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#380788 - 06/17/10 11:12 AM ESPN series on fly fishing - Giudice Grand Slam
Marty Offline
grand slam By Gary Giudice
Special to ESPNOutdoors.com

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

Catching the Grand Slam of fly-fishing near impossible

grand slam gary guidice
Courtesy El Pescador Lodge
The Belize flats where Guidice plans to fly-fish for the Grand Slam of tarpon, bonefish and permit.

Catching a monster redfish in the waters of Venice, La., was not all that challenging. Neither was nailing a trophy largemouth bass on Mexico's Lake El Salto or raising huge Yellowstone cutthroats in the upper reaches of Slough Creek.

But catching the Grand Slam of fly-fishing is harder than qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic. True, several have done it, but, for most of us, it is nigh on impossible.

I love competitive bass fishing. In fact I finished one place out of the Classic a few years back. One lousy place! I almost had to be medicated. A heartbreaker of a season but it gave me undying respect for those who accomplish it.

The Grand Slam on the other hand, the folks who have done that? Well, I think I hate them.

There are lots of "Grand Slams" out there. The Back Country Slam, the Venice Slam, the Billfish Slam, the list seems endless. But this is the original one for me. The first one I heard of as a kid and still, arguably, the toughest of them all.

They make these 'Johnny come lately' slams sound bad, but we all know the most challenging one of all... the Grand Slam of Fly Fishing.

It sounds easy enough. Just catch a tarpon, a bonefish and a permit on a fly in a single day. But I've tried it several times and failed. Oh, I've had two of the three in the same day and once in Belize I had the third one on. And save for a hastily tied knot I would have done it, but it just wasn't meant to be. The Grand Slam just sounds easy.

I am not going to give up on the Grand Slam. The Classic I got over but the Slam haunts me.

grand slam permit Gary Guidice
El Pescador Lodge on Ambergris Caye down in San Pedro, Belize.
A wealthy, retired guy with plenty of time on his hands I am not. I have a full-time job I struggle with just like you. I have just about average skills as a fly fisher. But I do have a burning passion to fish, a burning desire to catch the fabled Grand Slam.

So I'm cashing in my hard-earned frequent flyer points, drawing down my savings account and heading to El Pescador Lodge on Ambergris Caye down in San Pedro, Belize. I plan to stay there until I get it done or the money runs out. My wife just shakes her head, my friends think I'm over committed to this cause and the folks at work think I have lost my mind. Maybe I have.

Belize is an easy place to love. It's an inexpensive place to visit, the weather is always perfect (temperatures vary about 10 degrees total a year) and the locals are friendly, always smiling with warm greetings.

Well, why the hell shouldn't they be happy, they live in paradise! Snow and ice? Never seen it. High gas prices? They walk or ride a bike. Crime? The cops I've seen don't even wear guns. Damn, I love Belize!

Located in Central America, Belize is perfectly positioned to be a Mecca for fish that frequent the warm, shallow flats. There are hundreds of small islands and mile after mile of shallow, clear waters that host bonefish schools numbering sometimes in the hundreds.

They are there all year long, ready to eat a well-placed Crazy Charlie. Tarpon are there all year as well, but migrants start coming through in early summer boosting the populations several times over.

Permit are the rascals of the flats. Slow to bite, hard to fight and you just don't see that many of them. They also have the local populations increased by migrants in early summer. June is the perfect time to be in Belize. Even the wind lays some.

I'm told to catch all three in the same day you must have a plan. Most tell me to ignore the bonefish and get the permit out of the way first then the tarpon and finish with the bones.

Telling me to ignore the bonefish is much like telling an alcoholic to ignore the bottle or a fat dude to ignore the Snicker's bar. Best of luck with that one. It's little wonder I have never caught the Grand Slam. I've got to work on my mental game.

I'm taking two rods, both nine-feet long, one ten-weight and one eight-weight and both Orvis Helios. These rods may be little heavy for bones and a little light for larger tarpon but it's a good average and that's all I have.

I'll be using that Shark Line made by 3M. I can get 20 or 30 more feet a cast with this stuff! Plenty of backing and fluorocarbon leaders are a must. I'll double-check all my carefully tied knots.

I've already tied most of the flies I'll need. I'm no Lefty Kreh, I'm just cheap. I'm thankful El Pescador's has a fly shop. If my flies run out or they won't catch them I can buy what I need. The bones and permit often come on the same small flies, crab or shrimp imitations mostly. They are size four and six. Tarpon streamers are much bigger and gaudy, size 3/0 or so.

I've been practicing my casting. That's been my biggest weakness in the past. I need to be comfortable with 60- to 80-foot casts and 100-footers can be handy. Plus there's always a problem with the wind. It seems to blow just enough to screw up a well-done cast. I'm not there yet but close.

I've packed my small boat bag. Extra leaders, back-up sunglasses, lip balm, sunscreen and some Band-Aids (that Shark Line will eat right through your skin when you strip it but not a Band -Aid). Pliers, tape measure, light rain jacket, flats boots... I should be good to go.

In another small bag I have a couple of shirts and shorts, toiletries and a back-up hat. My backpack has my laptop and cameras plus a book to read at the Lodge. That's it; I'm keeping it simple.

I live just south of Oklahoma City in Norman with no ocean near but the flight from here to Atlanta then on to Belize City won't take long. I'll catch a puddle jumper from there out to Ambergris Caye. Then it's just me and the fish at the most perfect place I know.

My wife can shake her head all she wants and my co-workers can question my sanity, but I know I might be the luckiest guy on the planet. This time the Slam is all mine.

Slam: Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

As El Pescador Lodge host, Lori-Ann Murphy, who taught the actor, is living the dream

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this," I asked.

OK, not a very original line but this time an honest question.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Double date with permit. Lori-Aann fishing with buddy Wil landed a double on permit. It's hard enough to catch one but a double is almost unheard of.

Lori-Ann Murphy is the fishing and guest relation's host for one of the best fishing and most famous lodges in the tropics, El Pescador Lodge in the Central American country of Belize.

She has Hollywood good looks, the personality of a diplomat and fishing prowess of Lefty Krey all rolled into one.

And she loves her job. Some folks just have it all. It just doesn't seem right, does it? I'm told they interviewed 170 people before hiring her.

"Sure, I love my job. I have the best guides to work with and I live in paradise," she said. "I get to fish as much as I want and I meet some of the best people from all over the world!"


Click Here

Lori-Ann is all over the place. Early each morning she's at the dock. I think she's looking for anyone with a puzzled look because she loves to solve fishing problems.

Every new guest goes through an orientation. She tells them what's happening now, what they have in store for the next few days and even how best to communicate with the guides.

She meets most every boat that comes in at night, asking them how they did and what they caught. She listens to every fishing story like she's never heard one before. She truly cares.

Once she even hired on to teach Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon to fly fish for the movie "The River Wild." So help me here. If everybody is six degrees from Kevin Bacon, what's that make Lori-Ann? Or us for that matter?

Back in 1989 she was the first woman to be named an Orvis-Endorsed fly-fishing guide. She has served as a consultant to several fly fishing tackle and equipment manufacturers and makes educational and promotional presentations at sport shows and fly-fishing clubs all over the United States. Lori-Ann Murphy definitely has her stuff all together in a very neat pile.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Lori-Ann Murphy sits on the poling platform of a ponga near El Pescador Lodge in Belize. She's the fishing host for the lodge.
Yesterday I was heading to the Savanna flats with the guide, Emir, driving the ponga. Waves were at least three feet high and the flat bottom boat made for a brutal ride.

Looking up ahead I see another guide boat, poling platform in the back and a caster on deck. The closest land is miles away. There was Lori-Ann casting a way to rolling tarpon, smiling ear to ear. Most of us could not have been standing in the boat much less make those casts.

Casting in the winds of Belize takes some practice. If you work fish directly down wind, no problem. But what if a good pod of tarpon come in at 9 o'clock (a right angle on the left side). There they are 60 feet out with a 20-knot wind.

Some guys can cast to them, some cannot. I am one who cannot. Lori-Ann is one who can.

Many use a back cast method that sometimes even works for me. Simply cast opposite of the fish then let the fly fall on the back cast.

It's a saltwater deal that I've never seen used fresh water fly-fishing. I'm sure some do but I've only felt the need out here on the flats. Even then I seem to screw it up much of the time. Big rods help, at least a ten weight but they wear you down quickly.

Flats fly-fishing can be the most frustrating activity many of us will ever face in the great out doors.

Lori-Ann has a philosophy about it.

"The joy is always learning something new, and taking with us what we have learned along the way. Cast to your dreams," she says.

OK it may sound a little corny to you but if it does you have never fished the shallow waters in paradise.


#380989 - 06/18/10 06:18 PM Re: ESPN series on fly fishing [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Slam: Flats skiffs bobbing in a row

El Pescadore Lodge is the best saltwater fly-fishing destination, bar none

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.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Bill Conlon from Columbus, OH knows lodges better than most anyone around. He searches the world for the very best for future trips.

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.

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.

grand slam Gary Guidice
El Pescador has been around since 1974.
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.

#380990 - 06/18/10 06:23 PM Re: ESPN series on fly fishing -Giudice Grand Slam [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Carlos doesn't like my chances

With wind blowing, guide nixes shot for Grand Slam on first day

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — "You'll catch no tarpon today," Carlos said.

I just met the guy and these words were the first out of his mouth. Carlos was to be my guide for the day. I'm in trouble from the start. No tarpon, no Grand Slam. No Slam, no filling a life-long dream.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Carlos Miran has been guiding on Ambergris Caye, Belize in Central America for more than 40 years. He has seen it all, including a mammoth amount of change.

I'm on a quest to catch a tarpon, a bonefish and a permit all in the same day on a fly rod. Lots of anglers have done it, but I haven't. And I've tried several times.

Now I'm on Ambergris Caye, Belize in Central America staying at the famous El Pescador Lodge. This is my shot. But not today evidently. The best lodge with the best guides and the most fish, surely on this trip it will be my turn.

Carlos Marin has seen it all when it comes to flats fishing. He's been guiding for 40 years, day in and day out poling a ponga (a heavy 23-foot work boat common in the tropics) through the shallow flats of Belize.

How many Grand Slams?

"Several," he says with a sly grin. "Several."

"No tarpon today" did not mean that I was being punished for some unknown offense. It meant that the wind was going to blow so damn hard that the tarpon areas were going to be hard to reach with murky water when we got there, and Carlos wouldn't be able to see them through the waves. That meant no permit either. Just my luck. But I have plenty of time and plenty of desire to get the Slam. Now all I need to do is to calm down and fish.

Carlos poled me around the shallow water all day. He was right, no tarpon and no permit but a gracious plenty of smallish bonefish. I lost count, but a stellar bonefish day.

The wind hammered us at 20-plus knots from start to finish. It was so bad that Carlos broke his push pole. He rarely breaks one, less than one every other year, or so he says.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Gary Giudice unhooks yet another small bonefish. He found countless "bones" in the shallow flats of Belize.
The poles are hand cut from hardwoods on the mainland. He's out about 30 bucks Belize, or he's in for a very long boat ride with a machete.

He's not too happy, setting on his poling platform with a long face when here comes a manatee just swimming along in the shallow water without a care in the world right beside the ponga.

Things are getting better. Carlos gets real excited. This must be a good omen, I'm thinking. Carlos told me how the manatees are protected here with a penalty of hard time for harassing them. When he was a kid, they would eat them, he said.

"Wow," I said. "What did they taste like?"

"A lot like chicken," he said with that grin of his. "The best I remember."

But back to the fishing ... We caught bonefish after bonefish, tailing and swimming in the very shallow water, tucked back in out of the wind behind the many islands. I needed this confidence builder. I was down and the wind was driving me nuts.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Carlos the guide has seen happier moments. The broken pole means cash out of his pocket or a long ride to the mainland.
"Even under the best of conditions catching all three in the same day is not easy", Carlos said. "You still have to have some skill and a little luck."

He looked at me like I didn't have a chance in the world. He may be right, but I hope not.

In 40 years, Carlos, who is 69, has seen a lot of change here on Ambergris Caye.

"When I first started, there were 700 people living here," he said. "Now there are close to that many guides!"

That number includes the tour guides, the reef guides, the scuba guides and the some 100 flats guides. But there's plenty of room around here, so I rarely see other fishermen when I'm out on the water.

Carlos' father was a fisherman, his three bothers are fisherman and his four sons' are fishermen. Two guide with him at El Pescador Lodge. His family has always lived with the sea.

"The sea has changed, too," he told me. "The permit fishing is much better than it used to be, but the tarpon are fewer and smaller. The bonefish, they are about the same.

"I don't know what happened to the tarpon," he said. "We did not kill them. Some places very, very good but not all over like before. We guides just have to work harder.

grand slam Gary Guidice
When a manatee swam by the boat it seemed to make Carlos the guide happy. What he can recall from his youth, he said they taste a lot like chicken.
"You can't just come down here, drop a line in the water and expect to catch the Grand Slam," he added. "You never could. I had a lot of fishermen come but they couldn't cast well. The first thing I do with fishermen is take them for bonefish. I don't have to go far and then I know what I'm up against. If they can't fish I know not to make a long run with them. I put them on the bonefish. Most everyone can catch the bones."

Carlos said that if an angler can cast well at 50 feet on a calm day he can catch plenty of fish in Belize, plus have a chance at the Slam.

The day I arrived it was too late to fish, but Mark Wilson and his son Travis, both from Helena, Mont., were hard at it out on the flats.

Mark saw his first tarpon and his first permit then proceeded to catch them both. Their guide Cesar Acosta hustled them off to a bonefish flat and just like that Mark had the slam. I know it can be done. Mark did it and made it sound so easy.

Now if the damn wind would just lie perhaps I could use what little skill and luck I have to fulfill a life long dream. I really, really hope Carlos is wrong!

#380993 - 06/18/10 06:32 PM Re: ESPN series on fly fishing -Giudice Grand Slam [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Leonardo's island

DeCaprio knows how to spend his money

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — We stopped just shy of Leonardo DeCaprio's place. The Hollywood icon knows how to spend his money, a mile long island about 200 yards wide with a spring on it. He's never there I'm told.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Legend has that this interesting building was a bar and house of ill repute in San Pedro Town, Belize, Central America. Rumor has it that the place closed when the owner passed away.

But that's where we were, on a 16-mile long flat named Savanna. Emir is my guide. I fished with his dad the day before but today it's Emir. A 34 year-old guide with energy to spare and as excitable as if he's on a game show.

Emir didn't think my chances were all that good for the Grand Slam of fly fishing either, especially this day. I'm here at the El Pescador Lodge in Belize, Central America to catch a permit, tarpon and bonefish all in the same day all on a fly.

To get to Savanna, we made about a 30-minute run in 30-plus knot winds, pounding, pounding. A very rough ride with five footers kicking the flat-bottomed ponga around like a Dixie cup in the surf.

The big flat softened the waves but the water was the color of the third cowboy's bath water, sort of a blue grey with only inches of visibility. This was the best tarpon spot of the islands and we couldn't see one unless it rolled right in front of us. It didn't.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Emir Miran is one of the best permit guides in the islands. He fishes like he is a guest on a game show.
For hours we watched. Nothing. Damn the wind, damn the turbid water.

I caught one mutton snapper totally by accident. It ate my tarpon fly hanging of the edge of the boat.

We left and headed for the best permit water Emir knew about. That was our plan. Fish for tarpon half a day then permit the other.

The tarpon were on a morning bite and the toughest to catch right now. Bonefish are relatively easy anytime any day. So that's the plan; tarpon, permit then the bonefish. But we cursed the wind with only a mutton snapper to show for our efforts.

That was yesterday. Today dawned with little wind. That made for a smooth ride and clear water. But it was cloudy. Leadened skies the color of an egg sinker.

Some fishermen hate the wind; others hate the heat or cold. My guide Emir hates the clouds. Without the sun he can't see the fish. He's blind. Then he's frustrated. He feels pain for his fishing clients because he can't help them.

grand slam Gary Guidice
"I too will be a guide one day," Gordy said. The 14-year-old high school student's family has lived with the sea for generations.
Today we saw several schools of tarpon in the morning but because of my incompetence or choosing to cast the wrong fly they would not eat. They would follow the fly just not eat it. Then they were gone.

At noon off to the permit water some 10 miles away. There they were tailing in the shallows but not takers.

Big fish, big as frying pans but they wanted no parts of our flies. I caught a nice bonefish as not to be skunked but it was a very tough day.

Emir has seen it before and will see it many times in the future. It's part of being a guide, part of being an angler. Some days fishing sucks.

Emir has guided here at El Pescador's for the past nine years after three years as an independent. He's known as one of the best permit guides around, and he is impressive to fish with. He can teach casting as good as someone at the Orvis school.

Joan Wulff might learn something from him. He has a tremendous knowledge of the local fishes and their habitat. He knows every fly in the box and has a cool story about most of them. Emir is a guide's guide.

Emir's father is guide, his grandfather was a fisherman and his son Gordy is a guide apprentice.

"It's in our blood he says. "It's what we are, what we do."

grand slam Gary Guidice
The bonefish are getting bigger but still no Grand slam for Gary. High winds, clouds and murky water have plagued the trip but the forecast have turned promising.
And the money's good. A good year he makes about $100,000 Belize (about $50,000 U.S.). Being a guide in Belize is not easy. You must have a boat license, a guide license and a captain's license.

There are tests and classes and then you've got to find a job. A lot of young men on the islands of Belize want to be guides. Ambergris Caye has over 100 of them, but few are as good as Emir.

Tomorrow, Emir and I, along with his son Gordy, will stick with the plan. Start with the tarpon, move on to the permit then an easy finish with the bonefish.

Emir tells me to get the Slam you need 80 percent skill and 20 percent luck. I beg to differ. Like most anglers I'd rather be more lucky than good any ol' day of the week. Here that's my only chance.

#380994 - 06/18/10 06:36 PM Re: ESPN series on fly fishing -Giudice Grand Slam [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Slam: Pina coladas are on me!

Tarpon added into mix but permit not allowing Slam

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — "Yada, yada, yada. TARPON," Emir the guide said.

I heard tarpon and looked around.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Oblivious to pending storms, Emir Marin poles miles of flats looking for the elusive permit. Wind, rain nor blistering heat detours Emir, a man on a mission.

"Yada, Yada, yada, TARPON."

Again, I heard only tarpon. But this time I knew the tone. Allow me to translate.

"Can't you see those tarpon? They're right there, you ignorant #%@&! A monkey could see those fish. Cast, damn you, cast!"

I looked back around. There they were, 40 feet out heading straight for me, all the same size. They're small but I could care less. I'm after the Grand Slam and size of fish has nothing to do with it.

I need to catch a tarpon, a permit and a bonefish all in the same day on a fly. It's tough to do, I've tried several times, but I have an overpowering desire to get it done.

I cast for the first time of the day. The lead fish eats the perfectly tied "Cock Roach" like it was a homemade brownie. I bought it at the El Pescador Lodge fly shop because Emir the guide didn't care for the ones I tied.

I set the hook three times sharply with my stripping hand and we're off to the races. The fish jumps, so does Emir. He's yelling, "Yada, yada, BOW!" He's telling me to bow as the tarpon jumps, point the rod and give it some slack so it doesn't throw the hook.

Hard to do for an old bass fisherman but I manage, four, five, six times the fish jumps and I bow each time. The tarpon is spent, we take a picture and it's off to the permit waters, a 10-mile pounding run.

Beautiful flat, full of bonefish. Permit? Not so much.

I see a school of bones with a nice permit toward the end of the pack. I cast the second time of the day. A bone eats the Crazy Charlie. I had tied the fly so I'm proud of the fish but sad because it was not the permit. It followed the bone around as I fought it in.

All the rest of the day we looked for permit. We waited at known passes. We poled miles of flats. We cruised even more. Nothing. It blew, it rained and it got so hot I thought I would faint. Nothing.

Two casts and two fish. Just one more cast and I might've had it. Schools of bonefish, some numbering in the hundreds, were ignored by Emir and I. We're serious about this Slam deal.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Gary Giudice with a small tarpon but in this case, size really does not matter. He's trying to catch a tarpon, permit and bonefish all in the same day with his fly rod, the Grand Slam.
So here I set in the outdoor bar at the best lodge in paradise, El Pescador, sharing stories with my new friends from all over the world.

"Hey Antonio, pina colada's for all my friends!" Antonio is a fine young man that can mix anything perfectly by ask him for a Manhattan and he may give you a look that could kill.

I wish you were here, too. The world's best pina coladas are on me.

I'm drowning my sorrows now but tomorrow is another day. Emir, the guide, has a new plan, one sure to work. The Grand Slam might be mine after all. Or not. I'm in paradise; I might not ever come home!

#381135 - 06/21/10 10:00 AM Re: ESPN series on fly fishing -Giudice Grand Slam [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Beaten by the Slam, again

Guidice got close but no deal on fly-fishing's Grand Slam, a tarpon, permit and bonefish

AMBERGRIS CAYE, Belize — OK. Uncle.

I've been in paradise for days trying to catch fly-fishing's Grand Slam, a permit, tarpon and bonefish all in one day. I can get close but so far, no deal.


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It sounds a whole lot easier than it is. The average guide in Belize gets roughly five a year. That's when conditions are perfect.

Conditions are not perfect right now. They should be, that's why I'm here but wind and clouds are killing me. You can't see the fish and when you can, casting to them is near impossible. At least for me.

Take today as an example. The wind was howling this morning out on Savannah Flats and the water is starting to murk up. Emir, the guide, and I are talking about making a move when he shouts "TARPON!"


"12 o'clock, coming straight in fast!"

I turn around and there he is, a nice 50-pounder alone. I cast and it lies perfect. I strip once and the big fish bolts, never to be seen again. Murky water finally forces a move.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Emir, the guide, holds a medium sized tarpon. Trying to catch the Grand Slam is almost as cool as doing it.

Long Caye is a long haul but we go for it. Pounding, pounding, the small skiff and its occupants take a beating. I blind cast into a deep hole. I was using a local favorite fly, "The Black Death." Tarpon love it. Strip, strip, strip. A pair of huge permit follows all the way to the boat then peels off back to the depths.

The winds grow to 25 knots. Clouds put a permanent grey tint to everything and the water gets even more murky. Hours later we know it's not going to happen today. So we head to a bunch of small islands just south of Ambergris Caye and pound on the bonefish for an hour or so.

Bonefish are as fun to catch as anything that swims and at least here you can catch all you want, wind and clouds be damned.

Back at the lodge we gather around, fisherman and guides. We find the weather on the Wunderground weather site. Long range looks bad and getting worse.

A storm they've named "Invest 92" is a long ways off, near Barbados, but growing. It will not hit anywhere near Belize but the guides tell us it is messing with the weather patterns here and will continue to give us more clouds and stronger winds. Oh, that's just what we need.

On top of that, I get a note from home. Deke, my trusty lab, has eaten another of my wife's shoes and the guy who was supposed to mow the grass got deported. Things are falling apart for me at every turn. I'm heading home. I give up on the Grand Slam of fly-fishing once again.

But I've learned a lot about going after the Slam and I've come up with a list of four things that could make the difference in success and failure. Please allow me to share my thoughts.

grand slam Gary Guidice
This small island has barely room for the small house. Once a lobster shack built for a few night's stay for lobster fishermen, now is owned by an American. It's miles to the nearest town or land.

That's always a great excuse and most of us over use it but it's still a good one. Before heading to the Tropics make sure you're going at a good time of year. It's always going to be windy so get ready for it. but winds over about 15 knots can really screw things up.

Guides will tell you that you cannot cast well enough. They are right most of the time.

Here's an example. You've got a 20-knot crosswind. Permit are coming in fast at 9 o'clock. You have to cast across the wind, accurately and far. The fly needs to land about two or three feet right in front of the lead fish. Good luck!

It might be the best shot you'll have for two or three days, and if you can't make it you're screwed.

Practice before you come and learn the back cast technique. It could make the difference between the Grand Slam and a guy with a bunch of excuses like me.

See the fish, be the fish
If you cannot see the fish you cannot cast to them. Get good sunglasses. Green lenses won't cut it.

There're several amber shades that will but research and spend the money. They will make a world of difference. The first day in the Tropics seeing fish is tough but you will learn quickly if you have the proper eyewear.

Learn the fish

That sounds easy and it is but you must take the time. In most places bonefish are fairly easy to find and catch. They move around in schools and you can see them.

grand slam Gary Guidice
Catching the Slam is hard. Next time, Gary Giudice says, next time.
Strip slowly and set the hook with a strip and lifting the rod. Then get ready for long runs that will get into the backing. If you try to turn the fish before it's ready it will get off. Play it or lose it. I know that for a fact.

Permit are generally always moving fast. You will not have much time so be ready and strip faster then for the bones. On the bite pause, strip into the fish then lift into pressure.

They'll run line out extremely fast so be prepared. A bunch of fly line wrapped around your big toe will present a problem. I know that for a fact.

Tarpon generally eat slowly then turn. Long strips should make them bite if the fly lands right. Strip set the hook hard three times.

Most likely you'll lose it on the jump because you're not sure about this whole bow to the tarpon deal. You must do it! They start running real fast before each jump so get ready. When he jumps just lean into it and point the rod. Then follow the jump with your rod tip.

Easy to say but when a fish as big as a roll of carpet is dancing in the air 40 feet away it is not easy to do. I know that for a fact.

Belize is paradise. The fishing is fabulous. El Pescador is the best saltwater fly-fishing destination in Tropics. The fish won this round like they have several before but I am not down and out. I'll be back to the best lodge in paradise and this time the Slam will be mine. That's a fact.


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