Roughly 100 miles north of my home is a sign at a roadside "point of interest"
that says, "You are at the exact center of the North American Continent."
That means I live a long distance from any ocean. It also means my saltwater
fly fishing experience is very limited. So, when is was notified that I had been
selected as one of six flyfishing outdoor writers to enjoy a fly fishing tour of
Belize (all expenses paid), I panicked.
To put it mildly, I didn't have a clue about what to expect from the fish I would
encounter there. In fact, I wasn't sure what fish I would encounter, what they
usually eat, what flies are available to imitate that food, or anything else
important to my trip. However, I did know where to start looking; right here.
There are some great saltwater fishermen who frequent the Fly Anglers OnLine
chat room. There are also some great saltwater guides who write articles for
this internet magazine. Oh yea, in case you forgot, Fly Anglers OnLine is more
than just a web site; it's a recognized and accepted magazine published entirely
on the internet. In fact, it's that unique status and audience that interested the
Belize Tourism Board enough to select a writer from this magazine to be part
of their publicity tour. You, our readers, are important to the fly fishing world.
Back to my point; I started my research here. I pestered and hounded everyone
I thought could supply me with a new tidbit of information I might need to help
me prepare for my trip. I researched fly pattern books and catalogs, visited the
web sites of any fly fishing lodges I could find in Belize, including the ones I was
scheduled to visit, and researched the species of fish they mentioned. I visited
www.go.com and typed in words like bonefish,
tarpon, permit, knots, etc. in an attempt to dig up any information I could
find to help me prepare. I spent hours reading, studying and wondering what
I was missing.
I started practicing my double haul in a quest for accurate 80 foot casts. Frankly,
my long casting skills were pitiful. I can land a size 20 midge pattern within
inches of a feeding fish on a 20 foot stream, but anything at distances longer
than 50 feet was pretty much out of the question. Sure, I could cast that far,
but my form was obscene, grotesque and sickening. I needed practice, and
I had only two months to prepare. Can you say, "Slow down and watch your back-cast?"
I was determined to tie all my own flies, so many of my night hours were
spent at the fly vise burning the midnight oil. Trout flies and bonefish flies
aren't even slightly similar. Well, they weren't similar before I started tying
them. I'll tell you more about that later when I cover the flies we used but
that is a different article. Anyway, I tied several hundred flies in two months
getting prepared to face bonefish, permit and tarpon; gratefully most fly tying
skills relate to saltwater flies as well as to freshwater flies.
I borrowed fly rods and reels in sizes I don't own and never needed for before
this trip. Some of the FAOL Sponsors sent me items I needed to make my
trip complete including specialized clothing, leaders, lines, tippets, and a few
fly-tying materials. Let's say it became a community affair before I finished
getting ready. Thank God for folks who care. I couldn't have done it
I pestered Sue McGill at Richartz Fliss Clark & Pope, the publicity firm who
coordinated airline schedules and reservations. She is a very patient person.
She calmly answered all my questions about humidity, temperatures and
water quality in Belize. I'm sure she wanted to tell me to take a chill pill
on several occasions, but she didn't let on that anything bothered her.
Itineraries, schedules, reservations and notifications were all made and
passed on with the precise skill that comes from years of practice.
She didn't miss a thing.
I'm telling you all this so you'll know I panicked. I didn't have a clue.
However, I learned. I learned a lot, and I'm going to pass a lot of that
information to you in the coming weeks so preparation for your
trip to a tropical fly fishing paradise will go more smoothly than mine did.
Don't get me wrong, preparing for such a trip is part of the fun, and I did
enjoy the preparation phase a lot. I won't take that away from you; I'll
just make it easier and less frustrating.
Stay tuned, in the weeks ahead I'll cover everything from eyewear and
clothing to flies, reels, rods and lines. I'll also take you on a photographic
tour of the Belize I saw and try to pass on the flavor of the places I visited.
Oh yea, I almost forgot; I'll tell you about the fishing too.
See ya then. ~ Al Campbell