I sit along the isolated beach and think of my prey the next morning. The bone fish -that feeds along the flat water along the leeward side of the cayes here in Belize and other coral islands in this Caribbean Sea. The beef eater fly larva are far past their pupal stage and have quit biting. Clearly they are soon ready to break through my skin on the next full moon and swarm overhead before their small voyage in search of other hosts to lay their eggs and start the life cycle again.
The water in front of our cabana goes forever and is about one to two feet deep. It is littered with live conchs grazing on the sea grass beds. I sweat-browed anxiously and meticulously plan our hunt the next day.
Like the other islands, the locals here are a mix of Creole from the slave trading days, Spanish, and indigenous natives — here, the Mayans. The bone fish is called the grey ghost of the sea because it is almost impossible to see both inside the water and outside. They are the strongest and quickest of any sea animal by pound anywhere in the world and a fly fisherman’s dream fish.
Our guide is 65-70 year old Wilber. He has been working this coast for 30 years. He shows us the scars on his had and wrist. He tells us the story of when he was spear fishing for grouper. He got a large one and was wrestling with it and looked up to find a gaping wide mouth of a black tip shark coming after him. He pressed the grouper into its mouth but caught his hand inside the chomping mouth. “That grouper”, he says in a very hard to understand broken English, saved my life. I don’t go in the water that much anymore after that.”
We glide slowly through the mangrove trees to the other side of the island and the flat waters.
To catch a bonefish the fly fisherman must first see them. Then he must take into consideration the eating pattern of the school of fish and where they will migrate to while foraging before he makes his cast. Then he must calculate strength and direction of tidal currents, the direction of the wind, how much line he will need, and simply drop the sinking fly 6 feet in front of the fish and their projected path. Its quite straightforward.
Wilbur whispers excitedly that there are four or five bone fish off the bow about 10 o’clock. I make my cast perfectly in front of the dark patch of rock and sea grass I mistook for the fish as they swam away about five feet from me on the other side of the boat.
We follow the fish for as long as we can see them but to no avail. I bring the line in and we head for a more protected islet. I begin casting again.
By now in reading this journal my long term partner and friend Rob will have told his wife, children, co-workers and friends how wrong I am casting. He will point to my wrist that is too much in the cast. So I am including this color photo below to show him that I am getting better with acute non-scottish professional coaching here in Belize.
The bone are weary this day. We head further from our side of the island we call home and into deeper mangrove watery forrest. I must do whatever is called for and leave comforts behind. I must land the grey ghost.
Like beginning chess moves, I contemplate my next series of casts against this Russian mastermind of a fish.
We pass an old fishing lodge used by the locals.
Knowingly, Wilbur, our man of the sea, spots a diving pelican and heads for the site. There is a long stare between man and bird. The same stare two mountain lions make when the first see each other on the boarder of their territories or the stare two fisherman make when they come across each other at their favorite hole.
I begin my carefully orchestrated series of casts while my travel partner for the first time on this trip takes up her fishing pole and casts.
This is a photo of Kathi’s first bone fish.
Here’s an other photo of her second bone fish.
And here’s another photo of her third bone fish.
Meanwhile, amongst all the boat glee (Wilbur is doing some kind of Caribbean tango with Kathi and a flopping fish) I continue to cast. I pouted through her fourth and fifth fish and decided that my camera battery wasn’t charged correctly and needed to save precious energy.
There is nothing. I have met my match in cunning and scaly and somewhat bony ninja reflexes. We head back for our lodge.
Our guide is no longer talking to me. He and my travel buddy exchanged Facebook addresses.