Monday, May 9, 2011

Back From Belize

On April 9th I couldn't wait to travel from Vancouver, BC to the Dallas airport to catch my afternoon flight to Belize City.
With my birthday rapidly approaching on the 10th, I had decided to make my way to San Pedro, Belize in early preparation of the arrival of 6 other anglers who were scheduled to arrive on April 16th.
As always, laying over in Dallas was warm and pleasant, as the smell of Spring scented the air. My bags were packed, my fly boxes were stocked, and my white Canadian belly kept doing the happy dance, forcing me to squeal with spontaneous outbreaks of girlish "eeks!" and hand clapping. I was beyond excited to step foot on the bow of a concentrated guide boat in search of that birthday fish of a lifetime... the famous permit!
Thanks to Paul Puckett for the incredible fly box (and birthday painting of Colby) are one seriously talented man!
Mud Dog flies.
As I approached the American Airlines ticketing counter to check in, I was informed that my passport had a slight fold in its cover and was considered a damaged document. Long story short... there was to be no flying for me; either to Belize OR back home to Canada.
So with countless calls to the emergency Canadian Consulate (it was Saturday), a bunch of whining on Face Book (thank you for listening), and 3 boxes of greasy Chinese takeout, I settled into the comfort of a Dallas friends house and moped around in self-pity and frustration that the airline had trapped me in a "foreign country" (after allowing me to enter it in the first place).
The next day I decided to take my chances at the airport and try my luck with an agent who was hopefully having a better day. Sure enough, a smiling supervisor apologized for her colleague's judgment call and within minutes I was checked into the next flight to Belize City. (Let that be a note to all travelers... keep your passports safe from folds and disgruntled employees).
The plane landed in downtown San Pedro; land of golf carts, coconuts and ceviche... Here's a typical scene on one of the Island's downtown streets:
First stop...
Second stop...Best hot sauce ever!
3rd stop...
4th and final stop...
The next day I met up with friend and fellow Canadian, Will Flack. Picking up Ms. Lori Ann Murphy, we hit the salt for my first day of permit fishing in beautiful Belize.
We were able to get into a few nice bone fish and some fantastic steelhead stories before we made the call to head back to shore for an early drink at one of the nearby lodges. Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis was there expecting us and met us smiling, with both a drink and a video camera in hand... Check out our podcast with him here:
I designated the next few days to hanging out with good friend Josh Nugent, who was spending 3 weeks in San Pedro hosting guests and hunting permit. With a relaxed schedule we spent our free time casting for tarpon in a nearby brackish slough, trying to avoid any hungry crocodiles that may be lurking hungrily nearby.
As I cast up to my knees in the stagnant water, I thought the locals were joking when they told me that a 13 foot croc inhabited this pond and was likely to be hungry again soon. It wasn't until an American resident who lived nearby decided to affectionately let Josh and I know that it had only been days earlier that this very crocodile had made a meal of a drinking dog before slithering back down into the depths of the murky water. I felt my stomach churn and Josh wisely advised that perhaps I cast from further up the bank. Needless to say I listened.
So when Josh suggested that we head out in pursuit of adventure, I was more than excited to participate. 
The goal? Make our way to Rocky Point; the far side of the Island where the scenery was legendary and roads were non-existent.
The plan? Rent two small bikes (imagine bikes fit for 6 year old children), and depart in the morning on a rocky off-road bike ride to the point.
I rocked the hot pink one... yup, couldn't sit on a bike for the next 4 days...
What I didn't know at the time, was that this Rocky Point was 17 miles away... one way!
What I also didn't know, was that Mr. Nugent and Lance Armstrong may as well have been brothers, while I played more the role of a huffing Kirstie Alley...yeah, attractive, I know.
The day was the hottest one we had encountered yet, and the winds had majestically stopped (thanks Mother Nature).
Each of us was equipped with only 2 bottles of water, and we hadn't set out until 9:30am... we were either suicidal, or severely stupid...either way, at 12 miles as we tried to pedal through the soft sand, we made the call to turn back around.
Hmmm yes, that about sums it up. Crazy Canucks...
But perhaps this was all meant to be... Josh picked up his first permit on a flat on the way back into town! Congrats Josh!
With fly rod strapped into my backpack, I begged for a rest...
I think if you look really close, you can see me telling Josh that I'm going to kill him.
I didn't and he caught this nice permit instead. ;)
The next day, Josh and I hooked up with one of the local guides to help us chase tails.
Within the first few hours we had spotted several lone fish, and one gigantic school of high and happy permit cruising slowly in the shape of one large, black floating cloud.
Fins cut through the water's surface while my heart broke through my chest as it pounded harder than it had the day before on the bike... This was incredible!!! Cast after cast... I physically hurt that I couldn't sway them to eat. Josh and the guide jumped out of the boat and chased the dark cloud until Josh was up to his neck in water... game over, the fish had won.
The days flew by and before we knew it, the guys had arrived and were excited for a shot at permit and small tarpon.
On our way to dinner...
At the Sunset Grill, feeding the tarpon is the highlight for Belize can only imagine how hard it is to leave the rod behind while dining here...
The week proved tough... the Easter winds had no mercy on us and Mother Nature teased us with multiple permit shots as the wind raged. However, despite all of the frustration, several tarpon were landed and most everyone was hit with the permit addiction... talk about a fish that can get your heart racing!!!
All in all, the trip great and entertaining to say the least... Belize will be seeing me again next May, and I can only hope that I'll have the same incredible company to share it with.