Introduction to Belize
We made it back down to Ambergris Caye in August after going last year for our Honeymoon in October. It is such a fun place, we had to go twice in less than a year! Ambergris Caye feels like an island, but its actually a peninsula and has a land border with the southern end of the Mexican Yucatan. There are no roads that connect the two countries on the peninsula, so in that way it is basically an island of the coast of mainland Belize.
Ambergris Caye’s coast is protected by a barrier reef that runs the full length of the island, and therefore the island is surrounded by beautiful flats of turquoise water. The travel is pretty easy, its a 2 hour flight from Houston to Belize City, and then a 15 minute flight on a small prop plane to San Pedro, which is the main city on Ambergris Caye. Belize was a British colony until as recently as 1981, so it is a very young country. Because of its history as a colony, the official language is English, although you will still hear lots of Spanish and Creole. The currency is pegged to the US Dollar at a 2 to 1 exchange rate, and the US Dollar is a accepted at most businesses. This combined with English as the language make travel from the US a breeze.
Neither of the two trips I have been on were purely fishing trips, last year was the Honeymoon, and this year was a trip with some friends to celebrate my wife’s 30th birthday. Luckily, since the island is surrounded by flats, there are bonefish almost everywhere, and its pretty easy to get some casual fishing in while still hanging out with your friends or family. I didn’t bring any fishing gear on the Honeymoon, and we just got a guide through the resort we stayed in for a half day fishing one morning. After that visit, and seeing bonefish everywhere while on other adventures around the island, I knew if we went back I was definitely bringing my rod with me next time.
This trip started off to a place on the back or bay-side of the island to a place known as “Secret Beach.” Its not a very well kept secret, as its one of the most popular spots on the island to go hang out in the water. Since it is on the back side of the island, it is protected from the wind, and the water is much calmer. After a 45-minute golf cart ride from the resort, we settled in at one of the picnic tables out in the water, where the waiters come bring food and drinks while the music plays, it is truly one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been to. As soon as I began setting up my rod, one of the waiters was telling me where they had been a watching a bonefish from the bar and pointed to it for me to help me get a few casts in its direction, what service! Unfortunately, a Barracuda charged it and cut my tippet with its sharp teeth before the bonefish even saw the fly.
After I went back to tie on another fly near our table, I saw some fish swimming near the surface and cast at them, I hooked on and it turned out they were Ballyhoo. That’s new species for me on the fly, and an unexpected bycatch but I’ll take it! After I caught the Ballyhoo I started wading the flats looking for bonefish, but all I was seeing in the really shallow water were some small barracuda, so I started blind casting to the deeper water. After only a few cast I felt some resistance on the line, made a strip set and lift of the rod and immediately felt the heavy pull of a fish, followed by a lighting fast move of the line from my left to right, bonefish on! These fish are so fast and so strong it’s hard to describe. I was using 12-pound tippet and knew I could be rather forceful when fighting him, but this one still got on the reel pretty quickly. Luckily, one of the bartenders saw me shortly after the hook up and got the attention of my wife who brought her phone over to get a video of me fighting and landing the fish. This turned out to be one of the better fish of the trip, and on par with the largest ones I’ve caught. I ended up landing one more small one, and losing a couple more, not bad for a day of casual fishing in between downing Belikin’s and ceviche!
Fishing with Tino
A couple days after the trip to Secret Beach I lined up another half-day trip with my same guide as last time, Tino. On the honeymoon trip, after we got to the first flat, he handed me the rod and started to give a few casting lessons, and then handed me the rod to get a feel for how I could cast. Once grabbed the rod and was a able to easily cast about 60 feet of line, he laughed and said something to the effect of “oh, you know what you’re doing.” I’m sure he gets a wide variety of skill level on the boat, and was glad he didnt have to teach me how to cast. Once we started poling around he explained how to best spot bonefish from a distance “look for the flash, they flash, see.” It didn’t take long before I was able to see some small schools, and I caught a bonefish in about the first 5 minutes. This really pleased Tino, he laughed and laughed “your first bonefish, only five minutes.” I caught another one within the next three cast and he laughed some more, I got a good laugh too and from there on we spent the next 4 hours stalking the flats and catching numerous bonefish.
The trip this year was about the same, but it took us about half an hour before we found the first schools, as it was pretty cloudy to start the day, making it hard to see the fish. “The cloud, I can’t see not’ing,” Tino would say about every 2 minutes. Eventually the clouds cleared and we found some big schools of fish. To find the schools we’d look first look for “clouds” of slightly murkier water, which is a sign a school has been feeding on the bottom recently and has kicked up some sand. Once you saw a cloud, you’d then start scanning the area for the flashes. As the bonefish turns slightly in the water when feeding, their silvery sides catch the sun like mirrors and you can see the flash from the boat. Once you would see some flashing under water, Tino would pole the boat closer, and then you’d see the actual shape of the fish “the fish, the fish, I see the fish, there, there!” an army of pointy nosed torpedos moving as a unit, and then, if you got your fly in front of them, you’d watch as the first 5 or so would race to eat the fly. Fish on! Sometimes you can catch two or three from a school before they got too spooked, other times just one, and then on to the next school. It’s fun fishing to say the least, and I can’t wait to get back and do it again.