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“IT IS LIKE A DRUG. I think that’s what it is. What is it about Belize bonefish? You know every fisherman asks themselves, ‘If I could give up everything, for one fish, in one place, what would it be?’ And the more I go, the more I’m sure it would be a big bonefish in Belize.”


Backyard Bones

The move to the small Caribbean island off the coast of Belize wasn’t easy. In fact, some might call it a rather arduous journey. Adventure is a more appropriate description. Not only was the move an adventure, the day-to-day routines of ones life are as well. What makes the hassle and hurdles worth it, you ask? A few things in come to mind immediately.

A.) I did mention it’s a Caribbean Island, right?
B.) An abundance of very small bikinis on petite, stunningly beautiful senoritas.
C.) The most important deciding factor for me, something I call “Backyard Bones”.

This all begins a short six months after I entered the “working” world. As a child I fished a lot. So much in fact that I was recognized by my peers as being quite adept at the sport. When the time came, I was informed that regardless of being told as a child I could be anything I wanted. And I of course said I wanted to be a fisherman. That it was all a lie. Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Uncles and adults in general were lying when they informed you that you could be anything you dare to dream. Really, when they asked; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” their actually looking for cheap amusement from the innocents of a child. The reality is, once you’re of age they expect a productive and contributing member of society. So, with that repressed angst off my chest now – I’ll continue.

Off to the corporate world I went. I thought at the time that I was fairly lucky. Everyone informed me that since I hadn’t gone to college and was given a natural-knack for writing various computer code and earning a decent wage for a first job, especially as a young man of twenty. I, according to society was on the right path in life. Within the first six months of breathing recycled air surrounded by people I found annoying and rather miserable. The luster of the corporate career wore off. And the harsh reality began to set-in. I was on the well-paved road to spending the next thirty years in this bleak existence. Trapped in a three-walled cell, opps I meant cubicle day-after-day for roughly 250 days per year for a grand total of 7,500 days of your “working” life. Let that sink in just a bit. SEVEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED DAYS OF YOUR LIFE! Well it scared the shit out of me. Soon I was living for that sacred two brief days per week doing what I WANTED TO DO, known as the weekend.

In order to break the monotony of this drab routine I took up fly-fishing and begin returning to the past time that I had so comfortably fit into through out my youth. The weeks got easier as I spent the majority of my days on someone’s dime other than mine performing just enough work to keep me below the radar. The rest of the time studying the art of fly fishing and fly tying in books and on the internet. Fridays would arrive and I would sneak out of the building a full hour early. Truck packed with gear and a paycheck in my pocket. I would bolt for freedom like the family cat when he would hear my three-year old cousin coming after him. I knew, If I could beat traffic I would be settling into my campsite adjacent to some great waters holding tons of fish for me to harass come sun up.

Regardless of the previous five days since my last visit. Each morning on the water was as if I’d never left. It’s the slight chill early in the morning coupled with the anticipation of what the day will hold. The early morning still as the sun begins to break the horizon. The gentle trickle of water as a few drops hit the surface while poling the boat into an area teaming with fish. Listening to the trees come to life with the sounds of various birds as they greet a new day. Watching those first signs of disturbance on the waters surface indicative of feeding fish. This is what my life has been about since the beginning. For richer or poorer, for better or for worse, I said “I do.” to fishing long ago.

One morning while conducting my “paid for” fishing research I ran across an advertisement for a flats trip in the Bahamas. Living in southern Florida I knew the airfare rates couldn’t be terribly expensive. Sure enough I discovered a round trip to Freeport for a hundred fifty six dollars. That was it, my mind was made up. I called up the number from my employers phone; after all, international calling is expensive. A gentle sounding voice with a thick island accent answered with a pleasant hello. Cutting through the chase I asked when was the first immediate opening he had for three days of fishing. He replied with a slight hmmm… and a pause. “The twelfth of this month.” With no hesitation I said I’d take it. Upon hanging up the phone I began plotting how I could escape with a reasonable excuse. Only having eight days to prepare I knew it was going to be my best “duck and dodge” of the office I would have yet to perform. The following Monday I began with a fake cough. Followed by a few sneezing fits encourage by breathing a bit of white pepper. Add to that a few drops of Visine to make my eyes water. A couple of squirts of nasal spray that always gives me a little sniffle runs just after I sniff it. And viola! Looks as though the years of faking sick in school works equally well in corporate America.

By the second day of my shenanigans I added a large coffee cup containing some VERY peppery broth to produce a mild sweat on my forehead. Add in one departmental office meeting with everyone one in attendance and by Tuesday at noon, the boss sent me home before I got everyone in the office sick. I strolled out of the office somberly accepting the “get well soons” and the “hope you feel betters” from numerous co-workers. As I drove away from the property with the office building in my rearview I paused for a moment and with a smile said; “I’d like to thank the academy!” I spent the remainder of the day packing my gear, tying some popular bonefish patterns, while watching a few of my favorite movies.

Waking early the next morning I loaded my gear and headed down A1A, also know as Ocean Blvd twenty five miles south toward Ft. Lauderdale to meet my puddle jumper over to the Bahamas. By 10:15 in the morning I was sipping Kailik on a beach in Eleuthera staring aimlessly out across the vibrant hues of blue as far as my eyes could see. With my five-day repreival from the office finally at hand I begin feeling enlightened and content once again. I realized the sun had sunk closer to the horizon and my watch reads four p.m. It strikes me that while being surrounded by the tropics on the beginning of a fishing trip has aided me in shrugging off the corporate blues. It’s more likely that the rum drinks are the reason for enlightenment. With the awareness of my altered state now on my mind, I set my watch alarm for eight o’clock as a reminder to head to bed, as six a.m. will come painfully early should this drinking continue any further. I pick my self up out of the beach chair and proceed to glide in the direction of the bar for just a few more.

The next morning I’m up early rigging my fly rod and tying a few extra leaders for the coming day. I pause for a moment in my shuffling to fully take-in my current place on the planet. Making my way to the balcony I watch in wonder as colors so brilliant fill the sky. Remarkable hues of orange, purple, pink, reds, and blues explode over the glass like waters of the Caribbean. A small skiff passes by, the wake gently rolls towards shore giving life to this once still canvas. Each perfectly melding color begins to dance with such fervor that it reminds me once again what a miracle each day truly is.

Promptly at six on the dot, a weathered and worn jeep wrangler arrives just in front of my door. A thin framed very dark man sporting a tattered looking straw hat, faded khaki cargo shorts and a sun faded t-shirt that said, “I Love Bimini” across the chest. With a kind smile he offers his hand and introduces himself as Doc. Accepting his jester I grip firmly and immediately feel a lifetime of poling and fishing in the calluses of his shake. Introductions concluded he instructs me to place my rod in his custom-made rod rack mounted to the top of the old jeep. Remarking on it’s unique design Doc says; “Yeah, I fine dis piece of pipe’n wash up from sum storm on de backside of dis heere lil’ caye, bout sum two mile out. I figured it don serve me well for my use as a holder.” Nodding my head in agreement he turns the key and we’re on our way.

I ask Doc if it’ll be a far run out to the first spot we’ll be fishing. He chuckles in a manner that makes me certain that to this game I’m a complete newbie. With a quick answer he says it all and I know that the joke is going to be on me. “Yeah mon! It gonna take bout terty minute fore ya fishin.”. Only five minutes drive from my room we arrive at a washed out pastel blue home complete with angled storm shutters accented in a weathered white paint laden with cracks and chips. A slightly corroded tin roof adorns the roof of the house. It sits tall on stilts and featuring a wrap around porch with flower boxes mounted to the deck railing. Each box containing well maintained hibiscus plants blooming in a gorgeous alternating pattern of orange, yellow, and red. Perfectly spaced every two feet or so, these stunning plants merge together and appear as one continues plant encircling the home.

Doc lifts the latch on the gate and steps into the yard. Closing the gate behind me a young girl appears on the top step letting out an ecstatic “Daddy!” as if her father had been gone for days. It’s abundantly clear we’re at Doc’s house now. He turns to me and offers a brief explanation; “Dat be my baby, Julia. We gonna get some eats before we head out, if that alright with you.” I agree, feeling my stomach rumbling. Thinking to myself that I could use some food to absorb the rum from last night sugary cocktails. Continuing through the yard and along the side where it opens into a beautiful mangrove lined sand filled parcel. In the center surrounded by various boat engines, parts, a worn-out used skiff hull, variety of buoys and tattered fishing nets, sits a picnic table accompanied by plastic deck chairs and a sunbrella in the middle of the table.

Pointing towards one of the chairs, Doc gestures for me to take a seat. A moment later I hear the creak of a screen door and glance upwards to the back porch. Carefully making her way down the stairs holding a large plastic pitcher, was little Julia. I would soon discover she carried a delightful mixture of freshly squeezed mango and orange juice. Following behind is a beautiful woman adorn in a bright yellow blouse and a floral print dress, her smile big and bright. She watches the little one with a sense of maternal pride as she so eagerly wishes to help. It’s a spectacle that can’t help but bring a smile to your face as she diligently concentrates on her task at hand. A size two child with a size three pitcher weighted down by three pounds of liquid.

Soon we’ve all been introduced and are sitting comfortably around the table eating fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, and toast topped with homemade papaya jam canned by Doc’s wife. Having had our fill, Doc rises from the table leans forward and kisses his wife before walking around to Julia and stroking her cheek while reassuring her that he’ll be back before night-fall. Glancing in my direction he says; “Ya ready catch sum Bonefish?” I answer, “You bet!” I follow Doc through an opening in the mangroves along a narrow boardwalk lifted a foot off the ground. Past the mangroves lies an opening into a canal where there sits a small floating home to Doc’s skiff. As we board the boat Doc begins inspecting a few things prior to departure. After lying down my wading pack, I begin to stow my rod in the holder. Doc informs me that it won’t be necessary, stating; “You gonna need dat soon.” Wit the bow pointed towards the entrance of the channel He trims the engine down off tilt and into the water. Turning the key the engines purrs to life. A slight odor of burning petrol and two-stroke oil fill the air. Doc moves the throttle forward putting her into gear, off we go in the direction of the first destination.

Admiring the other little island cottages lining the canal I think to myself how nice it would be to own something like this for my own. Along with what a nice life Doc probably has fishing everyday while pursuing his passion. We pass three other cottages and we’re coming to the opening of the canal. Pulling past the last cottage I focus my attention to the right and to my surprise sits a large salt flats area just to the south of Doc’s canal. During my surprise my jaw must have dropped to the deck of the boat. Doc begins to chuckle, looking back he remarks; “What ya tink?” a second later he turns off the engine and trims it up. Pointing just ahead of me to the right, “there, two o’clock forty feet, you see dem?”. Shocked I stare as three large bonefish with their noses in the sand unaware of our presences are on a direct path towards the boat. With a childish grin on my face and the excitement of a kid in a candy store, I look at Doc saying; “You’ve got bones in the backyard!”, his reply; “Not bad, yeah!”

Grabbing his pole carefully from the deck as not to make any noise he skillfully pops up atop the poling platform and begins pushing us out on the flats. With barely enough time to unhook my fly from hook holder and strip off sixty to seventy feet of line before Doc calls out. “Eleven o’clock fifty yards!”. Sure enough with one quick glance I spot a school of five bonefish nose down and tails up. I throw my rod back and feel it load. With the flick of my wrist I shoot the line forward then back again. As the momentum of the line loads the rod on the back cast this time I make a haul and shoot forwards, releasing with my left hand the remaining line. I feel it slip quickly through my thumb and forefinger that are guiding the remaining line on the deck of the boat. The loop unfurls ahead of me and I watch as I tip the rod tip to the waters edge and the leader delicately delivers the fly a few feet in front of the school. As the fly sinks one of the bones turn on it. “He’s sees it!” Doc says. Followed by a “Strip”, “Strip”. Just like that a mere five minutes from the dock I’m hooked up. I palm the reel as he strips me into my backing. Six or seven minutes later I bring him aside the boat as I kneel down and remove the hook from his mouth and take the opportunity to snap a quick picture. The rest of the day is spent stalking and catching fish after fish on the network of flats just behind Doc’s house, never straying more than a mile or two from his canal.

Three days of successful fishing later. I’m packing my bags and gear heading towards the Governors Harbor to catch my flight back to Freeport and then on to Ft. Lauderdale. I fell refreshed and notice a renewed sense of vigor. It’s as if I was plugged into a socket and my batteries are once again at full power. With this contemplation I understand the importance of the “vacation” in the corporate world. I see how it can replenish ones spirit and give them a false sense of hope again. The kind of hope that keeps you thinking, one day, one day I’ll be able to enjoy these activities and things that I like on a regular basis. I also get an understanding during this epiphany that the system was designed to give you just enough hope whilst keeping you coming back again and again. You never really have enough to get ahead. With the cost of living increasing at all times and inflation on the rise you’ll be lucky to have a 401K or some small money market account to play with once you reach sixty five. And even I know not to count on Social Security, and I’m certainly no economist or financial planner. I come from a long line of financial spenders. Lets just say my family is known as “good consumers”.

I could go on and on about my experiences of getting away from corporate America or any life that you merely tolerate and don’t truly love or have passion for. It’s like staying in a relationship because you’re comfortable. Passion keeps the soul young, and I see more passionate older people that have spent a lifetime doing something they love surrounded by people they love. After this altering realization and upon my return from the Bahamas I lasted a short seven weeks before handing in my resignation. I began a career of consulting and contracting work that enabled me more time to pursue my passions as well as work remotely from various tropical islands. After much exploring and fishing this planet I realize in hindsight that it was the best move I’ve ever made in this world. It hasn’t just changed my reality and my microcosm of this world. It’s changed everyone around me and in my life’s world as well. The happiness and content I have for my situation influences and eases anyone around me. There are a few disgruntled family members and ex-friends that hold a grudge and a bad attitude. How can that affect you when you’re enjoying your ride, the ups and the downs? It’s still exactly where and what you want to be doing. Their jealousy is based on the fear they’ve lived in for their entire lives that have stopped them from stepping out and pursuing what their passions are or were.

I now own a fishing outfit that lodges and guides people to experience their ideal fishing vacations. The lodge located just a few hundred yards from my house on a canal of my own. Recently I had the editor of a fishing magazine visiting to do a write-up about my fishing operation. His first day of arrival as I push us off the dock and motor out to the opening he glances over the side and with child like enthusiasm turns to me with wide eyes and proclaims, “Bro, you’ve got backyard bones!”. To that I can only say, “Yes I do, brutha! Yes I do!”

I hope you too are inspired to pursue your goals and passions through out life. If you’ve ever dreamed of doing something, do it! You’re far more likely to regret the things you didn’t do then the things you did. In one final parting note I leave you with a favorite quote.

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be BOLD! When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to venture into unexplored territory.” – Alan Alda, actor

written by: Jim “Big D” Harper
Fishing in Belize

Written by: Big D Harper

Night has fallen on yet another day. Lying in this tent resting my head on a balled up pair of waders wrapped in a flannel shirt, I retrace the steps that have brought me back to this piece of water and others similar to it. Like many whom share this life long love affair with fishing, I feel complete when I’m on, in, or near the water. Though it often remains unspoken, I feel many can relate.

Calling various islands in the Caribbean home to many would be satisfying enough; however, time and time again I feel my soul begin to stir. It starts with a photo in a magazine, a segment in a commercial or movie, or even the images my own thoughts so vividly paint when reading a story. The urge slowly builds deep within until I undertake the first step down a road that I’ve become all too familiar with in my life. I’ll begin to crave the unknown, the adventure of not knowing what lies around the next bend or over the next mountain. The call to explore new waters or return to old favorites strikes with the ferocity of a large mouth bass greedily destroying a well jigged popper across the still surface of some back-water cove. And after the hook is set, the only way to remove it is to pack up a bundle of gear, a few extra pairs of socks and underwear and head off in the direction of the call.

I’ve often joked that I caught my first fish around four years old. However, the hook was set in me rather than the fish. And so this first experience years ago drives me to my current place in life, next to a piece of water. Whether the water is new or old is irrelevant. If it’s new waters, more than likely I’ll be instilled with a homing beacon not unlike that of a salmon destined to return some day. And just as the salmon, I too will get the call to journey back. I, unlike the salmon, at least get to enjoy return trips a multitude of times. I don’t fool myself though. I know that someday, not too far in the future in the grand scheme of time, it will be my last journey. The last conversation I’ll have with an old friend as we part ways to never see one another again.

At the present, I find myself entranced by the sound of the stream a few yards from my place of slumber, signing softly as a lullaby from the gentle embrace of a mother as she rocks her child to sleep. Sounds of the night filling the air, a damp coolness surrounding my cheeks and nose forcing me further down into my sleeping bag. This small slice of heaven located along the South Boulder Creek runs parallel with a set of railroad tracks. Come dawn it’ll serve as an alarm clock with the whistle of a locomotive coming down from the Moffat tunnel on its journey across the divide.

After a few days of exploring some old faithful holes filled with beautiful browns and a few rainbows, it will be off to some other waters. At times, it’s been a curse rendering me useless and unable to concentrate or focus on more immediate needs. Or at least needs deemed more immediate by social standards. After all, a warm house and the car note occasionally enter my mind. Mostly it makes me think of buying an RV… then I can condense one into the other. But where would I store all that crap I inevitably acquire through these weeks and months spent roaming the globe? Often my travels call for vehicles with wings or props rather than wheels. So I scratch the RV idea.

A few stops at local fly shops or homes of friends usually round out my adventures as I once again tame the urge. At times I’ve had people share the adventures with me and other times I prefer to be alone. A time to reflect on where I’ve been and where to go next.

Back in my home waters, I enjoy the rest and day-to-day routine of casting into familiar flats chasing some wary bonefish, tarpon or permit for the umpteenth time. I’m excited to see them to connect once more. However, I’m certain they prefer that I’d catch the fever of longing for distant waters once again, and sooner rather than later.

Sponsored by BITE ME BELIZE | Fishing in Belize at it’s best for under $850.00 per week.

Funny Fishing T-Shirt

Funny Fishing T-Shirt

I’ve spoken on here before about my buddies at BITE ME! Belize Fishing Adventures. However, their logo is such a hit with fishermen here in Belize that they are now offering this funny fishing t-shirt for sale online. These BITE ME! fishing t-shirt makes a perfect gift for any fisherman. If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas gift idea for fly fishermen and other fishermen alike.

Click here to purchase one of these unique fishing t-shirts for the fisherman in your life BITE ME! Fishing T-Shirt

Sponsored by: BITE ME! Belize Fishing | Fishing in Belize for only $850 Per Week | all-inclusive Belize fishing packages

Only ten years ago you could enjoy a week of fishing in Belize for under a thousand dollars for an entire week. It also only cost about 50.00 to 75.00 per day for a guide and a boat. Well, if anyone has checked the prices of fishing in Belize in the past couple of years you know it can be very expensive to fish in Belize now. The local guides have gotten a taste of the guiding business and they’ve been informed that in places such as the Key’s, British Virgin Island, The Bahamas and various other resort destinations fishermen pay as high as 500.00 for a day of fishing. Granted, these places are much more developed than Belize. However, the local Belize guides feel as though they’re entitled to similar pay – even if they’re fishing from a panga skiff rather than a 40,000 custom designed flats boat that was designed and engineered for fishing.

Relax! There is hope for those who wish to experience fishing in Belize for a reasonable and fair price. BITE ME Belize Fishing Adventures is taking people on 5 full days of fishing in Belize with 7 nights accommodations and all-inclusive stay for only $850.00 per week – per person. This blows the average of 2,700 to 4,000 out of the water completely. Staying at world famous lodges such as Turneffee Flats, or El Pescador is an over priced experience if you’re looking to just do something that up until the days of the 5,000 fishing lodges was a simple and FUN act. It was a sport and experience that almost anyone could enjoy regardless of financial situation or economic social class.

Isn’t fishing for anyone? It doesn’t have to be a “HIGH END” – Wealthy and affluent sport. It is after all, just fishing. A rather skittish little animal that poses a challenge for anglers that pursue them. Yet, this act can be done just as effectively with a 100.00 fishing rod and reel as it can be with a 1,500 fly rod and reel. So if you LOVE fishing and want to experience fishing in Belize with out losing and arm and a leg then contact the boys at BITE ME Belize fishing adventures and plan your perfect Belize fishing get-away.

Discover more about Spin cast fishing in Belize?

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Belize Fishing Report:

Well we’ve finally come to the end of our rainy season and we’re having almost NO high-pressure systems rolling through. Which means we back into the classic 9 months of PERFECT BELIZE weather. The bonefish have moved back onto the flats and the Permit are still cruising and holding just of the main flats edges during the day with feeding times accruing typically around 6:00 am to 9:00 am and in the late afternoon between 4pm and 5:30 or so.

The heat of the day provides a good time to fish the flats edges in the 2 to 5 foot ranges and pick up bonefish and permit with bait fish patterns such as the Clouser Minnow or similar.

The juvenile Tarpon are still cruising in large numbers around Savanna Caye averaging in the 25 to 40lb range up to 3 or 4 feet range. They’re really taking large Stu Apte Tarpon flies and the tarpon toad tied with a rattle variations is working well for them on fly.

Thats all for now for the Belize Fishing Report

Sponsored by BITE ME! Belize Fishing Adventures

Fishing In Belize with BITE ME! Fishing Adventures

Fishing In Belize with BITE ME! Fishing Adventures

I’ve been asked this question several times in the past few days. Once from a Fly Fishing Rod and Reel manufacture based in Loveland, Co. (elkhorn fly fishing rods and fly fishing reels). And twice from fishermen down on their first Belize fly fishing trip that were staying at one of my condos. I stated I really can only comment or draw conclusions based on my local market here in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

It’s my personal belief that as the American economic situation still continues to worsen and everyone continues forecasting doom and gloom. There really hasn’t been much decrease in Fly Fishing charters and vacation packages in my business here in Belize. Not sure how relevant this is to American soil and the local market place in the states. However, the U.S. and Canada are roughly 63% of all fishermen booking fly fishing vacations in my particular business in past years. But with each season our presence and growth is focused more and more on other markets such as U.K. and other European nations. I have seen a decrease with currently booked trips in Canadians (i fear this is more to do with airfare cost than a repercussion of the economic crisis America is currently experiencing.)

It’s my personal opinion that if things continue to get worse then Fly Fishermen will still be stalking their home waters as much as trying to break-away for a Saltwater Fly Fishing trip to Belize. All looking for relief and the constant worries of what tomorrow holds, cause we all know; “Tomorrow holds another fish when you’re fishing.”! No one worries all the time when they’re focused on the waters and chasing tailing bones or Tarpon. I would think that the Fly Fishing industry would thrive as a portal of escape from the constant rederick and babling about the negatives or hard-times that certainly are a part of living. Call me an Osterich, but I’d prefer to focus on teh pleasures of life rather than the negatives.

Markets crash and get rebuilt. It’s just the way it goes. Fly Fishing; Well that’s a part of your soul and LIFE. Life isn’t about the more houses we can collect, boats we can buy, cars we can park in the drive way, or any of the useless junk we consume. Maybe if we weren’t all so focused on seeing how much we can consume and acquire then the economy wouldn’t be suffering because we all would have saved more and used credit far less. So forget your depression and “hop on the next thing smokin’ even if you have to hobo…” -Howlin Wolf, evil 1963 – and plan a fly fishing trip. You local waters, or on a plane down here to Belize. Either will do, if we keep our focus right in life then it’s my humble opinion that the economy will not affect some so meaningful in life as Fly Fishing.

Spain will provide assistance in developing the fisheries industry in Belize, according to official statements issued here.

It said that Spain had signed two Memoranda of Under-standing (MOUs) to provide assistance in the fisheries sector and facilitate and promote the joint participation in research projects, productive and commercial development, trade, biotechnology, sustainable management of the marine environment and responsible fishing between governmental and non-governmental bodies and stakeholders.

The first MOU with the Organización del Sector Pesquero y Acuácola del Istmo Centroamericano (OSPESCA), the body charged with the promotion of sustainable management and development of fisheries and aquaculture in Central America, will guide future projects and development in seven Central American countries, including Belize.