DESTINATION BELIZE 2018!

I have not long returned from my latest trip to Belize, and already I am excited about the prospects of going back next year. Belize really is the perfect destination for fly fishing, as well as general light tackle fishing with lures or bait. It’s a beautiful destination where regardless of the weather you can be sure of a fun filled day on the water, and invariably productive days fishing; it’s great value for money, too.

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Good morning Belize!

November is pretty much the start of the fishing season in Belize, with many of the most productive flats having received minimal if any fishing pressure during the previous weeks if not months, consequently most fish are much less spooky. November is the end of the rainy season in this corner of the Caribbean and while you should expect a few heavy showers, as you can see from these images you should also look forward to plenty of superb weather; perfect conditions for sight fishing!

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Nice morning for a walk!

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Incoming, one O’clock, 40ft, and yes, they are all bonefish

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Are bonefish the perfect light tackle, shallow water species of gamefish, I think so!

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Best of all when caught on a fly!

This year our group caught literally hundreds of bonefish the biggest specimens nudging 5lb, which is a very nice bonefish for Belize. Over the years I have been fishing in Belize I have noticed the average size of bonefish we have caught there has steadily increased, this trip I saw a few honest three pounders on most days. Fishing the various jungle rivers and mangrove creeks produced small tarpon and snook, with various species of jack, snapper and grouper adding variety elsewhere. One day one crew ventured outside the reef to troll lures, which resulted in a very nice brace of 30lb wahoo and a few blackfin tuna. Of course we all tried for permit and each time we had our shots, but as is so often the case when targeting these spookiest of spooky fish none were caught.

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The average size of Belizean bonefish has steadily increased during the years I have been fishing there.

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Andrew Leaves holds a very nice fish.

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A nice one for Simon Powell, too!

As always the general ambience of Belize was what really made the trip. Each evening we would visit our favourite bars and restaurants where we knew we would experience the warmest of welcomes, the coldest beers, superb local rums plus, of course, great food! English is the main language in Belize, which certainly keeps things simple.

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Fly caught yellowtail snapper.

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We caught plenty of jacks of various species.

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Along with numerous user friendly size tarpon for the mangrove creeks.

Next years trip is already planned, and fully booked, but if you would like to organise a private trip or join me on a future hosted trip, you should contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: https://anglersworld.tv.     

Wearing the correct clothing when fishing in the tropics certainly makes for comfortable fishing plus adequate protection from the sun, and for many years now I and most of my friends have relied on AFTCO for our tropical apparel. This iconic American company certainly produces the best lightweight, breathable and fast drying clothing that I have ever worn. You can check out their comprehensive and stylish range of technical sort fishing products at: https://aftco.com

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Another tough day in the office!

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That was fun, where next, I want to catch another one!

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I wonder if that place is for sale!

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A friendly manatee pays us a visit!

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DESTINATION ANGLER II AND SOME BIG FISH!

First blog post for some months as life has been crazy busy which, I suppose, is good! Most of the summer was spent finalising Destination Angler II, which was published early last month. Initial reviews have been tremendous and already over 150 copies have been sold. Get in touch if you would like a copy, cost is £30 plus £3.99 p&p to a UK address, overseas at cost. Easiest to email me on david.lewis21@hotmail.com

DA2 DUSTJACKET

Destination Angler II, the story continues, another 26 chapters relating my fishing experiences at destinations in fresh & saltwater, all around the world.

 

Last month I set off on what undoubtedly was the most adventurous charter trip I have ever been on in the UK. Here is an extract from my article, which is in the current issue of Sea Angler Magazine.

The trip had been conceived months ago, inspired by a conversation Kevin had had with a commercial fisherman who often fished gill nets in the area we were heading for. From the start it had the potential to be a truly groundbreaking adventure, as almost certainly the ground we were planning to fish had never before been fished by any charter boat. “Huge sixgill sharks frequently become entangled in our nets and there are lots of big skate around, too, especially blue skate,” Kevin’s contact had said, inspiring indeed inflammatory words to arguably the UKs most adventurous charter skipper.

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Heading west into the open Atlantic, and unknown sport fishing potential.

“Blue skate,” I had remarked when Kevin had retold the fisherman’s story, “what on earth are blue skate, I’ve never heard of them?” Kevin explained that he hadn’t heard of this species, either but had since discovered that up until the 1926 blue skate were recognised as being an entirely separate species, before scientific opinion of the day decided that they were really just common skate.

Not convinced, a few years ago CEFAS, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, instigated a tagging program and commissioned research to find out more about blue skate. Their results have confirmed that blue skate are indeed a separate species from common or flapper skate, Dipturis intermedius, and in 2010 blue skate were reclassified as being a separate genus, Dipturus batis.

Thankfully sea conditions were good and we enjoyed a comfortable night, each of us grabbing a few hours sleep when we could. At the break of dawn over porridge and hot coffee we decided that the capture of either a single sixgill shark or a blue skate would qualify the trip as being a resounding success, anything else would be regarded as a bonus. A couple of hours later Kevin eased back the throttle and when Size Matters came to a stop the anchor chain clattered out over the bow, and fell away to the seabed 450ft beneath us.

One of our crew, Phil Riley, who along with John Owen had charted Size Matters for this trip, had personally caught numerous sixgill sharks before, all of them over 1000lb, at Ascension Island where he owns a charter boat. Phil explained that at Ascension they only ever caught six gills at night, but we also knew that for many years Irish charter skipper Luke Aston has caught many grander class sixgills fishing during the daytime, off Loop Head on the Co Clare coast, so we really didn’t know what to expect. The fact was that a sixgill shark had never been caught aboard a British angling boat that had actually been targeting them, the few reported captures of the species have all been immature fish that had l been caught by accident. The current British record was held with a fish caught off Penlee Point, Plymouth in 1976, it weighed just 9lb 8oz.

With Size Matters settled at anchor one by one we very slowly lowered three super sized multi-mackerel baits down to the bottom, dropping these down too quickly would invariably result in tangles. Kevin’s strategy was that by using as much mackerel as we could throughout the day, given the undoubted attention of smaller species pecking away at the baits by dusk a strong oily slick will have drawn any sizeable sharks or skate to the area we were fishing.

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The first of many blue shark we caught.

A forth bait was set drifting beneath a float, with which we expected to catch a blue shark or two. We did not want to attract too many sharks to the area by using rubby dubby, as they would undoubtedly attack our bottom baits as they were being dropped. Finally with the four primary baits fishing I grabbed a light rod rigged with a set of mackerel lures, baited the small hooks with small pieces of mackerel, and dropped down to see if I could catch any of the unusual deepwater species we knew were found over the ground we were fishing.

As soon as I felt the lead touch bottom the rod tip registered a tip rattling bite, and a gentle bend when I lifted the blank indicated I had hooked a fish, albeit a small one. What was it, we all wondered as I wound it up through the water column, a Ray’s bream, perhaps a boar fish, possibly even a grenadier? When finally we got our first glimpse of the little fish in the clear water our questions were answered; I had caught a poor cod! Ditto the next couple of drops. Eventually I did manage to catch one of the iconic deep water species associated with the near continental shelf, a blue whiting, which I closely followed with a second. Very similar to a common whiting, blue whiting, Micromesistius poutassou, have a noticeably larger eye and when handled shed scales freely like a poor cod, revealing a body which is, as the name suggests, tinged with blue.

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One of the rarely seen blue whiting I caught.

Less than an hour after starting to fish the ratchet on the reel fishing the suspended near surface bait screamed, as a decent fish grabbed it and made off on a short, fast run. John Owen grabbed the rod, eased the lever drag forward, allowed the tension to gradually increase giving the circle hook time to locate in the sweet spot in the corner of the fish’s jaw, then bent into the first of numerous small to medium sized blue sharks that we boated at regular intervals throughout the day.

As we released John’s shark the tip on one of the three bottom rods indicated a bite. Watching the rod tip intently as he buckled on a stand up harness and ‘Quint like,’ carefully clipped the straps to the reel lugs, Phil gave the fish plenty of time to take the big bait by free spooling a few yards of line. When he was satisfied the fish had eaten the bait he pushed the lever back to strike, reeled the line tight, and set the hook.

While Phil had clearly hooked a sizeable fish it was all too obvious that it was nothing especially large, and most of us suspected it was going to be one of the many spurdog we had been told were often prolific throughout the area. As Phil worked his fish up through the water column the remaining four of us leaned over the side, again straining for that first tell tail glimpse of the fish. You can imagine our surprise when rather than a spurdog a mid-double conger came into view, the first of several 10-20lb plus eels we caught.

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Small conger eel were a nuisance at first.

A little before midday Phil once again attached his stand up harness, only this time when he lifted the rod and set the hook it was immediately obvious he had hooked something much bigger than a strap eel. Five minutes, ten minutes then fifteen minutes ticked by before finally Phil’s fish came into view; a sixgill shark! We had only been fishing a couple of hours and already we had achieved our ultimate goal and boated a decent sixgill. As soon as the necessary history making photographs of the UKs first targeted sixgill were taken and it had been accurately measured it was released. When applied to the standard formula, length times girth squared decided by 800, it produced a weight of 204lb.

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Our first 6-gill shark, we calculated that she weighed 204lb

The sixgill or bluntnose shark, Hexanchus griseus, is the largest hexanchoid shark, growing to 26ft in length. It is found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide and its diet is widely varied, though essentially it is a bottom feeder that relies on scavenging. Its head is indeed blunt, similar to that of a bull shark, but in its behaviour the fish is more bull huss than bull shark. A strong fish, the fight is more dogged than exhilarating as the fish writhes and squirms, occasionally making strong, spirited dives back to the seabed.

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No prizes for guessing just how the 6-gill shark got its name!

We were still congratulating ourselves on the capture of our first sixgill when John set the hook in another decent fish, and once again five pairs of eyes strained over the side to see just what it was that he had caught. It is often said that a huge part of the attraction of sea angling is that you never really know exactly what you might catch, but in reality most days when fishing around the UK you do have a pretty good idea. That day, though, we really did not know if the next bite was going to result in another strap conger or a 1000lb plus sixgill shark; it really was an incredible experience.

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Fish on!

Finally when John’s fish came into view we could see it was a skate and when it was boated our crewman, who has spent time working aboard commercial boats in the area, confirmed it was indeed a blue skate. Give away characteristic included a well defined pointed head and a distinct body colouration. It weighed 35lb, our second British record of the day. To absolutely confirm our capture the fish had, quite unbelievably, been tagged with a CEFAS tag. When Kevin phoned the information through a few days later a CEFAS spokesman confirmed that yes it was indeed a blue skate originally tagged in 2015, just five miles away from where we had been fishing. It was early afternoon and already we had achieved both of our primary goals but there was more, much more to come.

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The first blue skate. Very little is known about this unusual species.

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There was absolutely no doubt about its identity, as it had been tagged by CEFAS who later confirmed that yes, it was a blue skate.

John’s next fish was our second sixgill which we measured and calculated to weigh 242lb, setting the bar for the species even higher. As both Phil and John had each boated a sixgill they generously asked whether I would like to take the next fish and, of course, I gratefully accepted their offer. It wasn’t long before I was slugging it out with my own fish, which turned out to be another very nice sixgill which we calculated to weigh 237lb; my largest ever British caught fish.

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Fighting my first 6-gill, my lower back really appreciated the comfort & support of my AFTCO stand up harness. This is the most comfortable harness I have ever used.

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My first 6-gill shark.

Not long afterwards we spotted a huge flock of shearwaters milling over the surface several hundred yards astern of us, with large splashes of white water beneath them: tuna! For several minutes we watched in awe as a vast shoal of bluefin tuna including many fish weighing well into the several hundreds of pounds gradually worked their way past us. If only we could legally target these incredible sports fish in British waters…

Soon enough the sun started to set, and once again Size Matters became shrouded in the inky blackness of nighttime on the open ocean. With her deck lights illuminated it wasn’t long before large shoals of fish appeared in the pool of light around us. At first these were minuscule 2-3in mackerel but these were soon joined by Atlantic saury, Scomberesox saurus, and it wasn’t long before these attracted a pod of feeding dolphin.

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Atlantic saury

Kevin hooked the first fish of the night, and with three sixgill shark already boated, we were confident he had hooked our forth. As Kevin fought he fish a second rod bent over, and Phil set the hook into another fish; a double hook up! Both anglers quietly played their fish while the rest of us cleared the decks and prepared for what we hoped would be a unique double shot of sixgill sharks but no, while Kevin had indeed caught sixgill number 4, Phil had caught our second blue skate. It was clearly bigger than the fish we had taken earlier in the day, but in the excitement we forgot to either measure or weigh it.

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Kevin Mckie gave a big thumbs up for my AFTCO stand up harness, too!

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Double trouble. A 6-gill for Kevin, and a blue skate for Phil.

When Phil Riley lifted into the next fish it was instantly obvious he had hooked something much, much larger than anything we had already caught. The savage bend in his rod as he leant back in his harness was evidence of great bulk, and when that fish came into view beneath the boat it was monstrous, an enormous great fish that took the combined efforts of four of us to haul her aboard. She only just managed to squeeze her bulk through the transom door, which was no surprise as when accurately measured we calculated her weight at 512lb, making her quite possibly the largest shark ever actually boated aboard a UK charter boat.

Sixgill number six was hooked soon afterwards by John Owen, and clearly it was another very good fish. By now a gradually increasing breeze was driving a cold drizzle in from the open Atlantic, as the distant weather front the clouded horizon around sunset had promised headed slowly but surely towards the British Isles. John eventually played his fish to the back of the boat, and she was boated and calculated to weigh 320lb. It was two o’clock in the morning and whereas our original plan had been to fish until dawn then haul anchor and head for home in daylight, a quick show of hands confirmed that each and every one of us was more than happy to call it a day and head in early.

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512lb of angry 6-gill shark, almost certainly the largest shark ever actually boated aboard a UK charter boat.

It was a long run back and it was three thirty that afternoon before finally Size Matters was brought alongside at Plymouth. Rather than fatigue all five of us were buzzing from the incredible experience, with the reality of what we had achieved only just starting to sink in. Kevin has named the mark Jurassic Park, a fitting title, and I for one can’t wait until my next trip out to this incredible fishing ground. Surely this is one of the very last untouched marks off the British Isles; who knows just what else is lurking out there?

TRIP ACHIEVEMENTS:

First ever successfully targeted British sixgill shark.

Unofficial British record for sixgill shark, 512lb.

First ever successfully targeted British blue skate.

Unofficial British record for blue skate, 35lb.

Almost certainly the largest shark of any species ever actually boated, measured and released aboard a British charter boat.

Kevin Mckie is now the first skipper to boat all three British species of skate, having caught common/flapper and a rare white skate, another unofficial British record, earlier this year in Scotland. Size Matters is now the first British charter boat to catch 5 x 100lb plus species in a single year including blue, porbeagle and sixgill shark, common and white skate.

To book a trip aboard Size Matters contact Kevin Mckie on mobile: 07999 628511; email: mckiesfishingcharters.co.uk; or visit: www.mckiesfishingcharters.co.uk You can find Kevin on Face Book at: mckiesfishingcharters

 

DESTINATION PUERTO RICO!

Not long back from another hugely successful group trip to Puerto Rico, once again fishing with Caribbean Fishing Adventures and based at The Tarpons Nest Lodge. Six days fishing during which everyone caught plenty of tarpon, biggest fish landed was over 100lb but MUCH bigger fish were lost! Bait fishing this year was incredible, lots of 30-60lb ‘user friendly’ size fish. Trips to this amazing tarpon and snook destination can be booked from the UK with Anglers World Holidays Tel: 01246 221717. Get in touch if you would like to join me on the next trip!

Fly fishing produces lots of small to medium sized tarpon.

John Shervington hooked up to a very nice fish in the San Juan Lagoon.

And people sometimes ask what is so special about tarpon!

My home tied black and purple EP Fibre minnows were the hot fly of the week.

Locals use cast nets to catch bait, which they sell for $1 apiece.

John Shervington invested in a few, which he went on to put to good use!

Del Elliot jumps a small tarpon on fly.

Most of the tarpon caught on fly weigh less than 10lb, the perfect size size for the 8wt & 9wts we were using.

Imagine hooking this fish on an 8wt!

My last fish of the trip, I caught fish on fly every single day. Puerto Rico really is the perfect destination for both fly and bait fishermen, families, too!

There are lots of small snook, which add a bit of variety when fly fishing.

Capt. Angel Muntaner heads for the next tarpon hotspot. Some of the most productive marks are two or three minutes from the lodge. None are more than 10 minutes away.

DESTINATION BELIZE-2018!

Just back from my latest trip to one of my all time favourite destinations: Belize. I had the pleasure of spending a week with my son, Luke, on one of our regular ‘dads n’ lads’ trips away together, and as always we had an absolute blast.

Luke hooked up with his first fly caught bonefish.

This was Luke’s first trip to Belize and I wanted to show him as much of what this most beautiful and peaceful Central American country has to offer, as I possibly could. I had booked three days fishing with me great friend George Garbutt, one of the very best guides I have ever had the privilege of fishing with. Luke, now 28, caught his first bonefish fishing with me in the Turks and Caicos Islands when he was just 7 years old, casting jigs into vast schools of fish. The objective this trip was to catch a few on fly sight fishing over shallow water flats, and on our first day within minutes of starting to fish  George had him hooked up with a fast running fish, one of a bunch we caught that day.

Luke and George with a fly caught bonefish.

Throughout the rest of the three fishing days we had a great time chasing baby tarpon in various inland rivers and creeks, and Luke caught some great mutton snapper and barracuda on lures. Aside from fishing our days with George included plenty of swimming and snorkelling over coral reefs, jungle walks and a lot of simply enjoying being out on the water together watching dolphin, manatees and countless species of birds.

Luke holds one of several mutton snapper he caught, very tasty they were, too!

One of a bunch of bones I caught during the trip.

Luke holds a baby fly caught tarpon, always tremendous fun on light tackle.

Exploring the Belizean jungle with George.

On our last day we booked a trip to visit the Mayan ruins at Nom Li Punit Archaeological Reserve in the far south of the country, not far from the border with neighbouring Guatemala. This was a great opportunity for Luke to get a good look at the country as well as try some great Belizean street food, Taco Bell eat your heart out!

Taco Bell Belizean style; the best!

Entering the caves at Blue Creek

Think I’m getting too old for this adrenaline junkie tourism lark!

We also visited idyllic Blue Creek where we got to swim into a vast system of limestone caves, climbing several fast flowing waterfalls. That was physically demanding enough for a 57 year old dad but Luke relished the challenge, and given the chance he would have gone straight back in for another go! Each evening during the week I took Luke to my favourite waterside bars in Placencia, where over many chilled Belikin beers and generously poured local rum n’ cokes he got to experience the genuine Caribbean vibe. It was certainly a most memorable trip that was over all too soon, and we are already starting to plan our next trip together.

I’m thinking of moving to Belize, this is my dream house but it require a bit of work!

DESTINATION COSTA RICA!

Costa Rica has long been one of my all time favourite angling destinations. This idyllic Central American country is amazingly beautiful and safe to visit, it’s a country that really does have something to offer for everyone. On this latest trip I travelled along with five other anglers to Samara, a small and mostly underdeveloped town just south of Nicoya, Guanacaste Province, in the north of the country.

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Start of another day on the beach at Samara.

We were scheduled for six days fishing, but there is no hiding from the fact that the trip started badly. On day one we woke to find heavy cloud cover and steady rain, conditions that not only persisted but throughout the day got progressively worse. The rain, which we were told had been all but continual throughout the previous week, had heavily coloured the inshore waters around the reefs we fished to the north of Samara, where we caught precisely nothing. Luckily a move offshore soon located cleaner water, and a switch to trolling lures produced some very nice sized dorado.

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Andy Smith holds one of many dorado we caught during our trip.

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Pink lures such as this Rapala XXX Cast 14 were especially productive.

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The extra large Patchinko is a great lure for numerous species in these waters.

On day two our boat decided to fish well offshore hoping for a shot at a marlin or sailfish, but this proved to be a waste of time with just a few dorado and small tuna saving us from a blank. Once again the weather was poor and as we punched our way back to the beach through increasingly heavy seas and torrential rain, I was starting to think that we were in for a very tough trip. However when we got back to the hotel where we were based we were greeted with the encouraging news that the other boat in our group had found clear water inshore by running south, and as a result had caught some very nice fish, including a 40lb plus roosterfish for Andrew Leaves.

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Hooked up to my first rooster of the trip!

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A nice fish of 20lb+

Day three we enjoyed our breakfast under clear blue skies, and the mercury was already well on the rise by the time we boarded our respective boats a little after 7 in the morning. As we headed out of the bay in which Samara is located we soon spotted large shoals of surface feeding tuna and bonito, which provided as much sport as we wanted on small casting jigs fished on light tackle. And the day just got better and better. By the time we returned to Samara that afternoon we had caught around half a dozen very nice roosters, a bunch of jacks, and several more bragging size dorado.

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Terry Thomas holds his first rooster.

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Andy Smith with one of the 8 he caught during the trip.

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Pink was undoubtedly the most effective colour lure.

On day four the fishing was incredible. For me it was one of those days when whatever I tried worked, and worked well. I personally boated three roosters, all caught on surface poppers, best fish around 30lb, plus numerous jacks and small tuna. I also caught a stunning 30-40lb dorado that inhaled the casting jig I had been using right at the rod tip. That fishes first run, one of several, ripped more than 200 yards of line from the reel.

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Is there a more beautiful species of gamefish than the dorado?

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Certainly they are one of my favourites…

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Great sushi, too!

The fishing throughout the remainder of the trip was equally productive, indeed it got even better for dorado. On the fifth morning we located a weed line that included several large trees, and the sea in the area was thick with feeding dorado. By 10 in the morning the three of us fishing on our boat had already caught in excess of 20 dorado in the 10-25lb class. Throughout that day we located several dense bait balls of brown minnows that were being demolished by feeding frenzy of roosters, jacks, small tuna, Sierra mackerel and dorado. Any lure that was cast in the vicinity of these bait balls was immediately smashed by whichever species managed to grab it first. It was a truly awesome sight.

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X marks the spot, hook up imminent!

That afternoon as we headed back towards Samara we came across a whale shark. It was totally unperturbed by our presence and after several minutes watching this incredible animal swim around the boat I could contain myself no longer, and I stripped off and dived in and swam down to it. It wasn’t the slightest bit bothered by my presence, even allowing me to gently stroke one of its fins; what an experience.

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The whales shark I swam with; what an experience!

Our sixth and final day was another cracker. Plenty of dorado, roosters, tuna and as many jacks as we wanted to catch. Around lunchtime we located a few large bait balls that were being harassed by a shoal of well in excess of 1000 jacks. We could have caught as many of these as we wanted, but settled for a couple of dozen before moving on to try something different.

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Sierra mackerel.

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Jack crevalle.

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And yet another rooster!

Samara is one of the most exciting Central American destinations I have had the privilege to fish, and I can’t wait to return. Unlike many other areas of Costa Rica this remote area remains largely undeveloped, with as yet minimal sport fishing pressure. During numerous previous trips to Costa Rica never have I seen so many roosterfish, with at times up to half a dozen fish chasing the lure right back to the boat. The standard of fishing for these most prized of inshore game fish was so good we barely tried fishing for other species such a cuberra and grouper, and I know that given the right conditions the offshore fishing for billfish and tuna is incredible.

If you would like to join me on a hosted trip to Samara or arrange a private trip, contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel; 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv

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Never have I seen so many roosterfish as in the inshore waters around Samara.

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And the dorado fishing was truly incredible!

I have now been proudly associated with AFTCO performance sport fishing clothing for two years. During this time I have used their incredibly well made state of the art products to fish under a variety of testing conditions, and both I and the numerous crews whom I have given samples to trial have had nothing other than great things to say about the brand. Not only do AFTCO products look great, but they really are supremely comfortable and provide excellent protection from the elements when fishing. For more information visit: https://aftco.com

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We’ll be back…

DESTINATION ARCTIC NORWAY!

DESTINATION NORWAY

In April 2004 myself and Steve Humpherson became the first British anglers to fish at Skjervoy Fish Camp, which is located in the Troms district of Arctic Norway. I remember the weather during that trip was beautiful, with clear skies, hardly a breath of wind and brilliantly intense sunshine illuminating the amazing mountainous scenery that was covered in a thick blanket of snow. Fishing with local skipper Knut Arne Mikalsen aboard his commercial boat Skarungen, plus on our own aboard the camps fleet of small open aluminium boats, we caught plenty of cod to well over 30lb, along with the usual variety of other species.

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Martin Founds holds one of the many cod we caught during our recent trip.

The first article I wrote about that trip appeared a few months later in Sea Angler Magazine, and immediately the phone lines at Anglers World Holidays started to ring; and barely have they stopped since as Skjervoy has evolved into the most talked about and popular camp in Norway. Anglers World Holidays alone having sent many thousands of anglers to fish there.

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One of the 8 main cabins at Skjervoy, following a recent coast of paint..

Over the years the fleet of self drive boats gradually evolved from the original small ‘tinnies’ into larger alloy boats, and then the ever popular Arvors with their cabins and inboard diesel engines. Each year from April until the end of September these boats have been used and often abused, day in day out, by countless anglers, many of whom have no or little boat handling experience. Not surprisingly both the boats and the cabins eventually started to look a tad neglected, with some of the camp managers have been more efficient than others at addressing various issues as and when they occurred. Realising that standards were not as high as they would like the camp owners have recently appointed both a new manager and a permanent on site maintenance man, both of whom live locally. Each of the 8 main cabins and the apartments has or will have undergone a thorough make over by the start of the 2018 season, and that is not all.

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Our Jeanneau Marlin demonstrator leaving Skjervoy.

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Not a bad day to venture offshore!

Skjervoy Fish Camp has ordered 10 amazing Jeanneau Merry Fisher Marlin 795 boats, each of which is powered by an incredible 115hp Yamaha 4-Stroke outboard. I have long been a fan of the Jeanneau range, so much so that were I ever to consider buying another boat for my own use I would be surprised if I purchased anything other than a Jeanneau. All of the Jeanneau range I have trialled have handled beautifully in a wide range of varying sea conditions, and the Marlin range in particular are absolutely perfect for fishing from.

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The new Marlin 795’s will be powered by a 115hp Yamaha 4-stroke.

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Martin takes the helm in the comfortable, well appointed wheelhouse. The new camp boats will have wheelhouse access on both sides and aft.

In October this year I made what I believe was my tenth visit to Skjervoy to see for myself how the cabins have been upgraded, and spend three days fishing aboard a Jeanneau Marlin demonstrator. As luck would have it the weather was perfect, allowing me to make the run out to a few favourite banks and reefs located off the mouth of the Kvaengan Fjord and off the northern shoreline of the neighbouring island of Arnoy.

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Storm Giant Swimming Shad, my go to lure whenever fishing these waters for big cod & halibut.

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Smaller shads fished in conjunction with a spinning rod provide great sport with big coalfish and cod.

The fishing I experienced was very good, especially considering this was past the end of the traditional season. We caught plenty of cod including several specimens weighing up to mid-twenties, plus a few other species including a mackerel: what was that doing over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle in October? Other highlights included fine displays of the northern lights on two nights.

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Knut Arne Mikalsen holds a nice cod; guess who forgot his sun glasses!

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Holding a 20lb+ cod with my old friend Knut Arne Mikalsen

On our last but one day we bumped into Knut Arne Mikalsen at the local super market. Knut is now a Coastal Pilot assisting ships to safely navigate the tricky waters off the northern Norwegian coast. Luckily he was currently on leave and was very easily persuaded to join us for our last days fishing. It was the perfect end to a most enjoyable yet all-too-short trip to one of my favourite parts of the world.

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Knut Arne Mikalsen with another nice cod

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Playing a good cod on light tackle.

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Look at those sea conditions, and this was October!

Bookings for Skjervoy Fish Camp in the UK are made through Anglers World Holidays Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv/sea-fishing/norway/troms-region/ Here you will find plenty of information, including a couple of instructional videos we have made over the years.

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Not a large cod by any measure, but thats one pretty sunset!

 

DESTINATION SPAIN!

After numerousl long haul trips already this year I am starting to appreciate short haul flights. In my last blog post I wrote about a bluefin tuna fishing tournament I had fished at Beaulieu Sur Mer in the south of France, a short drive from Nice which is less than a two hour flight from Bristol. A few weeks later I was again seated in the departure lounge at Bristol Airport, this time waiting for a similarly short hop with Easy Jet down to Barcelona, Spain. The flight went like clockwork, and a couple of hours after landing we arrived at our base for the trip, Riumar, a small holiday town located at the mouth of the River Ebro.

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One of the boats operated by Roned Sportfishing out of Riumar, Spain. Perfect for two or three anglers.

The news on arrival from our host Ron Niewwboer was both good and bad. That day Ron’s clients from his native Holland had boated three very nice bluefin tuna in the 80-140lb class, and he had confirmed that there were a lot of fish around: this was the good news. The bad news was that the weather forecast for our all-too-short three fishing trip was bad, very bad, so much so that Ron had to rush off to relocate one of his boats at a marina on the opposite side of the bay, which he hoped would provide some shelter from the unseasonably strong offshore winds that were forecast for the next day. As it turned out that was a very smart move, a great decision that absolutely saved what could easily have been a total bust of a trip.

Sure enough the following day we woke to find the wind rattling the trees in front of our villa, and the bay in front of Riumar was flecked with white caps for as far as the eye could see. We met Ron after breakfast and he told us that the wind was forecast to ease by lunchtime, and that he was confident we could get out, albeit inshore. A few hours later we did manage to go fishing but in all honesty it was little more than a token effort, which resulted in nothing more exciting than a couple of small stingray.

Day two also dawned with strong winds, but every forecast we checked was confident things would settle down appreciably by midday. So once again we slipped out of the sheltered marina, and headed out into the Mediterranean hoping to reach an area that had been especially productive in recent weeks.

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Fresh fish, some type of sardine, perfect for chum.

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Especially when cut into chunks.

For the first few miles we slogged our way through horrible seas, but gradually as we progressed into deeper water conditions had started to improve, just as forecast. By early afternoon the wind had eased considerably, and eventually we had reached the area about 12 miles offshore Ron had hoped to fish. Most anglers who fish here use spinning or jigging tackle to target tuna, but the conditions were totally against this. Consequently we fished on the drift, and started chumming with a steady stream of chunks of sardines. A pair of larger scad were rigged as hooked baits and were suspended beneath balloon floats to fish within the chum trail .

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Scad make a great hook bait.

There were plenty of birds in the area and we were confident there were fish around, and sure enough after about an hour of drifting one of the balloons suddenly disappeared beneath the surface, the rod bent, and line started screaming off the reel: fish on! I grabbed the rod and did my best to attach myself to a badly fitting harness rig, and eventually brought the first tuna of the trip alongside the boat. A nice fish  that Ron estimated at weighing around 45kg,100lb, about average for the area we were fishing. After a quick photo session the fish was released, as all tuna are.

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My first fish of the trip is welcomed aboard.

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And held for a brief photograph or two before being released.

It was immediately apparent that the second fished I hooked was considerably bigger than the first. Several long blistering runs preceded the usual circling deep within the water column beneath the boat, which is so characteristic of all of the tuna species. Luckily I was using tackle that was up to the job, and the better part of 50lb of drag applied courtesy of a Shimano Tiagra 80 meant that a little under 15 minutes after hook up Ron grabbed the leader. Between us we somehow managed to pull the big tuna over the side of the boat whereupon it slammed down onto the deck with a loud thud, as if someone had dropped a sack of cement. Clearly this was a new personal best bluefin tuna for me. She measured 2.01m, which computes to a fish of around 140kg, 308lb; I was delighted!

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Fish number 2 was much bigger!

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And was a struggle to pull aboard the boat.

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She measured just over 2m,and we calculated she weighed 308lb, my biggest bluefin tuna to date.

On our third and sadly final day at Riumar the wind increased to the point where our only option was to troll inside the lower reaches of the River Ebro, hoping for one of the many bluefish or big leerfish that are caught here earlier in the year, especially in April and May. It was an enjoyable though fruitless couple of hours, but thankfully Ruimar has plenty of excellent restaurants where regardless of wind strength a great lunch or dinner can be guaranteed. And so ended my first but certainly not my last trip to Riumar, a full report of which will appear in Sea Angler Magazine very soon…

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You’ll find over a dozen excellent restaurants in Riumar, many specialising in local Spanish cuisine.

Trips to Ruimar to fish with Ron Niewwboer at Roned Sportfishing can be organised through Anglers World Holidays. In addition to those species mentioned, dorado are abundant during September and October, and huge wells catfish weighing over 100lb are caught in the River Ebro not far upriver from Riumar. For more details contact Anglers World Holidays on Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv

DESTINATION BEAULIEU SUR MER!

 

I first fished at the idyllic coastal town of Beaulieu Sur Mer 10 years ago, when I enjoyed a great days offshore fishing for bluefin tuna with my good friend Patrice Garziglia. Patrice runs his excellent charter boat Papeete II, and is widely recognised as being one of the very best, and certainly most experienced charter skippers in the south of France. You can see more about the wonderful fishing he offers on his website here: https://www.med-sportfishing.com

That day we caught several very nice tuna, and I was keen to get back for more, especially for a shot at the bigger fish that run at certain times of the year, not to mention  an occasional spearfish or white marlin. Despite several invitations for a return trip it wasn’t until this year that finally I was able to fly to Nice on the Cote D’ Azur and make the short journey east to Beaulieu, which is situated right on the border with neighbouring Monaco.

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‘PULP FICTION’, THE AMAZING BOSTON WHALER OUTRAGE 350 I FISHED ABOARD DURING THE TOURNAMENT

Patrice had invited me to judge this years submissions at the Second Beaulieu Sur Mer Festival of International Sport Fishing Films, which was held on the Friday night, then compete in the bluefin tuna tournament that was held over the weekend.

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BLUEFIN TUNA, OUR TARGET SPECIES.

With traditional French style and panache the event kicked off with an open air reception at the harbour, where guests indulged in a seemingly never ending flow of Ricard, wine and other aperitifs. I savoured the atmosphere talking fish and fishing with friends old and new, often to the accompaniment of the guttural roar of a passing Ferrari or Maserati. Then, after the sun had set, we relocated to an open air theatre set atop a low cliff over looking the harbour, to view this years submissions.

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AND WE’RE OFF. 900hp DOING THEIR THING!

There were many excellent films featuring sport fishing for a wide variety of different species at locations all around the world, but when the time to vote arrived it was the most amazing film ‘Tuna Fly Fishing in France,’ by Gregory Dollet, that got my vote along with my fellow judges and most of the audience, and ultimately won first prize.

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LET THE SHOW BEGIN, ONE OF THE ENTRIES IN THE 2nd BEAULIEU SUR MER INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF SPORT FISHING FILMS.

Next morning competitors in the fishing tournament reconvened back at the harbour at 6’O’clock for a traditional French breakfast consisting of copious quantities of hot coffee, served with either freshly baked croissants or pan chocolate, or both. Then we boarded one of the 16 boats competing in the tournament, for the run offshore to the fishing grounds.

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MORNING COFFEE ABOARD PAPEETE II, THE BEST START OF THE DAY!

I was fishing with another old friend, Antoine Drochon, whom I first met many years ago in The Maldives. Antoine, who started his career crewing for Patrice, is now the full time skipper on a ‘Pulp Fiction’ a truly phenomenal Boat Whaler Outrage 350 powered by three 300hp Mercury outboards, which propel her at speeds in excess of 50mph.

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FISH ON! HOOKED UP TO ONE OF THREE BLUEFIN TUNA I BOATED ON A CASTING JIG.

The tournament was points based, with tuna measuring more than 60cm scoring two points, and those measuring more than 115cm worth five points. When we started trolling it did not take long for the first strike, at which point one of the team grabbed the rod and fought the hooked fish, while the remainder attempted additional hook ups from other fish in the school by either casting surface lures of jigging. A full report of the actual fishing will appear in Sea Angler Magazine very soon, suffice to say that our catch of 10 fish, all released, scored a winning 20 points. Quite incredible really, my first blue water tournament and I was part of the winning team; needless to say I have now retired from fishing competitively!

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ANOTHER 2 POINTS SAFELY IN THE NET!

Aside from excellent weather and first class fishing, highlights of the day included seeing several huge sperm and fin whales on the surface at very close quarters, along with many dolphin, manta rays and even free swimming blue sharks.

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THERE SHE BLOWS! ONE OF SEVERAL SPERM WHALES WE ENCOUNTERED DURING THE DAY.

During the event I got to meet Philippe Guigo and his legendary father, who set up the excellent Antibes sport fishing shop Guigo Marine, take a look at http://en.guigomarine.com Also I met Stephane Miller, owner of the equally impressive emporium of all things sport fishing, Peche Xtreme, take a look at: http://www.pechextreme.com/en/ Both of these shops stock a truly incredible selection of big game, popping and jigging equipment. If you want it, they’ll stock it, why not check them out…

Unfortunately the wind forecast for the Sunday forced the organising committee to cancel the second days fishing, so the presentation of prizes and tournament dinner were brought forward to the Saturday night, which coincided with a memorable concert by blues slide guitarist ‘Catfish Keith’. http://www.catfishkeith.com

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TEAM PULP FICTION, THIS YEARS OVERALL WINNERS WITH 20 POINTS.

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WITH MY GOOD FRIEND PATRICE GARZIGLIA; HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT YEAR CAPTAIN!

As you will have gathered I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The weather was beautiful, the food outstanding, the drinks free flowing, great music, and the entire event went by with the panache and style the French are rightly so famous for. I am already looking forward to next year, when I might just be tempted to come out of tournament fishing retirement, rejoin team Pulp Fiction, and do my bit to defend our title!

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SLIDE BLUES GUITARIST CATFISH KEITH, STRUMMING HIS STUFF ON A SATURDAY NIGHT IN BEAULIEU SUR MER!

 

DESTINATION PANAMA:

For the past three years I have received an invitation to fish Panama’s remote and unbelievably beautiful ‘Wild Coast’, from my good friend Doug Olander. Doug, editor of the excellent American based Sport Fishing Magazine, is a keen kayaker and Panama Kayak Adventures, with whom we would be fishing, specialise on inshore fishing aboard state of the art Hobie kayaks. For the first two years prior commitments have meant I have been unable to accept the offer, but this year the trip coincided with a free week, which in early June saw me arriving at Panama City.

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The Doug Olander school of knot tying excellence is officially convened!

Early the next morning, 0330 early, we set off on a six hour mini bus drive to meet Pascal Artieda, our host and the owner of Panama Kayak Adventures. When finally we arrived at out our departure point, a remote beach 20-30 miles west of Pedasi, the weather was far from perfect. We were greeted with a heavily overcast sky spitting rain and a sloppy swell washing the beach, conditions that would set the theme for the week.

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Throughout our week we did experience an occasional ‘shower!’

Undeterred we loaded our mountain of equipment onto a couple of pangas and headed a further one hour west to Tembladera Lodge, a rustic camp set amidst a back drop of dense jungle at the entrance to Cerro Hoya Nation Park. Accommodation here is basic yet entirely adequate, while the food and standard of service is better than that I have experienced during previous trips to other more ‘substantial’ operations around the world.

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Tropical paradise!

When we arrived at the beach immediately in front of the lodge, the size of the swell crashing onto the black volcanic sands posed a big problem. Basically landing there was simply too hazardous, so our panga captain ran us to a small rocky cover several hundred yards to the west, where still the swell and waves were crashing wildly against the coast. At first I could not see what his game plan was, but what followed was probably the finest example of small boat handling in rough seas I have ever been privileged to witness. Spinning the boat around he reversed the panga into a narrow rocky gully that was barely wider than our beam, all the time displaying a confidence and level of skill that really had to be witnessed to be fully appreciated: it was an awesome experience.

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Fancy running into that gully in reverse? In this image it actually looks a lot calmer than it was.

The weather the next day was not much better but we set off regardless and eventually launched the kayaks into a messy sea, a few hundreds yards from a rocky headland that was being smashed by a huge Pacific swell. Three kayaks were launched and Doug, along with Brad Genter and Rob Sherman, the remainder of our crew, set off.

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I think we need a bigger boat!

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Safety is always paramount when fishing afloat, but never more so than aboard a kayak. Icom waterproof hand held VHF radios are widely regarded as being the industry standard.

And me? Well my previous kayak experience is slightly above zero and this and a seriously painful lower back resulted in me staying aboard the panga for the day and, indeed, the rest of the trip. After all I had the choice, spend the day seated aboard a small piece of plastic, or fishing from my own personal panga; what would you have done!

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And todays plan is…?

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Kayak or panga, what would you do?

Starting off casting a large stick bait I was soon tight to my first fish of the trip, which quickly came off. A few casts later produced another violent strike, which resulted in a solid hook up and ultimately a very nice Pacific jack crevalle. Pound for pound these hard fighting and for some obscure oft decried game fish are the equal of any GT, or indeed other trevally/jack species, if only they grew to a similar size!

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First fish of the trip, a nice Pacific jack crevalle.

Throughout the week we enjoyed a mix of weather that ranged from thoroughly nasty to absolutely perfect, and invariably included everything else in between aside from snow! The fishing was mostly good, occasionally very good, but the ever changing weather frequently restricted where and when we could fish. June is the early part of the main rainy season in Panama but we were experienced the kind of weather more typically associated with much later in the year.

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Good morning Panama! Thankfully we did enjoy some good weather.

A huge variety of fish were caught, including plenty of jacks, crevalle and horse eye, numerous stunning bluefin trevally, rainbow runners, Sierra mackerel, various species of snapper and grouper, amberjack, pompano, yellowfin tuna, bonito and black skipjack tuna and sharks along with several others. We even had a sailfish attack a popper just a few hundred yards off the rocks.

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A pompano for Brad.

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And a nice rooster.

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Pascal Artieda with one a many bluefin trevally we caught.

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Sierra mackerel, aka ceviche!

Of course the two definitive species targeted along this coastline are the iconic and totally stunning rooster fish, and the mighty cuberra snapper, and several of both species were caught each day. I happily boated a couple of roosters, a fish I never tire of catching, the largest a barely average 12-15lb, with the biggest ‘pez gallo’ being a hefty 50lb+ slab caught by Brad. Fish of the week for me was a monster cuberra of over 60lb that inhaled a live blue runner, then proceeded to try its best to bust me off in the reef. A new personal best for this species, it is always a pleasure to release such fantastic game fish in the hope of encountering them once again some time in the future.

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I love rooster fish!

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A new personal best cuberra snapper, 60lb plus of angry muscle and teeth!

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Releasing a nice cuberra snapper.

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The last thing many small fish get to see!

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And yet another nice one for Brad.

Panama Kayak Adventures can be contacted at http://www.panamakayakadventure.com/index.html. They certainly offer exceptional value for money, and I hope to fish with them again one day soon.

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Hooked up in Panama! Why not give it a go?

Anglers World Holidays offer fishing at several other camps in Panama, to which I occasionally host trips. For more information Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv

DESTINATION BELIZE!

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.

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Andrew Leaves casting a fly for tarpon & snook at Money River, Belize, under the watchful eye of George Garbutt.

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A stunning snook.

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.

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The eyes of a great guide; priceless!

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Bonefish selfie!

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.DSCN4719

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I never tire of catching bonefish on fly.

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.

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The Pretty Alison!

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?

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My great friend and outstanding guide George Garbutt, loving his new Costa’s!

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!

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One of several rarely seen swordspine snook we caught on fly.

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Snook selfie!

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Large popper, small snook!

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My Clouser got chewed!

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.

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Andrew Leaves working a likely spot for snook.

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Thats a better fish!

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A very nice fly caught snook for Andrew.

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And one on a lure for Dave Brady.

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.

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Dave Brady & Terry Thomas fishing Monkey River.

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.

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Tools of the trade!

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Do you think Andrew Likes A.F.T.C.O. product? 10 out of 10 for colour coordination!

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!

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“Yeah Mon!” I always look forward to fishing with George Garbutt, you’ll find him on Face Book.

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Well protected from the sun, and bugs!

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

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Tough work, but someones got to do it!

ENDS: