Research and writing for my project with Stonefly Press, 25 Best Places to Fly Fish the Central American Coast, is allowing me to express what I live as I work and play in Belize.
I work with thirteen first, second and now third generation fly-fishing guides from San Pedro, Belize. I'm usually so busy running around making sure guides are well, boats are working and fly fishing guests happy, that I rarely step out of my bubble and stare back in.
Yesterday Emir and I had a plan. Emir is a second generation fly-fishing guide from the Marin family - and he is one of the most knowledgeable permit guides on the island. (The down side of working with the best guide team is that we rarely get time off together to fish!). Emir had the day off and so did I - if it was good, we were going. Recently, he has had anglers in thick wads of permit chasing flies, and I was chomping at the bit to get my fly in the game. Morning text to Emir - "it's perfect, let's go!" He picked me up, we stopped at the Marin dock to pick up his son (newbie guide) Gordy. His dad Carlos was there so I got to give him a big hug. Carlos is a legend around here - he started guiding anglers who wanted to learn about saltwater fly fishing in the '60's. Captain Robby and boys were over on the next dock so there was more yelling going on, something about, "palometa crazed ginga."
God - I loved being out on the water! I know I live here, but I do have a job. A day off is still a day off - very appreciated. It was apparent that the permit were going to be scarce. Our perfect day had changed and the permit were not playing. We could pretend to know where they might be, but we really had no idea why they weren't around. I had to regroup. Emir and Gordy had been planning on hitting the mangroves for some fun and food. Comida para BBQ! It's been weird that we have been seeing some giant snook around lately, so we decided to bail on the snooty permit (aka palamenta), and go for meat. These are big boys, snook twenty plus easy. They were hanging tight to the mangroves - Gordy and I stood on the bow of the panga and spotted the snook in crystal clear water from about 100 ft away. We watched them get in range as my right arm quivered before the cast. The sneaky path of the snook was all about ambushing bait. Armed with my magic 8 wt "One," I had four great shots at incoming snook that followed my fly and then turned. Ahhhhh! Was the water too clear? I'm screaming, "That was perfect! Eat it." Ignored. Snook not interested in my fancy EP fibers. Gordy threw his spin rod with bait. The snook had vanished and were replaced with a big surprise. Out of nowhere came this giant dark thing. We all watched a huge mutton snapper slowly engulf the cut up fish head...he waited, Emir was yelling, I was still bummed about the snook not eating my fly, when Gordy set the hook. OMG. I thought Gordy was going to fly off the boat. The fish ran right to the mangroves - their home which is no fare to anglers trying to win the game. There was no stopping this submarine force with a tiny spin rod. We can't say for sure how big that snapper was, but it was huge. Fish always look smaller staring at them in the water; however, the three of us agreed, that thing must have been whatever a giant arms width of fish weighs. And since that was underwater, double it. We were almost heroes to all that would have loved this fish for dinner.
My favorite place to ride in the panga on flat calm days is up on the bow. I love to stretch out and watch the water below me when I stick my head out over the gunwale. I positioned myself as a hood ornament. Gordy grabbed his tunes and took over the seat. Emir had the 75 full throttle. As we rode home we were quiet. We had been hunting fish all day.
We began the day wanting permit and then started thinking BBQ. We caught some bait and decided to check in with snook and their neighbors in the mangroves. We saw some amazing stuff. We yelled, screamed and laughed. This is living and working with my friends in Belize.