Ascension Bay Trip Report
March 2, 2015
Before y'all just start gawking at the photos and laughing at my crappy jokes, please know that leaving in one week we have a solo spot for 7 Nights/6 Days for $1900 (normally $2595!) The lodge told us to SELL it, so if you want some adventure book now and leave March 8th with our crew. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get you dialed in. It includes food lodging fishing, just be in Cancun by 4 pm on March 8th. Fly out of Cancun at 4 pm or later on March 15th.
Also, if you want to do a flats trip but missed Ascension Bay please know that I am leaving for Christmas Island with a group on May 11th and have 3 spots open. I'll be on the trip and will help make sure that you make the most of your opportunities. It is only $2390 and single anglers are welcome.
Ascension Bay Trip Report - February 22nd - March 1st, 2015
I never thought I would be flying home from any trip, let alone my 7th trip to Ascension Bay. As a kid and a young fly fisherman the local creeks had always suited me fine. I never glanced twice at pictures of saltwater fish in the magazines that I flipped through at the local grocery store and rarely would I ever even buy a fly fishing magazine. I figured that I would never be able to travel someplace far away, and besides the money was better spent on tying materials and gas anyway. Well, things change. Trout and Steelhead have the keys to my heart, but here I am about 20 years older and I am absolutely addicted to chasing fish in shallow saltwater. It gets in your blood and there is only one way to cure it. Fish fish fish. For me it is the closest thing to archery hunting big game that I have found. You spot your prey, you quietly stalk your prey, your heart pounds, and you have to make one good shot? miss and you will likely never see the quarry again. It may have been the opportunity of a lifetime.
There is just something about the chemistry of the hunt, the cast, and the pursuit of these fish. You strain your eyes as you look across a flat or deep into the mangroves. Hoping, hunting, and prowling that you might get your shot and make the most of it.
This last trip was just as exciting for me as any of the others. I love the camaraderie and all the ?guy stuff? involved in traveling to fish with a crew but I especially love the technical fishing specific parts of these trips. The dreaming, packing, planning your flies, building leaders, studying (yes, I read other people?s blogs and watch videos), and all the casting practice to help insure that you make the most out of your opportunities.
I had only flown on a jet plane a couple of times in my life before I started fishing Ascension Bay in 2010. I remember how excited I was, but oh man was I green! I couldn't even tell the difference between a Permit and a Jack Crevalle, don?t feel bad if you can?t. It doesn't matter as long as you just cast where your guide points and strip the fly fast or slow as instructed haha. Then smile for the camera. That is what I did my first time down. Now after spending 40+ long days on these particular flats I have a pretty good grasp on what matters. That isn?t enough time to see fish like the guides do, not even CLOSE, but I do ok. I have seen fish react in ways that you don?t expect and I have learned so much by asking good questions and having good talks with the guides instead of just drinking beer at lunch and at night. I now know a lot more about casting, presentation, and my reaction time to hook sets, quick casting, and audibles is so much better and faster. I also like to understand the tides, water clarity, feeding patterns, spawning rituals and all that stuff. The more I understand my prey the more likely I am to outsmart it. Plus, I plan to do a lot more of this kind of fishing and I enjoy constantly preparing, learning, and building my skill set. I also try to get my chores done back at the shop and at home so that I can break free a few times a year. Work hard, play hard.
I get pretty into whatever I do and try to see things from all angles. I spent a couple of hours on the poling platform this year. That is tough work. I don?t think it isas physically demanding as rowing drift boats and rafts like we do back home but understanding how to properly angle and position the boat in the wind is tricky. I failed the flats guide IQ test by having the boat turning in circles more than once. In light wind. I absolutely love being a part of the operation though. Being on that deck for a couple hours gave me a lot better perspective of what the guide is seeing and how the fish react to the cast. Plus I now have a better appreciation and understanding of what the guide can and can?t do from a push pole stand point. Especially when it comes to boat angle and position. I really liked poling the boat and spotting fish but Troy kicked my butt off of there after I screwed up a couple of Bonefish while he was on the casting deck. While there is some disagreement as to whether it was the caster?s fault of the pole man?s fault, let?s just say we opted to save push pole practice for a day when it was dark and rainy, not a day with good sun.
The group I was with this past week had 4 repeat anglers from last year, and one repeat angler from two years ago. My good buddy and former Red?s guide Troy Lichttenengger came along to field test some products that he is an industry sales rep for. We beat up some Airflo fly lines, Nautilus Reels, Echo 3S Saltwater rods, and a few Winston Rods as well. It was good to get some time on this equipment and I?ll give you the download in another article.
There were lots of new flats anglers along for the ride and they all had a great time. Many were especially interested in trying to catch a Tarpon on a fly and the guides stayed busy poling the Mangrove canals looking for resident Tarpon. These fish are anywhere between 5 and 30 pounds and are a blast to pursue. The channels are often less than 15? wide! It is straight up rowdy when you hook one in a tight spot. In one day we had one Tarpon eat a fly that had the leader draped over a Mangrove branch and another one jump into the brush out of the water after being hooked. It?s a wild party back there. I won?t fudge numbers and try to tell you that we catch piles of Tarpon although it can happen like that every once in a Blue Moon. However even with some green-horns at least half the group landed Tarpon and most everyone hooked up. Everyone had good clean shots. Can?t complain about that. You can?t ask for more than an opportunity. Its your job to capitalize. That is where good preparation, gear, and ice in your veins pays off. There is no feeling worse than fumbling a cast and making a crappy effort then seeing your trophy fish swim away. I have fumbled that ball more than once although its happening less and less. This isn?t the land of endless opportunity so make ?em count. Even the new anglers felt totally satisfied and if you put your time in you?ll get one. Seeing them explode on a stripped fly and then catapult themselves into the air is as good of a rush as you can ask for. I learned a ton on this trip as usual and will put together some tips on making the most out of your Tarpon adventure.
The Snook fishing was exceptional this trip. The tides and prevailing wind must have been just right because nearly everyone got a Snook or two. I got the esteemed pleasure of watching one our guides, Brian Williams, land a 20+ pound Snook on the last morning. It was incredible. He absolutely nailed his precious opportunity. This is where time on the rod pays off and having gear capable of delivering a once in a lifetime shot is wise. He ?put it on ?em? like a pro and to this day it is the biggest Snook I have seen landed and possibly cast to.
We all did great on Snook. The fish were lurking just outside the Mangroves and this made the fish much easier to get since they weren?t living deep in the Mangroves. At times the Snook can be as much as 6? back under the Mangroves and making these casts can be nearly impossible. I have started using a shorter rod, this trip I used a 7?10? Redington Predator and loved it.
The shorter rod throws tight loops and is capable of putting the fly into tough to reach spots. Guys that enjoy Snook fishing have been buying the Sage Bass II Fly Rod like crazy. We sold one on this trip on-site. All you have to do is loan it out for a day and you?ll have a rod sale. Its that good. Out of all the fish species the hunger level on Snook was the highest followed by Tarpon.
I need to give a HUGE shout out to Enrico Puglisi for tying such a killer suspended Shrimp pattern. I have caught nearly everything on this fly and if I could get it near a Tarpon it ate it. I also caught Jacks, Snook, and Barracuda on this pattern. It is called the EP Suspended Shrimp it is the best tarpon fly I have found. Next time I will have at least 6 of these flies.
The Barracuda were doscile. They were lazy, moody, and spooky and made me want to rip out what little hair I have on my head. They would follow but fail to commit. Usually all you have to do is make a half way decent cast, strip like a maniac, and hold on for dear life. We tried big flies, small flies, and everything in between. I put probably 15 perfect shots in front of various big Barracuda and only got 2 good takes. That ratio is usually closer to 10 out of 15. Sometimes they bite and sometimes they don?t. There is nothing more explosive, not even a Tarpon, on the strike and the hook-up. One thing I did learn from a guide that has 28 years on the flats, he is an amazing knowledge base if you take the time to interpret his broken Spanglish, is that the Barracuda will often take Bonefish shrimp patterns when they are picky. They have no problem eating a Shrimp tied to a wire leader. A few of the guys did this and caught some smaller Cuda in the 2? range. Not bad and this might be a trump card to keep in your pocket to play on a slow day. I personally like to handle my own fish on the flats so I keep a gardening type glove with me at all times to protect myself when handling these toothy critters. Just a good tip that makes handling the fish more fun and provides a better photo op.
Sharks were the X Factor on this trip and Troy and I spent a few hours going full boar redneck and we bait fished and chumed for Sharks. I won?t apologize but you won?t hear me preaching from a high horse about it either. It is straight up dirty but it is a nice break and if you want to see just how powerful a 200 pound Black Tip Shark is then mention to your guide that you want to pursue a Sharkito out near the reef. It started out all sweet and innocent. We were fishing Tarpon and getting some great shots, in fact, I hooked one of my best ones ever shortly before we sold out. These Sharks kept circling the boat and messing up our fishing anyway so we caught a Lady Fish and with some handy knife work within 5 minutes we were hooking sharks using flies and thin slab of real fish on it for scent and taste. We busted off a total of 7 sharks and I lost an entire 10 weight fly line. These fish were too big for this gear but it was fun. We finally had to double the wire leader and we kept a few on a little longer but we kept breaking the 60 pound Flurocarbon above the wire. Sharks fight and jump like you wouldn?t believe. Troy really wanted a Shark and on the last day he was able to catch a smaller Black Tip fair chase, no chum, and was really stoked. We got some stellar GoPro footage of it thanks to one of our guests, good work Miller!
The staple on this trip are Bonefish. This is the #1 target species and I?m not familiar with another species on earth that incites the challenge of delicate spot and stalk fishing that Bonefish do. Overall the Bonefish game was a bit slower than in years past. We saw very few schools tailing in the shallow lagoons like we historically do. The first time you see big single Bonefish tailing in shallow water you?ll wet yourself. It is also what makes Ascension Bay special in the Bonefish world. Although the Bonefish here don?t get as big as other destination the variety of other species combined with ample opportunities at tailing Bonefish makes it unique. This year on Bonefish I learned to not take them for granted. In years past the fishing was so good that if you blew some shots it was no big deal. This year I didn?t get a lot of shots at big singles ( a mature solo Bonefish in shallow water ) so I had to make the most out of them. I didn?t get all the ones I shot at but let?s just say you didn?t want to be a Bonefish within about 75? on Day 5 J
The Veragated Mantis Shrimp was our best fly. They rarely refused this bug and ate it with near aggression! We recommend a good selection of Mantis Shrimp is sizes 8 and 6.
I fished the Sage MOTIVE all week chambered in the 890-4 caliber and loved it. I have taken this rod to Ascension Bay twice and Christmas Island and its never let me down. It fits me really well. It doesn't throw as tight of loops are as far as the Sage METHOD, ONE, or SALT but I like the way it feels when I cast.
The crew got a few nice Jacks and the lessons here are to always be ready. You?ll see the video eventually but I?ll try to describe what happened. You see, Jacks swim fast as they eat. They are like a gang of thugs brutally assaulting anything in their path and they terrorize the flats. I was on deck looking for Tarpon in a small channel when all of a sudden two Jacks fly in through the back door (they came in from behind the boat) and I threw a self defense cast of about 20? off the bow out of instinct. One of the Jacks hammered it and started peeling out my loose line faster than if a 10 pound weight was thrown off a building. Since it was such a short cast I had a lot of loose line and of course it popped up and wrapped around the fighting butt. I?m not perfect stuff happens! Instead of let the fish snap off my line I leap out of the boat in a half cannon ball half face plant maneuver and the mud is waste deep! I actually laid on belly to let the fish tow me a couple feet while I freed up the line! I managed to get the fish and the guides learned some things too. 1. I am nuts. 2. When that happens again all they have to do is push the fisherman out of the front of the boat ha! The true lesson learned is that you have to be ready for anything. If you truly love to catch fish be ready for it.
The Permit game was tough. I personally spent too much time looking for Permit and I put 13 shots either close enough for the fish to follow, false grab, or spook with no hookups. These are the shots I counted and my tally is now up to about 65 +/- without a Permit successfully hooked. One of our guests did land a Permit for his second year in a row and completed his 2nd consecutive Super Duper Grand Slam! He got a Permit, Tarpon, Bonefish, Snook, and Barracuda this week. Permit are a tough species to get and they don?t play by the rules. I am getting very good at keeping my chin up.
Overall this trip was amazing. The weather was good although we had mixed clouds and wind every day it isn?t worth complaining about. We had just a touch of rain and we?re all sun tanned. We invite and encourage you to plan a trip here with Red?s. You can email me directly at email@example.com with questions and inquiries. No pressure at all, we just want to experience the thrill of this fishery the same way we do. We're booking next year already so drop me a line if you want to sign on.