It’s 83 degrees at 6 in the morning as you step out onto the porch of your cabana to watch a Caribbean sun peak up over the horizon. A cloudless sky and light breeze give you that giddy feeling–the one you get when you realize that the conditions are going to be perfect for a day out on the water. You look toward the restaurant to see your guide, already putting fuel in the boat and gearing up your rods. With no other guests staying at the lodge, it will be just you and him stalking fish up and down the island for hours. What better way to spend a summer day?
For those guests who’ve visited us during the past couple of months, this has been a very common scenario. And with the great weather and the small crowds, anglers have been taking advantage as best they can.
The beginning of July brought us a group of eight fishermen, most of them members of a fly fishing club from Prescott, Arizona. The group had a great time, both on and off the water, and caught a number of sizeable bonefish while often sighting permit as well. But without a doubt, the fish of the trip was the impressive 40-lb. tarpon that Mary Kryzsik caught with her guide, Tie-Tie. The fish and she did battle, with some spectacular jumps from both the fish and Mary. In the end, the fish was safely landed, photographed, and released. Mary, arriving back at the lodge, was clearly excited about her first tarpon and didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the week.
Another great group was a family of four from Savannah, Georgia. From day one, the three boys–Matt, Trey and their father, Gage–were catching bonefish on a regular basis. The three fisherman took turns switching off between boats and guides and always had fish and a good time.
These guys also tried a couple of new techniques being tried out by our guides. Rumors of a secret tidal pond that was home to a number of huge, solitary bonefish were enough to entice younger brother Matt into loading up a couple of kayaks into the skiff for an afternoon. Once in the kayak, he ventured off with his guide, Kessel, in search of this fabled “lago de plata.” Unfortunately, they came back empty-handed that afternoon, but the legend persists, and our guides are still eager to tap into this new-found fountain of fish.
On another afternoon, older brother Trey caught a beautiful, healthy bonefish while fishing with Kessel. However, when it came time to take the picture, Trey had to hand the fish over to Kessel to give some perspective as to just how large it was. At well over 6’4”, Trey’s enormous frame and hands made even a fish that size look small. So, as the picture shows, Kessel (being an average-size man) was able to do the big fish some justice.
July also brought something very special to Mango Creek Lodge. A group of eight students accompanied by a couple of professors from Colorado College came to visit for a 10-day class dealing with writing and its connection with the ocean. One of the professors, Steve Brown, spends a good part of the year as a fly fishing guide in Telluride, Colorado. And, seeing as how he was already down here … . Well, as you can imagine, Steve made it a point to sneak out onto the water a couple of times to have a shot at some tailing bones.
Early one morning, Steve managed to hook a nice fish while fishing the flat that sits right in front of the small village of Oak Ridge. Yet after the initial excitement of the take and first big run wore off, both Steve and his guide, Kessel, realized that there was a speed boat bearing down on them and about to run right over the line between them and the fish. Kessel, running toward the oncoming boat, started waving his hands wildly and begging the boat to stop before it mangled the line and, worse, lost the fish. At the last second, the driver let off the throttle, saving the line, the fish, and probably Steve’s good mood as well. But this fish was far from landed. As soon as it left the deeper channel, it headed straight for the shallows of the reef, darting through the exposed coral heads that threatened to finish the job that the boat didn’t do. Steve, in no mood to lose the fish after all this, took off after it. With his rod held high over his head, he deftly raced through ankle deep water, and around several sharp coral heads, in a desperate attempt to keep the fish on.
After such an epic battle, Steve was finally able to land and photograph this brave bonefish. That night, he was congratulated by both his students and our staff on his catch after retelling the entire story just before dinner. Ironically, the entire class was in the midst of reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. What better way to illustrate the ancient struggle between man and fish that this classic book discusses than actually participating in it yourself? Well done, Mr. Callahan.
Finally, as part of the students’ ocean experience, Steve’s wife, Amy, took the four female students out early one morning for a brief casting class and a look at the flats. Amy is also an avid fly fisherman and gives casting classes to clients in Telluride. While the girls were casting, Steve snuck off to the far side of the flat to get some shots at some early tailing schools of bonefish. By the time Steve headed back toward the boat, Amy had all four girls spaced out along the edge of the flat, already casting to moving fish. It was a striking sight: five lovely young women casting in near-unison as the rising sun allowed a view of nothing but their silhouettes over the glaring water. That, friends, might be the greatest way to spend a summer day.