Sunday, May 13, 2018

Rainbow Trout In Alaska

We were cleaning a few silver salmon for our dinner on one of Alaska's best rivers. A few big rainbow trout decided to share the feast. Wait till the end to see a 10lb. rainbow devour an entire silver salmon tail. 
If you want to fish for these trout please e-mail me at or call 800-211-8530.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

More Photos Cuba, Garden of the Queens

To all trip members, here are a bunch more photos from our trip Cuba. If you have more you would like to share with the group, send them to me and I'll get them posted!! Great trip, many thanks... we'll do it again next spring!

Doug Jeffries

Jay Hillerson
Doug Ellis
Art Carlson
Bill Ellis
Jeff Rodenberg
Bruce Copeland
Anna Riggs
Fred Abramowitz
John Riggs
Jim Woollett
Steve Peskoe
Scott Sawtelle

We've All Been There...

This vignette from our April trip to Cuba comes to us from Jay Hillerson. On our trip, two of the younger guides could be a bit "heavy-handed" in the form of barking orders and impatience with angler's mistakes. Chalked this up to excitement and passion, but I must admit, I came close to "setting the record straight" a couple times with the guide who is involved in the incident below. This guide is very good: great eyes, good instructions etc. He just fell down when things didn't exactly go as he planned. Here is a good example:

Author Jay Hillerson

It was the last of six days fishing just off the south coast of Cuba in the Jardines de la Reina. Most of the group had jumped a number of tarpon, tagged plenty of bonefish and three really big permit had been caught.

My friend and fishing partner for the day had just one chance at a tarpon all week. Two young guides had “chewed him out” the last couple of days and he was frustrated.

Today, I hoped his luck would change. Our guide staked out a favorite spot well away from any other boat. As the sun rose the tarpon followed. Did I tell you my buddy was very “hard of hearing”?

He took the platform. The guide said "11:00" – he heard 9 and cast there. The guide screamed "11:00". My friend turned towards the guide with fire in his eyes and threw his rod and reel on the deck saying something about yelling. I stood up to intervene, but he was already apologizing, as was the guide. Each felt awful. I said from now on I would restate the guides directions to my friend. 

For a moment there was awkward silence. Then the guide, much subdued and almost sheepishly, turned to me and said, “Sir, could you tell your friend there is a tarpon at the end of his flyline”?

My partner picked up his rod and reel, stripped once, the fish ate, jumped and was gone. 

We all had to laugh. Any previous issues were gone. It was the start of another great day of fishing and catching in Cuba.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Last Day and Redemption by Jeff Rodenberg

This is the follow-up day to Jeff Rodenberg's "Day of Learning". Jeff makes one hell of a recovery and hopefully the previous day was one of the reason's why. I suggest reading the story of how previous day first then read this story.
Author Jeff Rodenberg
John Riggs
April 13, 2018... The last ¾ day of fishing

Please let me set the stage....
Having been “Schooled” (read that taken it up the keester) by the permit, tarpon, Scott and Coky the previous day, and very deservedly so, my last day draw was with fishing partner John Riggs and guide Rigo. 

Now you have to understand something about John and I...we are sympatico, we are brothers from another mother, and from the moment I met him and wife Anna in Seoul, Korea many years ago on our way to Mongolia, we have been in what his wife Anna refers to as a “bro-mance”...And hey, I’m proud of that, but I digress...
With some “constructive criticism” (heh...heh...heh...) fresh on my mind from the day before, and on this last day of the trip, John, Rigo and I made a 45 minutes or so run down to the “flat for the day”. Rigo was confident the tarpon would show up, and therefore I was confident the tarpon would show up. We waited, and after 45 minutes or so of standing on deck, I asked John if he would like to step up...
He looked at me like I was a freak and said “does it look like there are any tarpon here? Why would I want to stand around looking like an idiot on the deck?”
...And this is why we are sympatico, because I would have said the exact same thing!! John went back to writing or reading his journal. Watching all of this, Rigo told me I could “rest”. So I napped on the deck for 30 minutes or so.
I awoke, and stood up. 10 minutes later, Rigo called out “tarpon coming from 12 o’clock!”
Given my “schooling” from the previous day, I fired a 60-70-footer with a level of intensity and crispiness that I was sure would not just fully meet the approval of Scott and Coky, but gain an admiring nod. Within 3 strips, rod tip LOW, controlling the line tight to the fly, the fish was on and I landed same, fighting it deftly, bowing to the king at just the right times, yada, yada, yada. In other words, I got lucky...
“It’s just that simple”, I said to John, “you’re up, and I don’t give a damn what time it is, now I am having a Cristal”.
SOOOOO...Now it is me staring at John’s ass on deck instead of the other way around. He pulls line and does what we all do, make a cast so that he can judge distance and the line is appropriately configured on deck. As he strips the line back in, the wind catches his fly which lodges right forward of his intragluteal cleft (ass-crack for those of you in Rio Linda, California) and just astern of his perinanal scrotum (ball-sac for those of you originally from Brooklyn, NY)...

*Note: this is Jay’s ass, but arrow designates where fly was lodged in John’s pants, an area very difficult for a man to reach. Also note that John did not have a jumping tarpon on as Jay did in this image....
John is fumbling back between his legs to clear the offense, but I can clearly see that if he continues to blindly gamble on said path, he could conceivably drive the hook further, past the barb, into his pants such that to remove the hook would require removal of his pants, showing his man-junk, and if he happened to be underwear-free, well...let’s just not go there. This might (almost surely) would be a good thing if he were fishing with Anna, but dude, we’re in fishing partner rotation! Get your head in the game!
So now I have a terrible, terrible conundrum. Do I let him continue fumbling and thereby risk him driving the hook home further per above, or, as his bro-mantic partner, do I tell him to “FREEZE” and volunteer to assist for very quick, delicate, “without touching anything” removal assistance.
Ok, call me whatever you want, I chose the latter. I chose to help my amigo...thus probably cementing Anna’s assessment of bro-mance...but to hell with anyone if they want to make fun of us ...and with trembling fingers and a potential load of vomit in my mouth, I reached far further forward between John’s legs than I would have ever thought possible, and deftly (at least I think I was deft, you’d have to ask John how I fared in that regard...) removed the offending hook from his pants before further damage was done to either his pants or man parts. (NO!!! We have no photos of this part of the story!!).
I politely requested Senor Juan be more careful going forward, “John, I don’t often give advice to my fishing partners, but I’ll make an exception here, KEEP THE FLY OUT OF YOUR ASS-CRACK!”. 
He went on to take a shot at the only other tarpon we saw, we had lunch with the iguanas and the Ellis boys, and all too quickly, just as all the other days, it was game over.

You know, one can brag all they want about the fish they caught, but damn, sometimes one just has to brag about how they handle the day. Yeah, man, give me grief about whether or not my line was tight enough on the cast and how the permit would have eaten if I had done something different yesterday, blah, blah, blah...but on the last day, I got her done....a tarpon to the boat in expert fashion, a celebratory Cristal passed my lips, and my buddy arrived safely back at the dock with no more holes in his body than what he started the day with for the long sad journey back to Estados Unidos. That my friends, is what I consider a banner day and resounding success! As were all days on the Tortuga...One of my favorite trips ever....

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Belize: What is a Dedicated Permit Trip Like?

I am often asked the following question... usually by quite experienced anglers, "If I want to catch a permit, where should I go and how should I go about it?"

Good question! There are many choices: Mexico in Ascension Bay, Espiritu Santo Bay or Chetumal Bay, Belize in the south or in Northern Belize at Ambergris Cay, or in the Bahamas at Crooked or Inagua Islands...or Cuba if you're really adventuresome. But the truth is, if you want to catch a permit, you first of all need to dedicate yourself to the process. Permit fishing is not a sidelight species as they are rarely found where bonefish and tarpon are found. Permit are rarely caught serendipitously. As one of my permit fanatic friends says "the juice has to be worth the squeeze... but you gotta squeeze the juice!"

So if the best way to catch a permit is absolutely to commit, what can you expect from a dedicated permit trip if you do "go for it". Let's explore this question by looking at one of the best permit trips in the world and see if the obligatory frustration and dedication required dissuades you in any way. If one of the best permit trips in the world requires too much commitment from you, then should probably include the pursuit of other species into your trip itinerary. Maybe only plan to give permit a try for only one or two days.

Rising Tide

I think one of the best "dedicated" permit trips is aboard the Rising Tide in Belize. This live aboard yacht explores some of the finest permit flats on the globe which begin about 15 miles SE of Belize City and extend south from there for about 25 miles. The only practical way to access these outstanding flats is via a mothership... and we suggest the Rising Tide. But what makes this area so special?

-First of all, the resident population of permit allows for more shots at tailing fish than almost anywhere we know. 

-Secondly, seldom do anglers fishing this area from the Rising Tide encounter another angler. That is because they are far enough away from the lodges and therefore these flats receive little pressure. 

It should be noted that these waters ARE permit waters; there are very few opportunities for bones or tarpon although some areas at times have schools of tarpon. There are “variety” Rising Tide agendas which fish other areas, but this particular trip should be considered a dedicated permit trip. As such, heading into this area should only be pursued by those experienced salt water fly fishers who understand how frustrating and exciting permit fishing can be.

This is an area that some of the most successful permit fisherman come back to time and time again. If you've chalked up double digit numbers of permit, you've no doubt not only heard of this area, but also probably fished southern Belize. For dedicated permit trips, consider building around a full or new moon because even though the tides in Belize only move inches of water (not feet) a few inches of water can make a difference on the shallow flats fished on this itinerary,.  

Here then is a trip report by Art Hinckley and two of his angling friends who have, for many years, taken two trips on the Rising Tide every year. Art has released over 120 permit. Art keeps a daily dairy of their trips. The attached report from his most recent trip in September will give anglers who understand permit fishing a sense of the flow of the fishing. On this trip, they released 11 permit. They do two trips a year, usually for 8 – 10 days and all they do is fish permit. Art and Dennis have taken over 170 permit between them – Chuck is new at permit and now has six from his two trips. For them, releasing 11 permit is a fairly average trip. Their record trip is 23 fish. 

Journal by Art Hinckley

Arrival day - We landed at noon and headed out to Robinson in the pangas about 1:45. We didn't see much there so Dean took The Rising Tide to Bluefield. Chuck got a couple shots, but that was it.

Day 1 - Beautiful weather at Bluefield with 10-15 SE wind. I was with Noel and got around 15 shots with no luck. I did have a small one eat my fly without hooking up. Very frustrating after not getting any on the last trip either.  In the last 17 days of fishing I've only gotten 1 permit. Dennis was with Dean and got one 7 lbs from the boat right before lunch. Chuck and Eddie didn't get one and neither Dennis or Chuck got very many shots so we moved to Sand Fly late afternoon. 

Day 2 - Beautiful weather at Sand Fly with 5-10 E wind. I got one 16 lbs with Dean while wading early morning and got a couple more good shots with no luck. Neither Dennis with Eddie or Chuck with Noel got very many shots, but Dennis had one eat his fly without hooking up.  Late afternoon we moved to Blue Grounds. 

Day 3 - Beautiful weather at Blue Grounds with 5-15 E wind changing to NW and then to NE late afternoon. I got one 10 lbs early morning while wading with Eddie and then didn't get another decent shot until about 5 pm. Dennis with Noel only got a couple good shots. Chuck with Dean got around 15 good shots with no luck. 

Day 4 - Started out partly cloudy with 10-15 W wind then turned calm mid morning and ended with 10 E wind in the afternoon. I caught two with Noel, 7 lbs early morning while wading and one a little smaller mid morning from the boat. I only got 4 more shots the rest of the day for a total of 6 shots. Chuck also got two with Eddie both from the boat about the same size as my two and only had 3 shots all day. Dennis with Dean had 5 shots with no luck. Late afternoon we moved back to Sand Fly. 

Day 5 - Started cloudy with 15 W wind. No permit anywhere so we came back in for a couple hours. Late morning the wind died down and it became sunny. The wind changed to E 10-15 in the afternoon. I never got a shot all day with Dean. Chuck got 2 shots with Noel and had 3 eat his fly out of the same school, but didn't hook up. Afterward he realized the first permit had crushed the hook sideways against his fly. Dennis got 3 shots with Eddie and caught two, 20 and 10 lbs both from the boat. After he leadered the 20 lb permit, the rod broke as they were netting it and it got away so it wasn't weighed, but Eddie estimated it to be 20 lbs. They went back to The Rising Tide to get another rod, went back out and almost immediately caught the next one. Late afternoon we moved back to Robinson. 

Day 6 - Started cloudy with 10 W wind. Became calm and sunny midday and then 10 E wind in the afternoon. I was with Eddie and didn't get a shot until 3:30 and ended up with 3 shots. Chuck was with Dean and got 3 shots also. Dennis was with Noel and got 1 shot. No one had any luck. 

Day 7 - Started cloudy with 10-15 W wind. Became calm and sunny midday and 10-15 E wind late afternoon. I was with Noel and didn't get a shot until late afternoon and ended up with 5 shots. Chuck with Eddie only got 1 shot. Dennis was with Dean and got 5 shots and two hookups out of the same school, but both came off after a short time. 

Day 8 - Started cloudy with a 10-15 W wind. Became calm and sunny midday and 10-15 E wind late afternoon. I was with Dean. We stayed at Robinson all day and never got a shot. I never could imagine I would get no shots two times in a row fishing with Dean in nice weather. Pretty sure that will never happen again. Chuck with Noel and Dennis with Eddie both went to Sand Fly and fished their way back. Chuck got 5 shots and got one 6 lbs from the boat at Sand Fly. Dennis got 2 shots and got one 6 lbs from the boat at Bluefield. Moved The Rising Tide back to Belize City after we were done fishing. 

Departure Day - Our flight wasn't until 12:45 so Chuck and I went out with Eddie and Noel for a couple hours at Robinson. It started out cloudy with 15 E wind and the weather got worse as the morning went on. Neither of us saw anything. 

The guides were all great as usual and Radiance did a great job in the kitchen and on the boat. Eddie ended up with 6, Noel 3 and Dean 2. That's three trips in a row the Eddie has topped the guides with the most permit. Dennis and I each got 4 and Chuck got 3. Overall the fishing was extremely slow so we were happy to catch 11. We think the west wind in the morning, which is unusual, was keeping most the permit off the flats for the day. 

New permit totals for the group:  Art 121, Dennis 64, and Chuck 6.

So if this works for you, by all means let me know and we'll find you some appropriate dates. If a "dedicated permit" trip looks like a little too much and you would still like to do the Rising Tide in Belize... just not a dedicated permit trip, then let's talk. Lots of other itineraries available which include bonefish, tarpon, snook and yes, maybe even a few shots a permit!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Grand Slam Grad School: Cuba

What follows is an entertaining and very instructional story written by Jeff Rodenberg. I can't say how much I admire Jeff's willingness to take constructional criticism. It takes guts and a willingness to swallow a bit of ego to watch a BIG permit eat your fly and then listen to the reasons why you didn't get hooked up. I can't wait for Jeff to get another opportunity. I know he'll nail it next time. (I'll be posting his second story from Cuba in a couple days and you'll see, he really learned from the day he describes below.)

Jeff and Coki at the end of this day

Star-date Thursday, 12 April 2018:
Phi Slamma Jamma Grad-school!
by Jeff Rodenberg
Once again, please allow me the courtesy of setting the stage.... About every 3-4 years, I get to do a saltwater trip. I get the opportunity to bask in the magnificence that is Doug, Doc, Scott and many others, so am inevitably the guy with just about the least experience. I love it! What a chance to learn! In between those times, I fish the sweet-water of the upper Midwest for muskies, or smallmouth, or carp...
So consider this my friends, on an average day, you will find me with guides Eric or Brad, lobbing hamster-sized, wind resistant hairy things on Lake St. Clair or a river in NC Wisconsin, with a heavy sink-tip line. Now this has done some wonderful things for my bachelor’s degree in casting ability. In order to accomplish any sort of cast in that situation, and be able to continue blind casting such a rig for any length of time, you damn well better develop a very relaxed casting stroke...let the rod do the work...and quite frankly, a bit of an open casting loop. When the fly plops down, the louder the better, you then stand there and admire it for a bit to allow the line and fly to get a little depth. Then you strip the puppy back. Lather, rinse, repeat...hour after hour...watching paint dry...until as if by magic this huge toothy green submarine appears nose behind the fly, not giving a damn about the boat. If you are really lucky, you have the nerve and composure to strip that fly to within a foot or two of the rod tip, then maneuver it around for a vicious, visually spectacular boatside strike that leaves you holding on for dear life. Truly intoxicating...

Author Jeff Rodenberg
Efficient casting is all well and good. But whether you are talking bluegills on the pond, muskies on St Clair, or sabalo in Cuba, there is a bit more to it and to avoid confusion, I simplify things in my mind to three basics...
1.) Get the pointy thing in front of a fish
2.) Tease the kitty 
3.) Fight it right...
At Saltwater grad-school a couple weeks ago in Cuba, I was given a very good and clear lesson that #2, teasing the kitty, is a different animal in the salt than my normal life.
With that as a background, after several days of moderate success on tarpon, I was pretty confident on basics 1 and 3. At dinner on Wednesday night, it was decided that on the next to the last day, I was ready for the big leagues. I would do a day with our trip-host Scott, and the most experienced and “passionate” of the guide crew we had, Senor Coki. And we would start with permit.... As I puffed on an apres-dinner Cuban Romeo Y Julieta Crema on the aft deck of the Tortuga, talking to Fred about his admittance to the 12-step program that all permit-heads eventually end up in, Scott scaled the stairs warning, “Bring you’re A-game tomorrow Jeff!”
We got in the skiff the next morning, and I was actually pretty comfortable, relaxed. I did purposely skip breakfast so I would have the lean and hungry demeanor of someone who not just wanted to hunt, but needed to hunt. We didn’t go far from the Tortuga when Coki shut down the engine and took his place on the poling platform. I urged Scott to take the deck and show me how this should be done.
And he did just that. That magnificent bastard made about 3 casts to the first permit we saw that day, hooked up, and landed a beaut like he’d been doing it all his life (which, well, he has!). This was amazing to me! I actually witnessed someone landing one of these things! It can be done and here was proof!

Thanks for the chance Jeff!
Now it was my turn...and I will admit the heat was getting turned up a bit. I mean, within an hour of the start of the day, there was already a permit boated. Now I needed to “bring it”...
And I will have to admit that it didn’t take Coki long to find another permit to cast at. I launched the Avalon crab, and somehow managed to get the pointy thing in front of the fish in such a manner that the fish was more than just a little interested. But here is where things went haywire...that sweetwater sloppy cast, and devil-may-care attitude in maintaining line control, took over. Every time Coki yelled “strip”, there was enough slack in the line that the fly didn’t move, and by the time I caught up with the fly, Coki would yell “stop” and the fly would move because the rod tip was above the water with the line getting caught by a small gust of wind. That permit wanted that fly more than you can imagine. And courtesy of losing any semblance of composure, of not paying enough attention to the right way to tease the permit kitty, I...just...kept...taking it away from him...DUH!!!

If your vocabulary includes recognition of Spanish curse words, you probably heard Coki’s reaction back here it the States...and I apologize . I caused it! He and Scott both wanted it so bad for me, and clearly knew that if I had just done it right...
We motored to another flat, I went to sit in the kindergarten corner and reflect on my misbehavior, while Scott got a couple more shots. Then it was back on deck for Jeff, and well, so as not to belabor this, the “time-out” didn’t work and I repeated my previous sins. I can’t help but laugh (if I don’t laugh I’ll cry, and that’s just not manly...) thinking about Coki leaping down off the platform, snatching the rod out of my hand, stripping out another 20 feet of line and pounding a perfectly straight line cast; “that’s how you do it!! You have to have control!! You have to be able to strip when I say strip!!! And stop when I say stop!!!”. 
Scott even joined the party...”what’s this mamby-pamby back-cast thing!?" 
(Christ...somebody just called my casting “mamby-pamby” – that got my attention insofar as I don’t understand Spanish swear-words...)
Scott continued; “Man, you got to put a little oomph in it!!! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t cast in a relaxed fashion, but punch it man!! Fish like you mean it!!”. 
“Now show me you can do it!!” Scott ordered. I complied... ”much better, now remember that...”
I looked up at Coki...”Sorry dudes; you may not ever want me in your boat again, but I gotta tell you, I sure as hell would fish with you any chance I get...”. I think he and Scott might have even cracked a smile...
And then it was lunch, and after lunch, with the right  permit-tide ebbing, it was decided that we’d subsequently be going after tarpon. Step #2 in a Slam.

I’ll let Scott tell the tarpon part of the story, he made the most of it, I cheesed a cast. With only a bonefish left to go for Scott’s Slam, we motored to a flat for same. With Scott’s best interests in mind, and in the context of being a good partner, I allowed as to how I now saw it as my responsibility to ensure that Scott got his slam in the correct way. There would be no blind casting into a mud, and if there were, I would photograph this for posterity and send images around the globe on Facebook of Scott Heywood doing just that. To add to the fun, I allowed as to now I had him right where I wanted...all I had to do was step on the line coiled behind him and revel in the reaction as his fly did a dive bomb 25 feet short of his target . Scott didn’t flinch! - in his famously surgically precise way, he put a mantis shrimp on the nose of a properly sight-hunted fish, stripped when Coki said strip, stopped when Coki said stop, and became the third and final individual of our crew of 14 (joining Jim and Fred) in the week’s much admired Phi Slamma Jamma club. Well done sir! Very well done!!

Me? I caught zilch, zero, nada, nothing, and ended the day with a big goose egg. Deservedly so, I got my ass chewed big time because I pissed away what might be my best chance ever at a slam, and the opportunity of giving Coki a double slam in his boat. While there might be some who consider this their worst day ever, I consider it one of my best days ever... Holy schnikies the stuff I learned! Watching that permit repeatedly try to eat my fly, were it not for my ineptitude and incapacity to think in that moment, is a beautiful memory that will forever cause me to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. A tarpon I clearly should have had, and thinking about if that had occurred, Scott and I could have been shoving each other around on the front deck for a shot at the bonefish and a slam. Watching and learning from a couple of chaps so damn skilled at making the most of the opportunities presented -  It seriously gets no better even if my individual performance didn’t hold up.
I really mean this, there are very few people as fortunate as I am when it comes to fly-fishing. I get the opportunity to learn from some of the best of the best, in some of the best, last, great fly-fishing venues on the planet. The Harvard’s and Yales of Saltwater Flat’s Fishing Schools! And that’s exactly what I got on this fateful Thursday off the coast of Cuba – grad school education in basic step 2 of fly-fishing; “tease the kitty!”.
So gang, in progressing toward my Master’s degree in “tease the kitty”, and in the interest of assisting my fellow anglers, I offer a few things I learned for your own next flats adventures
a.) Don’t suffer the indignity of being mamby-pamby in putting the fly out there – be relaxed, but give it enough oomph that it lands with a straight, crispy-light, immediately controllable connection to your line hand.

b.) Just stick your rod tip in the water, be done with it, and leave it there
c.) Taking into consideration the wind and boat-drift, maintain the straight, crispy-light, immediately controllable connection to the fly you established with your cast at all times
d.) Now listen to your guide – when he says strip, then strip. When he says stop, for God’s sake stop!
e.) Realize you will forget a.-d. until you’ve had several opportunities to screw the pooch; at which point just man up, see the humor in your human foibles, and resolve to spend some of your lawn casting practice time on not just distance and accuracy, but line control for teasing the kitty, all for the purpose of doing better the next time. 

In retrospect, it was more than just a banner day, it was nothing other than a resounding success, and one of my best days ever on the flats, as were all days on the Tortuga!...One of my favorite trips ever....

Yellowstone Bans Felt-Soled Boot

Recently, as many have heard, Yellowstone National Park announced a ban on felt-soled wading boots. Whether you're within proximity to YNP or not, you should be aware of the change if you live close to or might be traveling there. 

This announcement will undoubtedly create some confusion and will most likely cause a “perceived" domino effect. Currently, the following states have a ban on felt soled wading boots: Maryland, Alaska, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island and South Dakota. Through our research we cannot find another state currently looking at banning felt. In fact, we believe that those states that were remotely thinking about it, pulled back. 

That said, education on the subject is critical — the fisherman with rubber-soled wading boots who is irresponsibly not cleaning and drying their boots is worse than the fisherman with the felt-soled wading boots who ensures his/her boots are cleaned and dried. Felt is not the boogey man and as we all know, is not the only method for transporting invasive species. 
See the full story from Hatch Magazine here.