Whether or not you agree that global warming is starting to have an impact on our climate there can be little doubt that increasingly normal, seasonable global weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable. From my own observations travelling and fishing around the world I would say that unseasonably strong winds are becoming a problem, along with an almost complete reversal of wet and dry seasons at some tropical locations.
I have just returned from my annual trip to Belize, a much anticipated trip to one of the worlds truly great flats fishing destinations where we target tarpon, bonefish, permit and snook. Typically May is an especially hot month with generally light winds and little if any rain, but this was far from the case this year. On several days strong wind meant we were unable to reach our favourite offshore cayes and flats, and when we did get out heavy cloud cover often made effective sight fishing at best problematic. We also experienced several exceptionally heavy rain showers. All in all the weather was more what you would expect in November, rather than May.
That said we fished hard every day, and during our six days fishing we steadily amassed a decent enough tally of fish. May marks the end of the main flats fishing season in Belize, by which time most of the well known areas will have been given an almost daily pounding with fly rods. Consequently the bonefish at this time of the year are at best ‘spooky,’ and some fish can be bordering on the uncatchable.
A few years back I tied a rather nondescript tan fly, a subtle variation of the Crazy Charlie, which I found worked especially well for hard fished bonefish in The Cayman Islands. Thankfully one of our group, Del Elliot, had packed a few of these flies, which I named ‘Pretty Alison’s’, and when he tried them experienced instant success.
They were tied on a size 6 or 4 hook with a body and tail consisting of peacock hearl, a clear rib as with the classic Charlie pattern, and a sparse wing of tan calf tail. I tie Pretty Alison’s both with and without bead eyes, and on this trip those flies without eyes, the skinny water version, seemed to work best. My assumption is that the fish had become wary of flies displaying too much flash?
The snook fishing we experienced in the rivers was very good, and we had great sport with these and baby tarpon using flies such as the ever successful Clouser Minnows and large surface poppers. We caught several rarely seen swordspine snook on fly, a first for me. Permit were present in decent numbers on most flats, offshore and inshore, and we had plenty of solid shots at tailing fish, but no eats on fly; nothing unusual there!
Tarpon fishing this time last year was exceptional, this year it was extremely tough. Plenty of fish were around, perhaps not as many as usual, but those tarpon we cast to were extremely reluctant to eat a fly. The guides were convinced that the unsettled weather we were experiencing caused by the passing of a near continual succession of low pressure systems had put the fish off the feed, and from previous experience I feel this is highly likely.
Several of our group were happy to fish bait and lures, and when doing so they did catch large numbers of fish including bonefish, permit, big jacks, barracuda, snapper along with a multitude of other species.
I have now fished in Belize on 6 occasions, three times in May, and three times at the very start of the season in November. In November we typically experience a day or two disruption due to weather, but on those days when we do manage to get offshore to fish the flats and reefs the bone fishing in particular has been nothing short of incredible, and we have always seen a lot of permit. At this time of the year inshore there are plenty of snook and small tarpon throughout the jungle rivers and mangrove systems along the mainland, so we expect to fish, and catch fish, every day.
After discussing next years trip with our guides we have made the decision to schedule next years trip in November. Certainly we will be extremely unlucky if the weather impacts upon this trip more than it did this year, but we know that on those days when the sun does shine down from a clear blue sky and the flats are ruffled with a gentle 5-15mph north-easterly breeze, we can expect plenty of shots at tailing fish resulting in bent rods and screaming reels!
Already I have several names confirmed for this trip, along with our return to Puerto Rica for tarpon, most likely in May. If you are interested in either of these trips contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv