Casting About For a Getaway

By Richard Morin
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barely 100 feet off a deserted, coconut-palm-studded beach in Belize, the professor was getting schooled.

"Strip! Strip!" ordered fishing guide Kachu Marin, crouched next to my friend Mike Traugott on the forward platform of the 23-foot panga. Mike began to strip in his fly line in short, deliberate tugs. Fifty feet from the skiff and three feet down in the greenish-blue water, the tiny fly inched forward erratically along the sandy bottom.

"Slow down!" Marin barked.

Mike, a professor at the University of Michigan, slowed his pulls but also unintentionally swept his rod to the side.

"Don't pull your rod sideways!" cried Marin, an exuberant teacher who delivered his fishing lessons in exclamation points. "You go sideways, you're screwed!"

Somewhere in the turquoise water, a bonefish hit the tiny Mylar-and-fur fly. Mike pulled his rod sideways. As quickly as it hit, the fish was gone.

"No! Don't be going no sideways!" Marin admonished. "That's why you lost the fish!"

Mike cast again. "A little short," Marin muttered under his breath. No matter. Strip! Strip! Slow down!

Another bonefish hit. Mike pulled the line straight back and deftly set the hook. A few minutes later, the spent bonefish was at the boat. Marin grabbed the leader and led the bone in increasingly tighter circles. Then, with a practiced move, he gracefully hoisted the silvery prize into the boat for a quick photo and live release.

"Good job, Mike! Good job, man!" Marin beamed as he handed Mike the fat-shouldered, three-pound bonefish, his diploma from Bonefish U. Eight feet behind us, standing in waist-deep water, Speedy the human anchor smiled as he held tight to the thick plastic rope tied to the panga, holding us in place against the light breeze.

Family Ties

Kachu Marin is one of 20 guides who fish out of El Pescador Lodge on Belize's Ambergris Caye. The resort is one of a growing number of high-end fishing lodges that cater to a particularly exotic type of fly angler: the growing international band of obsessive-compulsives who chase bonefish, tarpon and permit in tropical and semitropical locales around the world. Among these elite lodges, El Pescador is one of the few where an angler has a reasonable shot at achieving the holy grail of shallow-water fly-fishing: catching all three species in a single day.

The 36-room lodge was built in 1974 on a site hacked out of a mangrove swamp on the southern end of Ambergris Caye, an extension of the Yucatan Peninsula that lies 12 miles off the northeast coast of Belize.

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