Fly Fishing the Saltwaters off Ambergris Caye
Published by:Fly Anglers Online Sat December 15, 2007
Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.
Arrival in Belize
After arriving at the Belize City airport and a few introductions to our Belize Tourism Board (BTB) guides, the members of the "Belize Fishing Media Tour, 2001" (that's what our group was called), performed the great luggage search. For a while it looked like we were missing a lot of bags and several of us started filling out the "missing luggage forms." After all the other people had recovered their bags, Jason Wood noticed a pile of luggage carefully stacked in a far corner of the room. It was our missing luggage. Whew, all my flies were in that suitcase.
We were escorted through customs (favored treatment for the BTB guests), then given tickets for a thrilling ride on a small airplane to the town of San Pedro. Actually, thrilling isn't an accurate description. I'm not real fond of small airplanes and crowded small airplanes with doors that don't latch properly terrify me. I could have put a fist through the gap in the rear door of that airplane (the door I sat next to). Crowded is an understatement too. I survived the flight and had something to joke about afterwards; but if I had been of the claustrophobic persuasion, I think I would have been suicidal during the ride.
San Pedro is a colorful town with sand streets and smiling people. Shoes and shirts aren't required attire in that little town. Most of the people walk barefoot, a few wear sandals and fewer yet wear shoes. It wasn't hard to locate the guys who were visiting; we all had shoes on our feet. Even more noticeable, we all had cameras hanging from straps around our necks. People looked at the visitors (it was obvious) but held their comments until we were out of range.
I took a few pictures of San Pedro. I even took a picture of a license plate with my digital camera. The license plate picture turned out fine; the rest fell victim to the "film gremlin" who ruined eleven rolls of slide film for me. If you don't know what I'm referring to, read part two of this series again.
The five-minute boat ride from San Pedro to El Pescador lodge was beautiful. A page in my pocket notebook reads: "I've never seen water as turquoise as the water in this area. The mix of white sand and weed beds under the water results in a view that looks very much like the precious stone that adorns jewelry in my country." Before the trip was over, I would learn just how precious that turquoise water really is.
El Pescador Lodge
The long dock at El Pescador leads to a white sand beach that extends to the white-painted two-story lodge. Green shrubbery and coconut palms blend with a couple of decayed dugout canoes and a blue swimming pool to add the right color needed to finish off the picture. Seashells, broken bits of coral and a few coconuts are the only things that interrupt the smooth lines of the beach. I doubt the beaches of Hawaii are as beautiful.
The atmosphere at El Pescador lodge is one that makes you feel like you're part of the family. Dining is family style in a large dining room. A large table on the deck is a meeting place to discuss the day's activities and plan new strategies for tomorrow. All of the guests seem to gravitate toward that table. In that friendly atmosphere, it doesn't take more than a few hours to meet everyone and learn at least a little bit about them.
Saying it has a family atmosphere doesn't mean you'll spend time waiting on yourself or that the service is somehow lacking. Guests sitting around the deck table are treated to an attentive waiter who checks to see if the drinks are fresh at least once every five minutes. A trained staff headed by a chef who creates mouthwatering dishes and the best key lime pie I have ever tasted prepares and serves the food. Every member of the staff is friendly, helpful and courteous.
The floors of the lodge are mahogany. That should give you an idea of how the rooms are, but it isn't the full story. If you don't plan on running the air conditioner at night, fight for the bed by the window. There is a nice breeze that blows all the time along the coast of Belize, but the person nearest the window gets the most benefit from it while the other bed hovers near 90 degrees until after midnight. A bonus that will sing you to sleep is the sound of the waves breaking over the reef a few hundred yards away.
My first day of fishing in Belize was one of frustration. I couldn't see the fish and sight fishing was the way the guide set it up. I know I mentioned brown lenses and good polarization, but I'm stressing it again. If the guide (Tomas) told me to cast 65 feet, I would cast what I thought was 65 feet and over-line the fish by ten. We didn't have the same visual ruler, and I couldn't see what was going on until the water churned with fleeing fish.
I did get to watch Kate Fox catch a few nice bonefish that first day. She seemed to be blessed with willing fish and vision of where they were swimming. The only classic setup of the day was hers. The small group of bonefish were feeding toward the boat in about 10 inches of water, her cast didn't scare them, and one broke off from the pack to pick up her fly. It was a classic for sure.
Before the day was over, Tomas took me to a place where I could cast to a school of bonefish. I could see a school, so I managed to catch a bonefish on my first day, but it wasn't the type of day I dreamed about before I left home on this excursion. I borrowed a pair of sunglasses with brown polarized lenses that afternoon when I returned to the lodge. Thank God for friendly hosts with glasses they are willing to loan.
The sunrise at El Pescador is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. I'm not sure if it's the tropical air or just something about the ocean, but the colors are breathtaking. Anyone who would have seen me at five in the morning standing on the deck in front of my room would have thought I was crazy; unless they looked to the east and watched the sun rise over the reef. It is a picture I'll treasure for a long, long time. I'm glad I had a quality digital camera; my slides (a whole roll of sunrise pictures) were lost to the slide gremlin.
The second day of fishing was a lot better than the first. Jason Wood and I asked the guide (Jorge) to take us to willing fish that didn't spook easily. We also asked for a chance at some barracuda. Jorge was more than happy to comply with our wishes and took us to an island a little farther away from the lodge than we had traveled the day before. I'd say he knew where the fish were. I wonder if the guides have these fish named; they seem to know exactly where they live. I also wonder if anyone ever said that about me when I was a guide.
We started the day by clobbering a few bonefish in a large school then switched to the 10wt Lamiglas Titanium and took turns catching one barracuda after another in the shallows along the lee side of the island. Sharing a fly rod is a lot of fun, especially if the fish are biting fast and you get your share of deck time. We spent most of the morning catching barracudas that went over 10 pounds.
Eventually Jorge had to remind us that we were supposed to be catching the bonefish that were swimming in large schools in front of the boat. We did catch bonefish. In fact, we caught bonefish fairly steady until it was time to return to the lodge for the day. The Shrimpf pattern was working and we were having a blast.
I would rate El Pescador as a first rate destination with an emphasis on fishing and diving. If you want to fish where you feel like part of the family and the fishing is first rate, this is the place. If turquoise waters that sparkle like fine jewels is your idea of paradise, this is the place. If you want the thrill of fish that will run a fly line and 200 yards of backing off your reel in moments, you won't be disappointed with El Pescador. It's all of the above and more.