Slam: Flats skiffs bobbing in a row

Editor's note: Contributor Gary Giudice, who penned Wannabe Trout Bums for ESPNOutdoors.com, is traveling to Belize in an attempt at the fly fishing Grand Slam, a permit, bonefish and tarpon on fly all on the same day. He'll offer reports following his quest.
The Slam Haunts Me archive

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — The only thing between the second largest barrier reef in the world and me is a dock with about a half a dozen flats skiffs bobbing in the breeze all in a row.

I can see the reef, with Atlantic waves breaking over it, about 400 yards away. The beach is calm. With any luck at all bonefish will start tailing in front of the lodge before dark.

Damn, I love Belize!

I've been here for several days now trying to catch the Grand Slam, a permit, tarpon and bonefish in the same day on a fly. Tough to do but I'm holding up just fine.

Luck has not been with me so far. High wind and clouds have hampered the fishing. Weather is always the fisherman's best excuse. It's mine, once again.

The lodge I'm staying in makes the difference between whining about bad luck and looking forward to tomorrow. El Pescadore Lodge on Ambergris Caye is the best saltwater fly-fishing destination I know of, bar none.

This place has been around forever. It was built in 1974 as a fly-fishing destination and has been growing ever since. They add on from time to time but it still has the same mission, putting fly fishers on fish. It's heard every fishing tail imaginable, seen the pictures of smiles and fish that would make you drool and more importantly they never miss a detail.

"Details are what makes the difference between a good lodge and a great one," said Bill Conlon, a Columbus, Ohio guest and one that I have shared many a cocktail. "This is a great lodge." Clink, clink.

Bill should know, he's here scouting the location for future trips he'll host for his employer, Mad River Outfitters up in Columbus. They take about a dozen trips a year and Bill hosts many of them. They don't go to bad places.

"I look for things like the selection process for guides, how friendly is the staff and how well things are explained when I get here," he said. "This place has it figured out."

Bill's looking for a lodge for a group, I'm looking for just me. El Pescador has a lot of things some folks would find more important than I, such as pools, masseuses, SCUBA diving, bicycles and on and on and on. But it also has everything I need. Please allow me to go over a few.

A fly shop. This place has all the basic saltwater flies but also the flies that are working here, now. I like to tie my own but theirs are much better. The fish eat them better then mine.


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Information. Lori-Ann Murphy is the fishing host and she knows everything about the fishing from proper casting to how to tip the guides to what you can expect during a day on the water. Each fishing guest gets a fishing orientation when they arrive.

Help. Lori-Ann also gives casting lessons for anybody who needs them. Casting a Crazy Charlie in Belize is not at all like casting an Adams in the trout stream back home. I don't care how good you think you might be, here if you're a first timer, you could use some help. She'll also go over the gear you've brought with you. If you don't have what you need she'll loan it to you.

Good guides. Most guides in the tropics could not pass the test to get hired on here. El Pescador guides are all good. They know fishing, boating and fishermen.

The first time you go out with a guide here they are trying to figure out how well you can cast, what kind of stamina you have and even how well you can take a bumpy boat ride. Then they'll build a plan to fit your goals. At least that's how it should be and here it is.

Good food. It's been a long, grueling day waving a ten weight around in 20-knot winds reeling in tarpon bigger than your prom date. You are beat. Nothing is better than a good dinner to make life large once again. A good bar helps, too. OK, a good bar helps a lot.

Clean rooms. Well, I guess most places have that. Not all, but most.

Location. Belize, what else can I say.

This lodge is sort of an extended family affair. Most of their 40 some employees come from a single village on the mainland, Valley of the Peace. Cool name, cool folks.

Ali Flota owns the place, her mom Chis Spiro does the marketing, Chris's husband Steve acts as general manager and Ali's husband Alonzo is the dive master. You can't miss the sense of family at this place. Even the dinner is served family style so new friends are made.

"There's stuff we can't control, like the weather as an example, but everything else we work hard on to insure a good trip for all our guests," said Chris. "We know we have world class fishing. We just want everyone to enjoy it and learn from the experience."

They have a very cool web site elpecador.com. It has latest fishing report and a run down of every thing going on in the Ambergris Caye area plus a complete list of amenities and packages.

As I set here with my new buddy Bill and my second pina colada in hand, I see the sickle tail of a bonefish just off the south side of the dock.

I sure hope Bill doesn't see it. I think I'll just excuse myself, act like I'm going to the john but grab my rod instead. He'll never know until I have yet another bone on my Crazy Charlie.