Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trip Report: Belize Mothership Trip

Last year my fishing client Mike Bobbitt called me up and asked me if I would like to join him, his father John, and his brother Sean on a fly fishing trip to Belize. It would be a mothership trip departing from Belize City. Nine days of fly fishing. I asked for more details and did some research. The price was right, I had frequent flyer miles to cover the flight, and the company was good, so I decided to go for it!

On June 6th, 2004 we arrived in Belize City mid-afternoon after two remarkably short flights. Martin, owner and captain of the mothership Meca (named for Martin's wife), picked us up at the airport and drove us all of 15 minutes to the pier. Dean, our other guide, helped us load our bags into one of the skiffs and drove us out to the Meca. After an hour in Belize we were on our way out to our first anchorage, near Long Key.
We spent the first afternoon organizing our gear. I strung up my four Sage Rods: an 890 XP, 990 Xi2, 1090 RPLXi, and a demo 1290 Xi2. Carol, the third and final member of the Meca's crew, cooked us a wonderful dinner, and we hit the sack.

The next day we headed out to a shipping channel to dredge for tarpon. Dredging with a 12 weight fly rod and a fast sinking line is not fun. The guides seemed to believe in it, though. When the sun got high enough we moved out to an area where we could sight-fish for tarpon. Martin explained that the tarpon would be moving along a long sandy beach as they migrated south. Seeing the fish was not a problem. Unfortunately, we had near-gale-force winds that were driving large waves into the beach. Nevertheless, Martin saw a tarpon within a few minutes. Mike cast to it and immediately hooked up on the 80lb fish! The fish ran and jumped several times, but ultimately broke off when Mike ran out of backing. I felt really bad because he was using my rod. Be warned - a Ross Canyon Big Game 5 reel cannot hold enough backing to play fish this size!

That first hook-up was just a taste of what was to come in the next three days. We worked hard to spot fish and make good casts, but I averaged 2 hook-ups a day on tarpon ranging from 40 to 90 lbs. I jumped four of them. One broke me off on its third jump, and the rest through the hook on the first jump. There were also permit flats in the area, and Sean managed to hook one, but he broke it off.

On the afternoon of our third day we moved to Robinson Key, an area known for its excellent permit fishing. Day four was the worst day in terms of weather conditions. Lots of wind and no sun. The only way to spot permit in that kind of weather is if they're tailing. And few of them were. The next two days were even more frustrating because we had excellent conditions but very few fish to cast to. By the time we left Robinson Key, I think I had about 8 opportunities, including 4 times when I'm pretty sure the fish saw my fly. Mike landed a 5 lb permit, and we all hooked up on jacks.

After three days of total permit frustration, we moved to an area called Heusner. I liked this area the best. There were grassy flats where tarpon and permit would hang out, plus mangrove areas where you could cast to baby tarpon and snook. We even got a shot at some nice bonefish. Conditions were challenging, with light winds and no sun. I jumped a few baby tarpon and landed a 10 lb mangrove snapper.

For our last full day we moved back to Long Key. We got into a bunch of bonefish in the evening on very shallow flats. Belize bones are mostly 1-3 lbs, but they still pull hard and are a lot of fun to catch. We hit the sandy tarpon flat again. John hooked a big fish that jumped 7 times before throwing the hook.

On the morning of our last day we fished some bonefish flats close to the airport. The bonefishing was slow, but Martin and Dean found some baby tarpon. I finally landed a tarpon about 10 lbs. Mike and Sean hooked up, too. It was a great way to end the trip.

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