Wednesday, the 4th of July. Fishing day. Back to the boys @ Tuff-ENuff. By this time we’ve become friends with them and it just feels right to be there. Now everyone I met there all tried to push the guide group they used and professed their loyalty to them and was certain that they had the better group. But for me it was like arguing over what tastes better Coke or Pepsi. Of course the answer is Coke but some people just don’t listen. And being of stubborn German decent I would nod politely and I’m sure they all do a fine job (except for the guy we used the first day), but would stick with Rico and his crew till my dying day. I grew to trust them and they us. Our guide for the day was Clemente and assisting him was Jovanni. Now Clemente took it for granted that he can see a small school of sardines much like the way we take it for granted that when we buy a TV it’ll come with a remote control. Different worlds provide different expectations. But with a simple cast of his net we had a buck full of sardines that soon would become our bait. On to our first destination. Small storm is blowing in and Clemente tells us that he has some spots picked out for us and we’ll catch something. Skies overhead still darkening, but no need to fear. If it rains we have a tarp and fishing stories need a good set up. As the first cast of the day goes out, the wind begins to pick up. A few minutes pass when I think I have a hit. WHOA YEAH, it’s a hit alright. Now I’ve been a freshwater angler since I was a tike and had some great battles with Northern Pike, Walleyes and Muskie, but this one would be the best yet. Using a short rod and a left handed reel (I have always used right handed ones and needless to say am struggling to get used to the southpaw version) and a 10 pound test line I’m enjoying a fight with a fish that really is ticked off at the concept that it has a hook in it’s mouth. The skies continue to darken and the westward clouds that would bring the rain continue to approach. But that is the furthest thing from my mind as the wind begins to whip the soft brim of my hat against my face as I continue to reel what seems an endless line at this point. A few minutes of this pass and my arms begin to get weary when Clemente jumps on the bow of the boat and spots the silvery fish saying, “you got yourself a cuda man!” Great a barracuda, I think. You get to take him off the hook. A few seconds later, “she’s gonna jump,” Clemente explains. And we watch the fish dive down and rocket to the top and out of the water. With this Clemente gets even more excited, doing a double take and says, “that ain’t no cuda man, you got yourself a tarpon!!!” Sadly at this point of the fight the shear joy he was feeling was lost on me from the extended battle and my obvious obliviousness to the situation. Shortly after the fish tires and comes to the boat. Clemente hadn’t planned on catching such a prize and so wasn’t prepared to land this big a fish. After several attempts the fish gets his second wind and it’s back to square one. Well this is a scenario that would repeat itself a few more times when the fish is at the side of the boat and we’re trying to leverage it in when the dreaded thing happens. The stress on the hook took its toll and it gave under the pressure. It took the fist a few seconds to realize that it was no longed connected to the line that drug him to us and with the flip of its tail was off. Now I know what you’re saying, “nice fish story” right? Well all I have to say is that I have 3 eyewitnesses and apparently that much more than the normal fisherman gets there. Turns out that tarpon hardly ever hit on anything but dry flies so to snag one on chum was something special. Also, guys take 2 week trips down there and are happy to have a couple of hits to tell tales of when they get home much less actually catch one. Shortly, the rain began to fall and Jiovanni took shelter under the tarp and we continued to fish. As the rains began to fall harder we made our way over to the mangroves, tied up there and waited the 20 minutes for the thunder storm to blow over. Secretly Paul and I both had the same thought, how great would it be to catch one now and have to fight it during a driving storm? Now that would be a great story to tell. Didn’t happen. Just got wet.
A couple more stops also yielded nothing when Clemente finds the mother load of fish. What happened next was one for the ages. We began to fish the open waters in an area Clemente thinks fish should be from the surroundings and sure enough a few second in and the hit parade is on. One fish, by me, one by Paul. One for me, one, two for Paul. Then it happened. Have you every seen a fishing show where it looks like they’re pulling one out after another? And all you can think is, why can these idiots do this and I can’t? But then you remember that they have to edit it for the half an hour show time frame. So then you don’t feel so bad. Well, I hate to tell you this, but we didn’t need a video editor; we needed an extra set of hands to unload all the fish. For what seemed like 20 minutes as soon as the bait hit the water you were reeling in a nice Silk, Red or Black Grouper. And it was great because Paul and I were trading off one for another. At one point Clemente was taking the fish off Paul’s hook and I had just casted out and began reeling in another and he said, “Ralph, you don’t honestly have another fish do you? You just pulling my leg right?” “Nope. It’s another fish.” He couldn’t believe it. In his 5 years working with the Tuff-Enuff guys he’d never caught a tarpon or had a string of non-stop fish like that before. We had become his good luck charms. When we had filled a 5 gallon bucket full of fish we were off to BBQ our fresh lunch. As Clemente is packing the last of the stuff away, he mentions that it’s too bad that he doesn’t have a GPS to mark this spot and that his GPS is in his head. Well my friend, you don’t but I do. Saved nicely in its memory is that spot simply titled “FISH.” Next time I go, we’ve got a place all ready to go. We reach an island where we’ll cook up our lunch and we go to the open-air bar while the guides prepare our meal. Jiovanni accidentally drops the potatoes overboard and Clemente, who never has a meal without potatoes says, “hey man, there is no options here, you’re gonna go get them.” And he does while Paul and I sit at the bar downing yet another in what seemed an endless amount of Belikin Beer that week. Paul spots him in the distance fall overboard and we have no idea what’s happening, but he keeps coming up and going down so it gives us a good laugh. The meal consists of: some of the fish we just caught, potatoes, and 3 lobster tails bought from another boat at the hefty price of $8 Belize. Yup, that’s 3 huge lobster tails for $4 US. (I was in the market today and couldn’t stop laughing at the price when I saw it today. The grocer couldn’t understand why I found that so amusing). But honestly, that had to be the best meal of my entire life. The afternoon was spent snorking Mexico Rocks. Cool place and another GPS waypoint.
That night was the 4th party @ (where else?) Fido’s, pronounced Fee-Dose. Had to get one of their shirts my first night as well as the Coconuts shirt, (on back it says “If found unconscious, please return to Coconuts Bar San Pedro A.C. Belize.) The party was simply a riot. The people I meet there I’ll never forget. Everyone had a story and everyone a good time. The only rather annoying thing was that people expected me, with a screen name “aloha” to be a girl. Hey, I like Hawaiian shirts, sorry. I’ve worn them since high school basically because they were different and my favorite radio personality Steve Dahl wore them every day. Still does. And it was going home to Chicago the summer of 1998 and during a “best of” show they were playing his interview with Jerry Jeff Walker who was promoting Cowboy Boots n’ Bathin’ Suits recorded in his Casa Gonzo on AC. This was the first I’d had ever heard of Belize and knew instantly that’d I’d be going. To make the night perfect for me was that Fido’s played that CD twice in a row on the 4th without me even asking. The thought for the night was, “wonder what my friends back in the States are doing? (short laugh later) Who cares? Can’t top this!” Great night.