Friday, January 16, 2015

Tarpon Cay Trip April 11-18,2015

Looking for a great trip? Here is an idea...
We're headed to the west coast of the Yucatan in April for baby tarpon. The trip starts in Cancun April 11. We'll be met there and driven to Tarpon Cay to fish the following 6 days. We will return to Cancun April 18 to catch our flights home. We have 2 rods available. There will be 6 anglers on this adventure.

Price is $3295.00 double occupancy for 7 nights 6 days guided fishing. We will be using predominantly 8 wt. rods with floating lines pursuing 5 to 30 lb. baby tarpon. If interested, let us know asap as this trip will fill quickly! Call 800 -211-8530 for more info.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Top Ten Ways to be a Better Fishing Partner

When sharing a skiff, experienced anglers know that your responsibility does not end when you step off the deck. You may be taking a breather, but it’s not time to zone-out and ignore what’s going on. 
Here are a few suggestion on how to be a good partner when fishing from a boat on the flats. Each of these suggestions reflects mistakes I've made in the past. Therefore, these are the things I try to do now with the goal of making myself a better fishing partner:

1.) Try to help your partner when you are not fishing. Watch his line, untangle any knots, make sure his leader doesn’t catch on a mangrove shoot or get hung up in the skiff. If your partner has a fish on, watch the line so that  it plays out cleanly. Pay it forward… if for no other reason than it builds up good fish karma which you may want to redeem later.
2.) Pinch your barbs (or round them off as some anglers prefer for soft-mouthed species). Pinching your barbs isn’t only for the safety of the fish, it’s also for your partner ...and of course, your guide!

3.) Establish when you will switch off. Decide if it's every 20 minutes.. 30 minutes… after each hookup or fish? Whatever you mutually decide, stick with it. Don’t hog the deck and push the rules. If you have five fish and your partner none, bend the rules a bit and give him a chance to get off the snide.

4.) If you expect the guide to give you his total attention when it's your turn to be on the deck, afford your partner the same opportunity. If you are both fishing hard, don’t engage your guide (or your partner for that matter) in idle chit-chat when you aren’t on the deck. This will distract your guide and lessen his ability to concentrate. Let the guide find fish and focus on your partner’s success. If your partner wants to take a less hardcore approach, that’s fine... chat away. But give your partner the opportunity to choose which way he wants to fish. 

5.) Center-up on the seat. If you are not in the center of the boat, it makes it harder for the guide to pole. If you want to stand and help search for fish, center-up then too. If it is very windy, ask the guide if it is OK to stand. It may be harder for him to pole in a stiff wind with you standing. If the guide is working harder to pole the boat, it may be more difficult for him to find fish.

6.) When you step off the casting deck, put your rod tip down and toward the rear of the boat. If you need to change your fly or tippet, do it, then put your rod away. By no means leave your rod sticking up. If your partner hooks it with a back cast when he is on a fish, that is on you.

7.) If you get out of the boat to take a photo or land a fish in the mangroves, make sure you clean both your feet and shoes before re-boarding. Most guides hate mud in their boat.  If your guide is muttering to himself about your muddy footprints, he won’t be focusing on finding fish for your partner.

8.) Try to be quiet when you are not up. If you need a drink from the cooler or want to mess with you gear, do what you need to do when you first change from the deck, then try and be still. Don’t bang the cooler lid, dig in the ice or constantly be zipping and unzipping zippers. If fish can feel your fly line hitting the water or hull slap, they surely can you moving around in the boat. Notice how quietly the guide is poling. He is doing this for a reason.

9.) Try not to confuse the guide's instructions to your partner by adding your own. Yes, it’s exciting, but two sets of instructions may make it harder for your partner to decipher. If you know your partner is hard of hearing, make your relayed translation of the guide’s instructions short and sweet. 

10.) Don’t complain or whine about the fish you didn’t see, lost or screwed up. Nothing will ruin a day faster than a fishing partner who complains the whole time. Try hard not to get frustrated when things aren’t going well. Keep a positive attitude. Having said that... if you miss a big fish or come unbuttoned, scream your head off, yell at the stars, shake your fist. Then get over it!. Sulking is not pleasant either.

An update!

Sorry to be gone so long! This last month began with a big reunion at our house over Thanksgiving. Then my wife's mother, who had been very sick, was moved to hospice. She died just before Christmas. She was a great woman!
We traveled to Minnesota a few days before Christmas for the funeral. We returned to recuperate finding a very snowy Christmas. Things are slowly returning to normal, but it's been a tough time. 
l'll take my mother in law's Norwegian advice: From, From which translates to Forward, Forward in English. With that in mind… I'll be posting again soon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Royal Coachman Trip Report

In August, Angling Destinations arranged a trip for an old friend of mine, Danny Sheldon, to Alaska's Royal Coachman Lodge. Danny is an excellent saltwater angler and we've enjoyed a few Bahamas trips together including the Sea Hunter, but Danny also loves trout. Danny and I have fished trout in Wyoming and Montana and floated a few of Alaska's best rivers  together float trip in 2011 and in 2009 ), but this is the first time he had been to a full fly-out lodge. Here is Danny's report: Thanks Danny!
If you would like more info on this trip e-mail me at or give me a call at 800-211-8530.

Royal Coachman Lodge Trip Report
by Danny Sheldon

To say I was excited to spend a week at a well known lodge in the heart of Alaska’s famous Bristol Bay drainage would be an understatement. My previous trips to the area had all been on raft trips. see Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to our next raft trip, but I was headed to the Royal Coachman Lodge, a “fly out” lodge that offers the flexibility to fish multiple fisheries all in a week. The Lodge is owned and operated by the Vermillion Brothers from Livingston, MT and has the well earned reputation for being a first class operation. I couldn’t wait to find out for myself!

Two staff members met our group at the airport in Dillingham. Within minutes, we were on our way to Lake Aleknagik where two deHavilland Beavers were waiting for our 40 minute transfer to the lodge. The flight was the first of many over the beautiful Wood Tikchik State Park and the seemingly endless landscape of Alaska. Upon arrival, we had a quick meeting with the lodge manager who briefed us on the week’s schedule and other necessary details. We were then escorted to our rooms to unpack, relax and organize gear.

Loading the Beaver at Aleknagik

The Royal Coachman Lodge is located on the Nuyakuk River a short distance from the outlet of Tikchik Lake. The lodge is unique in that it caters to a maximum of 10-12 anglers per week and has a camp staff of 10 to 12 people. The small number of guests (compared to other lodges) combined with a large staff made for a week of exceptional personal service and attention. The accommodations are one or two bedroom cabins with private baths with excellent beds. Each cabin or room has independent heat and electricity powered by the lodge’s diesel generator. WiFi is available throughout the grounds. The main lodge building houses the kitchen, dining room, and massage room. As it worked out, I was assigned a single cabin with plenty of room to spread out.

The food was excellent the entire week! The quality and freshness of the cuisine was consistent the entire week. Nightly hors d’oeuvres included sushi, meats, cheese, hot artichoke dip, and salmon poke to name a few. Generous dinners served family style varied from salmon to prime rib, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, halibut and roasted duck. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit along fresh baked bread, rolls, or pastries. A gourmet style dessert topped off dinner every night.

Main Lodge and Guest Cabins

A hearty breakfast was served each morning that included blueberry pancakes, breakfast burritos, french toast, and eggs Benedict. Hot oatmeal, cereals, pastries or coffee cakes were also available every morning. Lunches were packed and varied everyday. A hot thermos of soup accompanied us on each trip along with a variety of freshly made sandwiches and treats.

The fishing was very good the entire week. As promised, everyday was a different adventure on a different river. During the week we fished the Agulapak, Nuyakuk, Brooks, Kvichak, and a few remote mountain lake streams. Rainbows up to 29” were caught on beads, streamers, flesh imitations, and mouse patterns.

Mountain Stream Rainbows

Plenty of Silvers on Top

Strong Chrome Rainbows on the Nuyakuk    

Illiamna’s Kvichak River
Brooks River Rainbow and Friends

Agulapak Leopard Bows

The lodge's fishing program offers variety to suit a wide range of tastes. From remote mountain lakes to coastal rivers to iconic Alaskan fisheries, one can experience it all in a week. With two Beavers, a limited number of anglers and over 20 jet boats stashed throughout the area the options are incredible. Bad weather, not a problem. The lodge has miles of the Nuyakuk River at it’s doorstep all to itself.

The trip certainly more than exceeded my expectations. The Royal Coachman’s location, quality facilities and equipment were superb, but I would have say it was the attitude and demeanor of the entire staff that made the trip a special experience. The pilots, guides and lodge staff seemed to genuinely enjoy the week as much as the guests. The quality and professionalism of the staff and their attitude is a testament to how well the operation is managed.

Whether you’re a fly out lodge veteran or a first-timer like me, the Royal Coachman is a great choice that I highly recommend. I just can’t wait to go back!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some Cool Stuff from Eric English!

I started a correspondence with Eric English many months ago. I'm not sure if it was on Facebook or on this blog FLY PAPER. In any case, Eric seemed like an enthusiastic and energetic guy and I enjoyed our back and forths. Eric, an ER Doc from Virginia, had fished on Acklins Island with guide Fedel Johnson... me too!

Guide Fedel Johnson

Most recently, I had fished with Fedel on our Sea Hunter trip last May. We both loved the island's remote flats and enjoyed fishing with Fedel. (I had met Fedel more than 15 years ago when he was a guide at Greys Point Bonefish Inn. Fedel and GPBI apparently had a bit of a falling out and now Fedel was running his own little operation. It was great for me to reconnect with Fedel after so many years).

Eric's plate… Fish Taco!

A few months later, Eric asked if he could paint one of my photographs from my last trip to Crooked/Acklins Island. He said he was enthralled with the photograph and of course, I was flattered. I told him I would be honored, but honestly I didn't think about it again. Then a few days ago, Eric sent me a photo of the watercolor he had done using my photograph and said,

 "I appreciate the great fishing photography you are doing. I'm researching a water color reproduction process called Giclee and once I have that painting copied I'll send you the original as a token of my appreciation for letting me paint your photograph.  I firmly believe in crediting the original photographers for their remarkable creation."  
Thanks Eric, You made my day!

Obviously, Eric is passionate bone fisherman and artist!

Then unexpectantly, Eric sent me a few sketches he did while on his Acklins Island trip (apparently in lieu of a daily journal). Now it was my turn to be enthralled. I think Eric's drawings are great and wanted to share them with the readers of this blog. Eric has a lot of fun whether he is fishing or recounting the events of the day. 

Good on you Eric and keep at it!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Couple Interesting Comments from Water Cay Trip Members

After I posted my trip report on our recently concluded trip to Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island, trip members Doug Jeffries and Jeff Rodenberg weighed in with some interesting comments on their day together. In doing so, they also gave great examples of the effectiveness of the Water Cay Bonefishing Method:

Doug Jeffries commented on my trip report:
Nice report Scott, captures the trip well. I will echo your praise for Ezra, Greg and Sid. They are all different but all very, very good bonefish guides. Equally the best in the Bahamas if not the world. Here's an example:
Jeff and I were in Ezra's skiff the first morning. It might have been our first fish, not sure.
Ezra spotted it and quietly coached Jeff. 
"Point your rod, 10 o'clock, maybe 40 feet, close against the mangroves moving left." Ezra said.
Jeff aimed his rod tip and we all saw the fish in the clear, shallow water.
"Make your cast to the fish's left when you feel ready". 
Jeff laid his fly about 5 feet ahead of the fish and slightly short (does everyone cast short when throwing at fish tight to the mangroves?). The fish alerted to the noise and moved slowly in that direction.
"Slow strip" said Ezra.
The fish picked up the movement and accelerated.
"Stop it, let it drop" coached Ezra.
The fish swam almost on top of the fly and even tilted slightly downward but didn't eat. It would have been SO easy to rip the fly right away from that fish.
Ezra quietly said "Don't move it."
Jeff is a better listener than I. We could easily see the fish hovering there, intently studying Jeff's fly. It finally decided the fly was edible and subtly tilted down and pinned the fly to the bottom. Even that movement could have been so easily missed and the fish could have spit the fly.
But Ezra said "Long strip now" and Jeff complied.
As he came tight and the fish bolted stitching Jeff's line through a half dozen mangrove roots, I looked up at Ezra and gave him a thumbs-up sign. The ever so slight smile pursed his lips. Ezra is the quiet one of the trio.
As Jeff struggled to get his line untangled and keep the fish on, Ezra said "Every fish is different, you have to really watch the fish closely and fish your according to the fish."
I have so much still to learn.
In that wonderful moment following the hook set

Getting on the reel

Doug Jeffries on the deck

Jeff Rodenberg responded to Doug's comment with a bit slant on their day together:

I third the praise for our guides. However, as I remember it was Doug who did the honor of first fish on that day. We took the ride out to the first flat and Ezra barely had the push-pole in his hand when we spotted tailers. Doug graciously offered me first shot on deck, but knowing he had fished Water Cay before and would thus know the program, I asked he show me how it was done. He stepped up, stripped line, and with that smooth, experienced casting stroke he has (and I wish I could just as consistently deliver), put the fly a little short and left. Ezra had him recast, this time it was on the money, and just as Doug describes, Ezra quietly and calmly directed the action.
"Slow strip....let it sit...short strip...let it sit." Ezra coached.
"Long Strip." Ezra finally exclaimed.
Doug came tight, landed the beefy specimen, and that was that.
Doug turned to me and matter-of-factly said, "it's really easy, I just do what Ezra says..."

Learning experience for Jeff, both from Ezra and my fishing partner for the day. And so it would continue for the rest of the week with all of the guides and partners I was fortunate enough to spend the rest of a great week with…

Jeff's favorite fly

Jeff with another bone

Unwinding a bone from the mangroves

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bonefish: The Water Cay Method

Water Cay Bonefish Lodge guides: Greg, Sid and Ezra

Until a few years ago, I thought I had bonefishing pretty much down pat. Because of my job at Angling Destinations, I've been lucky enough to fish for bones almost everywhere they are found. I've caught literally thousands of bonefish. I've especially loved the pursuit of uneducated fish in remote places where the bones had never seen a fly. Sometimes, it was absurdly easy. But unvisited atolls with uneducated fish do not stay that way forever. Not only do unvisited atolls tend to get visited, but it doesn't take long for the fish, especially the big fish, to wise up. A few days of pressure could really change a flat and I often left an area with the big fish being significantly harder to catch than when I arrived. Whether it was the "early days" in the Seychelles, French Polynesia, the Bahamas, Los Roques, Belize or Mexico, the big bruisers always seemed to learn fast.

I guess bonefish don't get big without also being smart. I began noticing that at times, even on lightly pressured flats, I'd get a fly well in front of a big fish, begin my stripping when the fish approached only to watch the fish ignore my fly or blow up and leave the flats. I was beginning to question the conventional strip. It didn't matter whether it was Belize, Los Roques or the Bahamas, big bonefish didn't respond well to the time-honored retrieve. Over time, I started moving the fly not only less and less, but slower and slower. But I had not developed any sort of unified technique. Then, about five years ago, I met the guides from Water Cay Lodge on Grand Bahama Island and let me just say "my horizons expanded".

Fishing at Water Cay is a learning experience for even the most seasoned of anglers. All three of the guides are analytical, good at communicating their methods and have some of the best bonefish eyes I have ever seen. But a warning, if you are the know-it-all type that doesn't want to try something new, don’t go to Water Cay. But if you want to get better and put some new arrows in your angling quiver, Water Cay should be near the top on your bucket list. If you can surrender your ego at the Water Cay dock, you will catch fish and more importantly, learn new methods to catch fish. 

While every fish reacts differently and no single technique works all the time, I think the Water Cay Method definitely deserves your attention. Here in nutshell is that method:


Get the pointy thing in front of the fish. To do this you must observe and read the behavior of the fish. If they are moving fast, you want to try and get the fly well in front of them and let them swim up to it. If they are settled down in shallow water, a closer presentation (that doesn't spook the fish) is the goal. If they have their noses buried in the bottom, you may have to put the fly right on the fish. This proper distance changes frequently depending on weather, wind, water temps, water depth and the fish's behavior etc. The key is to present the fly so the fish sees it. To do this you need the heaviest fly you can get away with depending on the water depth you are fishing.

HINT: Come to Water Cay equipped with large lead eye, small lead eye, large bead chain and small bead chain flies. And be ready to change your fly as the conditions dictate.

At times, the guides will tell you to hit the fish on the nose. I know, I know... this can spook fish and it will at times. But, a good percentage of the time, IF YOU DON”T MOVE THE FLY, the fish will flinch and then come back to the fly.

If you cast too long the guide may have you strip quickly to get your fly within the bone’s field of vision. He is not having you repeatedly strip to entice the fish. He is getting you to retrieve your fly to a point where the fish can see it. When he says stop stripping... STOP!

HINT: Once the fly has settled, get the slack out of your line so you have a direct connection to your fly. If you are fishing from a drifting boat or in a tidal current, slack can  form quickly. In these situations, you must get the slack out of your line without moving the fly.

To summarize so far: Get the fish to see your fly, then don’t move it. This is the technique most successful anglers use with permit so it is not a big stretch to use it with bonefish... especially big or wary bonefish.

HINT: Keep your rod tip at the water’s surface when stripping. This will both keep the weight of the fly line from pulling the fly and keep the fly line from slapping noisily on the water’s surface.

If you make a less than perfect cast or you think the fish has not seen the fly, make one slow strip. Watch the fish. If the fish sees the fly, STOP MOVING THE FLY. Only move the fly again if the fish appears to have not seen the fly or if he shows interest then veers off. The Water Cay Method requires you to be very observant and study the bone's behavior. The guides want you to react to the behavior of the fish and not just blindly retrieve. Sometimes bonefish will study a fly for a long time before they decide to eat it. If you strip again, more often than not, they will blow up and be gone.

If a fish tips up or obviously eats your fly, make one long SLOW, as in S-L-O-W, strip. You want to just come tight to the fish. To put this hookset method another way, a traditional quick strip-strike will often spook the fish and if not, this strip moves the fly unnaturally. The fish immediately know something is wrong. They may not spook, but they also will not eat. The show is over! Again, all you want to do is slowly come tight. Yes, it takes practice, but it also takes a willingness to try something new, as well as great discipline. It may seem simple, but achieving a very slow strip (or no strip at all) can be quite challenging especially when a double-digit bone has followed or tipped up on your fly.

Make the one long SLOW setting strip with your arm straight (elbow locked) and your stripping hand passing by your hip. This takes up much more line than pulling your fly into your body with a bent elbow. When you feel the line come tight, all you need to do then is flick your wrist back and the fish is on.

...notice how much line this angler is able to take up with his arm straight
If you are an angler who uses the conventional "strip it until it eats" technique, the Water Cay Method may seem difficult to achieve... especially at first. But, stick with it! This method works well anywhere in the world and is especially effective on big wary fish. If you notice your conventional presentation of predicting the path of the fish, casting well ahead and letting the fly sink, then stripping when the fish gets to you fly with a series of quick strips (quick strip, pause, quick strip etc.) is not working or is spooking fish, you might want to give this method a try.