Placencia Belize Report
Five of us traveled to Placencia, Belize and fished with Bruce Leslie, Benji Eiley, and Arthur Vernon from Nov 3-13. We had an absolutely fantastic time and we are planning our next trip. (Sorry for the long post.)
The guides: All three of these guys are great and lots of fun to fish with. They are almost like brothers to us. They all offer the same great fishing experience in just a bit different way. All are very knowledgeable and excellent teachers. Bruce does the booking and he won’t book someone that will give you a bad day. (On a side note, we observed four other Placencia guides and a couple from Monkey River, and I spoke with some of their anglers and some of the local hotel owners about who they book with. I’ll just say on this public site that it was not a pretty sight.) I’ll be happy to provide contact information.
Hotel and Placencia: We again stayed in the Westwind Hotel and George and Lisa Westby are the epitome of hospitality. Each evening when we returned, Lisa would bring appetizers. We’d sit and chat and enjoy King George’s story time. Lisa would tell us where to go to dinner and suggest specific menu items at the many restaurants. She was never wrong. George and Lisa treated us like family.
Weather: It was very windy everyday, which everyone said was unusual for this time of year. If they get north winds it normally just lasts a couple of days. It had been nice before we arrived and the day before the others showed I went on a 90 mile round trip scouting expedition with Bruce and Benji and it was flat calm. The day we left it got flat and Bruce said the fishing really changed. He emailed that the day we left his guy got a slam and also an additional 5 large tarpon. The result of the weather was that the guides were really limited to where they could take us because we got pounded in the boats.
Fishing: We tried to focus on larger tarpon but we also fished for snook, bonefish, barracuda, bonita, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, the various jack species, like cravelle, horse-eye, yellow tail, long-tail, bar, and blue runner. (I am sure I am forgetting something and hopefully the others will chime in.) Oh yeah…permit. I never cast to one but the others all did and no one hooked up. We saw some monsters and I think the excitement and wind got to everyone. Since I caught the first one I ever saw in the spring on my first cast Bruce told me to quit while I was ahead. He said not many guys can say they are 100% on permit. I was absolutely astounded that a fish would hit my fly, take the flyline and 70 yards of backing and 15 minutes later I’d pull an 8 pound bonita up to the boat. These things make our Alaska king salmon seem like wimps. Many of the bonita were caught trolling a fly but when the first guy hooked up the other would strip in as quickly as possible and hope not to hook up so that we could cast and retrieve. We also caught a bunch of Spanish and king mackerel this way which is why we used wire for this fishing. Al hooked a fish which took a flyline and most of his 200 yards of backing. A couple of the local handliners were catching 30 to 40 pound king mackerel and 25 pound jack cravelle so it was probably one of those.
We did real well on walking around some of the cayes in the less windy periods looking for bones. My previous Belize experience was that bones are all about 1 pound and in big schools. We found larger singles and doubles and some were maybe 5 or 6 pounds. They were a blast! I had one suicidal bonefish. I was actually standing on the front of the boat casting a Crazy Charlie when we saw a school of tarpon approaching. Benji yelled cast, cast, cast and I yelled I have a size 6 charlie on. Mike handed me my tarpon rod which was unfortunately rigged with a six inch clouser and 30 pound tiger wire. I made a beautiful cast to the tarpon and a stupid 5 pound bonefish darted out of nowhere and inhaled the clouser. Who would have thought? Mike 2 also hooked a very large cuda which straightened the hook.
I am now dreaming about tarpon. We are all tarpon novices. The first day, all three boats went out to a caye where the guides had seen tarpon. As we approached there were hundreds of frigate birds and pelicans diving and bait exploding everywhere. Large bonito, Spanish and king mackerel were exploding into to bait as were tarpon in the 50 to 70 pound range. It was a sight I will never forget. We caught no poons because all the other predators were so aggressive. In two hours we watched as an acre size school of bait was annihilated. At there end there was a 3 foot diameter school next to the boat. Incredible. We broke 3 10 weight rods here the first morning in our excitement. We fished at this caye everyday for at least a few hours. The bait were congregated in the lee out of the wind and schools of tarpon would cruise the bait line and then dart in. If we could get a cast in the exploding tarpon we had a chance of hooking one if by some miracle they saw our flies and the jacks and yellow tail snapper did not get there first. We used clousers, and various other minnow imitations but by far the best were gummy minnows. We went through the 30 Mike 1 had purchased in a few days. We also did some sight fishing for tarpon around some other cayes where Mike 1 got the biggest fish of the trip- a 75 pound tarpon. We also fished some real deep drop offs (80 feet) with Teeny T-400 lines and hooked a few fish. All in all, I think we jumped about 25 tarpon and maybe landed 12. Most were about 50 pounds with a few smaller. I have learned what it means to bow to the king and the importance of strip striking everything. I had a 60 pound fish launch itself and I did not bow. My hook came back and it was almost straight. At least my knots were good.
Gear: We used a wide range of rods (Sage, Loomis, T&T, Scott, Redington, Beulah, and TFO), reels (Abel, Sage, Ross, Tibor, Islander, and Albright) and lines. I think we were all impressed with the TFO rods and the Albright reels. For the money, these are hard to beat. I think a few of us are going to try the TFO bluewaters next time. The most useful tarpon lines were sink tips but in the deeper water full intermediates or fast sinking lines were used. We had no use for floating tarpon lines but for permit, snook and bonefish we used those. I tried one of the Cabelas lines and it was my favorite. Some of us used twisted leaders and we really liked them. Almost all of us, including the guides, used Habervision glasses with the rose/copper lens. I gave the guides some in the spring and Bruce said he has not used his other name brands since except for driving. He said the Haber rose/copper is the best glass he has used in 15 years of guiding.