Client Comments & Reports on Belize Mothership Adventures
RECORD PERMIT TRIP
In September of last year, Art Hinckley, Dennis Banks, and Don Wilkerson endured some unfavorable weather conditions on a Belize Rising Tide mothership trip and still released 16 permit, one short of the record for such a trip. This March, Art and Dennis were joined by Brad Jackson and they again boarded the Rising Tide as their floating lodge to explore the best permit flats on the globe, inside the barrier reef off central Belize…….and this time they shattered the record with an exceptional trip of fishing exclusively for permit. On this trip, Dennis (at left) took his 50th permit on the last day and set the pace with 11 fish released. Brad had 8 fish and Art just 5, one of his lowest totals ever in his 10+ years of doing this trip. Art is now at 96 total permit and will soon become a member of a very small and exclusive “fly fishing club” of guys who’ve taken over a 100 permit. That could (should?) happen on the trip they have booked for August.
From Art’s daily fly fishing dairy comes this summation of the trip: “We had a great trip with mostly good weather which we haven’t had for the past several trips. We saw a lot of permit in some spots, but in the other areas we saw quite a bit less than we would normally expect to see, especially with the good weather. Also, we didn’t see as many big fish as usual. Dennis ended up with 11, Brad 7 and me 5. My 5 puts me at 96 total – four more to break 100. Dennis was so hot he got to 50 with his last fish and Brad is now at 18 (obviously he hasn’t permit fished nearly as much as Dennis and me). 20 were caught on our normal crab flies and 3 were caught on the Avalon shrimp. We’re assuming that 23 permit (with 1 break off and 10 additional eats without hooking up) in one trip for 3 people must be one of the most productive permit trips ever anywhere.”
VARIETY TRIP REPORT
This is a trip report for a group of five friends taking their first mothership trip. For most newcomers, the preferred approach is what is referred to as the “standard variety trip.” This involves anchoring in three or four different places during the week (conditions always dictate the anchorages), and pursuing everything from tarpon to bonefish to reef fish. This particular group had only one angler who had any extensive salt water fly fishing experience. Two of them had never fly fished before and would hook their first fish ever on flies during this trip. They were equipped with both spinning and fly gear and used both depending on the species and situation. The group from left to right: Ulf Hillgren, Rob Pizzie, John Landis, Mike Cirello, and Marty Mikelsons.
They fished the flats for bonefish, permit and tarpon; the mangroves edges for baby tarpon and snook; and the reef for barracuda and whatever else they could find. Their “catch list” included what Belize is famous for in its shallow inshore waters – large tarpon, baby tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook, barracuda, jacks, snappers, and a few very strange reef fish.
FOR A COMPLETE PHOTO ESSAY REPORT OF THIS TRIP, CLICK THIS LINK OR CUT AND PASTE:
OPTIONS FOR PURSUING PERMIT
Exciting to stalk and often frustrating to get to eat, the permit is found in the greatest numbers in a fifty mile stretch of flats inside the Belize barrier reef off the central coast of this small Central American country. This stretch of flats begins about 15 miles southeast of Belize City and extends southward. Most experienced permit anglers agree that this area offers the greatest number of shots at this challenging target.
Using a floating base of operations like a mothership gives you the best opportunity to fish all these flats. There are different approaches that can be used.
- “THE” PERMIT TRIP – this is the fully dedicated permit trip committed to going south for the full stretch of the best permit waters. Can use Belize City or Dangriga as the jump off point.
- THE “ALMOST” DEDICATED PERMIT TRIP – this trip is focused on the permit flats that extend to about 20 to 25 miles south of Belize City. The “almost” designation applies because, if the permit are not cooperating, you’re close enough to the variety waters to the north that you can abort and head north.
- THE “HALF WAY” TRIP – this trip begins with the intent of splitting the trip between the permit waters to the south and the variety waters to the north. How many days are spent pursuing each dimension depend on results and conditions.
FIRST GRAND SLAM
In the past twelve months (beginning with the trip last September which released 17 permit and concluding with the experience related below by Johnny Williams), the numbers of permit sighted and released from Belize mothership trips is at an all-time high. Simply stated – permit fishing has been the best ever. One can only hope the new catch and release laws instituted in Belize a few years ago are having a positive impact……SOMETHING is having an impact.
Johnny Williams and David Rogers were on their first mothership trip in Belize in mid-July aboard the Rising Tide. From Johnny: “…….one day we estimated we saw about 1000 permit between the two boats. Multiple schools of 50-100 fish, along with a steady stream of singles and doubles. We often stayed in the same spot for an hour as the various schools just swam by. We only boated 3, but hooked 10, which is a ridiculous number. I hadn’t hooked 3 in aggregate of all my previous permit fishing trips.”
Further comments from Johnny (above right with Grand Slam permit) on the overall experience: “……. We had a fantastic time. Not sure we would have changed a thing. Dean, Noel & Velda took excellent care of us….I notched my first grand slam. Weather was windy, but mostly good. Thank you for the very accurate descriptions about everything. All your recommendations were 100% accurate and helpful…….We would like to reserve the same week next year,,,,,,”
They also jumped several tarpon. Regarding the tarpon, David (below left with permit and at right releasing a tarpon) commented, “The biggest tarpon we boated was probably 45 lbs. Jumped a couple that were around 60-70 lbs….”
TARPON, PERMIT, AND “IFFY” WEATHER
On a late June/early July trip, Ryan Hawks (with permit below right and tarpon, left) and his group had some tough weather conditions with a low pressure system hanging over the Belize coastal waters. Ryan happened to be in the “right place at the right time” often enough to get some outstanding results, considering the weather. He released two permit, jumped four tarpon and released three (18, 70, and 100+ pounds), and had some bonefish in the mix. The large tarpon provided some extra excitement…….“The 100 lb fish broke my 11 wt rod (below), but we were able to hand-line him to the boat, but Noel didn’t get a solid hold on him with the boga so we weren’t able to get still photos. Some video we got included the jumps. Everyone was impressed with the guides, the boat and the service (especially the food).”
FIRST PERMIT – MEMORY TO SAVOR
Several newcomers to the salt water flats have taken their first permit in the last six weeks from Meca and Rising Tide trips.
Billy Lane (at right below), like many anglers, had been trying to get a permit for years. Finally…..it all lined up right. Billy’s comment: “It was a long time coming but definitely worth all the frustrations.”
Mickey Myhre, on his third Belize Meca mothership trip, brought along a friend, Roger Phillips, who was a salt water novice. Mickey took his first permit on this trip, but the fish was camera shy and left the scene as the photo preparations were being made. Mickey captures the excitement of permit fishing with these well chosen words: “I dropped the fly right on the forehead of the lead fish, no response, and the school turned to my left, still moving slowly, grazing. I dropped the fly about 6″ in front and to the left of the second fish which turned to the fly and took — I strip set, fish ran right to left for about 2 seconds and was gone–leader broke. Our guide said we must’ve nicked the leader on some coral and didn’t notice.”
Roger (above, left) not only took his first permit, he actually took two in one day, in addition to his exposure to the multiple species available in Belize. Some of his comments: “Great trip, great crew. I had a really good time and learned a lot. First day I had legit shots at tarpon, permit and bonefish…….on our fourth day, I hooked and landed my first permit, and about an hour later I landed my second….I didn’t touch another another permit the rest of the trip. But I hooked a bunch of tarpon, and one snook…..When we were on the tarpon flats the first day, I saw a couple tarpon in the 100-plus pound range, and it was the only time in my fishing career I’ve ever been intimidated by a fish.” Roger is an outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman and his article can be viewed at this link: www.idahostatesman.com/2011/06/30/1709381/boise-to-belizepermit-live-up.html#storylink=misearch
Mark Wilson (first permit below center, first snook on right) on his first permit: “You can’t tell its me in the picture, I was so excited about catching the permit that I forgot to remove my facemask……The overall experience was exceptional.” John Siegfried (at left below with his first bonefish ever), accompanying Mark and friends, didn’t get his first permit, but did jump three tarpon on his first day ever on the saltwater flats, and had these colorful comments: “Permit Fever. I don’t know how many times I got shots at permit and either footballed the cast or was too late or something. I had the perfect setup with Noel and didn’t get it. Dean set me up and I cast right in the middle a pod of 25, which exploded outward like an artillery burst. Took me a long time to finally get tuned into seeing them. Bones easier…….My 2nd tarpon, about 80lbs, was like a chrome motorcycle that dropped out of the sky.”
SEVEN PERMIT TRIP
Tom Brutsche and friends have been doing an annual Belize mothership trip since around the turn of the century. During their early trips, they focused on the variety fishery (tarpon, bonefish, snook, and some permit) in the northern part of Belize. The last two years, they took their mothership south for permit…and permit only. This year, Tom, Ron Knowles, and Lee Lewis were planning on returning to the variety areas in the north…..but something changed when they arrived. The asked the captain how the permit fishing had been and received a big smile in return. They headed south.
Result: 7 permit released, to 18#, and a pile of great memories of those big black tails sticking up. Tom’s comments: “I’ve never seen so many permit…..we did see two schools which must have held over 150 fish and many large permit. We didn’t catch any from those two schools, but it was exciting.” They didn’t go far, only using the first two anchorages moving south from Belize City…..that was enough to find what they needed for the week. Maybe the new laws enacted two years ago making it illegal to net permit, bones, and tarpon in Belize are working. We’ve had more permit taken in the last 12 months than ever before…..and many small fish sighted and taken which means something good is happening.
MOTHERSHIP PERMIT DAY – A GOOD ONE
Art Hinckley takes at least one ten night Belize mothership trip each year to exclusively pursue permit. The most productive permit flats on the globe, inside the barrier reef off the coast of Belize, are his target. Many of these flats can only be practically accessed via mothership. He is among the top anglers in the world when measuring the total number of permit taken on a fly – he’s now at 64 total. On this trip, he had three double digit fish among those released, with a large fish of 17 pounds (at left).
This excerpt from Art’s trip diary provides an example of a successful permit day using the mothership as the base of operations: “After breakfast on the second day, Captain Dean wanted to move the big boat down to Sand Fly. While he cruised down, we fished our way south in two of the pangas with an objective of meeting up upon reaching the Sand Fly Cays. Don and I were with Eddie (guide) and Don caught a 10# permit about half way down. After we got to Sand Fly, I fished with Dean and caught two permit, one 11# and one 12#. Dennis caught a 6# permit with Noel (guide) so the second day ended up being a very good one.”
JANUARY TRIP REPORTS
Jim Andras and son, James (left with baby tarpon), were back in Belize the first week of January on the mothership Rising Tide. Jim’s report: “We had a great time in Belize with Dean and Carol. The fishing was good and the weather was great. In fact, the weather may have been too good, as we had two dead calm days, and I think that may have made the fishing tougher – wary fish and not as many on the flats as on the other days we were there. We caught a good number of bonefish, had multiple chances at permit (two that ate, one that I had on that inexplicably threw the hook after he was pretty much played out) and we caught several small tarpon. We had a unique opportunity on day four – we actually had snook in good numbers on a bonefish flat and were able to spot and throw to them. It took us a while to find a fly that they would eat (gummy minnows), but finally were able to get several to take. I had one well over ten pounds on for quite some time but was not using a shock tippet and he eventually made short work of the 15 lb. tippet I was using. It was a great week with my son.”
Taylor Collins began his quest to become a salt water fly fisherman on a Meca trip in Belize in 2008. Since then, he has been a frequent visitor using both the Meca and Rising Tide as his base of operations. In January, he was with a friend on the Meca (at left) and had this report: “We caught several tarpon, bonefish, and snook, with the snook on the flats being the most exciting and challenging…….it was a clear day and 5 fish were heading straight for us in water about a foot deep. Dean spotted them 200 feet out and identified them as snook. The largest snook we took was 11 lbs. Used a deceiver, red and white. It was really fun.” __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
PERMIT TRIP EXTRAORDINAIRE
William Owens, Michael Berard (at left), Jeff Aldridge, and Ray Styons have been taking an annual Belize mothership trip since 2004. All of their previous trips had focused on the northern areas and the variety aspect of the Belize fishery – tarpon, bonefish, snook, cuda, jacks, and the occasional permit. In late September, they took their first trip heading south from Belize City to focus entirely on the reknowned permit flats inside the barrier reef that begin about 15 miles southeast of Belize City and extend south to the area around Placencia. They were rewarded with 17 permit released during their 8 night trip.
Ray (at right) not only released his first permit, he took five fish during the trip. He relates the thrill associated with the first one: “I am ecstatic to finally get that first permit…..to finally have permit success was a bit surreal.……We saw a group of fish about 200 yards away and Dean did a great job of getting us in position quickly. I started my backcast about 60-70 feet out and dropped it in front of what appeared to be 6 to 8 feeding fish, probably 40-45 feet in front of the skiff. I slow-stripped twice to get the slack out of the line and Bam! at the end of the second strip……he was on and ran like hell. At first I was surprised that he actually ate my fly and was hooked, then my heart started pounding and was probably beating at 160 beats per minute until we could finally get the leader and land that first one.”
At times, the action was intense as related by William (at left) in this experience: “The very first morning I landed one on the Hinkley raghead fly. That permit had swallowed it deep. While the guide was removing the fly, I climbed out of the boat, grabbed the other rod, and went wading after another permit still tailing in the same area where the first one was hooked. Within 10 minutes I was hooked up again only to have the fish come unhooked after a 75 yard run.”
Jeff is approaching double figures in the number of Belize mothership trips he’s taken and sums up his view of the experience like this: “The Rising Tide (above left) is like a floating resort condominium. It has all the comforts of home. It is always located in the best spots. And even better, it comes stocked with beer and a fantastic cook! This first class mothership is definitely the best way to fish the vast expanse of saltwater flats in Belize.”
This link will take you to a photo essay report of the trip with all the details….. http://www.flyfishingadventures.org/Newsletter/Permit_Trip2010.pdf
Long time Belize mothership veteran, Bill Pitman and his party, chased Grand Slams all week, but couldn’t get a permit to cooperate to complete the needed threesome. Bill’s report on their trip: “Bonefish were easy and permit obstinate. It was an afternoon bite for tarpon……Fast and furious, many hook ups……. Frantic from 4:00 til dark daily with fish to 120#. We never moved the boat – stayed in one area the entire trip. The Rising Tide was a trip highlight……really a lovely boat. Look forward to being on it next year. The entire crew (Dean, Noel and Carol) couldn’t have been more accommodating.”
“We’ve fished Belize many times before, but using the Rising Tide as our base was the most comfortable experience we’ve ever had in the tropics. The food was great, the accommodations spacious and comfortable, and the crew and guides outstanding. Even the permit cooperated.”…….comments from Belize veteran Scooter Walters after his first trip on the Rising Tide. Scooter was accompanied by Shawn Wendell, Chris Ellis, and Bryce Miller (Bryce at right with his largest permit).
Shawn Wendell took his first permit ever and followed that up with his second on the last day. Shawn, on his first Belize mothership adventure, stated: “The accommodations aboard the Rising Tide were spectacular……The guides were fantastic…….Dean gave me a personal fly casting tune up with out which I would not have been able to catch the two permit that I did. The friendly and personable demeanor of the whole crew put this trip over the top.”
Images: l to r top- Shawn with first permit; Scooter with crew; Rising Tide at sunset anchor; Shawn with bonefish. l to r bottom – wading; dinner on the Rising Tide
Carrie and Kevin Scarpelli were on their first Belize trip aboard the Rising Tide. While Carrie relaxed and did some barracuda fishing, Kevin took his first two permit ever and hooked and lost, to a break off on a coral head, a very large fish that had taken over 300 yards of backing off…….“It was a marvelous experience to be aboard a boat and fish Belize. Captain Dean and Carol were great to be with……It is a good thing that I didn’t pay too much attention to your statistics about permit sighted, cast too, and rejected. I hooked 3 permit after making only 6 or 7 casts. Maybe it is best, while permit fishing, that one not know what he is doing and just listen to the guide!!!”
Bob Cazort and friends took the inaugural trip on the new 58’ Hatteras mothership, the Rising Tide. Bob is a seasoned veteran of the Belize mothership trip: “I have taken 3 or 4 Belize mothership trips each year for many years and just spent my first week on the Rising Tide, the new mothership option in Belize. There was nothing new with the captain, cook and guide – they were the same crew I have enjoyed over the years. However, the new boat was fantastic – there is a great deal of space, even for a group of six. The new owners went overboard on this one…….everything was tip top. Could not have been nicer!”
AN ENVIRONMENT FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Since there is no one else on board but the people you bring with you (and the crew), the nature of this trip is such that it is a great experience for small groups of friends and family that enjoy spending time together. John Bobbitt (left) and sons Mike and Sean and friends will be taking their sixth Belize mothership trip this year. John does an excellent job of capturing the appeal of this adventure with the following excerpts from a report he wrote for the Angling Report:
“This was the fifth year that two of my sons and I fished Belize using the mothership Meca as our base. In the early years, we took the standard 7 night trip, but we’ve elected to go for 10 days the last two years because we enjoy it so much. The crew make you very welcome and work very hard to make sure you are comfortable, well fed, and on to fish. Excellent guides. On the average day, you are in the skiffs fishing the flats for at least 11 hours starting at 6:00am and continuing, with meal breaks, to dark or sometimes later. Although there are destinations where you can catch more of a specific species (usually bonefish), there are very few places you can go for the diversity of species that can be found in the coastal waters of Belize. I have never found a better value.”
NEWCOMER TO SALTWATER FLATS FISHING
Taylor Collins began saltwater fly fishing in 2008 when a friend invited him on a Belize mothership trip. He has progressed as a salt water fly caster over the last two years and now has taken three permit on the fly in Belize in addition to many other species including hooking up an 80+ pound tarpon on his last trip. Regarding Taylor’s experiences fishing Belize from a mothership, and more recently, theRising Tide, he comments: “Fishing from the mothership in Belize has been crucial to me honing my fly fishing skills because of the extra time it allows one to be on the water and being able to migrate to areas holding different species. The Rising Tide has taken the wonderful benefits of fishing from a mothership base and provides a four star experience, both on the water and on the boat. It’s also nice to know that the owners of the boat have been long term customers of the Belize trip and understand what the client expects and needs.”
GRAND SLAMS, FIRST PERMIT
Mike Copithorne, at right with permit, doesn’t let the “small things” get in the way – that permit was part of a Grand Slam day for Mike with a tarpon and bonefish to complete it. Adam Barker, with Mike’s group on the Rising Tide mothership took his first permit (at left).
Some comments from the group regarding the overall experience of using the Rising Tide as their base of operations to pursue the shallow water species of Belize.…..Mike: “We did have a great trip…..Everything looks good for June of 2011 for us to return.” Adam: “The trip was fantastic. Great people, beautiful surroundings and awesome fishing to boot.” Mikey Wier, a successful fly fishing video expert, also was on board capturing events on video. Mikey’s comments: “The trip was awesome. I think everyone had a great time and definitely exceeded most expectations…….All and all, I think it was a very productive trip.”
At left, Frank Jackson has his 80# tarpon to the boat and in the hands of the guide….a great way to begin a Grand Slam day! That fish was a load to handle beginning with the hook-up near the skiff and first jump when he showered both guide and angler. He battled through sun-up before finally pulling out of the guide’s grasp and eluding that one final photo. Numbers of both big tarpon and permit were encountered and hooked up on our trip.
Frank’s description of the adventure: “I had a very good trip, extremely enjoyable, successful fishing with very comfortable accommodations and great food aboard The Rising Tide mothership. We hardly saw any other anglers and had the fishing locations very much to ourselves. I was able to land two Permit and had many more shots. I captured a grand slam and only missed a super grand slam by a couple of hours. The highlight was hooking, playing for 50 minutes and landing an 80 # Tarpon, after casting my fly to a rolling fish less than 25 feet away. Overall, I strongly recommend this trip………”
COMBINING DIVING WITH FIRST ATTEMPT AT SALT WATER FLATS FISHING
Russ and Lucky Leavitt, on their first Belize mothership trip, were combining their first flats fly fishing experience with scuba diving utilizing one of the top dive shops on the reef. Some of Russ’ comments on the overall experience: “Belize was great. All had a wonderful time. The Meca, while not fancy, was entirely adequate. The flats fly fishing learning curve was steep, but Lucky – at right, with one of her first bonefish – and I both caught lots of bonefish. Had a good try at several permit. One took well – be sure to advise future fishers to avoid standing on the fly line when a permit takes off. Two good grabs from tarpon, but no real hook-ups, but fun all the same. Diving off of Caye Caulker was excellent. I would love to go again…..an outstanding week.”
FIRST RISING TIDE TRIP AND LARGEST PERMIT
Tom Brutsche (at left), Lee Lewis, and Ron Knowles had what Tom termed “a great trip” on their annual Belize adventure. All their previous trips had been on the Meca and this was their first on the new luxury Belize mothership option, the Rising Tide. Within a 5 minute run from the anchored mothership, Tom took his 5th and largest permit to date, weighed in at over 20#.