I just returned from a week on Ambergris Caye. This was a family vacation, not a fishing trip, even though my wife may want to argue that point. I fished with a guide for 2 days and on my own the remaining days. Tarpon, bones and permit were the targeted species. I also caught some jacks and cudas.
Much of the first day was spent driving around Ambergris (south of the cut) looking for fishing spots. As far as fishing from the beach, Ambergris really has little to offer. I found one wadable (hard sand) flat on the bay side and smaller spots offering potential on the ocean side. For the most part, the sand on the bay side was soft and the flats on the ocean side had lots of turtle grass making spotting fish difficult. It was windy, very windy as well. This did not look promising.
Days two and three were spent with Georg Bradley, a local guide. I booked him independently after finding his name and several referrals on the internet. We spent day one on the Savannah Flats looking for tarpon. This was my first trip fishing for tarpon of any size. I have fished baby tarpon in the Florida canals before. Because the wind was down we had a relatively smooth half hour boat ride from the hotel to the flat. George was relatively pessimistic of our chances saying that few fish had been spotted recently. As it turned out, we spotted at least 15 tarpon, had 6 shots with 4 hook ups. The first hook up broke off at the class tippet and on two other hook ups, the fish spit the hook on the first jump. I got one tarpon to the boat where he spit the hook before George could grab him. While that was a disappointment, the day was exiting and I learned a lot. I can strongly recommend George as a tarpon guide. He spotted fish despite the wind chop and at amazing distances.
Day two with George brought the heavy winds again, so no Savannah Flats even though I wanted another shot at a tarpon real bad. We went to the Cayes south of Ambergris looking for bonefish and permit. We no sooner arrived then 30 feet ahead of us were two permit feeding on a grassy flat. A quick cast with a Gotcha and fish on. It was a small permit, but my first and a very good start to the day. Did I mention that it was windy? The wind made spotting permit or bones tough. We had other shots and landed several bones, all the small side, but it was difficult. For the most part the day was spent in the lee of the mangroves looking for fish in the calmer waters.
The winds did not die down for the rest of the trip. I fished the areas that I had located on the first day catching bones, cudas and a few small jacks. The best bonefish was one that I did not catch. On the bay side flat I saw a large fish coming straight towards and me. I cast the fly right in front of him and started stripping and he followed, and followed, and followed. He would not take the fly. Finally as the leader reached the rod tip he ate, and in my excitement, I pulled the fly right out of his mouth. He started swimming around looking for the damn fly so I dropped it in front of him, he grabbed it and away he went. This was a nice fish. He was fast and pulling lots of line, much of which had been coiled up at my feet. I decided to slow him down and palmed the spool. Things did not feel right. I looked and the handle was coming off on my Redington AL spool. This is going to be great, 75 yards of line out and no handle on the spool so I couldn’t play the fish or reel the line back in. And all the while, the fish was still running. Then he decided to come back towards me. The line went slack, he went lose and I got the handle back on the spool. It sure was an exciting few seconds.
I also explored the Caye looking for other areas to fish. The pickings were slim. To fish Ambergris you really need access to a boat. I could have booked guides for the mornings, but I really don’t like fishing for bones with a guide. The distances to the larger flats were far enough that even renting a kayak was not an option. There are some very nice hard white sand flats to the west of Ambgris where a couple of people can fish for hours on their own. George and I had been out there on day two. I am sure that reaching them via water taxi could be arranged for unguided fishing. If I hadn’t been on my own, but had somebody to join me on the flat, that is what I would have done.
The town of San Pedro takes up much of the habitable part of the southern half of Ambergris Caye. It has some nice restaurants and plenty of bars. Most folks get around on either bikes or gas powered golf carts which are lots of fun drive. However, much of San Pedro is dusty, noisy and in many places rather dirty and junky.
In conclusion, “almost” counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades, so here is the closest I came to the Belizean Grand Slam. Yes, the Guinness is brewed in Belize City.