cloud cover made this the most difficult day of fishing on our sojourn. The lone fish came as I spotted a very large bonefish cruising between a small mangrove and an abandoned lobster trap. Moving perpendicular to the shoreline, I easily spotted his frame. I made my cast and watched him close in on my fly. I stripped tight to a fish that I expected to be the big guy, but it wasn't. A second fish, much smaller, that I hadn't seen took the fly and the two bones took off. I landed the good fish, explaining to Matt what could have been, if the larger fish was a little quicker to the fly.

 

Meeting back up, Adam experienced a fishless shuffle as he zig-zagged his way down the flat trying to cover as much water as possible. At one moment, he turned around to find a huge permit swimming right by him. They made eye contact and the fish was gone. We made our way back to the beaches hoping to increase our chances of seeing fish in skinny water. In between passing clouds we had two solid chances at very large fish. One of them proving successful. 

 

Heading down the beach, I heard a loud splash. Naturally I scanned the horizon looking for the wrath of a passing barracuda but didn't see anything. Coming around the side of a mangrove I saw the what was making all the commotion. I large tail was sticking out of the surf surrounded by a column of mud and sand. Emerging from it came a large bonefish at my 12 o'clock. I aimed towards 10, let my line go and the wind carried it to the right my leader landing directly overtop the back of the fish. At the same moment, he went down for another meal, my leader safely descending to the bottom just beyond his tail. When he popped his head out of another cloud, I stripped twice. He aggressively turned over ninety degrees for the fly and I was treated to the longest backing run I have ever experienced that prompted me to actually look to make sure I had backing left. It was the heaviest bonefish I have ever caught.

 

With low tide peeking, the fishing screeched to a grinding hault. We headed to our rendezvous on the dock where we waited out a few storms and caught some sleep on the dock. We repaired wading wounds on our feet, ate some catered ravioli from a can, and watched the sunset. Halfway through the trip, we were beginning to experience some heavy fatigue. However, something was about to happen that was going to wake us all up.

 

 

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Thu

18

Aug

2011

Camp Life

"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on Earth."

- Steve McQueen

 

If you're thinking of going to one of the wild places for any period of time, there are certain comforts of home that you should be prepared to do without. Like bathrooms. If you'll be spending any of that time in salt water on or a beach, you can expect to be rather uncomfortable for most of your stay.

 

Without a reliable freshwater source to rinse off with, our rods, reels and skin were left to the mercy of the salt for our 8 day adventure. There was chaffing. Thats all I am going to say about that.

 

Open blisters are painful, but sand in those areas, inside your wet shoes, makes for an excruciating, shuffling walk. There was no escape.

 

Our limited supply of clothing was rotated in a three day cycle. I saved 1 of my 3 shirts until the last day, as a kind of reward to myself for making it.

 

Twice, the wind blew our tent a few hundred yards down the beach. Having your headlights illuminate an empty space where you know your stuff is supposed to be is a pretty bad feeling. We hitched the tent to an 80lb log one morning, only to find 100 yard drag marks and the tent hung up in the bushes upon our return. After that, we took it down each morning.

 

The baking morning sun woke us each day and alerted us to the few hundred bloodthirsty insects that had alit on the bugshield of our hammocks, unable to reach us until we exited the cocoon.

 

We chanced upon a closed-down and boarded-up beach bar with some makeshift hammocks. We took advantaged and napped away the hottest hours of the day in relative comfort. We also found a slightly ajar door with 'ladies' scrawled in what looked like blood. Inside was a horrifying scene, but better than the mangroves.

 

Before embarking, we knew how manky we would feel during our journey. That was all part of the charm. We knew that this was an experience that we were very fortunate to have the chance to take part in and that it would stay with us for the rest of our lives. There are very few places left where you can just camp in the sand under a canopy of a million stars bisected by the Milky Way, have a few beers and then wake up and sight fish to giant bonefish. We didn't see another fisherman during our stay and we could have done what we were doing until we spent our life savings on SPAM and beer. No one was going to bother us.

 

Each day, we scavenged some bits of plastic to bring back to our campsite to make it a bit more comfortable. A broken 10 gallon bucket to use as a cooler\seat, what appeared to be a cattle feed trough found buried in the sand was used as a bench. By week's end, we had built a homey little encampment with a coral fire ring, three seats and a beer pit in the sand that could hold a 12-pack and a bag of ice for a few hours.

 

 

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Mon

15

Aug

2011

The Beach

The sun crept slowly up on the horizon showering the inside of the tent with beams of light. Tossing and turning, Adam and I refused to get up until the light edged up our torsos and shined directly on our faces, beginning our morning ritual. We needed to get up and into the car as soon as possible to avoid the onslaught of bugs. Our safety net was the dock two miles away. Jutting a hundred yards out to sea from the mangroves, it contained the only respite from the marauders and a stiff cross wind. It also allowed us precious time to change, eat, brush our teeth, and air out the rental of foul smells and bugs. We rushed out into the sand, woke up Matt in the hammock, and hopped into the rental.

 

On the dock, eating our breakfast, we decided to vary our plan of attack and give the main drag a break. We decided to hit up the beaches and stalk large single bonefish in skinny water. Matt opted to take out one of the pontoons and drift out in the deeper water. 

 

Dropping Matt off, Adam and I fooled around on the first section of beach. On this beach, the bottom consists almost entirely of sand extending over a hundred yards from the shore. You can often see bonefish coming from a considerable distance, but the sun had receded behind the clouds starting a long game of peek a boo. For ten seconds, we had great visibility, then someone would turn out the lights and you couldn't see anything. Despite the conditions, we each had chances at fish but failed to get their attention. We headed back to the car and headed to a different beach down the coast. Matt continued to play in the distance. 

 

At the new section of beach, Adam and I started our walk. It was more of a creep, with two sets of eyes scouring the shoreline for any sign of activity. When the sun came out, we slowly moved and immediately stopped when the sun went behind the clouds. It helped considerably that we saw fish on the previous beach because we now knew what to look for. The silhouette was extremely faint. We walked together at first, and I spotted a very small fish a mere 20 ft. from us and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was on the back of a bonefish. I made my presentation and watched the smaller pilot fish run off the bones back and take my fly. I waited for him to spit it out and made another cast. The bone accelerated and took my fly but I pulled it out of his mouth. He promptly spooked. 

 

Since I had the first shot, I let Adam out front and gave him some space to operate. I back tracked down the beach to see if I could get another shot at the same fish but it was not to be. I resumed my trek and came down to a mangrove on the water. From the right came a large silhouette slaloming between mangrove roots. If the fish wasn't moving, he would have been completely invisible. I dropped my fly ten feet off the last root and waited for him to close the distance. When he was in range, I popped my fly twice and he was on it. I was in by backing in mere seconds and was treated to another long run before I regained my fly line. Bringing him in for a quick land he accelerated a third time directly under the very roots where I saw him. I had a quick flashback to my first bonefish I ever caught (the incident) and did not want a repeat. I gave chase and again went for the land. For the fourth time, he went on a run and under another mangrove, this one much more dangerous. Safely navigating that obstacle, I landed a great bonefish. 

 

After discussing the previous events, Adam headed out in front. I waited again and checked my knots to make sure everything was ready to go. I resumed my crawl, and soon spotted a fish coming into the shoreline. I called out to Adam and he trotted toward my direction before dropping at the waist to hide his silhouette. I pointed out the fish, but he was considerably closer this time and over top the mottled bottom making him disappear. I could barely see him and gave Adam directions to cast 20 ft. directly left  of a lone mangrove sticking inches out of the water. As he made the cast, Adam spotted the fish. His crab landed almost on top of the fish's head. It didn't matter. The bonefish turned and engulfed it. It took off to the horizon, prompting Adam to say, "He's angry, ohhhh, he's angry"!

 

We picked up Matt a considerable distance away. He told stories of tarpon busting bait and bonefish swimming under the pontoon completely oblivious to his existence. He had trouble getting ideal positioning though in the stiff winds. We took our routine mid-afternoon siesta feasting on Red Bull and potato chips before heading back to the beach. Immediately after busting through the mangroves, we spotted a tailing fish right in front of us, its fins glistening in the sunlight. Matt took the shot. As he stripped in the bonefish was on the fly visibly following. Matt stripped set on what we all thought was a bonefish. However it was a pilot fish, which we took to calling lieutenants. The only bonefish we saw that evening darted off the flats in a violent symphony of water.

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Sun

07

Aug

2011

Everyday We're Shuffling

Under the cover of darkness we settled down on a suitable stretch of beach for the night. I was pretty tired after helping Matt and Mark pitch their tent so I decided to rough it in the front seat of the SUV instead of setting up the hammock. Although I’ve done this many times before, I regret the decision to this day. I expected to spend the first twenty minutes or so killing all the mosquitoes, that’s normal. Twenty minutes gone and past, I thought I killed the last mosquito in that vehicle countless times. Each time lying back down only to hear that dreaded sound once again…EEeeEEee! Another great night’s sleep came to an end sitting upright, wide-eyed, and smiling as the sun crept over the ocean slowly shedding its light on paradise.

 

Arriving at the flat, we decided to change our plan of attack slightly. The first day the middle man in our chain reported seeing some alarmed / weary fish. So we staggered our three prong attack, dropping the middle man back to produce a deep “V" to try and buy these weary fish some time to settle down. Making our way out onto the flat I opted for the outside lane and headed for deeper water, Matt took the inside, and Mark dropped far back in the middle.

 

Matt and I slowly began shuffling down the flat in search of bones. This morning in particular the flat itself seemed to be alive. There was movement in every direction. As for me, I find these days to be extremely hard to spot fish. I can’t bring myself to ignore how majestic sea turtles and sharks look as they swim by, even if that means I miss spotting a fish or two. One sea turtle made the mistake of trying to hide from me by lying motionless on the bottom directly in front of me. I slowly crept up to it and placed my foot gently on its back and reached down and picked it up. Haha! I have to hand it to the little guy for sticking to his game. I’ve seen these guys jet off a flat faster than a spooked permit in the past. Hopefully it learned from the encounter so it doesn’t end up as table fair.

 

A few minutes later I got my first shot of the day as two bones entered my view. I placed my fly and no sooner was I connected. One of the bones blitzed the fly the second it hit the water. I don’t recall even transferring the line to my stripping finger, it was unreal. After a brief battle my first of the day came reluctantly to hand. As we continued down the flat I had a pretty unnerving encounter with a large Caribbean reef shark. Mark had spotted the shark 100yds off to my right heading in my direction. I just stood there and watched as it approached. As it got closer I locked eyes with a gorgeous a seven foot shark. It was on course to pass twenty feet behind me and I thought nothing of it until it turned on my mud trail and was coming straight up my backside. Fuck. At this moment instinct took control of my actions. I extended my 7wt. and poked it in the face twice and it slowly turned and swam off. It was pretty awesome. Continuing our way down the flat I connected once more as a loner bone thought it could escape my peripheral vision.

 

After lunch and a successful search for Red Bull we were ready once again to comb the beach for tailing fish. With two fish under my belt for the day I sat back and watched as Matt and Mark tried their luck. Matt was up first, spotting some glistening tips he crept into position. Kneeling on the beach he waited for the fish to position itself just right before he made his cast. A few strips later his fly was in the crosshairs of a bonefish on a mission. Matt was connected in moments. It’s awesome to watch a bonefish accelerate to a fly in water not deep enough to cover its back.

 

Shortly after Matt’s fish was landed, Mark found himself in an identical situation. His eyes were locked on a set of glowing fins in the setting sun. Already in position he made his cast and got the response he was looking for, a V shaped wake quickly making its way to the fly. Once hooked the bonefish suddenly didn’t like the seclusion of the mangroves anymore and took Mark’s fly line on a tour of the main flat. Landing this fish concluded our fishing for the day with enough time to enjoy the last colors of the setting sun.

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Thu

04

Aug

2011

Pure Bliss

Our arrival signaled the capstone of our month long sojourn in the Caribbean. As the ferry workers unloaded our pontoons onto the dock, we patiently awaited the arrival of our wheels with our eyes affixed towards the flats. We were pumped to say the least, our minds warped by heightened expectations and two long weeks of very slow fishing and bad conditions. This was our time to shine.

 

The SUV rocked from side to side with two pontoons awkwardly placed on top, as we made our way down a dirt road. Soon we were sinking into a drying salt pond as we drove all the way to the edge of the mangroves. Stepping into the hot Caribbean sun, we slowly rigged up several rods, tied and checked our knots, and examined boxes of flies. We settled on a three pronged attack over almost a mile of water. Adam settled on the inside lane with Matt in the middle, and myself on the outside. Overlapping our peripheral vision to increase our chances of spotting the elusive golden ghost.

 

Elusive may be an understatement. This is not Andros South, and we are limited to foot pursuit fly fishing. On a daily basis, walking several miles, we only had 1-4 shots at bonefish each day. The bones are not in vast schools and instead are in singles or pairs. Our time on the flats was spent hoping that the shadow of a bonefish would come into your viewpoint, when they had the entire horizon upon which to roam. Our patience and concentration was pushed to the limit. When the chances came, we tried to be ready, and either reveled in glory or dwelled on our failures. 

 

After an hour of walking, a shadow crept into Adam's cocoons. Without saying a word, he flipped personalities and his body language changed. He bent at the waist and knees to hide his profile from his quarry. He made his presentation and varied the retrieve, matching the pair of bones advancing towards his position. Matt and I heard the fly line in the air and turned our heads, reluctantly losing focus on a foreground of nothing but sand and water. Stripping tight to the first bonefish of the trip, Adam let out a hoot and several sentences that did not make sense. He was in a state of pure bliss and was wearing his emotion on his sleeves. 

 

Ten minutes later, the scenario repeated itself. Adam quickly landed another great bonefish leaving Matt and I down 2-0 with several hours of day light remaining. Matt and I had our chances during our three hour march downwind but we came up empty handed. Exiting the water, we had a hike back to the car. The sun had depleted our bodies of hydration and our water bottles were empty. Nonetheless we headed back to the car where we found hot water and roasting cans of ravioli to refuel upon. 

 

With only a few hours remaining on our first day, we headed to a shallow area along the coast, looking for tailing fish. We found them. With Matt and Adam sitting on the sand, I stalked a large tailing fish in mere inches of water. He was completely unaware of our presence, while actively feeding on a bottom of rolling piles of sand. A close presentation and a very light fly was needed in such skinny water. On my third cast, he noticed an easy meal and charged leaving a wake upon the water. Just like that, I am into my first fish of the trip and he took off towards the mangroves. I placed the brakes on him and brought him to hand. Although you couldn't see it beneath my stalker mask, a smile crept across my face.

 

With the sun setting behind the tiny island, we made our way down the beach to our new mothership. We had to find a place to stay for the night amongst marauding no see ums and mosquitos. Along the way, we exchanged stories of our chances during the day. We talked of stand offs, spooked fish, and a large 10-12 pounder that snuck up behind us on the flat, carrying several pilot fish with him. We tried to comprehend where we were and what we were experiencing but we could not. A shaking of the head was all we could muster. Such is the case when one finds themselves in the moment. 

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Mon

01

Aug

2011

The Capstone

Packed & Ready To Go
Packed & Ready To Go

As the rising sun flooded the volcanic hillsides, we piled our gear on the dock to await our ferry. In a few short hours, we'd be wet-wading, in the moment, for the next 8 days.

 

For the previous two weeks we shared the waters with a group of friends. But now they had departed back to their homes across the pond, leaving us in the caribbean with the fish all to ourselves.

 

The plan was to hit the prime location hard for the remaining time before family arrived for a vacation at the end of our fishing trip. The night before we departed, we caught an early movie and then tied some key flies while talking strategy as we packed our bags for a little boat ride to an off-the-grid island surrounded by miles of flats and a large barrier reef.

 

There would be no mothership this time, no apartment to shelter us from the elements when mother nature decided to turn on the faucet, and no escape. The ferries to this place are infrequent, and we weren't about to fork over a buck fifty a night to stay in the one guesthouse on the island. We stocked a hefty first aid kit, as well, because there would be no evacuation until the ferries showed up. We had everything from Band-Aids to tourniquets.

 

The three of us planned to sleep on the beach for the 7 nights we counted on prospecting the island's flats and reefs. We would have a tent with a rainfly, a hammock and a tempermental 4x4 with two pontoons strapped to the bare roof. The trip was personally catered by Chef Boyardee.

 

We were fully aware of what awaited us on this leg of our adventure. Bonefish. Big ones. As well as sore feet, poor nights' sleep, unhealthy meals, millions of mosquitoes, pervasive sand, trench foot and maybe, just maybe, a shot at a permit. There is always, of course, the expectation of the unexpected.

 

This was going to be the capstone to our 5th annual taste of the dream. This was going to be awesome.

 

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Thu

28

Jul

2011

Success Before The Storm

With a full moon a few days away, the tides were fluctuating at very high extremes and they occurred at points in the day that were not ideally suited to bonefishing. Nonetheless, we headed out on a falling tide (our favorite) to hit up a local flat we knew held fish. Reliably. What was once a flat was now an exposed region of dead coral and turtle grass leaving only a hundred yard stretch to fish. We had the sun and wind at our backs which helps considerably sighting and fishing to bonefish over deep turtle grass. Thankfully, we found tailing fish in the distance. A school of 2-4 lb. fish moving cautiously towards skinny water and we were there to meet them. The fish were schooling in a circular pattern and the first two times they came our way, an olive spawning shrimp was followed but refused. I switched patterns to a tan kwabbit and found success with a bonefish taking mere feet from my rod tip. It was my first of the trip and my first ever from the difficult flats of my brother's home island. It was a mountain I had been climbing for nearly two weeks and it was the tipping point I needed to find success later on in the trip.

 

My brother an I exited the flat to give the bones some rest before heading back for another go around. We hit up several sunken vessels along the shoreline of a harbor for some barracuda action. Several small fish came to hand using a jigging minnow pattern without wire leader. As the fly fell apart it was only a matter of time before a larger fish bit through the mono. After peeling line off my reel, I couldn't keep up, and the thin line found the knifelike teeth ending our barracuda session.

 

Heading back to the flat the water had receded even further and we waded the deeper areas. The school of bones were on the edge and we had to wait a little while before they decided to come on. On top of the wait, they were extremely cautious. My brother casted well ahead of them and had his pattern waiting in the turtle grass for their arrival. A perfect strategy to simulate escaping prey ahead of an advancing school of fish. Connected, he gently cradled his prize in the water. The bone visually displayed its surroundings on its mirror like scales. Colors of green, blue, silver, and white disappeared upon release back to an abode of turtle grass.

 

 

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Tue

26

Jul

2011

Island Time

Baby Poon
Baby Poon

After five days of sailing and constant fishing, with some of us experiencing very little sleep, we experienced a lull in the action over the next few days. We still fished everyday, but we were now operating on island time. Island time occurs in slow motion. When you set an alarm for 8 in the morning, you don't wake up until 10, and usually don't hit the water until 11. Once your out fishing you take breaks on the beach, fall asleep in a chair, or head to the bar for some extendend day drinking. In short, we were dead tired, and enjoying the surroundings. While this occurred, we focused on several things, one of them being catching a daytime tarpon. We succeeded wildly at catching some baby poon, but our endless search brought us far and wide, fishing from cliffs and by pontoon. Essentially, without a boat, we were screwed.

 

That left us with some other targets. Nighttime tarpon were always on the menu. Sharks from the beach were also in session. We are talking sharks swimming a few yards from unsuspecting tourists. The largest hooked was a six foot lemon shark 20 ft. offshore that nailed a 12 inch mushy mouth pattern. Snapper were in session on cloudy days, when sighting a bonefish in deep water was not an option. Occasionally, a large snapper met an unexpecting death in the jaws of a large cuda or shark.

 

Our final task, was catching a permit. We could try for three days in a row trying to catch a permit in all the right spots, but we would never see them. Only when we were least expecting it to happen, did the sickle like tail break the surface of the water. Say, carrying groceries into the house only to have them disappear two minutes later after we were rigged and ready.

 

 

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Sat

23

Jul

2011

Still sailing - Feeding Frenzy

The tarpon at night footage lead to a one day delay in our schedule, but I think it was worth it. Swimming with these majestic creatures was something very special and humbling for me. On the way back to our "old" sugar spot we got right into a feeding frenzy! Maneuvering a sailboat to get it in reach of that frenzy is a pain in the neck and our first two attempts were the very definition of poor. Nice try anyway! Matt and I decided to take the dinghy for a little ride. so we were chasing those... whatever it was for at least 30 minutes. Stumbling, running over the flyline with the engine, untangling it from the prop... and of course a lot of swearing. After I've lost a fly on a big fish I finally got connected... to a Jack. I cannot really tell what kind of Jack because I was about to drown myself realizing how big (small) it was... 

 

At least we got some nice shots - Thanks to Mark who witnessed our mission from the deck of the sailboat ;-)

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Fri

22

Jul

2011

Sailing On: Part Two

Due to poor conditions and few fish, we decided to hoist anchor and sail towards greener pastures on another nearby island. Talk of reefs, archipelagos and permit echoed throughout the hull as we hashed out the plan. It was decided to sail through the afternoon, arrive in time for dinner and then fish the next two days on rented dinghies that we'd use to get from flat to flat.

 

We pulled up at a rock with a restaurant on it. They had, awesomely, placed some underwater lights along the dock. We watched perhaps a hundred tarpon meandering through the light as we ate our ridiculously overpriced cheeseburgers. That night, Mark and I again climbed into our hammocks strung from the headsail to the main. The wind was insane and neither of us slept a wink. It was miserable.

 

The next day found all 7 of us fishing a single, huge reef flat. There was a drop-off, a coral section, a turtle grass sections and mangrove shoreline. We spread out and took up positions at lower tide. Mark, Adam and I were hoping to ambush a permit. After an hour of impersonating herons, we saw a massive storm system, appear through a gap in the islands, 5 kilometers east of our position. With it came a wall of rain.

 

As the system raced towards us, the mountains disappeared behind the wall of falling water. Lighting struck. We were in a pretty bad predicament. The wind was howling, which made shouting to each other useless. I kneeled in the knee-deep water and laid my 9ft lighting rod on the turtle grass bottom. I tried to motion to Mark and Adam, 200 meters distant, to do the same. I hoped they understood my frantic waving, but they didn't get down. The storm overtook us in a fury. Mark and Adam disappeared into the mist. I picked up my rod and began to trudge towards Mark's last known position.

 

Amazingly, Adam had the same idea. All three of us had walked towards a spot equidistant from each other. We appeared to each other simultaneously and then sat in the water, feeling safety in numbers. We sat there, amazed at the fury of the rain that pounded our backs. We looked around but couldn't see a thing. Then, miraculously, a figure appeared at the limit of my vision. It was Alex D. piloting the dinghy and Stefan H. signaling to us from the bow! They couldn't see us, but were motoring along the drop-off, hoping that we'd see them. It worked.

 

We raced towards the shape in the background and threw ourselves into the small boat. We learned that Stephan and Alex H were taking shelter in an abandoned building on shore and that they were safe. We high-tailed it to the mothership for some form of shelter.

 

Once the rain subsided enough to see more than 30ft. Alex went in search of Stephan and the other Alex. He found them and returned everyone to the mothership. We appraised our situation and decided that we had had enough of the crap weather. We were all water-logged, Adam probably more so than any of us judging by his sick hands, and thought that a nice, warm bed in a stationary and enclosed building would be nice.

 

We again hoisted anchor and made for home, disappointed that we got in to so few fish but content in the knowledge that we would not be giving up for the remainder of our month together.

 

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Fri

22

Jul

2011

Greetings From The Flats Part Three

 

Back at the mothership, we learned of another successful outing by land and it was decided that it would be our turn fishing the the flats by rental car. After cooking up some burgers and hot dogs below deck and downing a few beers, my brother and I climbed into our sleeping quarters. Two ENO hammocks strung up on the masts of the ship where they swayed precariously over the side of the boat. The constant rocking of the boat and howling of 30 mph winds made for difficult sleeping conditions. However, our tired bodies fell asleep easily under a blanket of stars with the milky way galaxy easily visible to the naked eye. Around 3 a.m. the winds increased and a smattering of rain on my face indicated an approaching squall. Soon, Matt, Stephan, Stefan, and I joined the others below deck, where we distributed ourselves on benches and the floor for the remaining dark hours of the night.

 

The rain continued until almost noon before clearing.  It allowed us a few hours on the flats before departing the island. Matt, Adam, Alex Davidson, and I decided to fish a section of beaches where we would sight fish to bones in very skinny water. Our last second decision proved wise when after bushwacking through mangroves and jumping cacti we feasted our eyes on several tailing bones. First on deck, Adam delicately landed an offering of crab in front of two tailers that promptly fought over it. The hookset pulled the fly out of their mouths before they tucked tail in a symphony of flying water. Adam decided to trim the size of crab to allow the hook point to have a greater chance at finding flesh. Batting second, I found a single fish mere feet offshore that pounced on a hybrid kwabbit/kwan with a chenille body. My fly also popped out. Examining the fly revealed a rusted hook underneath the chenille that was not visible to the naked eye. The thick lips of the bonefish broke it in two leaving a hookless fly and an unhappy fishermen left to dwell on a beginner's mistake. Alex hooked up with a nice fish that shook free as he landed it. We were 0-3.

 

With the deadline of 3 o'clock approaching, we started to become nervous. The thought of another boneless day on the flats crept into our minds when something unexpected happened. While nursing a Newport on the bank, a large silouhette crept into the view of Adam's polarized shades. Heading towards shore, the torpedo shaped bone crept ever closely to a freshly shaved crab pattern tucked into the sand. One strip later, he pounced and Adam let out a triumphant scream of joy. Together we gathered to feast our eyes on a very large fish. Little did we know, but this exact scenario would prove to be a taste of things to come on a future adventure on the very same beaches.

 

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Wed

06

Jul

2011

Sailing On - Tarpon Night Research (Day 7)

Day 7 of our journey was a little slow - but there was no need to rush either. We took the dinghy out to some flats to take both pictures of flies and landscape underwater. It was time to leave the island towards undiscovered salty shores to get some feeding frenzy action at night - not for fishingwise tough but for the footage in general. Whilst sailing back we found a marina dock with underwater flood-lights. Jackpot! Fishing is marinas is not allowed at all, so there was good chance to find some fish at night. Sun set down, and we were ready to go. As expected, huge schools of small and midsize tarpon showed up and we filmed it all. The entire footage, coming soon!

Don't miss the other "Skinny Water Diaries - Saltwater" entries

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Tue

05

Jul

2011

Greetings From The Flats Part Two

Taking a Nap
Taking a Nap

We awoke early on day two of the sailing trip swaying back and forth in our hammocks on the deck of the sail boat. The weather was pristine on this day and we were all excited for a great day of action. Once again, it was decided that we were to man the dinghy and take it to the east end of the island. This time, the winds were more calm in the morning but we pushed further east arriving 8 miles and 90 minutes later. Not wanting to spook the fish, we took the dinghy to the edge and then walked her the remaining quarter mile onto the flat. Hard work that would be repeated multiple times that day. 

 

Our plan was to fish a larger area of the flat from than the previous day that saw good action in the afternoon hours. This time we would have the sun and wind at our backs.  The first hour saw several trunk fish come to hand simply because the bonefish weren't around. After a brief walk back to the dinghy for lunch (vienna sausages!) I spotted a broader silhouette approaching in the distance that soon stopped. The broad black sickle of a tail stuck out of the surface and a wry smile stretched across my face. Permit.

 

The perm was only about fifty feet away and heading straight for the dinghy. My brother and I were not rigged for permit and I contemplated changing the mink shrimp I had on for a delicious crab but there wasn't any time. I softly moved into position while letting out line. I dropped the fly in the fish's path and she made a beeline in that general direction. She followed a full ten feet never taking my fly despite my varied retrieve. As I stripped in leader, she finally saw us and casually turned and faded into the distance. Permit 1, Mark 0. 

 

The rest of the day saw us ferrying and walking the dinghy on and off several flats trying to find the fish. With so much pristine habitat, they eluded us. In our desperate and dehydrated state, shadows and coral suddenly became moving bonefish as we imagined the images we so eagerly sought. Soon we began cracking, and Matt rested his eyes and legs on the dinghy. A descending sun beckoned us back to the mothership but not before experiencing an engine problem that stranded us for twenty minutes. A quick fix left us with barely 20% power and we limped home arriving almost two hours after our departure with another long hot day on the flats coming to an end. 

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Tue

05

Jul

2011

Greetings From The Flats (Day 6)

Big bones, ferocious sharks, a permit street gang and my tarpon triple game...

Grey Ghost's Defeat
Grey Ghost's Defeat

Okay, now I am a little bit under pressure because I am limited in both words and space to explain what has happened within the 24hrs. We were fishing just two spots, the flat and the docks, but the the chances and possible encounters were amazing in both numbers and species. The very first good day since we left Europe towards the caribbean sea  - don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. One hurricane day here is way better than a 80cm Browntrout rising for my fly back in Europe. Fishing was limited due to the weather and the the last days has proven our theories to be right. Fish is around, it's just so god damn  unproductive to cover a 10 square-kilometer flat by blind casting. However, the first night one the boat really was a torture for my spine but as soon as I went on deck to see what the weather was like my metabolism pumped my body full of adrenaline. Holy smokes, incoming tide in the morning, bright sunny weather, moderate wind...time for the flat pirates to ambush some chrome! Again, we split up in two groups to cover more water and even more important, to cover more water effectively!  Alexander had the golden shot today since he picked the wading line close to the mangroves which turned out to be the honey pot - the high tide pushed all those fish into the shallowest areas of the flat. The shallow water turns out the worst in a bonefish - ever single thing that is trying to escape will find it's quick end in a Bonefish's viciously chewing jaws. I though that the transition-zone between waist and ankle deep water could be a good choice since all of them have to pass it sooner or later, but it was obviously too late since Alex cleaned up the shallow water... Finally I ended up spotting three really nice Permit with a leading fish that was roughly between 20-22lbs.  2 of them had a closer look on my fly but the didn't take it - lucky enough, I was fishing with a 6weight, a skinny water bonefish leader (12ft - 10lb) and a tiny EP Mantis Shrimp. I had five shots on them, triggered two closer looks and on my last presentation (yeah,on that one is stripped the fly) I spooked them. Might have been the pattern which tends to flip as soon as you strip it. My best shot on permit so far. They appeared out of nothing in a 12-15Meter range. Super smooth guys, no hustle at all - these guys were taking it easy, checking out their flat-crip - a cool street gang.  Alex picked up two really nice Bones meanwhile and I took a couple shots. The last area of that flat is known for it's decent amount of small sharks, so it was time or the video camera. Time for the 6weight and a little bit of Mojo - some Cheeky Mojo!

 

Here are some flat shots and a short video about vicious shark eats:

Evening Season - Tarpon Triple Game

Back on the Boat we had a nice BBQ with some Burgers and Beers. What a life! Our engines were running pretty much 24/7 so we were thinking about skipping the night season. But the bad taste of Alexander's double bonefish bitch-slap was still remaining so I took the chance and went to the docks with him. Right at the dock we found a school of five fish close to the pillars and some other fish showing themselves in the shadows areas. There was fish around and quite a good number. Especially when a dock is illuminated fishing can be tough, those guys are really picky! My 10weight was already rigged with a tiny little toad that was falling apart but I was to lazy to tie another one on. My 3rd cast triggered the first eat. A school of three was about to enter the illuminated dock area when I harvested the leading fish out of the group. Alexander was preparing the camera and I landed the first one - really nice battlescars since we left the gloves back on the boat. Well fed fish - marvelous BMI. Alexander had some refusals on the same pattern so he went back to the car to rig another one. I was lying on the ground meanwhile - wiggling my tip to tease a laid fish right under my rod-tip.  Fish rolled over and I jumped back to hook it. 2nd fish landed - smaller one though. Alexander took another fish out of a itinerant school of 5 that was cursing along "The Edge". 3rd fish landed. Another cast into the wind with the Camo TIp Line and another picky bastard of a tarpon that couldn't resist to kill that tiny little chewed up thing. 3rd fish for me - 4th for the evening. Tarpon triple game! I landed them all without gloves so I had a really nice prove for the guys back on the boat - hard working tarpon hands.

 

Check out the other issues of "The Skinny Water Diaries - Saltwater"

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Mon

04

Jul

2011

Sailboat Trippin' The Caribbean Part Two

The invisibility of a bonefish.
The invisibility of a bonefish.

Early morning and it is pitch black outside as we load up the SUV with all our gear and food for a week long excursion. We drive down deserted roadways still wet from a weeks worth of rain dodging stray dogs, cats, and chickens. Arriving at the harbor we lay eyes on our home for the next five days, a 42 ft. long sailboat appropriately named the "Sea Dancer". 

 

Soon we are launched, and I find myself on my very first sailboat ride. I am in the moment, on a boat like Leo, bustin five knots with the wind whippin at my coat. We are heading north with high aspirations for some above average bonefish and maybe an elusive permit. Along the way we are trolling a spinning rod and a 13 weight intent on dredging something up from the deep. As we make our way to an outcrop of rocks rising from the seafloor, the spinning rod doubles over and Matt finds himself fighting a nice Yellowtail Snapper that Stephan tails and hoists for a victory shot. Things are quiet for the next few hours as each person on the boat prepares themselves mentally for the next few days.

 

Soon the island appeared in the distance, its tallest point appearing as whispering pines. A sailor's map was pulled from below and we hovered around like soldiers discussing the plan of attack. The group divided in two with one armed with a rental vehicle to assault the wadable flats and the other given a poor man's dinghy to fly up the coast. Adam, Matt, and I manned the dinghy and spent two hours working our way east against wind and heavy seas. All our gear and clothing soaked through with salt and our asses were sore from the journey but we stepped out into a sandy flat as far as ours eyes could see. 

 

As we slowly made our way back west, we floated with the dingy and waded into the sun with the wind at our back. After a half mile of nothing but sand we found several pods of bones and played a game of cat and mouse until the sun began to set. Adam and I failed on several chances due to severe cases of buck fever with Matt coming through in the clutch nabbing a nice 4-5 lb. fish. The bones were nearly invisible on the sandy bottom so we resorted to stalking into 30-40 mph winds to obtain better visibility. 

 

Around 6:30 we realized that the sun would soon be setting and we had a long dinghy ride back to the boat. With the wind and current at our backs, we cut the time in half and arrived by headlamp to reconvene with the rest of the guys to tell tales of fish lost, landed, and released. 

 

 

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Mon

04

Jul

2011

Sailboat Trippin' The Caribbean (Day 5)

Still raining...
Still raining...

Bad news, the weather is not improving at all. It's is getting actually worse every day. Time to hit the road or in other words, the boat. The mountains are a magnet for the rain, a barrier in the very meaning of the word. The idea of a flat island sounds better and better with every minute... we need some fish, or at least a chance of spotting them. A couple of 6,8,10 and 13weights and some Skinny Water Culture Microfibers is all we need...We are sailboat-trippin'! A couple of miles of open water later we are jumping of the sailboat's dinghy and setting our footsteps onto the endless and most marvelous flats that I have ever seen period. While we were rigging up the gear, the first permit tailed right in front of us - my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn't even tie my fly on. Good thing though, the adrenalin kept me running the entire afternoon. Alexander and I ambushed one really nice Bonefish each and I blew another chance on a fucking good double digit single fish, at least 12lb - what a smart-ass grey ghost! Ah, before I forget, the spot was full of shark... we have to film that action tomorrow. Lemons and Blacktips all over the place - just the right thing for my 6weight! Later on we teamed up with the rest of the syndicate and we got to know that Matt had landed another nice Bonefish. After a great dinner we went to the docks to see if there was tarpon around but we blew the chances we got. Dredging the ground with a sinking line was a bad idea because I all over sudden I was connected to something. The unseen force turned out to be a snagged Eagleray. Here some shots from the first afternoon...

Back to the other issues of "The Skinny Water Saltwater Diaries 2011"

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Sun

03

Jul

2011

Silver Rainshower (Day 4 - night session)

Yeah, it' still raining! Bad thing for us, it hasn't even stopped at night. Spotting fish at night is a though thing, spotting fish at night with heavy wind and rain showers is almost impossible. Did we try it anyway? Of course we did! We got two takes and Stefan took the chance to harvest a decent fish in super tough conditions. Here's Stefan's 118cm fish...

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Sun

03

Jul

2011

Day 4 Pt.I

The caribbean weather god said fuck-you, guys! 4th day of bad weather in a row. The pouring rain is really relaxing though, yesterday I slept like a child... Bad weather here is still one million times better than a sunny day back at home...Waiting for the night to come. I can smell CHROME! This video was taken this morning on our way to the flats...

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Sun

03

Jul

2011

8weight shoot-out (3rd night)

120cm Poon on 8wt 9ft.
120cm Poon on 8wt 9ft.

We are still suffering from bad weather and a lot of rain... the good thing though, it's clearing up almost every night - so there are still some chances of getting connected. We've been stalking the flats all day, trying to find Bonefish, Sharks and Cudas. Stefan went for Bones and I was looking for Sharks (heavy Single-Strand Wire) Of course the only Bonefish around passed my way and when Stefan arrived it was already too late... so typical. Anyhow, we had a great dinner together with the rest of the crew. With charged batteries we were heading to one of our night spots to find the water boiling. Although there might be a lot fish around, doesn't have to mean it's easy fishing. It's actually way around. The first cast is always the best because they are not burned at all so Alexander and I were ding it simultaneously with different pattern to see which one works better. I adjusted my floating EP-Peanutbutter a little bit because I was feed up jumping all those fish on 1/0 Gamakatsu SC15. So I took a slightly bigger fly with floating eyes to balance the heavier hook and trimmed the EP-fibers down to make it blend in with the prey. Since the water was really calm we rigged up the 8weights for a delicate presentation with that quite long leader (3.3Meters) My first cast was a little to short and Alexander's floating minnow was already on the right spot. I set another one a little bit further and the first strip triggered a brutal reaction. Strip strike and first run were one action. Bleeding finger and the bad feeling that that was a better fish and the 8weight might have been a bad choice. But when in Rome...Some down and dirty plus a lot of really nice tailwalks and leaps and Stefan grabbed the fish for me. 120cm lenght and 56cm girth which makes it an almost 40lb fish. Not so bad for an 8weight, at night, from the beach...Well, to boil it down. 3rd night in a row that the Tarpon god was generous. I had a couple more eats but those casts were just an excuse to stay up a little longer to watch the endless sky and the shining stars. Life is good.

 

I got a couple request about the tackle - especially the lines

 

Lines

When it comes to wading and stalking I prefer the Rio Tropical Outbound Short or the Tropical Clouser. The short and bulky taper is just perfect for short and medium range shots with just one false-cast. The compact design has also a lot of influence on the leader lenght. The WF8F Rio that I am using here in PR transmits the energy smoothly and delivers a 3.3Meter Tarpon leader with a 40lb shocker easily. No worries about the welded loops - I have landed all my bigger tarpon including my personal best on RIO lines and their welded loops. They wont break but I would check it after every trip... When it comes to skiff-fishing I like slightly longer tapers for delicate distance shots. My choice has always been Rio Camo Tip Tarpon. 

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Sun

03

Jul

2011

Rain Rain Go Away

The night of day four saw us pitching hammocks in between palm trees around two in the morning. We had just completed and entire day of fishing in terrible rainy conditions followed by a late night session tarpon and critter hunting. Unbeknownst to me, I was stung by some sort of jellyfish as we waded the flats in the night and just as I entered my hammock I had a serious reaction. My body felt like it was on fire. Lying in wet sandy clothes with every inch of your body burning while wrapped in a hammock in the Caribbean humidity is not a conducive place to sleep. I spent the night writhing in pain and discomfort. Around four in the morning, another squall came rolling through. My brother and I found ourselves running bare foot back to the car where we finally found an hour of sleep before waking up for another session in the rain.

 

That morning we drove to a flat and had a long hike through dense foliage to the water. Along the way we were attacked by mosquitos and no see ums. We found shelter along the wind swept coast but only for a brief while. Another front came moving through the area and we found ourselves trapped on the flat amidst thunder , lightning, and heavy winds. We took shelter along the mangroves where the mosquitos showed zero tolerance. 

 

The rain barely let up for the rest of the day, which is not good for sight fishing a large promising flat. We didn't see the bonefish until they were under our noses. In the afternoon, we left, thwarted by mother nature with only a few miscellaneous species and dozens of bug bits to show for our efforts. 

 

 

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Sat

02

Jul

2011

Hurricane Tarpon (2nd day and night)

Yesterday night was pretty tough and we were hitting the bed at 2am... really good foundation for your stamina if it's got to last the next 2 weeks too. So we wasted the first half of the 2nd (actually our first real fishing day) with sleeping over. Bad weather and low tides were striking enough to justify our laziness. It's been a while since we fished this area (January 2011) so it was time for a little get to know each other again...Whilst casting for Cudas and Snappers (but actually looking for Bones) the wind picked up pretty badly and freaking climaxed to hurricane format.  Umbrellas, high voltage cables and trees were flying around. Tables and cheers were simply blown away and smashed into houses and beachbars. Holy shit, that was amazing. I did my longest cast ever period by lifting the rod tip straight up into the wind - the Rio Outbound on it's way to new horizons. Well, the wind caused a temperature-drop and and stained water or in other words: another break and an appropriate excuse to do something productive... something like, tying Tarpon leaders for example. Our night spot was boiling again but it was mainly small fish (Up to 40lb). For some reason, and I don't quite get why, they are very picky these days. Heavy shockers and mid size flies may work when it's pitch black, but as long as the docklights are still shining they are going for size 2 to 1/0 pattern and that it driving me nuts. To cast those tiny things into the middle of the black ocean I rigged up an 8wt for a delicate presentation. 10wt line would have been too much impact on the surface. I tried pretty much everything out of my box and ended up with a floating EP Peanutbutter in size 1/0 which triggered 5 reactions or eat-attempts. Jumped three of them, landed 1 lost another one. Good size fish for an 8weight - between 25 and 15lb.  Alexander's floating minnow was another killer-pattern: 3 eats in 3 casts. Jumped one, landed one, lost another one...

 

We are waiting for better conditions...

Stay tuned

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Sat

02

Jul

2011

Watching Paint Dry (Day 2, pt 2)

The weather continued to spit in our faces as we made our way to a consistently fish-filled flat.  The sky was overcast as we stepped into the water at low tide.  The plan was to take up positions and wait, perhaps for hours, for the bonefish to move onto the flats as the tide rose.  We wanted to be there to meet them.

 

Two hours in and a blast of cold air hit us from behind.  40mph winds ushered a cold front towards us at incredible speed.  Thunder and lighting cracked as we high-tailed it back to the car to wait out the squall.

As we waited in the safety of the car, we couldn't help but think that the tide would be prime by the time the storm passed.

 

We waded back into the waters, hoping to meet some bones, but they never showed up.  We resigned ourselves to blindcasting off of the flats and brought to hand a small barjack and a big puffer.

As the sun set, we again returned to the car and headed east towards a small channel between islands.  Adam quickly brought to hand a smallish tarpon while Mark's 10" herring pattern was blitzed by a 40lb barracuda...talk about heart pounding...

 

As midnight approached we pitched our hammocks between some palm trees.  We wanted to sleep as close to tomorrow's flat as possible, and fish it with the rising sun. Before turning in, we waded the flat a bit to see what we could find at high tide in the middle of the night.  We caught a small squid with a Skinny Water Culture hat but saw nothing else. We climbed into the hammocks and tried to sleep, in anticipation of the action in the morning.

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Fri

01

Jul

2011

Out of the plane - into the flats (1st night)

53 hours in transit... flight cancellation, literally no sleep... All the numb feeling were blown away once we set our feet down into the caribbean sand. The purest of all feelings was taking over again: Fishing mode! Dumping the bags at the guest house, rigging up the 10wts (including a Loop Proto for 2K12) rushing to our hotspot to find it full of fish! God damn, what a nice warm welcome! First cast that I did triggered the first eat. Missed it. Recast, another eat... Stripstrike! Airborn... Approximately 35lb fish was hanging at the end of my line. Tried to land it myself, grabbed the shocker and when I tried to burry my thumbs into it's mouth it came loose.... Well Alex went 1 for 1. Adam 5 to 1, Mark 3 for 1 and I got a 10lb fish out of 5 eats and 4 hooksets. Not counting the fish that we tapped on the shocker...

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Wed

29

Jun

2011

Fresh Off The Plane

First fish of the trip.
First fish of the trip.

I always find it interesting to begin your day in one part of the world and end your day in some other part. Arriving at the destination, I usually find myself shaking my head in disbelief and asking myself, "what the hell am I doing here?" These trips almost always revolve around fly fishing and it is our vehicle of exploration that takes us places we normally wouldn't go.

We began our day in the early AM packing our bags in Pennsylvania before driving to Newark, NJ to hop on a jet plane. After several long lines and a pretty serious security breach we were the last ones to arrive at the gate for boarding. We made it just in time. Four hours later, we stepped off the plane and into a hot Caribbean sun with a customary shot of rum and a "welcome to paradise".

A few hours later, we unpacked and found ourselves with nothing to do, but go fishing. A descending sun left us with only one option: nighttime tarpon. Before long, we found ourselves with severe cases of line burn and tarpon thumb from hooking tarpon from a 20 foot high bridge. We couldn't have asked for a better start to the trip.

The following day saw us meet up with the rest of the boys from FFN for some round 2 action.

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Sun

26

Jun

2011

Turn On, Tune In, Hook Up.

There are a thousand different ways to catch a thousand different fish with a fly rod. I have tried maybe 5 of those different ways, and some have been rather questionable, but wading a tidal flat, I would contend, provides a uniquely awesome experience.

 

If you do it right, you'll reach a simmering intensity of awareness. You're eyes pick up on everything that moves within 80ft of you. There isn't a thought in your head but, at the same time, you see and hear everything. The substrate, coral, mangroves, jellies, rays, crabs, birds, clouds, winds, shadows and hopefully, fish. You engage auto pilot, plugged in to this web of life, and become a predator.

 

Hours may pass without notice. When you see a fish, (somehow your brain indicates immediately that the shape and shadow that looks identical to the hundred other similarly shaped shadows around you is not a bottom feature, it is alive.) your body reacts. Choreographed hands manage line and somehow you can drop a fly in the right spot, at the right distance, at the right moment. Activating the fly, you become the prey.

 

The fish might look, it might not. It might follow, it might turn and run. If it eats, you're ushered from the trance by the particular song of whatever reel you're holding on to. You know it by heart.

 

It is probably a bonefish, but it could be almost anything. Sharks, barjacks, tarpon. The diversity of life in these waters provides a feeling that is the opposite of the universal fear of the unknown: the anticipation of the unknown. If it is a bonefish, you can prepare to see your backing, as they are fast. If it is a horse-eyed jack, you can prepare to fight to keep your backing, as they are insane.

 

There is always the glimmer of hope that you'll see a sickle-shaped tail. A permit. The holy grail. If the right fish swims by, you'll be ready.

 

Your brain bathes in endorphins from the moment you strip line off until you return to the shores. It seems to relish the hunt, as though you're finally using it for what it is best at.

 

-Matt

 

 

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