Monday, August 8, 2016

Another Great Trip Report from Tarpon Cay Lodge

Keith Calhoun of Sea Island Georgia made a trip to Tarpon Cay Lodge at the end of June on the Yucatan's west coast. He fished a few days solo then had some friends join him for a couple days. Many thanks to Keith for taking the time to write this report! 

Hi Scott,

I trust you are doing well. Sorry it has taken me so long to send you this brief report. It's been a whirlwind since I returned from my trip.

In a word, the trip was great! The fishing was extremely good and I caught a lot of fish, missed many as well. Over the 4 1/2 solo days and 1 1/2 double days, I probably brought about 50 fish to the boat, and jumped another 30 fish that I lost for various reasons, mostly angler error. One morning, I jumped about 20 fish, but I guess the fish gods weren't with me as I probably got less than 10 of those to the boat.






I fished 4 days with Martine and 2 days with Pedro. Martine is much more intense and he has very definite ideas about leaders & tippets (he wants 50 lb) and he likes to select the flies. [Editor Note: there are more migratory bigger fish on the Yucatan's coast in the summer months and the guides like to increase shock tippet strength during these months]. He also has the best eyes of any guide I've ever fished with. He saw fish that I never saw, and I would call BS, but when I threw where he told me, I got an eat. Pedro is much more relaxed, and he was fun to fish with, but he didn't see fish like Martine.


Most fish were between 6 and 15 lbs, but we got a few in the 20 - 35 range, and one guest caught one over 40. I caught several fish on the Red Eyed Lady and I few fish on the Kid's Meal but I didn't fish them that much, mainly because Martine liked another style I had in my box. However, based on some of the other flies I threw and caught fish on, I'm not sure that the fish were that picky as a rule. However, a couple of times, they were very selective and often, quite spooky.


Keith's flies















  




The routine of morning for 4 1/2-5 hours and afternoon for 3-3 1/2 hours was great. Food was excellent. Beto and Filly were very helpful. Martine & Pedro were great guides! Marco was a very friendly host. 

All in all, it was a great trip. The lodge was adequate, the food and people were wonderful and the fishing was world class. I will be calling you to go again. 

Thank you Scott for setting this up. I'm looking forward to returning to TCL. 

Best regards, 

Keith

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Few Photos from a Couple Days on Wyoming's Bighorn River

I drove over on Sunday night to fish with my friends Dan Cerven and Chad Olsen. Chad did the guiding and Dan and I did the fishing! Great days... River was a bit high at 6000 cfs, but we caught lots of 18-22" inch bows and browns on everything from streamers to San Juan worms to crawdads to bead head nymphs. We even had a yellow sallie hatch and nailed a bunch of fatties on yellow stimulators and elk haired royals. Thanks Guys for a great time!

We are ready!

Steep put in... a bit unconventional!

Chad drenched after the put in!

It worked!


Dan Cerven with a nice brown... 

...and a big bow!


The boys search for heads




on a crawdad!


crawdads and worms...

...got many big browns!

Lunch under a hot sun!

22" BIG BROWN!





Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Couple Funny Letters Concerning Our New Fly Designs

We now have enough of our baby tarpon and bonefish prototypes in use that we're getting some great feedback. Some anglers took the time to send us written  comments. We thank them for that!
Here are two letters we recently received  that certainly caught our attention. I will not comment further...

The first is from Doug Jeffries who has some complaints concerning too many tarpon messing with our flies:



And the second note is from Steve Peskoe on why our flies made him devote more time to his golf game:



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Ned and Riley Blocker with a Trip Report from Water Cay Lodge

Edward Blocker and his son Riley just returned from Water Cay Lodge. I thank Ned for sending me his report and a few photos. Looks like they had a great time! Nothing better than taking your son or daughter fishing!


Riley and Sid both look stoked!

Scott,

Riley and I had a great trip! Exactly what I was looking for. Rustic, but comfortable and good fishing.

Sidney was a great guide to us - very patient and a great instructor. There sure is a lot that has to happen in sequence to end up with a fish by the boat. We both made a lot of mistakes but mostly learned from them and came away better fishermen.

Riley caught his first bonefish on the first day, which was also his first fish on a fly.  Every fish he caught felt like a catch to me.

My plan is for us to do more of these trips together.  I'll find out his upcoming college schedule and get with you on the next trip.

Your flies worked great!
I had 2 other boxes but never used them.

Thanks again,

Ned



Nice bone

Dad got in the act too!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Crooked and Acklins Island Trip Report May 14-21, 2016... Part 2

Day 4
A wonderful day with Steve Peskoe and guide, Clinton Scavella. Clinton took us to "Godfather Alley", a series of shallow points with seemingly endless white sand flats sparsely dotted with mangroves. Steve and Clinton took off down one alley and I cut off left to fish the next lane over. As soon as I got through the mangrove barrier, I started picking up slinky singles that were in only inches of water. White sand, pale turquoise channels, pale-sided bones that ate if you did it just right... terrific!






We finished off the day with bones and a big blue runner in a deep hole. Our fun ended when a 6' lemon shark ate my crab fly. Most likely he was trying to eat a bone that was trying to eat my crab fly, but in any case, once these guys show up, it's game over. Great day spending time with my old friends Clinton and Steve and having some great fishing too!


Beautiful blue runner


Day 5 and 6
As good as it gets!

On day 5, Doug Ellis and I fished with Elvis Collie on Acklins Island. We began at the "Fingers" south of Lovely Bay. With the tide being high in the morning, we picked our way through small pods of medium sized bones that were milling about on an acre of barely flooded hardpan. From there we went east towards Snug Corner catching more bones retreating off the "hardtop" as the tide dropped and the water warmed.




Doug Ellis

We decided to split up with Doug and Elvis going left and me right. I soon reached the edge of a crusty pan and the beginning of a short shallow bay. It didn't take long to pluck a fish from the edge of the pan. Doug and Elvis paused to watch me land my fish. As I lifted my rod tip to skate the bonefish towards me for a quick release, a huge bird smashed into my fish. I never saw it coming. I initially thought it was a pelican due to its size, but then I realized that could not be... it must be an osprey! Only yards from me, 6-7' of wings splayed out on the water. One fiercely curved talon had a tenuous hold on my fish. As the big bird of prey tried to lift off, my fished made a frantic and successful effort to pull free. I could see blood on the bone's left side as the osprey lifted off. Screaming his cry, he held steady only a few feet above me positioned for another attack.

I yelled "Holy Shit!"
Doug and Elvis just laughed. I quickly released my fish secretly hoping the osprey would try again. He did not and soon departed screeching his anger as he veered off to the east. I moved on to my next fish never to see the bird again 
...this was a first for me.

Soon the day was over. It went so very fast. it was great spending time with Doug and learning about his incredible life and his 51 years of marriage to his wife Florida! Amazing man.




Our last day, was simply incredible. Clinton, Mike Schwartz and I again made the boat ride to Acklins to fish the "C-Spot." We left the boat at 9:15 AM and did not return until 3:45 PM. We waded into a massive shallow creek system. The tide was high when we arrived and after wading in from the barren hardpans, we reached many shallow creeks dotted with small hurricane-killed mangroves. In this area, fish were literally everywhere. We spotted fish through the mangrove aisles and holes. Once spotted, we positioned ourselves to make casts.


Tough spot to land a bonefish

Once hooked, we played traffic cop. Using the proper application of slack and pressure, one could avoid entangling alliances with the mangrove skeletons. This was great fun and very engaging (although not always successful).

Once the tide dropped off the hardpan, the fish began to flee to the channels. Here they schooled up and soon moved out fleeing the rising temps. I made an about turn and began my march back to the outside hoping to keep up with their migration. I caught bones all the way to the boat ending up with a 20+ fish day. Whew, now that was fun!

Relief to get those wading shoes off!

Scott Sawtelle with a beautiful mutton snapper

A brief synopsis of our experience at the lodge:
The food was terrific: we enjoyed cracked conch, beautifully spiced snapper, peas and rice lathered with homemade goat pepper sauce, scalloped potatoes, baked chicken, steamed fish, wonderful desserts like key lime pie and lemon meringue pie, great salads with marinated tomatoes and onions. We enjoyed hearty traditional breakfasts and filling lunches with two sandwiches, granola bars, chips and candy bars. It was the best food I've ever had at traditional out island bonefish lodge.



We ate well!





Our rooms were very large with powerful A/C units, clean linen and hot showers. The water had a sulphur smell but that should be cured with a holding tank and some chlorine. The dining room/bar area is beautiful and right on the beach. All in all, this is a rustic but very comfortable lodge.


Doug and Scott
Mike Schwartz makes the most of this pilchard

This was a spectacular trip with a great staff and great guides helping us explore a great fishery. We will be back! To Scott Sawtelle, Doug Ellis, Steve Peskoe, Tony Wendtland and Mike Schwartz, man this was fun. Let's do it again soon!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Crooked and Acklins Island Trip Report May 14-21, 2016... Part 1

Our group had decided to visit Crooked Island and its sister, Acklins Island, shortly after Hurricane Joaquin rammed into the islands last fall. Our plan was to base ourselves in a small lodge located on Winding Bay near the settlement of Majors Cay. Somehow this lodge had managed to survive the hurricane and we thought it was the best option left standing. (Details on the lodge later.)

From this headquarters, we hoped to inject a bit of money into the local economy, pursue some fish that hadn't seen much pressure over the winter and reconnect with some old friends to see how their efforts at rebuilding were going.

Going into this trip, we were well aware that both islands had been devastated by Joaquin's huge storm surge and tornado force winds that pounded the islands for over 36 hours. The stories had been sobering. Entire families huddled on a single bed as 15-20' feet of rising water forced them against their own ceilings. Other families evacuated flooded homes to spend the night in small skiffs tied off to their roofs. Here they prayed and fought hypothermia, hoping to once again see morning's first light. These islanders had experienced a night they will never forget. 

The scene as dusk turned to night.

Crooked Island Lodge after the storm.

Hit the hardest was Landrail Point on Crooked and Lovely Bay on Acklins. Both villages were virtually wiped out with most of the homes, cars, generators and means of communication severely damaged. Crooked Island Lodge, the idyllic resort located on a long beach north of Landrail Point is no longer there. Now, it's just a collection of gutted buildings poking out of a giant pile of sand. As we stepped off the plane, the signs were everywhere: roads wiped out, homes ravished and people traumatized. And yet, we found optimistic survivors eager for our visit. The Crooked and Acklins Islanders are testament to the resilient spirit of man.


The road to the ferry dock to reach Acklins Island was wiped out!

Our dining room/ bar with the rooms in the background.
These islanders offered us wonderful, yet simple, accommodations, terrific food (thanks Margaret!), great guides and inspiring stories all peppered with uncommon grace and humor.

Amongst the barren mangroves, hurricane debris and scarred villages, we found lots of fish and enjoyed our reconnection with longtime guides Clinton, Kenny, Michael and Elvis. I have know some of these men and their families for over 20 years... I am happy to report they are making a resounding comeback! 

Here then is my report. This report is given as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened to them. The fact that I can give a simple trip report after what these islands experienced is simply amazing! 


What goes with Mike for the day.

Tony and Doug rigged and ready..

Need I say more?
Day 1
Tony Wendtland and I fished with guide Elvis Collie. Elvis lives in Lovely Bay on Acklins Island. I've know Elvis since he was a teenager. Over the ensuing years. Elvis has become a superb guide and a great person. The three of us fished near Old Woman Cay under light winds and sunny skies.

This was Tony's first trip to the Bahamas. I was hoping he would experience what real bonefishing is all about. I needn't have worried. He caught the first fish he saw! I should have known. Tony is an excellent caster and a very good dry fly fisherman. Both these skills translate well to bonefishing.

We had a very productive morning followed by a slow afternoon. This was a theme we would become familiar with as easterly winds pushed sun-warmed waters out of the creeks and flats in the afternoons. 





Day 2
Mike Schwartz and I fished with Kenny Scavella. Early in the morning, the tide was high. We could see fish in the mangroves, but we had no way to reach them. To try a cast would mean an immediate breakoff. After poling in vain watching fish weave in and out of the bushes, the water finally began to drop. Then it was game on!

At the end of a long mangrove edge, Mike decided to wade to reach some fish and was soon planted in a sticky ooze seemingly either unable or unwilling to move. It turned out to be simply unnecessary.  From this spot, Mike cast his fly into the brisk wind picking off 8 or 9 fish without once moving his feet. A fine marl mud patch drifted slowly behind him as he landed fish after fish.

Facing the other direction, I caught 3 fish and could see many more that I couldn't reach due to the sticky, soft bottom. Finally, after hooking a 5-6 lb. rocket that came within a leader's length of me and ate my fly on the move (sort of a drive-by, eat and run maneuver), I was forced to chase my catch through the quicksand. The fish had quickly pulled all my fly line and a bunch of backing on his world tour through the maze of roots that lined the shore. I struggled in the soft mud to keep up passing my fly rod through many mangrove keyholes he had used hoping to make a successful escape.


I was lucky to land the fish and not break my rod!
It was exhausting as each step threatened to swallow me whole. Behind me, a huge muddy mess showed every bob and weave the fish made on his frantic journey. As sweat rolled off my head carrying sunscreen and bug dope into my eyes, I finally landed the fish.

Kenny somehow noticed my predicament and yelled over the strong breeze, "Scott, you need help?"

"Yes!" I replied, eager to end this beatdown as soon as possible.

Kenny left Mike's side. He quickly polled his skiff downwind and rescued me from the branches of a large bush where I was holding on not willing to take another step. I'm convinced if I had made one more step away from my branch, I would have been swallowed up and eaten whole by this gooey bottom.

"Thank you!" I muttered, washing my muddy tracks off the deck of my guide's no longer immaculate boat. Soon we collected an elated Mike and cleaned the decks once again. The rush was now over and the fish were behind us. It was time to find new grounds. We picked up a few more fish in the afternoon, but again, rising water temps made for a much slower afternoon. But there were no complaints heard from our boat. It was simply a great day!



Our lodging and a bit of laundry

Getting the snapper gear ready.

Day 3
Tough day.... Scott Sawtelle and I fished with guide Mike Carroll. It was sunny and very windy. We could not find a fish to save our lives. We fished flats on which I have previously caught scores of fish... beach flats, shallow creeks, pancake flats... all scenes of previous victories which were now inexplicably devoid of fish. Some flats were opaque and difficult to see into due to the winds, but still, we could see well enough to know there were no attendees.

After wading a long beach, I took a look left and saw a  bar that was shinning like a beacon about 300 yards from shore. I said 'What the hell" and took off letting Scott and Mike finish out the beach flat we where on.  After 15 minutes of wading in waist to chest deep water, I reached the slope up to the bar. It looked great!

I walked up and out of the channel onto firm white sand lightly sprinkled with turtlegrass. The bar was about two acres in size. I was sure there would be a fish somewhere on it. (Optimism runs deep in our breed!). I walked for few minutes, then headed for a pile of hurricane debris that looked like the most shallow spot on the flat. 

As if I had conjured the fish with my imagination, a big bone was happily tailing near the debris leaving a light mud stain to seep downtide. I threw a cast into the air. It landed on the bone's landing strip. The bone dashed five feet to slurp my fly. It was all just so perfect! This fish made my day. It it hadn't been for this guy, I would have registered a big blank bagel for the day. Instead I will remember this perfect moment and not the fact that our day sucked! 




The gang at dinner