Belize South - "The Forgotten Land"

read it at the link above. lots of good pics

Nov 28, 2007
by Paul Sharman
Sunrise and the tarpon were rolling in the mirror-calm water, accompanied by the piercing screeches of the emerald-green parrots swooping around overhead on dawn patrol. I had paddled one of the lodges 2 kayaks the relatively short distance along the shoreline, past Little Monkey Caye and its roosting frigate birds and around the mangroves that protected the entrance to the creek. Taking care to paddle quietly I could see the tarpon up ahead as they were already enjoying the breakfast I had forsaken to be out this early.

The Central American country of Belize is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south and the Caribbean to the east. The southernmost district of Toledo is the least visited of all the country, which is why the locals often refer to it as "the forgotten land". A mixture of untouched jungle, mountains, rivers and Mayan villages, it is possible to see it all in one day and still get down to the beach or ocean to fish. The resorts to the north of Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker and Turneffe get most fishing visitors by far, and are world famous as destinations for permit, bonefish, snook and tarpon. Slowly though, news of the amazing fishing in the south is leaking out and more and more anglers are reaching the jumping-off points of Placencia and Punta Gorda for access to the local flats, rivers, mangroves as well as the stunning Sapodilla Cayes.

Our excellent hosts were Sue and Chris Harris of Steppingstones, a wonderful little resort just north of the small Creole town of Monkey River. Former tackle business owners in the UK (Harris Angling), they know their fishing and work with the best local guides in Monkey River. Located on their own small private beach and accessible only by boat, you feel you really are in a world of your own with all the fishing you could want right on your doorstep - literally! This is how I came to be stalking tarpon in a kayak in the lagoon located behind Steppingstones and which now has a path leading to it to save you the paddle. That time I did jump a fish but it soon threw the hook so I left it to my guide Ian Cueves later the same day to take me in search of a better fish.

Deep River is about an hour or slightly less south of Monkey River by boat in the Port Honduras marine reserve. This mangrove fringed waterway is one of the largest in the district and many species of fish are able to range far up its main channel and feeder creeks, the largest of which is the tarpon. On the day I visited in mid-February, the dry season was struggling to arrive and just as we spotted a rolling fish the heavens opened and a tropical deluge proceeded to try and persuade us to give up. Never one to ignore a challenge I grabbed my 10 weight G Loomis Crosscurrent and jumped up onto the casting deck anyway while Ian, Steppingstones main guide from Monkey River, gently dropped anchor to hold us in position on the inside of the quiet pool. With the rain beating down I threw out a red and white deceiver on a sinking line down into the murky depths of the coffee colored water. Several casts later I had the sudden sensation that I must have hooked the bottom as the line just stopped sharply. Still my instincts told me to strip strike hard and then again, with Ian still urging me onto strike more! At around 30-40lb's this was not yet a king but a very lively silver prince that proceeded to dance merrily around the pool, testing my nerve with every headshake. Some side pressure against the runs was needed to tire the fish out which after a while finally agreed to a quick photo session in the lessening rain before being released carefully by Ian back into the river. Of course once the action was over and all was quiet the sun decided it was time to appear and we sped off back down the river, throwing a few plugs along the way at schools of jacks that we could see pushing water but to no avail. Ian reckoned with all the dirty water due to the recent rains they were just not interested but told me once the water cleans up it can be a very productive area for topwater action.

This was just the first morning's fishing and there was a lot more action to come my way in the days ahead. I'll be sharing more of this trip and stories of permit, jacks and my first snook in later installments.