WOW! That pretty much comes close to describing how our vacation went. I'm definitely sold and if there's any way possible that I can put a group together for next year (Or the year after, or the year after, etc...) I'll be going back to El Pescador Lodge on Ambergris Caye in Belize again and again. Two thumbs up hardly describes it...

I've been putting off this "report" since getting back because there are not only too many photos to sort thru, but also because there's just too much to say. I actually started this yesterday here at work, but between phone calls, a few customers and spending the evening at a Michigan River Guides Association meeting last night, just never got it finished. At any rate, I just decided to wing it, try to keep it shorter than a large novel (yea, right) and just grab a few random photos rather than look thru them all again trying to make decisions.

Day one (Friday) we arrived at the little air port in San Pedro in the afternoon to some smiling members of the El Pescador crew. After sorting some luggage there was a brief stop at a road side bar for a few boat beers then it was on to the dock and off to the lodge! Here we were greeted by owners and other members of the staff who made it very clear (by not even letting us tote our small carry on stuff down the dock and to the lodge) that we weren't going to be working very hard on this trip at all. First thing upon arrival Karen and Heather got our rooms while John and I, along with a few others, met Caesar (SP? Pronounced Say Zar) the enthusiastic young bartender. Here's a few random shots from around the lodge...

Caesar, the bar keep!

The view from our room.

The lodge from the pool.

John and I were originally scheduled to only fish four out of the six full days, but that night we discovered that Saturday was not one of them and after a very brief discussion with our better halves who were already very happy, we decided to add an extra day. The lodge scrambled around to find us a guide and the next morning found us out on a very windy day with Armondo. (sp? Again...) This, as it turns out, was to be our "practice" day and we came back to the lodge skunked, but happy after having seen lots of fish. It also turns out that casting against a sideways super wind to tailing bones is no small feat!

That night's dinner was fantastic and full of stories then right afterward I was whisked away into town on a water taxi along with several others to discover what a Saturday night in San Pedro is all about. (After gaining permission from Karen of course!) Festive is a good word and we somehow managed to stay out of trouble and still catch the midnight taxi home. (Well, most of us anyway, one pilgrim caught the last one at 2:00 am after running into Caesar of all people!)

Sunday morning rolled around and after another fine breakfast it was off to try it again with my wife Karen as a boat partner and Erlindo (sp?) as our guide. The weather was still windy and I explained to him how the day before had been my first try ever and that I didn't know a thing. He then explained to me, with some confidence I might add, that I was just moments away from catching my first bone fish ever. Moments later the drag was singing and shortly after that success was had! I stopped counting with this guy after 13 or 14 fish... He was an excellent instructor in both fishing from the boat and in wading where I caught my best fish, but unfortunately had left the camera back at the boat. (Then again, had I brought the camera with us on the wading parts, I probably wouldn't have gotten them!?)

Shortly after arriving back at the lodge it was evident that John and Heather along with most everyone else had also done well. The afternoon dip in the pool and story telling session around the pool/bar was a good one with lots of animation and there was no doubt about the fact that these guys had a bunch of happy campers on their hands. Here's a few of the Bones we caught. From what I can tell, these fish pictured are about average if not slightly below, but as mentioned there are plenty that are bigger as well. (A "big" bone fish down there is three or four pounds in contrast to the 10+ pounds else ware, but they are much more plentiful.) John had the same thing happen as I did when getting the larger fish...

One of John's...

...and one of Heather's...

...and one of mine.

That night John, Heather, Karen and I all took the water taxi back into town for a quiet dinner together at a place Ray had recommended, but it turned out to be closed on a Sunday so we found another down the road. I'm not sure you can go wrong, but if you can, we didn't find out. We wound up having a great meal at a quaint little place where the service was excellent and the guitar player even better! Wish I could remember the name, but I bet my wife can if you ask her.

Monday found John and I out again, only this time for Tarpon. Our guide for the day was John's guide from the day before (And every day for the rest of the week!) Carlos along with his son/trainee Armon and these guys were a GREAT team! We went to the deep channel first thing in the morning and no sooner had a fly on the rod than Armon spotted a nice fish of around 30 or 40 lbs cruising near the surface, I promptly made a bad cast across the fishes face and was about to make another (bad cast that is) when we spotted a much larger one right off the bow at a fair distance out. I was asked if I could make the cast and I said I could, (not really knowing) but was worried about everyone in the boat behind me. (A little far for a good steeple cast.) The word from the guides was "DON'T WORRY, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!!!"

All I can figure is that everyone behind me must have hit the deck because I had to put a pretty good haul on the line to get it out there and I know it went right over the boat. As luck would have it I shot every bit of line I had out and it thumped to a stop dropping the fly perfectly in front of the fish that was coming straight at us now. I vaguely recall someone yelling for me to strip and my doing the stripping, but what is not vague at all is the fact that I watched my fly drop below the surface, watched the fish drop below the surface after it, lost them both for a moment and the next thing I knew the rod was almost ripped from my hand, there was a large chrome explosion, about seventy five yards of backing went thru the rod tip, another chrome explosion, another seventy five or eighty yards of backing gone, (someone yelling at me to bow now) me looking for the reel handle on the wrong side, another chrome explosion and then a slack line...

It was THE BEST TWO SECONDS OF MY LIFE!!! (OK, maybe a little bit longer, but you get the idea.) By the way, you need to bow to those things when they explode and I don't know why I was even looking for the reel handle yet, had I found it I'd have a few broken fingers and I'm sure a few of my own Salmon and Steelhead clients would have gotten a big chuckle out of that! ;^)

I must admit, I was so excited that I almost peed myself and my legs were shaking so badly that I had to get off the deck, sit down and have an icy cold Belikin (The VERY tasty local ale.) poured down my throat to calm the nerves down. It was nice of the other two boats from the lodge around us to applaud, but I think your supposed to do a little better... The action slowed after that, but Carlos and his son were not about to give up and neither were we, we searched many a flat before finding more fish. These guys were smaller, but tougher due to the low clear water and after John got a few shots with rejections he forced me back on the deck that I had intended not to take until he hooked up.

My luck changed on the next fish in that he (or she, I don't know) took it on the first cast that I actually put where the guide instructed much to my own amazement. I found out later that you're supposed to count how many jumps, but none of us did that and all I can say is it was plenty and I was not only doing a whole lot of bowing, I was also keeping my hand away from that reel! The end result, after a good while, was my first Tarpon, more Belikin and high fives all around...

You should have seen the one that got away, but I'll take this on any given day!

Back at the lodge there was more celebrating around the pool and bar, followed up by some relaxing and then the whole group going out for dinner at a very nice place down the beach a ways. Chris and I fished the next day together with along with guide Tomas and I basically picked a good day to tell Chris he had the deck until he hooked up. We were looking for Tarpon again (Did I mention they are addicting, even when you know you could go hook bones!) and he only had one shot all day, but we did get to see Ray hook and land one first thing in the morning just before heading off to finish a grand slam!

This is the part where the guide appreciated guiding other guides, because we of all people know that when your going for a tough target you may not get ANY shots and we didn't give up. Good thing we loaded the cooler! (Other, more wiser individuals, tried Tarpon for just a bit in the morning then finished the afternoon by catching a bunch of fish. We were just stubborn, but it "could" have paid off.)

A few beers with the boys back at the lodge, a dip in the pool, some more relaxing, (See below) watched John and Heather play volleyball, a great meal in house, some brief socializing with others to celebrate Ray's Grand Slam and an early night for Karen and I finished off day 4.

Relaxing, Steve & Karen style!

Thank goodness for that bad knee thing, this looks like work!.

The gathering place.

Karen and Heather decided to stay at the lodge for what we thought was our last fishing day and let John and I fish together again, so we made a plan to target permit, but to get back a little early and go do some guided snorkeling off the barrier reef in the afternoon. We told Carlos and Armon the idea first thing and they must have thought we meant "catch" permit, because much to everyone's surprise, that's exactly what we did!!

You want to talk about some hard work, these guys were giving it their all plus some to get us on those fish and then keep us on those fish until we each caught one. Finicky and spooky hardly describes them and the hard wind didn't help matters much in positioning the boat, but persistence and a couple of fly boxes later we had success. At one point it was pandemonium as I tied on a new fly to every three cast made by John that was rejected and we switched off rods for each new tie, but it got the job done. I don't know what either of us would have done with the really big permit that they see around the area, (Of course, we're still willing to try!) these smaller guys nearly kicked our butts!

Third fly tried and a lot of luck...

...thirty first fly tried that needed a lot of skill!

My own personal "grand slam" (Doesn't count unless it's all on the same day.) was complete! After John's fish we took off to a nearby flat, each caught a nice bone and then headed for home even earlier than the guides expected having already gotten two days worth from them in our minds. It was actually nice to have a few minutes for a dip in the pool and a walk around before heading out for the snorkeling trip.

I can only hope that the under water photos I took came out at this point as I have yet to take them in. Hard to describe the snorkeling except to say it was spectacular and I now understand why some people go there just for that or a regular diving trip. We saw too much to go into, but if the shots come out I'll scan a few and share them.

A stroll on the beach before dinner.

For the last full day John and Heather decided to fish again and my wife Karen decided that she was content to hang out around the pool all day if I wanted to fish as well. This worked out great because Chris didn't have a fishing partner for the day and he was still on the hunt for a Tarpon, something I not only wanted to see him catch, but also my choice to chase weather we saw one or not! Long story short, very tough conditions in the morning making my idea of an early start not the best idea, but after a long day looking Chris finally got his fish and had another one on!!! (I did take some time on deck this time, just at the wrong time, he, he.) What a way to finish a trip and I can honestly say that I was as stoked about his tarpon as he was, that guy never gave up even when he knew the "catching" was better for other species...

Yea man, now that's what I'm talkin' about!

I wish I had gotten a copy of the list from our host Steve when he was reading off the long list of first fish in our group and handing out pins as awards, because it was impressive! All I can say congrats to all of you that might be reading this, you know who you are and I had a great time with each of you! The trip home on Friday was uneventful except for the sprint in Chicago for about eleven or twelve of us to catch the next flight and the lost luggage that was a result of the too tight time frame. Who cares if they miss place it for a few days on the way back anyway, just don't do it on the way there!

Well, I guess I've gone on and on about that trip enough for one, or two in this case, sittings, but I may share a few more photos at a later date and I do want to say to everyone out there that if you have any interest at all in doing this trip with us as a group next winter (Or the winter after, or the winter after!) please contact the shop and have them give me your contact info, I'll be more than happy to get back to you with any questions. (1-877-422-5394) You can check out the El Pescador web site here and keep in mind that even everyone who did not fish had a fantastic time as well! (Click the "Rates/Specials" link then click the "Fishing and Diving Packages" link to get "an idea" of cost and we can mix it up however you want!)

Raise a glass to Ray on that Grand Slam, not easily done you know!

Tight lines all!

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