COSTA RICA & NICARAGUA MARCH 2015

In my last blog I wrote about my self-guided flats fishing around Boca Paila in the Sián Khan Biosphere, Yucatan, Mexico. I explained how having swum through the narrow mangrove channel that accesses these productive flats I saw a large croc basking at the mouth of that channel, and that later I heard from locals that the area was now deemed very dangerous. Since then I have found a video of a croc attacking a swimmer at the exact same spot; take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jOWGLQ61Ds Over the past few years I have spent an increasing amount of time fishing throughout Central America, a truly fascinating and immensely beautiful part of the world that from my experience boasts some of the very best saltwater sport fishing on the planet. I have just returned from my latest trip during which I fished both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a most memorable 12 days adventure during which I had the pleasure of introducing my son Luke to the many delights of Latin America.

One of Crocodile Bay Resorts fleet of Strike 33 sports boats heads out to sea.

One of Crocodile Bay Resorts fleet of Strike 33 sports boats heads out to sea.

Luke is not a hard core fisherman, but his fishing CV would match that of many a saltwater angler. Luke caught his first shark off the coast of Co Kerry, Ireland, on his 7th birthday, and closely followed it with his second and then third while the rest of the crew were all incapacitated with sea sickness; young Luke remaining unaffected. He was not much older when he joined me on a trip to Iceland catching numerous large cod and haddock, likewise on several trips to Denmark. Together we have fished for striped bass and bluefish off Nantucket, numerous species throughout Florida, bonefish in The Turks & Caicos Islands and billfish in Kenya. Occasionally we have wetted a line together closer to home, too!

The pool at Crocodile Bay Lodge, Costa Rica.

The pool at Crocodile Bay Lodge, Costa Rica.

For the Costa Rica section of our trip we stayed at the world famous Crocodile Bay Resort, located on the southernmost tip of the ecologically magnificent Osa Peninsula, take a look at http://www.crocodilebay.com For many years this magnificent sport fishing lodge has enjoyed a reputation for offering the highest standard of world class fishing, backed up by five start accommodations, gourmet food and service. It has long been on my bucket list of ‘must visit lodges’, but sadly I have to report that it did not meet my expectations. Why sadly? Well actually it didn’t just meet my expectations but greatly exceeded them at every level, which means that now I am struggling with the ever increasing problem of trying to schedule a return visit back there at the very earliest opportunity.

Hooked up off Osa!

Hooked up off Osa!

For the first couple of days we fished offshore, and despite some very unseasonable wet and windy weather we had our shots at sailfish, and soon enough Luke was hooked up with a fast running, high jumping eighty pounder.

Luke preparing to release a nice Pacific sailfish.

Luke preparing to release a nice Pacific sailfish.

The rest of the fleet were catching, and releasing, several sails per boat per day, along with a few blue marlin, dorado and wahoo; and that was during ‘tough conditions’. In the past I have fished these waters on several other occasions when conditions have been far more favourable, and I can tell you that the blue water action off Osa is truly world class. Trips to Crocodile Bay Resort can be booked through Anglers World Holidays.

Inshore fishing off Osa.

Inshore fishing off Osa.

A nice Pacific jack crevalle caught inshore off the Osa Peninsula

A nice Pacific jack crevalle caught inshore off the Osa Peninsula

Rooster fish are the other big attraction off Pacific Costa Rica, and the rich inshore waters off the Osa Peninsula are one of the very best places to hook up with this most iconic species of sportfish. Numerous roosters, Pez Gallo in Spanish, were caught every day during our all to brief stay, along with plenty of snapper, pompano, tilefish, jacks and several other other species.

Fishing for rooster fish off the Osa Peninsula.

Fishing for rooster fish off the Osa Peninsula.

All too soon we were checking out of this sport fishing paradise for the short flight up to San Jose, a night in town including a great dinner & excess of local rum at the Hard Rock Cafe, and an early morning flight across the border to Nicaragua.

Luke takes the controls for the short 30 minute flight from San Jose to Nicaragua.

Luke takes the controls for the short 30 minute flight from San Jose to Nicaragua.

This was my fifth trip to Nicaragua and my third to Rio Indio Lodge, an amazing jungle lodge that despite its remote location somehow manages to offer an equally high standard of fishing, accommodations, service and food as Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica http://www.therioindiolodge.com . I have stayed at many outstanding fishing lodges all around the world, and Rio Indio is one of my all time favourites.

Rio Indio Lodge; one of my all time favourite fishing locations.

Rio Indio Lodge; one of my all time favourite fishing locations.

Located right in the middle of pristine rain forrest near the confluence of the Rio Indio, ‘Indian River’, and the Rio San Juan, you have the option of fishing both the the inshore waters of the Caribbean plus the plethora of jungle lagoons and back waters: you can read about my past trips to Nicaragua under the ‘Memorable Trips’ section of this site.

Nicaragua certainly ranks within the the worlds top three tarpon destinations.

Nicaragua certainly ranks within the the worlds top three tarpon destinations.

Target species are tarpon, snook and rainbow bass along with numerous other species, both fresh and saltwater. So far as tarpon are concerned I would rate the fishing off the coast of Nicaragua around Rio Indio Lodge as certainly being in the top three tarpon destinations in the world. Undoubtedly Florida offers the most accessible tarpon fishing for European anglers, and in terms of the large numbers and the impressive average size of fish caught in Florida, along with the abundance of outstanding guides, the Sunshine State would probably rank as the worlds greatest all round tarpon fishery.

Luke 140 pounder takes to the air.

Luke’s 140 pounder takes to the air.

Nicaragua, however, offers a completely different tarpon fishing experience. Here you’ll be fishing in a remote and very little fished part of the world, set amidst a National Geographic jungle backdrop. The fish are big and plentiful, and during my three trips to Rio Indio I have never seen another sport fishing boat, other than those based at the lodge.

Tarpon, the worlds number one inshore species of sport fish.

Tarpon, the worlds number one inshore species of sport fish.

To give an example of the high quality of fishing available, one afternoon we fished for less than five hours barely a 15 minute run from the lodge dock. Working a combination of bucktail jigs tipped with various soft plastics and live bait we enjoyed spectacular action. Luke hooked his first tarpon almost immediately, on a Sabiki rig while trying to catch livebait, but the end result was both inevitable and quick. His next fish came on a livebait fished on a circle hook, and following a near thirty minute tussle he had the estimated 130-140lb fish alongside the boat and ready for release. This he followed up with three fish in the 60-80lb class, all caught on jigs, with another very big fish lost due to a straightened hook and two others ‘jumped’. Our pre-dinner rums that night were especially sweet!

Luke & Rito pose with one of the four fish released that special afternoon.

Luke & Rito pose with one of the four fish released that special afternoon.

For the rest of our stay at Rio Indio Lodge we alternated between fishing the jungle for bass and snook, tarpon fishing, and going on escorted walks through the jungle. We witnessed a fascinating selection of wildlife while ‘Rito’, our guide for the week, gave us a fascinating insight into the rich flora and fauna of the region.

Rito holds a jack crevalle, a frequently caught species when targeting tarpon.

Rito holds a jack crevalle, a frequently caught species when targeting tarpon.

Welcome to the jungle! Heading off into the rain forest.

Welcome to the jungle! Heading off into the rain forest.

Luke drinking water from a vine held by Rito.

Luke drinking water from a vine held by Rito.

A colourful poison dart frog.

A colourful poison dart frog.

My first trip to Rio Indio Lodge was in late November, planned to coincide with the annual snook spawning run, which offers outstanding light tackle fishing for large numbers of fish. The last two trips have been in March, the dry season, focussing on the rainbow bass and tarpon run offshore. We have caught tarpon on each and every trip, but everyone at the lodge has insisted that the very best tarpon fishing, and especially fly fishing, is to be experienced during September and October. Last year at this time Rito released a huge fish that when after a two and a half hour fight was finally brought alongside the boat was accurately measured at 110” x 48”, putting it at well over 300lb; a possible world record. Unfortunately the fish was fought by three persons so would not have qualified, and in any case they were unable to get the monster aboard. 200lb fish are ‘regularly’ hooked and especially at this time of the year.

Luke getting to know the locals in San Juan Del Norte, formally Grey Town.

Luke getting to know the locals in San Juan Del Norte, formally Grey Town.

Taling it easy in the jungle!

Taking it easy in the jungle!

Consequently I am planning a trip to coincide with this period for October 2016, a trip during which the emphasis will be focussed on tarpon both in the ocean and jungle. We will be fishing lures and bait, and especially focussing on fly. I am told the winds are very light at this time of the year, and if the stories of the large numbers of fish caught then are only half true, we will be in for some amazing action. If you are interested contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717.

Luke fighting a tarpon; I think he'll be back one day!

Luke fighting a tarpon; I think he’ll be back one day!

MEXICAN BONEFISH

I’ve just returned from a week staying at Tulum, a truly delightful Mexican town conveniently located about a two hour drive south of Cancun and, most importantly, right at the entrance to the Sian Ká-an Biosphere. I first visited and fished the amazingly productive flats located within the biosphere a couple of years ago, a trip during which I enjoyed some superb self guided wade fishing on the white sand flats around Boca Paila, check out my earlier blog.

A nice fish from the Boca Paila flats

A nice fish from the Boca Paila flats

Keen to put a bend in my fly rod I headed down to Boca Paila on the first afternoon of my trip. It was really good to see that the road had recently been regraded, so the trip to the flats from our small hotel was a little over half an hour. The flats were just a beautiful as I had remembered, but a relentless 20 knot north-easterly wind and intermittent cloud cover made spotting bonefish a challenge.

Another self guided bone caught on my albino Gotcha

Another self guided bone caught on my albino Gotcha

I broke off the first fish that ate the fly just as I was lifting off to recast, but throughout the course of the next few days I enjoyed some great fishing, catching as many as three bonefish in a few hours fishing, which was all the more satisfying given the testing conditions. Top fly of the trip was a home tied albino Gotcha, consisting of a wing of white craft fur tied on a size 4 Tiemco 811S hook, with brass eyes and just a minimum of flash. I am sure most of the standard Gotcha and Crazy Charlie patterns would have worked, but once you find a fly that does work, why change?

The successful fly

The successful fly

As before I had to walk through dense mangroves and then swim a short distance through a deep channel to access the best flats inside the lagoon, which was not especially difficult indeed given the relentless heat was actually enjoyable. One afternoon as I returned to my hire car I spotted a group of tourists on the Boca Paila bridge clearly excited as they watched something in the water. Thinking it was probably a manatee I strolled up with my camera, just in time to watch a 12-15ft saltwater crocodile ease its bulk from a sandbar into a deep channel; the channel I had just swam through barely 100 yards upstream!

The channels at Boca Paila, nopt a great place for a swim!

The channels at Boca Paila, not a great place for a swim!

Enquiries at the hotel confirmed that yes, recently at least three crocodiles had moved into the area, and one guide I spoke to confirmed that a few months previous a local fisherman had been killed by one. As you can imagine that kind of took the edge of my self-guided swim/wade trips on the flats. Alison was with me when the guide offered this news, also adding that signs had been erected to warn of the dangers of crocodiles, but that they had been removed. “Why don’t you book a guide for a day instead”, she suggested, “I can spend the day enjoying the beach and the hotel spa”? Well, if you insist my darling!

Eduardo with my first fish of the day.

Eduardo with my first fish of the day.

The following morning I met Capt. Eduardo Gomez who guides for Sian Ká-an Fly Fishing, and we set off on what turned out to be one of the most enjoyable days fly fishing for bonefish I have ever experienced. Eduardo clearly knew the plethora of flats and mangrove islands within the biosphere with an intimacy that can only come from many years of first hand experience. With great skill he consistently positioned the boat in the optimum position to provide shelter from the worse of the wind, the best angle of light to spot fish and, most importantly given the strong wind, give me the best shot to cast my fly.

Another great bonefish caught with Capt Eduardo Gomez

Another great bonefish caught with Capt Eduardo Gomez

We caught fish at a steady rate throughout the day, beautiful bonefish fish with a respectable average size of between 2-4lb. Mostly we found them in small groups of two, three or four fish, frequently tailing in shallow water. It was a day of classic sight fishing for bonefish, and my nine hours passed in no time at all. This experience alone is enough to ensure I will be returning to Mexico to fish the Sian Ká-an biosphere at the earliest possible opportunity. For more information contact Sian Ká-an Fly Fishing on Tel: +521 9841845871 or email: bambi_020@hotmail.com

This is one area where you really can combine some first class fishing with a great family vacation. There’s lots of things for all of the family to do, with several historic Mayan sites located within a short distance, one of the nicest being right on the coast at Tulum itself. Downtown Tulum has loads of small funky hotels, we stayed at and recommend the perfectly located Hip Hotel: http://www.hiphoteltulum.com The hotel has a good restaurant, and there is a great choice of places to eat out or sample the local tequila, all within easy walking distance.

Last one to the top buys the donuts!

Last one to the top buys the donuts!

Watch out for the local tequila, it does strange things to your head!

Watch out for the local tequila, it does strange things to your head!

The beautiful Mayan ruins site at Tulum

The beautiful Mayan ruins site at Tulum

A good quality pair of sun glasses are an essential item of equipment for any flats trip, and over the years I have tried most of the best quality brands available. I am a huge fan of Costa Del Mar glasses and this trip I wore my new Costa Permit green mirror glasses, which are fitted with Costa’s industry leading 580 glass lenses. As I have said at times given the prevailing conditions spotting fish was a challenge, and I am absolutely convinced that on this trip those sunglasses helped me spot fish I certainly would not have seen had I been wearing some of my other polarised glasses. If you are planning a trip to the flats be sure to check out these and other glasses in the extensive Costa range fitted with 580 lenses. For more information visit: https://www.costadelmar.com

My Costa Del Mar Permit sun glasses: amazing!

My Costa Del Mar Permit sun glasses: amazing!

BRITISH COLUMBIA SALMON & HALIBUT

Just added the full article I wrote following last years excellent trip to fish off the coast of British Columbia with Doug Olander, editor of American based Sport Fishing Magazine. You’ll find it under the Memorable Trips section of this sight or by clicking: http://davelewisfishing.com/memorable-trips-2/canada-bc-salmon-halibut/ http://www.sportfishingmag.com/gallery/2015/02/double-shot-salmon

One of many chinook salmon caught on this amazing trip.

One of many chinook salmon caught on this amazing trip.

Check out the trip photo gallery published on the Sport Fishing website by clicking on the link. This really was one of the most memorable trips I have been fortunate enough to have undertaken in recent years, certainly a lives ambition fulfilled. I can’t wait to go back, & I am planning on taking a few groups to fish this spectacular fishery for Anglers World Holidays. If you would like to join us contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717.

Also, for more information on general vacations in British Columbia, perfect for all of the family, visit:

http://www.hellobc.com

Another big halibut caught on a Storm jig.

Another big halibut caught on a Storm jig.

PANAMA JANUARY 2015

Rooster fish, ‘Pez Gallo’, are widely regarded as being one of the worlds great species of inshore gamefish. Distributed on the Pacific coast of central and South America between Mexico and northern Peru, Panama is widely regarded as being one of the very best places to hook up with one of these fast running, hard fighting and most beautiful species of fish. Paradise Fishing Lodge, located in Chiriqui District northern Panama, is just a short run from Coiba National Marine Park, which consists of Coiba, the largest island in Central America, and 37 surrounding islands. I had previously been told that if you want to catch rooster fish, lots of rooster fish, big rooster fish, then this is the area to fish. Now, having just spent a week fishing there, all I can say is that my intel was absolutely correct.

One of several 30-40lb roosters caught during the trip.

One of several 30-40lb roosters caught during the trip.

Prior to this trip I had caught a fair few roosters over the years during previous trips to Costa Rica and Panama, but never a really good one, say a fish over 40lb. Well, when we returned to the dock at the end of our first day I had personally boated, and released, 3 fine roosters for an aggregate weight of 100lb, individually estimated at weighing 20lb, 35lb and 45lb; I was delighted. Further, my two boat companions, Derek ‘Del’ Elliott and Ray Jennings had both boated there first roosters.

'Del' with the best fish of the trip, a 55lb+ rooster.

‘Del’ with the best fish of the trip, a 55lb+ rooster.

Releasing a great rooster fish.

Releasing a great rooster fish.

Relaxing at the lodges pool bar, snacking on tasty tuna bake appetisers while ‘rehydrating’ on ice cold bottles of Balboa, we soon learned that everyone of our group of 11 had enjoyed a great day, almost all having released at least one rooster. The two most popular techniques of catching rooster fish in these waters are either popping, or very slow trolling using livebaits, usually blue runners. I found my Shimano 20-30lb SpeedMaster STC 4-Piece, Talica 16 combo loaded with Power Pro was the perfect combination for live baiting using 7/0 Owner circle hooks. Also my new Shimano Wild Romance STC Pelagic Offshore 4-piece popping rod with Twin Power 10000, again loaded with Power Pro, was perfect for casting the small to medium size poppers and stick baits we mostly used.

My best rooster of the trip, estimated at 40-45lb.

My best rooster of the trip, estimated at 40-45lb.

Of course it wasn’t just rooster fish we caught, these rich waters teem with a wide variety of different species. Over the course of our week a good number of cubera snapper to an estimated 60lb were caught, along with plenty of bluefin trevally, Pacific jack crevalle and horse eye jacks, again both on live baits and lures. Even more variety came by way of mullet snapper, African pompano, sierra mackerel, several species of shark, yellowfin tuna, amberjack, bonito and a few others. Black marlin and sailfish were caught offshore every day we fished.

A brace of nice cubera snapper for Del & Ray.

A brace of nice cubera snapper for Del & Ray.

By the end of the week everyone had released rooster fish, with bragging rights for the best fish of the trip going to ‘Del’, with a stunning 55lb+ fish he boated using a stick bait. I was stood alongside him as this fine fish was hoisted aboard, and I think my right eardrum has just about recovered! The following day I witnessed John Phillips hook and almost boat an even bigger rooster. This fish had taken a live 4lb bonito and John almost had it at the boat when it threw the hook. It was easily 60lb+, and I managed to catch the look of shock on John’s face at the exact moment to hook pulled! Luckily John went on the boat a 40lb cubera and a nice African pompano along with plenty of other fish.

Nice mullet snapper for Simon Powell.

Nice mullet snapper for Simon Powell.

Ray fights a good rooster off Coiba Island.

Ray fights a good rooster off Coiba Island.

The moment John lost his monster rooster!

The moment John lost his monster rooster!

John's 40lb+ cubera snapper.

John’s 40lb+ cubera snapper.

And a great African pompano caught on a stick bait.

And a great African pompano caught on a stick bait.

Originally we had planned a possible return visit to Panama for early 2017, but it wasn’t long into this trip before we started kicking around options for an earlier trip. Consequently plans for trips booked to other destinations in the early part of 2016 have been put on hold, and we will be returning to Panama Fishing Lodge in February next year. As things stand it looks very much as if this trip, max 12 fishing three per boat, is full, but if you think you might like to join us or would like to book a private trip to this truly world class operation, I suggest you contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717 ASAP. For more information on the lodge visit: http://paradisefishinglodge.com The last time I blogged I ended with a short review of the new Buff light weight fishing gloves, which are perfect for fly fishing and general protection from the sun. This trip I tried out the heavier duty version of these gloves, designed for regular casting with finger slicing braided lines. Finished in an eye catching dorado pattern, these gloves feature extra padding just where you need it for casting protection, while providing excellent grip and extremely useful patches of toweling that are perfect for wiping sweat and sun cream out of your eyes while fighting big fish.

The new Buff heavy duty, SPF protecting, fishing gloves.

The new Buff heavy duty, SPF protecting, fishing gloves.

Perfect for safely handling fish.

Perfect for safely handling fish.

Fleet of large, fast, spacious & comfortable sport fishing boats based at Paradise Fishing Lodge.

Fleet of large, fast, spacious & comfortable sport fishing boats based at Paradise Fishing Lodge.

The perfect place to end a tough day on the water...

The perfect place to end a tough day on the water…

And don't forget to maintain your fluid levels!

And don’t forget to maintain your fluid levels!

DSC_0488

See you next year!

They are perfect for safely handling strong fish, most of which have either spikes, spines, sharp teeth or all three. One tip, after handling fish in the tropics remember to wash them out thoroughly before packing . I didn’t and the resulting smell in my luggage was unbelievable, as the DEA sniffer dogs at the airport would be able to testify! For more information on these and the wide range of other Buff products visit: http://www.buffwear.co.uk

BELIZE FLY FISHING

Just back from my latest trip to Belize, seven days fly fishing based at ‘Clive’s Place’, Monkey River, Toledo District, in the southern part of that most beautiful country. The weather when we arrived was absolutely perfect, but we were warned things were set to change and that we should make the most of our fishing on the first few days, which is exactly what we did.

One of an estimated 50 bonefish caught on the first day

One of an estimated 50 bonefish caught on the first day

Andrew & George stalk a small school of bonefish on Nicholas Caye

Andrew & George stalk a small school of bonefish on Nicholas Caye

Day one I fished my lifelong friend Andrew Leaves and, as always, local guide George Garbutt, who over the years has also become a very good friend. This was Andrew’s first real attempt at fly fishing for bonefish, and I was keen for him to experience the truly superlative sight fishing Belize is rightly famous for. We started off out on the Sapodilla Cayes, Nicholas Caye to be precise, and it wasn’t long before Andrew was sporting an ear to ear grin as his first fly hooked bonefish rapidly zipped the fly line out through the rod rings. We had a great day and by the time we hit the dock back at Monkey River between us we estimated we had caught around 50 bonefish between 1-3lb, plus a few other bits and pieces, including two strong trigger fish to my fly rod.

George poles Andrew across the flats at Ranguana

George poles Andrew across the flats at Ranguana

Day two we ran north to Tarpon Caye to fish for tarpon, and it wasn’t long before we were casting to cruising and rolling fish up to about 50lb. We had a few fish follow our flies but could not get any to eat, other than one fish that smashed violently at my fly and rather than inhaling it knocked it aside in a bulge of water. After a few hours we ran south to Ranguana Caye, and it wasn’t long before once again we were both catch plenty of nice bonefish up to 3lb+. Ranguana is a tiny caye yet it sports a few huts offering overnight accommodation and a small bar, perfect for a thirst quenching Belikin beer or two at the end of a great day on the water.

A cold Belikin, the perfect end to a 'tough' day on the flats

A cold Belikin, the perfect end to a ‘tough’ day on the flats

Casting to a bonefish off Ranguana

Casting to a bonefish off Ranguana

As promised on day three we woke to a freshening breeze and a heavy sky that promised rain. No chance of getting out to the Sapodilla Cayes, we elected to work the plethora of channels, lagoons and secluded mangrove backwaters that extend north from Monkey River up towards Placencia. I love this sort of challenging fishing, fishing that involves accurately casting flies, lures or baits right under the mangroves, often to laid up or rolling fish. As things turned out the weather was not too bad, and by the end of the day I had released two small tarpon and a snook on fly, with Andrew boating 5 nice snook caught on a lure.

Fly caught snook

Fly caught snook

Small tarpon caught on fly near Placencia

Small tarpon caught on fly near Placencia

Days four and five were tough, wet and windy and while a few odd fish were caught there’s nothing much to report, other than the fact that the weather is it’s own boss and there’s really not a whole lot you can do about it.

Another nice fly caught snook

Another nice fly caught snook

Day six dawned with broken cloud and a much lighter winds, so we elected to run offshore to the Sapodilla’s to catch more bonefish while conditions held. It’s a 22 mile run from Monkey River, 22 miles of butt slamming, spray drenching discomfort, given the prevailing conditions, but at least once we reached the flats conditions were comfortable. At first fishing was tough, the previous days of strong wind and heavy rain had coloured the normally crystal clear water, and appeared to have pushed the bonefish out of shallow water. Until the sun got high enough sight fishing was next to impossible, but when conditions did improve George quickly found us some fish. Once again we were both soon hooked up to fast running bonefish, along with various jacks and some very nice yellow tail and Lane snapper added variety.

Working the mangroves for snook & tarpon

Working the mangroves for snook & tarpon

A nice Belize bonefish caught on a heavy 'Gotcha' variant.

A nice Belize bonefish caught on a heavy ‘Gotcha’ variant.

Day seven, out last day, once again looked like being wet and windy, so we stayed inshore. I boated a couple more small tarpon and a nice horse eye jack and Andrew had a tarpon, all on fly, so a good end to the week. When we got back to Monkey River Ray Jennings and Dave Brady, two of our group of five, soon followed us in with beaming smiles that told of a great day on the water. Right at the death in the last hour of the trip fishing just five minutes from the lodge they had caught the best trophy fish caught during the entire week, a fine brace of snook weighing 13 and 14lb respectively. They made an excellent last night dinner!

Ray & Dave fishing Monkey River for snook.

Ray & Dave fishing Monkey River for snook.

A fine pair, no I'm talking about the fish!

A fine pair, no not Ray & Dave, the fish!

For many years I have been a huge fan of ‘Buff’ headwear, which are the perfect garment to wear in the tropics to protect against the sun and ever present lip cracking winds. Obviously the affects and risks of repeated exposure to UV rays are well known, and aside from the face it is your hands that often get too much sun.

Buff UV protective gloves

Buff UV protective gloves

This trip I got to trial a new pair of UV protective fishing gloves from Buff, which aside from offering sun protection ensure a firm grip on the rod and protect your stripping finger from constant abrasion with the fly line. They were very comfortable to wear and absolutely perfect for what they are designed for, I highly recommend them. For more information on these and the full range of Buff products visit: http://www.buffwear.co.uk

Perfect for fly fishing the tropics

Perfect for fly fishing the tropics

Of course I will be returning to Belize in the near future, and if you think you might be interested in joining me for what undoubtedly is the best value flats fishing anywhere in the Caribbean, contact Anglers World holidays on Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://www.anglersworld.tv

Tools of the trade, a favourite fly reel: Ari T Hart Mach III custom bonefish

Tools of the trade, a favourite fly reel: Ari T Hart Mach III custom bonefish, Sage RPL+ 7wt combo

Welcome to the jungle!

Welcome to the jungle, mangrove fishing in Belize!

WICKED TUNA!

A big Spanish bluefin tuna

A big Spanish bluefin tuna. The Spanish allow a very short period, often just days, when fish can be taken. Outside of this all are released.

Next year, in conjunction with Anglers World Holidays, I will be hosting trips to two exciting new destinations, where catching ‘big’ bluefin tuna will be the focus of our fishing. In June/July, dates to be confirmed ASAP, I will be hosting a couple four night, three days fishing, trips to Javea, in Spain.

This is the size of tuna caught off Javea!

This is the size of tuna caught off Javea!

At present the main period of interest for British anglers fishing at Javea, pronounced ‘Havea’ and occasionally spelt ‘Xavia’, is from late April through until the end of October. Clearly bluefin tuna are going to be the single biggest attraction here, with the season usually starting in early May and extending right through the summer. Of course each year the absolute peak of the tuna run, which typically sees fish in the 100-500lb range caught on an almost daily basis, varies slightly, but in recent years June through early July has been the most productive period.

From mid-July until the end of August Javea gets very busy as it is a popular coastal destination for the Spanish, seeking to escape the cities during the hottest months, and this is reflected in higher prices, but of course the fishing is still very good. Aside from bluefin tuna, albacore, bonito and little tunny, aka false albacore, are also caught throughout the summer and early autumn months.

Another big Spanish bluefin

Another big Spanish bluefin

September see’s the arrival of the first dorado, aka mahi-mahi or dolphin. Typically these are not large fish averaging 2-8lb, but they are abundant, with bigger fish weighing 10-20lblb often caught. The dorado run peaks in early October. Other pelagic species caught here include the Mediterranean spearfish, a sub-species of the Atlantic longbill spearfish, and swordfish.

Albacore caught off Javea

Albacore caught off Javea

Dorado are abundant in September & October

Dorado are abundant in September & October

Aside from the blue water species, the reef fishing is excellent. Key species include dentex bream and amberjack, along with various species of grouper and snapper and numerous smaller bream species. Barracuda, bluefish and leerfish are also caught.

Dentex bream are another speciality off Javea

Dentex bream are another speciality off Javea

The boats we work with are well equipped with top end tackle, mostly Shimano. Offshore the most productive techniques are either trolling, or drifting/casting live baits. Inshore, which often involves fishing within 100 yards of the coastline, very slow trolling using bait, typically freshly caught cuttlefish presented in conjunction with a downrigger, is highly productive; as is jigging.

Javea benefits from it’s own micro-climate, which the World Health Organisation says is one of the healthiest anywhere in the world. The region has more recorded hours of sunshine than anywhere else in Spain. If you enjoy eating out you will find an amazing selection of beachfront restaurants serving fresh fish and meat dishes along with with delicious local wines, invariably at surprisingly good prices. Javea has plenty of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Most airports in the UK have daily flights to either Alicante or Valencia, both an hours drive from Javea.

Bluefish are common throughout the summer months

Bluefish are common off Javea throughout the summer months

Next we are organising a group to fish at Prince Edward Island, on the eastern seaboard of Canada. PEI is the undisputed epicentre of giant bluefin tuna, fish here ‘start’ at around 500lb and are regularly  caught to over 1000lb.

The tuna off PEI are big, typically 500lb+!

The tuna off PEI are big, typically 500lb+!

Already a few places are booked but one or two are left, for a one week trip to include 5 full days tuna fishing. If you think you might be interested in either of these exciting trips, contact Anglers World Holidays ASAP on Tel: 01246 221717

Another PEI monster is brought to the boat. All Canadian bluefin are released

Another PEI monster is brought to the boat. All Canadian bluefin are released

COASTAL BRITISH COLUMBIA

The rich coastal waters off the the coast off British Columbia, Canada’s most westerly province, have long been high on my personal bucket list of destinations to fish. The seemingly limitless opportunities here to catch the various species of Pacific salmon, huge halibut, the fearsome lingcod and the plethora of different types of rock fish that inhabit every patch of reef seemed too good to miss. I finally got to realise my dream this August, thanks to an offer to join Doug Olander, editor of American based Sport Fishing Magazine http://www.sportfishingmag.com on a trip to fish out of two lodges north of Vancouver.

My first coho, a modest though perfectly conditioned 7 pounder

My first coho, a modest though perfectly conditioned 8 pounder

Sadly my high hopes and anticipation prior to the trip were not met: actually they were exceeded by a somewhat considerable margin. Why sadly? Well as my wife Alison will quickly confirm, already next years diary is almost full to bursting point with dates set aside for various trips. Now I am faced with the problem of somehow squeezing in yet another week of fishing at an already congested time of year; yes I intend going back to British Columbia at the very first opportunity!

A solid mid-double chinook caught fishing with Central Coastal Adventures

A solid mid-double chinook caught fishing with Central Coastal Adventures

My trip started with a direct 9 hour flight to Vancouver with Air Canada, followed by an overnight stay at the conveniently located and truly sumptuous Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel http://www.fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond/ The following morning we took the airport shuttle bus for the ten minute hop to the airports south terminal, where we caught our Pacific Coastal Airlines flight for the 350 mile flight north to Bella Bella.

Doug Olander displays a big 20lb plus chinook

Doug Olander displays a big 20lb plus chinook

Here we were met by Trevor Gustafson, who quickly transported us to our first base, Whiskey Cove Lodge, from where we would fish with Trevor’s family run sport fishing operation; Central Coastal Adventures http://centralcoastadventures.ca/index.php An hour or so later we went fishing, and within minutes of starting to slowly troll our lures I was enjoying a lively fight from my first coho salmon.

My biggest chinook of the trip, 28lb

My biggest chinook of the trip, 28lb

The next couple of days passed in something of a blissful rod bending blur during which I caught dozens of coho salmon to 14lb and chinook’s to 28lb, along with numerous halibut to 70lb and a bunch of lingcod and rockfish. At the end of our third day Trevor dropped us off at the impressive floating King Pacific Lodge where for the next few days we would be hosted by George Cuthbert at West Sport Fishing

Doug with one of the many salmon we caught during the trip

Doug with one of the many salmon we caught during the trip

http://www.westsportfishing.com An impressive operation, to say the least, where guests are flown back and forth from Bella Bella airport by helicopter, King Pacific can only be described as a 5* lodge offering superb accommodations and gourmet food. West Sport Fishing run a a huge fleet of extremely well equipped sport fishing boats, there is no need to take any fishing tackle, with guests having the option of either fishing with a guide or, as we did, fishing self-guided.

A very nice 14lb coho salmon

A very nice 14lb coho salmon

Sport fishing fleet at King Pacific Lodge

Sport fishing fleet at King Pacific Lodge

Guests arriving at West Sport Fishing's impressive King Pacific Lodge via helicopter

Guests arriving at West Sport Fishing’s impressive King Pacific Lodge via helicopter

Cheney Point is the salmon hotspot in the area, and its located a mere five minute run from the lodge, perfect for getting out to fish at first light, which is absolute prime time for the biggest chinook salmon that invariably are caught fishing within yards of the kelp strewn rocks. Doug proved the first light point perfectly by taking our biggest salmon of the trip, a stunning 30lb 8oz fish that inhaled a plug cut herring within moments of setting it on the down rigger to fish.

Daybreak off Cheney Point, prime time for big chinook

Daybreak off Cheney Point, prime time for big chinook

That fish was just one of dozens of salmon, both coho and chinook, we caught during our three day stay. I thought I was in salmon fishing heaven, but everyone told me that the fishing of late had been ‘kind of slow’, which begs the question, just how good is it when the fishing is really good?

A nice early morning chinook salmon off Cheney Point

A nice early morning chinook salmon off Cheney Point

Aside from salmon we spent some time offshore fishing for halibut, and once again found catching them was little more than a formality.

A nice Pacific halibut caught, as many others were, on a Storm Giant Swim Shad

A nice Pacific halibut caught, as many others were, on a Storm Giant Swim Shad

We got lingcod to almost 40lb, and a veritable smorgasbord of colourful rock fish including stunning yellow eye rock fish to 11lb. By the end of the trip I had added 15 new species to my personal tally. The staggering beauty of coastal BC really has to be experienced to be fully appreciated, truly this is a very special part of our planet.

George Cithbert with a near 40lb lingcod

George Cuthbert with a near 40lb lingcod

Aside from world class fishing the areas flora and fauna is both rich and varied. During our stay we watched numerous sea otters in classic repose, lying on their backs as they contentedly munched away at a sea urchin.

Doug holds a silver grey rock fish

Doug holds a silver grey rock fish

Daily we saw whales, both killer whales and enormous humpbacks, often within casting range of the boat. There are bears and wolves here, too, and the birdlife is equally spectacular with numerous bald headed eagles that sit on the highest outcrops of rock, patiently waiting for their chance to swoop on any hapless rock fish floating on the surface; they know an easy meal when they see one!

Biggest salmon of the week, a 30lb 8oz chinook caught at first light

Biggest salmon of the week, a 30lb 8oz chinook caught at first light

A stunning 11lb yellow eye rock fish. These are frequently caught weighing better than 20lb

A stunning 11lb yellow eye rock fish. These are frequently caught weighing better than 20lb

To say I was impressed with BC would be a gross understatement, truly it blew me away. Not surprisingly already I am planning a return trip, probably August 2015. If you’d like to join the group I plan on taking then contact Anglers World Holidays on 01246 221717, places are limited. http://www.anglersworld.tv

A vermillion rock fish, one of 15 new species I caught during this trip

A vermillion rock fish, one of 15 new species I caught during this trip

BUD N’ MARY’S MAY 2014

Strong and unseasonable winds prior to and throughout the first few days of our annual trip to Bud n’ Mary’s, Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, resulted in a relatively tough weeks fishing, yet by the end of our stay everyone had ticked off several fish from their personal ‘bucket lists’, notably tarpon and permit, along with elusive sawfish; specimens to over 500lb of these prehistoric fish released at the boat on each occasion they were targeted. The tarpon fishing in particular had been affected by the winds, which came on the back of some late cold fronts at the end of April. A serious shortage of live mullet, again a result of the weather, added to the situation. As you would expect fishing early morning produced the most tarpon bites, with as many as three 100lb+ fish being released in a session when finally things settled down towards the end of the week.

Paul Bowen & Terry Thomas get the Capt jim Wilcox 'jungle experience'!

Paul Bowen & Terry Thomas get the Capt Jim Wilcox ‘jungle experience’!

A 6lb bonefish from the flat in front of Bud n' Mary's for Andrew Leaves

A 6lb bonefish from the flat in front of Bud n’ Mary’s for Andrew Leaves

Andrew Leaves with when of several Cape Sable snook

Andrew Leaves with one of several Cape Sable snook

Capt Bill Bassett with a nice little back country redfish

Capt Bill Bassett with a nice little back country redfish

In total our group caught an impressive 10 different species over 100lb during the week, which in my book is not bad for a ‘tough week’! These included: tarpon, goliath grouper, sawfish, stingray along with lemon, bull, blacktip, tiger, hammerhead and, of course, ‘nancy the nurse shark’! Fishing the mangrove jungles around the southern end of the Everglades up around Cape Sable, one of my personal favourite days on the water, produced redfish, snook, spotted sea trout, sheep’s head and numerous back country other species. Other species caught throughout the week included several good bonefish, lots of different species of snapper & grouper, etc, etc.

Cape Sable saltwater croc, not a good area to wade and fish!

Cape Sable saltwater croc, not a good area to wade and fish!

Of course by the end of our week the weather was perfect, which pleased me as after dropping the group off at Miami airport I met my wife, Alison, & we drove west for a week in Naples, followed by four days further up the coast on Sanibel Island. We have stayed at Naples many times, and when we do so I like nothing better than to get up early and fly fish the beach and mangrove flats and channels at Clam Pass, a few miles north of downtown Naples. Snook are one of my personal favourite species, and over the years I have been fortunate enough to have caught many while fly fishing at Clam Pass. This year the fishing was as good as ever and I caught snook on 5 of the six sessions I fished at Clam Pass, not big fish by any measure but great fun on a fly rod, and a very satisfying way to start the day. Unfortunately we had to cut our stay on Sanibel short & return home three days earlier than planned, so I will have to return again to experience what everyone tells me is the best shore based snook fishing anywhere…

Bill Bassett points out a crack of dawn tarpon while staked out fly fishing

Bill Bassett points out a crack of dawn tarpon while staked out fly fishing

A fly caught snook from Clam Pass

A fly caught snook from Clam Pass

Everyone has confirmed they will be returning to Bud n’ Mary’s in the near future, and already next years trip, leaving May 9th, is full. Such is the popularity and quality of fishing on this trip we are looking at the possibility of organising a second week next year. If you are interested contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717.

Paul Bowen's hammerhead shark alongside the boat

Paul Bowen’s hammerhead shark alongside the boat

One of several big sawfish caught this year

One of several big sawfish caught this year

Another 'mud marlin' is brought alongside the boat

Another ‘mud marlin’ is brought alongside the boat!

Paul Bowen fighting his hammerhead shark with Capt. jim Wilcox

Paul Bowen fighting his hammerhead shark with Capt. Jim Wilcox

Big stingray ready for release

Big stingray ready for release

I've decided to take up gator wrestling, well you've got to start somewhere!

I’ve decided to take up gator wrestling, well you’ve got to start somewhere!

ARCTIC NORWAY

Just back from a very cold, very windy, very snowy week based at Kokelv in the far north of Norway, a short distance from The North Cape. In reality the weather was nowhere near as cold as it can get at these latitudes in late March, but following a run of trips to exotic, tropical destinations it was certainly cold enough for me!

Chris Bett with one of many double figure cod, caught on a pick

Chris Bett with one of many double figure cod, caught on a pick

Kokelv is a prime location at which to intercept the annual run of ‘skrei’, the big run of outsize cod that migrate from the Barents Sea to spawn in the northern Norwegian fjords between February and April. The weeks prior to our trip the word from other key locations in the region such as Soroya, a short run from the mouth of the Revsbotn Fjord in which Kokelv is located, was that the fishing was incredible, with lots of 30, 40 and 50lb plus fish, and even bigger specimens up to 90lb having been caught. Local fishermen working jigging machines, we were told, had had to cut back from using 8 to 5 lures on their lines, as they were catching so many outsize fish!

Andy Griffith with a near twenty pounder

Andy Griffith with a near twenty pounder

Like most Norwegian fjords Revsbotn offers a good amount of shelter, offering a lee shore from which to fish given all winds other than those blowing out of the north-west. Of course the wind during our 6 days was almost exclusively a nor-wester, and it was so strong that on our first day we were unable to fish, not the best start to any trip. We did get out each day for the rest of the trip, with conditions varying from a rough to relatively calm sea, along with frequent, heavy snow storms. Guess what the weather was like the day we left? Yes you’ve got it, perfect, the sea mirror calm beneath a clear blue sky with similar conditions forecast for the next week!

Gary holds a 20lb plus cod

Gary Haysom holds a 20lb plus cod

Yes the fishing was tough, very tough at times, but by the end of the trip our biggest cod was 44lb, we had caught at least 4 fish over 30lb, 20 over 20lb and a lot of double figure fish. Variety came our way with some decent wolffish and haddock and at least one big halibut was lost, so all in all, given the conditions, a fair weeks fishing.

At times conditions were challenging!

At times conditions were challenging!

The thing is, these days Norway has become a victim of its own success. Too many anglers traveling here on their first trip have convinced themselves that the fishing is going to be easy, and that they are ‘guaranteed’ to catch lots of fish including fish up to the 40-50lb range. Well the reality is it’s not that easy and while the fishing can be truly spectacular, even ridiculously easy at times, the fishing in Norway can be as fickle as the fishing anywhere, and nobody can control the weather.

Time for coffee I think!

Time for coffee I think!

Early season trips such as this one do offer your best ‘chance’ of hooking a massive cod, a fish in excess of 50-60lb, but my advice to anyone planning their first trip to this amazing sea angling destination would be to book a trip between late May and the end of September. At this time of year there are a lot more fish around, including plenty of cod in the 20-40lb range, and aside from an improved chance of getting favourable weather, you have a lot more hours of daylight to work with if the weather is against you. One of the highlights of this trip for me and those clients who joined me, were skidoo trips into the mountains above Kokelv, to fish through the ice of the many frozen lakes for arctic char and trout. This is a great way to get a true feel for the remote vastness and beauty of arctic Norway, and fishing through a self-drilled hole in the ice certainly has its own special appeal!

Me and my skidoo!

Me and my skidoo!

Fishing aside, roaring across a vast expanse of virgin snow at speeds of up to 80kph is a real adrenaline rush, a combination of ‘Easy Rider’ meets ‘Frosty the Snowman’ with a pinch of ‘Mr Crabtree’ thrown in for good luck!

Sam fishing for char. Not the scoop, essential for clearing rapidly forming slush out of your hole!

Sam fishing for char. Note the scoop, essential for clearing rapidly forming slush out of your hole!

Arctic Char caught through the ice

Arctic Char caught through the ice on maggots and squid

Anglers World Holidays were the pioneers of saltwater sport fishing in Norway here in the UK, and today represent many of the very best camps. If you are interested check out their website at: http://www.anglersworld.tv or Tel: 01246 221717.

An arctic char is hauled through the ice

An arctic char is hauled through the ice

Norwegian fish finder!

Norwegian fish finder!

ST LUCIA & 100+ CLUB!

Just home from an enjoyable week in St Lucia, but no fishing this time, just an excess of sun, sea, sand and very good rum! St Lucia is a beautiful island, and the people are genuinely friendly and helpful to visitors. There’s plenty to see and do, with a trip to the rain forests an absolute must. I had hoped to find some inshore fishing for tarpon, snook, jacks and possibly bonefish, but all of my prior research had ended in a blank and having now been there I, too, must conclude that if such fishing is available then it is being kept a very closely guarded secret, certainly it is not a realistic option for those on a typical Caribbean

Secluded beach on Pigeon Island, St Lucia

Secluded beach on Pigeon Island, St Lucia

island holiday.

Cable car ride through St Lucian rain forest

Cable car ride through St Lucian rain forest

There is, as I discovered, some excellent blue water fishing offshore. Boats here catch reasonable numbers of small to medium size blue marlin, plus occasional white marlin, along with good numbers of sailfish, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, dorado and all of the other usual blue water pelagic species. Several companies book game fishing charters, two of the best I found are B.B.C Yachting and Exodus Boat Charters, both who are based at Rodney Bay Marina, conveniently close to some of the most popular hotels and resorts. They can be contacted through their respective websites at: http://www.bbcyachting.com and http://exodusstlucia.com

Exodus Boat Charters Cabo game boat

Exodus Boat Charters Cabo game boat

Rodney Bay Marina

Rodney Bay Marina

Mrs Lewis, 'Alison', finally finds a way of going for a swim without getting her hair wet!

Mrs Lewis, ‘Alison’, finally finds a way of going for a swim without getting her hair wet!

Visiting St Lucia was for me something of a milestone. I have travelled extensively all of my life, especially since leaving home at 16 to join the Merchant Navy. For some years now I have had a hankering to reach 100 countries and qualify for membership to the ‘Travelers Century Club’. In order to qualify for membership to the TCC you need to have visited 100 different countries and overseas territories from an internationally accepted list of 324 locations. Each of these locations are defined by various criteria, but essentially they are all geographically, ethnologically or politically separate. You can find the list on the Travelers Century Club website at http://travelerscenturyclub.org

Following interest generated by this years trip to Rio Indio Lodge in March, check out the previous blog if you missed it, there is a possibility we might be booking a return trip to this amazing location next March. Aside from the excellent fishing we experienced this year, and reports from the few weeks since we got home have have confirmed the fishing has been even better, I for one am especially keen to revisit at the same time next year. A March 2015 trip will be either instead of or in addition to the one previously advised for October 2015. Sept/Oct is regarded as being the very best time for tarpon fishing the twice annual tarpon run off Central America, but March is, as we witnessed, a very close second. Additionally the jungle fishing peaks in March, as its the dry season and fish tend to get congregated, and as we experienced the snook fishing in March can be phenomenal. If you think you might be interested, please get in touch.

This is why I am so keen to get back to Nicaragua ASAP!

This is why I am so keen to get back to Nicaragua ASAP!

 

This is why I am so keen to get back to Nicaragua ASAP!