Placencia, Belize, August 17-20, 2008
A multi-day report from Jin
August 17
Dude....we got into some serious bones today.

We flew in to
Belize City today and met my sisters then we all headed out on a charter flight to Placencia. This is about a 45 minute flight in a propeller plane to the southeast corner of the country where we were staying at Robert's Grove. From the resort you take a boat out about 20 miles to one of the longest reefs in the world which is full of bonefish and tarpon.

The following day I met guide
Eworth Garbutt and left the dock around 7:30am. We made the crossing to our fishing area in just under an hour. There was a storm the night before which resulted in very calm water today. We arrived at a small island that belonged to the hotel and our original plan was to make a brief stop at the island and fish along the reef. We never left the island.

There were two schools of bonefish that were feeding on millions of baifish. Rather than chase the baitfish, the bones would wait for the brown pelicans to crash into the water and fill their bills full of fish. While the pelicans would drain the water out of their bills to eat the fish, the bonefish would charge the pelicans and grab the baitfish hanging out of their bills.

The basic approach was to wait for the pelicans to strike the water, watch for the pelican that was backing away and/or had bonefish chomping on their bills, and make a tight cast to the pelican. The hardest part was not to hit the pelican. This was the only way to catch the big bones, as the water was so clear, we couldn't get them to eat the fly.

The best fly of the day was hands down the
gummy minnow. We had two of those flies and lost both of them.

There were also other game species. Occasionally, the sea of baitfish would part as group of Jacks would come close to the beach and we also got a couple of decent sized jacks. I also managed to land by first of two permits but both were less than 6-inches long. I'm planning to get their bigger brothers tomorrow.

My arm is aching from casting and cranking in big bones. I have line burn on my casting finger from having fish zip line away from me. All is good. The best part is that I have three more days of this.

How do I get 3 dozen gummy minnows Fed-X'd to Belize?

August 18
We started out the next day at 6am and fished the mangroves where small tarpon and snook were rolling on the surafce. I managed to hook up two baby tarpon on some clousers but missed a couple of bigger fish. I had a tough time casting with all the cover.

After about an hour of fighting tree fish, we decided to bug out and motor to the flats. As we were moving out of the mangroves, we ran into some mullet that panicked upon seeing the boat and started jumping out of the water. The first fish narrowly missed the guide. The second fish landed in the boat and we had to chuck him overboard. I've seen this on videos but it's a lot of fun to see it in person.

We motored out to a small group of islands about an hour out of the channel and quickly found a school of bones and started getting into fish. We were hoping to catch permit but followed the bones in case some permit were tracking the pack to catch crabs missed by the bones. After pulling out couple small bones we found a small school of permit in the back of the pack and made couple casts to them with no luck.
As we were about to head out to grab lunch at one of the islands, we sighted a school of tarpon rolling just off the surface. They had trapped some baitfish in the reefs and were feeding. We snuck up on the school and on the very first cast I hooked a 60 lbs plus tarpon. The tarpon ate the fly, dove, came back up, and ripped for the open ocean. I managed to slow the fish after it ripped out a couple of hundred feet of line. This is when the fish started breaching. After seven jumps, we got "down and dirty." This involves putting low sideway pressure on the fish to keep it from breaching. The fish tires out quicker.

After about 20 minutes of putting the hammer on the fish with my 9-weight, I finally managed to get him next to the boat. I pulled his head out of the water for a quick photo and released the fish unharmed. The rest of the school continued to roll in the surf but I had no energy or desire to fight another tarpon. This is my last big tarpon.

After lunch we went looking for permit. I hooked more bones for practice and finally we spotted a small school of permit feeding in shallow water. I had two casts to them before they saw us and bugged out for deeper water.

August 19
We left the docks at 6am and motored into the mangroves in search of snook and small tarpon. Didn't take long before we landed the first albeit small snook sitting tight to the mangroves. This is my first time fishing for snook and I'm learning that this fish can be very aggressive. If they miss the first strike, steady stripping usually results in another strike.
We had another much larger snook try to take the fly but I just missed him. This fish was estimated at around 5 lbs and would have made a nice catch. The tarpon were rolling further up the creek so we started casting to them but after couple hits with no fish, we bugged out to hit the flats. We fished another caye that was slightly closer to land but once again we were the only fisherman as far as we could see.

The purpose of today's trip was to catch permit and it didn't take long before we spotted a small group of them in the 5 lbs class picking through the sand looking for crabs. I managed to make two decent casts but couldn't get them to bite. After the second cast, the fish bugged out to deeper water.
We then found tarpon rolling in the flats feeding on baitfish. These fish ranged from 20-60 lbs plus. After failing to attract the first couple tarpon to the fly, we switched flies and hooked into a nice sized fish. On the second jump, I was so busy staring at the fish I forgot to bow to the silver king causing the fly to come off. This was disappointing but I really wasn't looking forward to another hour fight.

We spent the rest of the day catching yellow tail and jacks. Then the big tarpon school showed up. Theses were big fish that were working over the baitfish, opportunistically ambushing them as they fed in pairs. At one point, we were standing in the middle of a dozen tarpon but despite some decent casts to the fish we just couldn't get them to bite.

We gave up after couple hours and went back to the jacks.

Not a bad day. Starting to get an itch for another tarpon but tomorrow we're going for big jacks and bonefish. I finally learned to cast for distance today. Hooray!

August 20
We went back out to the small island on the flats and fished for bonefish. After a rough one hour boat ride over open water, we managed to get to the island in one piece. The weather cleared up and water calmed. The wind had been blowing but stopped entirely which made the casting a lot easier. We rigged up for big jacks but every time we got into them and prepared to cast, they zipped away and left us with nothing to do. So we went back to the bones and just focused on the bones.

We caught bones on the south side, north side, east side, west side, between boats, in front of pelicans, behind pelicans, in front of kids playing in the surf, behind the kitchen, and even near the outhouse. I'm not sure how many we caught today. The biggest bone was pushing 6 lbs (pic will be send shortly). A couple of the fish took me into my backing and did some nice screaming runs. I managed to turn most of them back to civilization using my 9-weight and
Abel reel's drag.
The highlight of the day was casting in front of the pelicans and tricking the bones looking to steal fish into eating the gummy minnows. I caught one large bone this way but managed to get tangled up with a Pelican. We freed the pelican and still landed the bone. Most of the larger bones were caught near pelicans, as they were too smart to eat any of my offerings.

EQUIPMENT: Fast action salt water rods and reels with good drag. A wide selection of flies is needed if you're targeting various species of fish (snook, tarpon, permit, bonefish). For first-timers it is highly recommended that you contract with a local guide, such as Eworth Garbutt who was recommended to Jin by the folks at Yellow Dog Travel.