Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gray's Sporting Journal: Tarpon Cay Lodge

In this month's issue (Apr. 2010) of Gray's Sporting Journal, Tarpon Cay Lodge and Angling On The Fly are featured in the photographic journal section of this fly fishing issue. This photo essay, titled Tarpon Reclinado, displays the work of renowned photographer and outdoor writer, Gary Kramer. Gary fished Tarpon Cay Lodge last summer and had some epic days fishing for baby Tarpon. Check out Gary's nice photos in Gray's Sporting Journal!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bass-n-Fly Tournament - CA Delta (May 21st)

Angling On The Fly is a proud team member of Bass-n-Fly and we are excited to announce that we are holding our 3rd annual Delta Bass-n-Fly Challenge, a fly fishing only team tournament! This fun-filled event takes place on the CA Delta, one of the nation's top Largemouth Bass fisheries. In addition to friendly competition, there is prize winnings for top placing teams, raffle prizes, and giveaways for all contestants.

To register, please visit the Bass-n-Fly website for instructions. We look forward to seeing you out there! Game on, and Fish On!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trip Report: Beyond the Blue at South Caicos (Caribbean)

One of fly fishing's finest pursuits... wade fishing for Bonefish on gin-clear sand flats

Imagine this... a pristine, gin-clear, shallow-water environ that has hundreds of square miles of beautiful white sand flats. And feeding on these flats are populations of nice sized Caribbean Bonefish from bigger singles or doubles to incredible schools of 50 to 100 plus fish. And then, in the midst of this scene, imagine yourself wading these flats and casting to these athletic species. And, the finale would be a Bonefish pouncing on your size 4 Gotcha and a reel screaming run as the fish throws a rooster-tail across the razor thin flat. Welcome to Beyond the Blue at South Caicos!

South Caicos is on the southernmost end of the Turks and Caicos Island chain. My fishing partner and friend, Jim Bare, and I traveled from the west coast, through Miami, and arrived Providenciales ("Provo", Turks and Caicos). We then hopped on a short 25 minute charter flight from Provo to South Caicos. As I peered through the window, my heart raced as I saw the miles upon miles of shallow, bleach white sand flats that we were to fish over the next few days. Upon touching down at South Caicos airport (XSC), it felt as if time had been turned back 100 years to the era of angler-explorer Zane Grey. The airport being "quaint and rustic" gave me a feeling that I was about to visit and fish someplace special. A place far and away from the melee of tourist traps and overcrowded waters. Surely, I had heard accounts of how remote and unspoiled this destination is,... but, to step off the plane and breath in the tropical air instantaneously lowered my stress from travel and daily work life back at home. I was now on "island-time"...

Upon arriving the lodge, we were warmly greeted by owner, Bibo Jayne, of Beyond the Blue Charters. He introduced us to his staff and gave us a quick tour of the facility. I was pleased to see that it was on the ocean front of a peninsula. This offered refreshing views of the adjacent deep water channel, where whales would sometimes breach and put on a show for us at the lodge. The accommodations are townhouse style with double occupancy guest rooms and common areas for lounging and/or dining. Each guest room has air conditioning, ceiling fans (yikes! watch those rod tips...), comfortable beds, and a private bath and shower room. There is daily housekeeping service that makes the beds, cleans the floors/bathroom, and replaces towels. The entire lodge was spotless and clean,... quite a task for housekeeping considering the salt air and sand that can sometimes find its way into everything.

After we settled in, we immediately began to setup our Bonefish outfits. Rigging rods for Bonefish is always a wonderful exercise in minimalism. I call it "back-to-basics". A fly rod, reel, floating line, leader, and a fly... that is it. On so many trips, rigging tackle can be a dizzying experience with multiple weight setups, floating to intermediate to fast sink tip fly lines, specialized leaders with multiple knots, and an array of flies that requires multiple boxes to organize. Not the case for Bonefishing.

My favorite setup is a Sage Xi3 890-4, Sage 6080 fly reel, RIO Bonefish or Saltwater fly line, RIO 10 foot Bonefish taper leader to 12#. As I peered into my single box of Bonefish flies, it was, again, a view of simplicity... Gotchas, Charlies, Miheve's Flats Fly, and a few Boggle Heads. That's it. Pink and/or tan are always the prime colors for South Caicos Bones. My "confidence" fly is the Miheve's Flats Fly - I like this fly because of its buggy hackles, split tail, and weed-guard. This fly has always fished well in a variety of conditions - sand flats, turtlegrass flats, etc.

After rigging tackle, dinner was announced and we eagerly assembled in the dining area. Meals at Beyond the Blue were a pure delight. BBQ steaks, jerk chicken, baked lobster, or shrimp were menu items throughout my stay. Red beans and rice are a staple offering with each meal... my favorite side dish while fishing in the Caribbean. Additionally, each dinner meal was served with salad and a vegetable dish. All this was presented family style with very generous portions.

Breakfast meals are served in the dining area and include all-American food items like eggs, toast, sausage/bacon, pancakes, potatoes, and/or grits. The lunches include simple ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit, and drinks (sodas and water). The lodge uses an R/O (reverse osmosis) water purification system throughout the lodge (tap water, drinking water, ice, etc.) - it is safe to drink. If you have a sensitive stomach or have concerns, the lodge has bottled water available at no charge.

The next morning, we finished our breakfast and gathered our tackle. After a short walk from the lodge to the beach landing, we met our guide Ganger (aka "G") and boarded the airboat to start our first day of fishing. We motored around the peninsula and headed northward to the flats. About 15 minutes later, we were skimming across razor thin flats in search of Bonefish. The flats at South Caicos are vast, stretching for tens of miles in many areas. It is a true paradise for Bonefish as they peruse these these expansive flats and feed vigorously.

While the sheer vastness of this fishery is beneficial to Bonefish and other marine life, it could pose a challenge to anglers if they were needing to park a typical flats boat in distant deeper water and wade these flats in search of fish. Lucky for us, Beyond the Blue utilizes flat-bottom, shallow-drafting airboats. This enabled us to access all of the shallow flats, inland lakes, and creeks of South Caicos. The use of airboats allows the guides and anglers to navigate across expanses of shallow water and spot Bonefish before wading and fishing to them. This strategy is very efficient and maximizes the anglers' shots at Bonefish throughout a day of fishing.

What I found most intriguing was the ability to view these flats from a high vantage point. Each airboat has an elevated passenger seat next to the captain/guide and a viewing perch on top of prop housing. It is not often that one can view flats from an elevation of 10 to 15 feet above the water. Wow! Talk about being able to spot fish from a distance! This elevated position enables the guides to spot schools of Bonefish far off in the distance.

The fishery at South Caicos is varied... some flats are bleach white like a sheet of white paper, while others are sparsely covered with turtlegrass producing a mosaic of dark and light patterns across the flat. On some tides, the guides will venture back into the inland lakes and creeks to find Bonefish. These areas can be havens for schools of Bonefish as they try to avoid predators such as sharks and barracuda that roam the flats on higher tides.

What I was most amazed about this fishery is the "comfort" these Bonefish exhibit while in shallow water. Most of the schools of Bones were lazily cruising, tailing, and/or mudding on the flats - happy fish. Often, I was able to make multiple shots at Bonefish on the edges of the school without spooking them. On other flats, schools of Bones were not present, but in smaller pods or single/doubles. It is in these areas where the Bonefish seemed to be quite a bit larger. Most schooling Bones were in the 2 - 4 pound range, while the bigger singles/doubles were at the 5 plus pound mark. My largest Bonefish for the trip topped out at 7 pounds, but I did see and/or get shots at fish in the 8 plus pound class, and possible, double digit class. My overall impression about these Bonefish is they were quite grabby and non-selective when it came to fly selection. When asking our guide about fly choice, he would cheerfully reply, "Hey mon, if ye box gots pink and tan in it, close your eyes and just grab one... them Bones love'em all!" Granger was correct,... I tried all of the flies in my box and each caught Bones at some point during the trip.

In addition to the wonderful Bonefishing at South Caicos, I was equally amazed by the size of Barracuda that we encountered. We witnessed Barracuda in the 15 - 60 pound range... some of the largest cudas I have ever seen! It was daunting to see a 6 foot long shadow moving across the flats with seemingly no fear of us or any other predator. Where you find good numbers of Bonefish, one will always find of Barracuda too. My fishing partner, Jim, pursued a 40 pound Barracuda one morning and got it to eat his fly... unfortunately, it ate the back half of the fly and it resulted in no hook up.

On day 2 of our fishing, our guide "G" pointed out a huge school of Bonefish. As we approached, I saw the school erupt into a froth and then settle. Uh oh... did we spook the school on approach? The answer is NO. Upon closer view, we saw a massive Barracuda of 50+ pounds working this school of Bones. It was an awesome sight to see the dark mass of probably 200 Bonefish with an open circle in the middle (like a donut). And in the middle of this open circle was the 6 foot long barracuda slowly parting the school of Bones just after it swallowed its meal. Needless to say, this school of Bonefish was quite nervous and only a few fish were hooked in that school before we decided it was better to move on to a different area.

Next, a species that deserved an "honorable mention" is Tarpon. I had heard that there was the occasional Tarpon encounter at South Caicos. On the last day of fishing, while motoring next to the mangroves, we ran across (almost literally!) a Tarpon of about 45 pounds. We were all surprised to see this solo fish just cruising lazily. I quickly grabbed my Bonefish setup (UGH! no tarpon rod setup on this day!) and cast my Miheve's Flats Fly to it. Without hesitation, it jumped on this relatively diminutive fly. I could not believe my eyes! Here I was, connected to a medium sized Tarpon with a #4 fly and a 12 pound tapered leader. I was hoping, just hoping, that I had him lip-hooked and might have a remote chance to land this fine specimen. I jumped out of the airboat, and went after this fish on foot... all the while trying to maintain as even of pressure as possible. All I could think is 12 pound test, 12 pound test, and NO shock tippet. I survived the first jump and then the second. Finally, the fish decided it had enough harassment and made a more spirited jump and parted ways. Upon inspection of the leader, the Tarpon did indeed have the upper hand in this battle as the leader had been abraded in its mouth. Oh well, what a surprise to encounter this species at South Caicos. Lesson learned... always bring at least one Tarpon setup per boat.

Well, I am still coming off of my buzz from fishing South Caicos. Surely, there is nothing more pure in our great sport of fly fishing than wade fishing on a beautiful flat for Bonefish. I enjoy the hunt and sight fishing for these species. It is truly a visual experience, and there is great joy in seeing your quarry before you connect with it. I have already secured a couple of prime weeks for next season for a return visit to Beyond the Blue - South Caicos. I look forward to sharing this special fishery with you! Fish On!

Keith Kaneko

Bonefish release...

The charter plane between Provo and South Caicos...

Typical sized Bonefish at South Caicos...

Ganger (aka "G")... our guide and airboat captain

Our group fishing to a giant school of Bones

Other inhabitants of the flats... at red starfish!

Mudding Bonefish

Sparse turtlegrass on over white sand... can make seeing the Bones challenging!

Pure white sand flats, large school of Bonefish, and angler... a perfect scenario

Running in the airboat,... in search of the "Grey Ghost"

The lodge at Beyond on the Blue - South Caicos

Oceanfront views...

Staff member, Olive, prepares your delicious dinner meals...

Simple, clean, and comfortable rooms at Beyond the Blue

Room with an ocean front patio...

Mirrored scales on Bonefish allow them to blend in with their surroundings...

Ahhh yes,... "Life is good" while fishing at South Caicos!

Releasing a jumbo Bone to fight another day...

Beautiful scenery... Osprey nests on the bluff above

Fishing to a massive school of Bonefish... the hardest decision is to choose a fish to cast to!

Nice sized Bone on white sand flats... it doesn't get any better than this!