Placencia Belize Report - March 2006 - Fly Fishing Forum
Bonefish, Tarpon, and other Obsessions Turquoise water, silver demons on the fly

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Old 03-26-2006, 10:30 AM
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Placencia Belize Report - March 2006

Well,

I just returned from a family vacation to Belize and I must say that I had an incredible time. We stayed at two of Francis Ford Coppola's places in Belize: Turtle Inn and Blancaneux Lodge. Both of these resorts have wondrous accomodations with a Balinese flair. But enough generalities. You will really only care about the solo fishing outing that I fit into the week of family togetherness.

I booked a guide named Eloy when I arrived at Turtle Inn. Eloy has 16 years of experience guiding out of the Placencia/Monkey River area. With 16 years under his belt I figured that I could not go wrong booking Eloy. I figured that if he could not put me on some bones and some permit then nobody could.

I found Eloy at the dock behind the dive shop at Turtle Inn around 7 AM. He was accompanied by Alrin, a family member that he was training to be a guide. I was happy to learn that Eloy had a nice Winston 6 weight and a Temple Fork 8 weight on board. He also had a fair number of Orvis reels and rods stashed away (he guides for Orvis employees when they head to Belize). I only brought a 9 weight and I was not too happy with the drag on my Ross Reel. The reel was a little full of salt and therefore was a little heavy on the drag. Eloy's gear would prove critical to the day's success.

We started off the day by zipping through the mangroves en route to the open ocean. Twenty-two miles later we arrived in the Sapodilla Cayes area. What a gorgeous area full of small islands that each contained a nice flat. A nice flat that was typically full of bones...

I was a bonefish virgin before this trip. But as we pulled up to the first flat I sensed that my virgin status would be short lived.

The flat was only a few acres in size. The water was only 1-2 feet deep and the bottom of the flat was covered with short grayish grass and sporadic bits of coral. Waves broke beyond the reef and a persistent current coursed over the flat. Before we stepped out of the boat I could see dozens of tailing bones. I tied on a pink shrimp pattern and stripped out some line. Eloy pointed at some approaching fish and reminded me to lead them by 20 feet or so because I needed to let the fly sink in the right to left current before the fish arrived in the strike zone.

I cast and waited for 5 seconds. Eloy calmy told me to strip. "Slower," he cried. "Smaller strips, you are not fishing for tarpon man." Point taken. Fly taken. My first cast of the day and my first bone. What a blast!

The bones in the Placencia area top out at about 6 pounds and this first bone was only a 2-3 pounder. But it was a blast on the 6 weight. After stalking this school for a while and landing another we hopped back into the boat and stalked a school in slightly deeper water. Ten minutes later I was into another bone. Paradise found. See first pic.
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Old 03-26-2006, 10:46 AM
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Part Deux

For the next hour we found more schools of bones and harassed them. I must say that the schools were typically 50-100 fish schools. The fishing was a little easy but I didn't mind. This day proved to be a good virgin voyage for bones. I had plenty of chances to hone my flats technique with the large number of fish in the area.

After 6 fish or so (including one in the pic way below that had me deep into my backing as it zigged and zagged over the flat) we decided to target permit for a few hours.

We zoomed over to another island and spotted 2 permit. They vanished as we poled up to them. Damn it. We motored around the corner of this white island to another flat. Soon thereafter we spotted 4 permit. Then they vanished as well. Double damn it. Eloy had amazing eyes for spotting fish but these fish were over a dark bottom so once they submerged and you could not see their fins you were hosed.

We harassed some more bones (spooky bones in 8 feet of water) with no success. A barracuda had been assaulting these bones. After the huge cuda disturbed them they just wouldn't bite. After a while we went to Hunting Caye for an incredible lunch including fish sandwiches, home made salsa and chips, and papaya from Eloy's garden. Fantastic.

After a bit of rest we headed out and actually returned to the 1st flat of the day. While stalking some more bones I watched Eloy's head turn in excitement. He was quiet until he shouted "Huge permit man." I could see the sickle fins slicing through the 2 feet of water before me. We approached slowly, being careful not to lift our feet out of the water when walking to reduce the tell tale noise of our approach.

The wind had really picked up after lunch. It was blowing at 15-20 knots at a 45 degree angle over my right shoulder. Eloy told me that I had to get the fly within 2-3 feet of the permit in order to hook up. The wind was not going to help me in my efforts. Nonetheless, it was go time. The permit was 50 feet in front of me. I tossed my fly into the air and started hauling. The wind was hampering the backcast but I stayed calm. A few false casts later and I launched the fly. A bit to my surprise the fly landed 3 feet in front of the permit. "Good man. One long strip and wait. Good. Wait. Strip slowly. Strip. Strip. Strip. Damn. Strip in a little and make another cast just like the 1st. " I hauled and cast again. "Nice man. One long strip. Wait. Strip. Strip. Wait. Strip. Strip. Damn. Cast again."

I cast. Not bad I thought as the fly turned over. And then it happened...

Yes, I hit the permit with my crab fly. It turns out that permit do not like that type of presentation.

I had 2 good shots at a 20 pound permit and my adrenaline was pumping. I chalked this up as a good first permit experience. I hope to have another shot at a permit soon.

On to the last leg of the slam...

Last edited by doogue; 03-26-2006 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 03-26-2006, 10:59 AM
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The tarpon segment

We motored back through rough, soaking surf to the mouth of the Monkey River. The 100 foot wide river is flanked by 10 to 20 foot tall, impenetrable reeds and mangroves. We motored slowly upstream and I noted Eloy's home grown knowledge of the submerged logs. Impressive.

After 10-15 minutes of motoring we stopped and Alrin got on the pole. The current was not swift, merely slow and steady. I broke out my 9 weight and started casting a deceiver to the mangroves and downed trees. The tall reeds blocked the wind and I was having a blast casting under trees and into dark, unknown shadows. My wrist was hurting after casting all day and my palm was blistered. I didn't care. This was a great break from the winter doldrums. I had always wanted to catch a tarpon.

I saw two 30 pound tarpon porpoise 70 feet to my left. Eloy used a paddle to swing the bow of the boat around so that I had room to back cast. I cast. A bullseye 15 feet in front of the tarpon. I counted to 10. I stripped with those big, long tarpon strips and waited. Thunk. I did my best to follow Eloy's advice with my first tarpon. Strip strike and do not raise the rod. Check. Although he told me to strip strike with more force at the time. The second bit of advice: bow to the tarpon during the 1st gymnastic, thrashing leap and put some slack in the line during the jump. Nope. I could not do that. I was mesmorized by this huge fish that was staring me in the eye, 5 feet above the water, almost winking as it threw the red, white and black deceiver.

I was psyched just to hook that bastard. I was on cloud nine. Eloy laughed at me. "Where was the bow to the fish man?". I just laughed and sat down. We had been on the water for 11 hours.

"Back to the Inn Mike?". I nodded and relished my legitimate shot at a slam that day.

We motored back slowly and chatted about fishing, about the local jaguar population and about the massive hurricane of 2001.

When I arrived back at the Inn I sipped on a Belikin with my father-in-law and tried to explain why I like fishing so much. He tried to understand - but unless you have the fever you will never understand. And thus, I am finally spilling my tale to those that will understand.

Thanks for listening....
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Last edited by doogue; 03-26-2006 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 03-26-2006, 11:31 AM
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Great report lil' bro'

....I'm off to coach some K-division soccer.

One day the tables will be turned....oh yes.......o-o-o-o-h YES!!
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Old 03-26-2006, 03:09 PM
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Awesome report! I read every word with the same anticipation I feel when I am on the flats myself. Thanks Mike
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Old 03-26-2006, 05:59 PM
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Hey Charlie! Enter this one in the Fly of the Month contest! Great story Doogue! A shot at a slam like you had is almost otherworldly. A trip you won't soon forget!
Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

Phil
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Old 03-26-2006, 07:43 PM
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Doogue,

Nice report. Felt like I was there with you. Sounds like you found a great guide who really puts in an effort between the hours and distance travelled.

Sean
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Old 03-26-2006, 08:27 PM
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Thanks for the kind words...

Thanks for the kind words fellas.

And Sean, Eloy was a great guide. One cool thing is that with Alrin training on the pole it freed Eloy up so that he could use a paddle to position the boat perfectly or control the drift of the boat more precisely.

Two guides to one fisherman: I'll take it.

Also, for all of the DIY folks out there I have to say that DIY around Placencia for bones is pretty slim.

I was able to fish from shore at the very tip of the peninsula in Placencia. Jacks were crashing some type of bait there but I did not hook up.

Just an FYI,

Mike
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