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Yea baby!   Photo By:  David Leake

Yea baby! Photo By: David Leake

One of my favorite benefits of being in the fly fishing industry is having the opportunity to revisit epic fishing spots. In this case, my visit to Alphonse Island and the St. Francois Lagoon in Seychelles was my fourth. Unlike first-timers, the feeling of fresh exotic newness is replaced with a feeling of “home” that nostalgic guys like me cling to. Anyways, that was the case this year as well.

 

Our group of 10 anglers all set out from the USA on Thursday, March 26, 2009 bound for the tiny archipelago nation of Seychelles… 1,000 miles of the east coast of Africa deep in the guts of the gorgeous Indian Ocean. Included in our group of eager sports was a mix of guys and one gal as follows:

 

David Leake

Brent Boone

Cody Bell

Julia Hopson

John Bass

Todd Moncrief

Scott Matthews

Jim Cochran

Stuart Cochran

Roy Washburn

 

Some of the group booked their travel through Europe, while several of us elected to take the interesting route to Seychelles via Dubai, United Arab Emirates. After a hectic beginning with lousy weather in Texas (Cody, Julia, and Scott actually missed their connection — really long story), Brent and I departed Houston (IAH) on the 15 hour direct flight with Emirates Airlines to Dubai. Although I was fearful of going mad on such a long flight, the amazing in-flight entertainment system on the Emirates 777 kept me sane watching a couple of Bond flicks, Marley and Me, Revolutionary Road (terrible), Benjamin Button (pretty interesting), Yes Man, and a handful of others. Brent played Battleship a lot. I also sent a couple of emails to my girls and to my brother, John, as we flew over his home town of Vienna at 42,000 feet. I was even able to sort out (via email) a rescheduled charter flight for Scott, Julia, and Cody while on the Emirates flight to Dubai. The advent of email service on a trans-Atlantic airline flight was not as impressive as the fact that the flight attendants with Emirates speak Spanish, English, Arabic, Chinese, Hindu, German, Italian, and Dutch. Seriously?

 

We arrived Dubai around 7:00PM, met up with Jim and Stuart Cochran (father – son) who arrived a few minutes later with Delta, ate at the buffet in the hotel (curried chicken and Stella Artois), watched the Road Warrior with Arabic subtitles, and set off fast to sleep.

The Long Haul.  Photo By:  David Leake

The Long Haul. Photo By: David Leake

Dubai is sort of a microcosm of today’s world economy… grossly overleveraged real estate development, credit card millionaires in Italian sports cars, and over the top lavishness everywhere. I have never been to an Arabic land before, and I must say that Dubai is as far from home as I have ever felt. From the language to the dress to the flat sandy landscape, Dubai struck me as extremely bizarre. Brent summed it up well by saying, “Man, this is really some foreign shit. You know that?”.

 

The following morning we flew 4 hours to Victoria, Mahe Island, the capital of Seychelles. Other than wanting to drop kick the ugly French dude who cut in front of us in line during immigration, Mahe was very uneventful.  Next was a quick connection on board a twin turbo Beechcraft for the 50 minute flight to Alphonse Island. The island is shaped like an arrow head with the runway running down the center. When you are on approach you can see the huge surrounding reef systems that protect Alphonse and the neighboring islands of Bijoutier and St. Francois. On the interior of the coral system are the flats that meld with the reef to create the ultimate habitat for the most incredible mix of marine life. There is nowhere on earth like it….I was told this year that there are over 300 species of fish that inhabit the lagoon. That does not include all the turtles, whales, dolphins, birds, eels, insects, crabs, etc.

 

The arrival into Alphonse is always a bit surreal. You are greeted by the head of the fishing program (this year it was the young and enthusiastic Devan v.d. Merwe) and the manager of the resort, Tonya. You cruise in a golf cart through dense palm and coconut trees, avoiding the occasional coconut or Giant Land Tortoise on your way to the central resort building for orientation. The property has been developed to meet very high standards and is super plush and polished. Having personally spent nearly a month on the island, I have decided Alphonse actually may be the inspiration for the Dharma Initiative from the TV show “Lost”. It is so strange to see such sophisticated infrastructure and accommodation on such a remote tiny little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Truly the most impressive fishing operation anywhere. After getting situated and the gear rigged, we head for dinner and a night filled with sleepless anticipation for the first day in the greatest saltwater flats fishery in the world.

A beautiful Seychellios Beach on Alphonse.  Photo By:  David Leake

A beautiful Seychellios Beach on Alphonse. Photo By: David Leake

Before I hit the daily breakdown, it is worth noting that the long trek half way around the world is well worth it. The bonefishing here is by far the most impressive on earth, but it is the diversity of species and stunning beauty of the place that makes it so incredible. You just have to see it to believe it.  Needless to say the folks in the travel department at Tailwaters can make that dream come true! 

THE GROUP...  Photo By:  David Leake

THE GROUP... Photo By: David Leake

Day 1 – “Milky Dream”

Here is the daily routine: Wake up at 5:30AM… eat breakfast at 6:00AM, board the mothership, TAM TAM, at 7:00AM, and sail 45 minutes to the skiff moorings inside the St. Francois Lagoon. The boat ride out to St. Francois is one of the most memorable parts of the trip. Everyone is strapping on gear, rigging equipment, and game planning while caffeine and beautiful ocean wake you up. Often you will encounter yellowfin tuna or milkfish feeding, whales, manta rays, dolphins, or other sea creatures on the way out past Bijoutier (“Gilligan’s Island”) and into the lagoon. St. Francois Lagoon is a labyrinth of flats, reef, coral heads, channels, etc…. tailor made habitat for bonefish, permit, trevally, milkfish, triggerfish, sharks, rays, turtles, etc. After a full day of fishing you return to Tam Tam at 4:00PM, arrive at Alphonse at 5:00PM, dinner at 7:00PM, and off to bed at 9-10. This regimented routine makes the week fly by.

 

One of the most sought after species on the flats is called the Milkfish (Chanos chanos). Although we have learned a lot about how to effectively hook and land these brutes, Milks still have lore about them. There is a common misnomer that they are herbivores or vegetarians exclusively. They feed on tiny invertebrates such as plankton as well as algae. They are not filter feeders, but they do skim along with mouths wide open inhaling their food (kind of like a whale shark). The hardest part about catching a milkfish is simply being in the right place at the right time for a predictable, surface feeding event with a large enough school of targets to increase the odds (which oftentimes won’t happen for months on end). Most often during large spring tides, milkfish will set up almost like trout feeding into the strong tidal currents flushing food off of the flats. Lucky anglers encounter them feeding on or near the surface with mouths wide almost mindlessly vacuuming everything in their path. Although they will certainly move to avoid your fly, they will definitely not move to eat your fly. Anglers fish with algae-like deer hair or craft fur patterns tied on a #2 Gamu hook and long slow strips through a school of milkfish. If the planets align, your fly will incidentally get sucked in and off to the races you go. Such was the case for lucky me on day one.

 

On the third or fourth presentation the line came taught, and one hour nine minutes later we brought this beautiful 25-30 pound specimen to hand. Pound for pound there is no stronger fish in the sea. It is almost like they a super evolved or are stuck in the Jurassic period. Either way, their physiology is different from all other fish I have encountered in that they simply do not ever get tired. Even when you land them, you must maintain a death grip in order to get a few photos. Our guide for the day, Mattieu Cosson, is from the Burgundy region of France and did a wonderful job for us. Matt is serious but was very amused by our silly American / Texan humor.

The Mouth of a Milkfish.  Photo By:  David Leake

The Mouth of a Milkfish. Photo By: David Leake

Got Milk?  Photo By:  David Leake

Got Milk? Photo By: David Leake

Day 2 – Mixed Bag

Brent and I fished with Devan v.d. Merwe today and had a little taste of everything. From chasing milks early to a nice bonefish session, to a walk to the reef looking for Triggerfish and GT. It was a fun day, but also most memorable for the education received on the politics, racial, and social issues that confront the continent of Africa today. Devon, a 23 year old from a small town in South Africa, is perhaps one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic guides I have ever been with. A good looking and capable outdoorsman, Devan and his equally attractive girlfriend, Ubre, have guided, hunted, and fished all over South-Central Africa together for their entire lives. He is the definition of a glass half full kind of guy… With 2 minutes left in the day, Devan would say something indicative of the eternal optimist such as, “Okay man… we’ve got 90 seconds left before we have to head back, but place a blind cast at 2 o’clock. I am absolutely certain that 80 pound Geet is going to be there”.

Jim Cochran, Roy Washburn, and Brent Boone on the TAM TAM en route to St. Francois.  Photo By David Leake

Jim Cochran, Roy Washburn, and Brent Boone on the TAM TAM en route to St. Francois. Photo By David Leake

Devan provided an interesting take on the racial conflict in S.A., and painted a real clear picture of his childhood growing up in the gorgeous yet extremely raw and dangerous, Dark Continent. He also indulged us with his native tongue, Afrikaans (a mix of tribal mumbo jumbo and Dutch), as well as several tribal languages such as Swahili. I confirmed that the images from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, ‘Blood Diamond’ are actually a very accurate portrayal of the diamond trade in southern Africa.

 

Although we had cloudy conditions today, Brent managed a nice 20 pound GT on the Lollipops Wreck a few minutes before we headed back to TAM TAM. The weather began to clear on the boat ride back, and we never saw any rainy clouds the rest of the trip.

 

Day 3 – “Oh Shit….. G.T.!!!!”

Today I fished with Scott Keller, an American who currently calls Sun Valley, Idaho home. Scott is a 49 year old veteran of the guiding profession, and is without question the worldliest angler I have ever encountered. He has guided in several countries with multiple seasons in places like Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, and Mongolia. His laid back charisma is very cool, and he oozes with confidence and experience. Scott has guided everyone from Jimmy Carter to Jack Nicklaus, and quietly tells interesting stories of his angling exploits. My fishing partner was Stuart Cochran, the 35 year old son of long time client and friend, Jim Cochran. Stuart is an extremely funny guy and I really enjoyed fishing with him. We predominantly cruised for GTs all morning before making a spur of the moment decision to head back out to the reef and to “Little Wreck”.

 

Note: One night back in the 60s a bunch of Japanese commercial tuna fishermen wrecked three of their boats on the reef surrounding St. Francois. It is kind of odd fishing next to their massive rusted out hulls. (I think they are haunted by Japanese sailors feasting on their spoiled catch of yellowfin.)

 

As soon as we made it to the reef following the 45 minute walk, we began fishing for bonefish. After catching a few nice bones I decided to take my 12 weight from Scott as we waded closer to the surf and the likelihood of encountering a Giant Trevally. I had my 12 weight on my pack as I cast to a school of bonefish that spooked abnormally… What was that all about? Low and behold, the old bully GT presented himself at about 60 feet and closing. “Oh Shit…. GT!”. Hurriedly, I chunked down the bonefish stick, unhooked the 12 weight from my pack, stripped off some line, dropped the fly, and boom, he ate it.

 

Words cannot describe the power of a large Giant Trevally. The only way to appreciate it is to get your hands on an Abel Super 12 reel and crank down the drag to 100% and try manually to pull of some line. You are lucky to pull off one foot of line without breaking a finger. Now, consider that an 80 pound Trevally completely spooled Devan the day before with this same reel cranked down 100%. You fish for GTs with super heavy gear… 80-100 pound straight fluorocarbon for your leader, 5/0 – 8/0 gamugatsu hooks, and 50 pound gel spun backing is the norm. Devan’s monster took his fly line and 350 yards of backing in just a few seconds. Devan badly bruised his hand on the handle of his reel trying to palm the spool in vain trying to stop the beast. GTs over 50 pounds require you to be chasing them in a skiff as landing one of foot is nearly impossible without a 14 weight. They are incredible fish.

 

My fish cooperated nicely after a huge run into the backing (with an Abel Super 12 cranked down 100%) and we luckily avoided all the coral heads, sharks, and razor sharp reef. When he came to hand a few minutes later he tipped the scales at 45-50 pounds and 103 centimeters (40 inches). Poor Stuart was turned into a pack mule with our cameras, packs, rods, and gear while we chased him around. After some great photos we exchanged high fives.

45 Pound GT on the Reef.  Photo By:  David Leake

45 Pound GT on the Reef. Photo By: David Leake

The Giant Trevally (Caranx Ignobilis) is the true bad ass of all game fish in my opinion. His round head, monster shoulders, and elaborate fins are built for speed and power, and he has no predators other than large sharks and humans. He literally eats everything, and his incredible eye-sight combines with his quickness to make him a lethal hunter. While adults spend much of their life in deeper water, fish well over 100 pounds often feed on the flats in skinny water or cruise in riding the waves on the reef to ambush unsuspecting prey. There is nothing more impressive than watching through the face of a wave as a big GT surfs his way inside the reef. The combination of hurried panic to cast and huge dosage of adrenalin is very addictive. There is also no eat more impressive than the mighty G.T. The deliberate and crushing speed of the monster when he zeroes in on your fly is scary to the point where you almost don’t want him to eat it! Once you witness the spectacle that is the “GEET”, it gets in your blood, and you become obsessed with trying to find one a bit bigger than the last one.

 

Day 4 – “The Bataan Death March”

Today I fished with John Bass of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Brent and I met John in December 2007 at Casa Blanca Lodge in Mexico. We have become fast friends and he has booked a few trips with us, including his second trip back to Alphonse. “Big John” is a very tall man. A retired educator, John is also one of the most kind and humorous gents you will ever meet. The consummate story teller, John always has me rolling with laughter. He is a diehard University of Arkansas fan, and likes to reminisce about the glory days of the Longhorn / Razorback rivalry. John is a ton of fun…

 

Our guide today was James Christmas of South Africa, the pack mule of a guide who showed us the back side of St. Francois at low tide en route to the most remote reef section in the fishery. We caught several nice tailing bones in no more than 5 inches of water before trekking further to the reef. We also saw the home of “Boris” the 7 foot barracuda who resides on a very distinct coral head. (I like to think he was named after the Russian Mobster “Boris the Blade” from the Cohen brothers film, Snatch.) Although we saw a few nice geets in the surf, we had no viable shots. However, wading through the stunning aquarium-like tidal pools was worth the effort. Hundreds of species of fish, eels, rays, and turtles (not to mention lemon and nurse sharks) swarm around your feet.

John Bass on the backside of St. Francois.  Photo By:  David Leake

John Bass on the backside of St. Francois. Photo By: David Leake

Unfortunately, the walk back at dead low tide with a high sun was a lot less leisurely than the slow, fish filled easy wade out to the reef. Both John and I each felt the sun big time on the death march back to the boat.

 

Day 5 – “Stuck on Your Hard Drive” Bonefishing Session

My fishing partner on day five was Scott Matthews of Horseshoe Bay, Texas. Scott is the type of angler who simply enjoys catching bonefish with the proper conditions. He is self admittingly not interested in the trophy species, but would rather be entertained by racking up the numbers. More than once (in Alaska and in Louisiana) we have had the philosophical debate over the stages a fishermen goes through during his angling career. Stage one is to simply catch lots of fish… Stage two is to catch only big fish… Stage three is to simply go fishing. In my opinion, it is only when you reach stage three that the trophy fish become a more regular occurrence. It is almost like the fishing gods feel like you have paid enough dues so they put you in the right place at the right time to catch the big one as a result. Anyways, Scott will attest that he is still in stage one (despite having traveled the world throughout a very impressive angling career).

 

 

Day five presented perfect bonefishing conditions. Our tide for the week gave us three spring tide days (perfect for GTs and Milks) and three neap tide days (ideal for St. Francois bonefish). Scott and I just had one of those days where it all comes together. A light breeze was off the left shoulder, the sun was at our backs, and the bones were happy. This was the type of bonefishing session that earns Seychelles the title of “best bonefishing in the world”. For several hours we enjoyed the falling tide and thousands of bonefish coming into easy range. Although you will find schools of bones in St. Francois, the ideal bonefish sessions occur when singles, doubles, and triples funnel off the flat towards you at a steady pace. You have plenty of time to scan the hard, white sand for the biggest fish in view, and present the fly. As soon as you release him, all you have to do is look up and find another one. Absolutely incredible! This kind of day offers an opportunity for the most novice casters to have great success, and the more experienced anglers a time to hone skills and learn something new about bonefish behavior. These type of fishing experiences make you a better angler and are the most memorable. As the guide Devan said, “Today’s memories will be stuck on your hard drive for a long time”.

Scott Matthews and Your's Truly with nice double.  Photo By:  David Leake

Scott Matthews and Your's Truly with nice double. Photo By: David Leake

We wrapped up the day with a late lunch and a move to the “hologram flat”, named for the myriad of mixed water colors that converge there. We tagged a few more bones, had a run in with a 6 footer lemmon shark who nearly ate my foot as I cradled an exhausted bonefish (long story involving me stepping in a hole and falling down while Devan beat the shark away with the butt of my 12 weight), and had a lot of laughs. Our other goal at hologram was to find a permit. Although we did not land one, I had at least 50 good shots at interested (but not interested enough) permit in skinny water. We moved to TAM TAM flat (couple hundred yards from where the TAM TAM is moored) and Scott hooked a monster trigger with one minute left in the day. Even though he came unbuttoned, it was truly a great day… a day that will indeed by saved on my C: drive forever.

 

Day 6 – Why I will one day return to Seychelles….

The last day of our trip was not as epic as the previous, however Scott and I again enjoyed a nice morning bonefishing session before cruising over to a channel for lunch. The idea was to stake out and wait for a big GT cruising through on the falling tide while Scott and James waded around looking for bones and triggers on a nearby finger flat.

 

What was learned was never to question the guide when he suggests blind casting a bit… James indicated he had seen a “100+ pound” GT cruising said channel twice before at a similar tidal stage. Scott and I rolled our eyes simultaneously as we busted out the lunch. Not five minutes later, James exclaimed, “100 pound GT! On that Ray! Get Ready!”. I looked at him like he was pulling my chain when he said with his South African accent. “Dude, no shit… Get up he is right there!!!!”. A fire lit under my ass and I was on the deck ready to cast when we caught a glimpse of the beast cruising lazily off the flat disappearing into the depths. It was as if the bastard knew it was my last day and wanted to give me the bird as he sauntered away laughing. Needless to say, that is also an image I will never forget, and I will be back to stick him next year.

Bonefish representing Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company.  Photo By:  David Leake

Bonefish representing Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company. Photo By: David Leake

Coming Home… The trip home was uneventful. We made it back to Love Field as tired puppies.

 

Cheers…

A lot of the guides are new since my last trip in 2007, but the level of experienced competence exuded by the entire staff is as tip top as ever. It was very nice to see my old friends, Jude Morel and Sergio Samson, two of the saltiest Seychellois dudes you will ever meet. Both have been there since the “early days” of Alphonse starting back in 1999 — and each have 18 month old kids on the ground (Julius & Sergio Jr).

 

I regret I did not get to fish with the infamous guide, Wayne Maselau, during this trip. Wayne is also one of the fishiest and most interesting guys you will ever meet. Wayne helped pioneer the flies and techniques used for the milkfish, and helped name numerous landmarks in the infamous lagoon. He is close friends with many of the big trevally at St. Francois as well. Wayne is the poster boy for the “man crush”, and has the knowledge, experience, and South African machismo to back it up. Everyone loves him.

Sergio, Jr.  Note the family dreadlocks.  Photo By:  David Leake

Sergio, Jr. Note the family dreadlocks. Photo By: David Leake

Captain Sergio at the helm of the TAM TAM.  Photo By:  David Leake

Captain Sergio at the helm of the TAM TAM. Photo By: David Leake

Jude and Young Julius.  Photo By:  David Leake

Jude and Young Julius. Photo By: David Leake

I raise my glass to the entire Alphonse crew of guides and staff… the old ones and the newer ones. Here’s to Vaughn, Devan, Scott, Jude, Sergio, James, Mattieu, Wayne, Tonya, Ubre, Sharon, Jusef (sp?) the bartender, the chef (cant remember his name) and everyone behind the scenes. Thank you for taking care of our group and the rest of our clients all season. You are fine people and I cannot wait to see you all again.

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About a week ago, two of our favorite fishing buddies went to Louisiana to chase Bull Reds, and had quite a time. Dr. (he didn’t go to 6 years of evil medical school to be called “Mr.” thank you) Dennis Burns and Bill Seals. Here is the report from Dennis, and a few mind-blowing pictures to boot:

Sometimes it’s tempting to grumble about fly fishing options in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, particularly during the ’80 degree-one-day-freezing-your-butt-off-the-next-day’ fluctuations that we usually see around here this time of year. It turns out that great fishing isn’t as far off as I thought. A few months ago, my fishing buddy and spiritual advisor (OK, I’m kidding about the spiritual advisor part) Bill Seals contacted David Leake about whether there were any saltwater options within easy striking distance of Dallas that offered (a) good fishing, (b) reasonable accommodations and (c) good food. Without missing a beat, David said, ‘Sure! I’ll set it up.’ Thus began our first trip to the Louisiana coast to visit the Woodland Plantation and to fish with Capt. Bryan Carter. An 80-minute flight from Dallas to New Orleans, followed by an easy 45-minute drive south (punctuated by a fuel stop at Cafe du Monde and a neat visit to the National World War II Museum) took us to the Woodland Plantation, a mid 1800s inn outside of Port Sulphur that offers guests comfortable rooms, and superb food and drink at very reasonable prices. Many of you have probably seen the Woodland Plantation without knowing it – it’s pictured in a line drawing on the label of every bottle of Southern Comfort! After fortifying ourselves with such spirits, a great evening meal and a restful night, Bill and I hooked up with Bryan early the next morning for an introduction to south Louisiana Redfish on the fly. To experience Bryan in a guide situation is memorable – he’s got the sharp eyes and instincts for finding fish that you would expect from a veteran saltwater guide, coupled with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the beautiful – and fragile – ecosystem represented by the coastal Louisiana saltwater flats. He shares his knowledge freely and well. He’s also enough of a smart-aleck to keep you humble – and in stitches – through the whole fishing experience. Man, can he put you on to fish!

Dennis Burns with a nice Red early on. Photo by: Bill Seals

Dennis Burns with a nice Red early on. Photo by: Bill Seals

Bill Seals with another nice Redfish. Photo by: Dennis Burns

Bill Seals with another nice Redfish. Photo by: Dennis Burns

My most memorable Red came on the first day…..something about beginner’s luck, I think. My story, of course, is that I had to cast 800 feet into a 30 MPH headwind to hook the fish, while my buddy Bill’s story has the fish ramming into the boat, knocking itself out, and me reaching over the side and inserting a hook into its mouth. The truth is somewhere between – perhaps a bit closer to Bill’s version than mine. I hooked the fish at a fairly modest distance on an EP (Enrico Puglisi) crab pattern that Bryan favors this time of year, and after a bit of a fight (during which I wondered if my 8-weight Scott S4 was going to survive), managed to bring him to the boat – a beautiful 34-pound fish that was, for me at least, the fish of a lifetime!

The monster being brought in. Photo by: Capt. Bryan Carter

The monster being brought in. Photo by: Capt. Bryan Carter

Dennis Burns with his Redfish of a lifetime. Photo by: Bill Seals

Dennis Burns with his Redfish of a lifetime. Photo by: Bill Seals

Captain Bryan Carter holds Dennis' big fish on the boga. Photo by: Bill Seals

Captain Bryan Carter holds Dennis' big fish on the boga. Photo by: Bill Seals

Over the next couple of days, Bill and I had the privilege of landing many more beautiful reds in shallow water, as well as the occasional Black Drum and Sheepshead. Had our Redfishing skills been a bit more “honed” (as opposed to non-existent!) we would have more than doubled our numbers. Bryan – and the fishery – are just that good. The days on the flats ended at about 3:30 each day, once the angle of the light on the water made spotting fish a difficult proposition. Not a problem though – the days on the water were full of wonderful fishing and experiencing the special environment of the coastal Louisiana saltwater flats, and the hospitality of the Woodland Plantation was there for us at the end of each day. We’ll be back! – Dennis

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That acronym is the mantra of anyone attempting to become a Certified Casting Instructor (CCI) with the Federation of Fly Fishers. It relates to the path of the tip of the rod during the casting stroke – no SLP, no tight loops.

This past weekend, Tex Moore and I headed to the Hawk Ridge Fly Casting School for a weekend clinic to prep us for our CCI test in May. Al Crise (FFF Master Casting Instructor) put together a school that included one day of instruction (where we were the instructors along with full CCIs Bill Hoot & Diane Blair), and one day of test prep.

One of our goals for the weekend (aside from prepping for our test) was to standardize our teaching techniques and terminologies. This will ensure  every Tailwaters student taking a lesson or going through our schools leaves with the same knowledge and skill set, regardless of instructor – be it one of us, or any of our future instructors.

Saturday, we had over 20 students and had to teach them in 30 – 40 MPH winds, with gusts over 60. Absolutely crazy – and did I mention it never got above 50 degrees? We were able to slightly shelter the beginners near a grove of trees, but it was still brutality for them. Tex and I worked with the larger group of intermediate casters, who were not so lucky. The silver lining is that they all are now ready to fish on the Jetties on the coast with NO problems at all! They are certainly proficient at casting into a headwind. Tex and I (along with the other CCI candidates) were packing 7-wt rods (he a Winston BIImX, myself a Sage Xi2), which let us punch through the wind a bit. One of the biggest debates among CCI candidates is what rod/line combo should you use. The rules state that you can use any rod up to 9′ long and 7-wt or under. As such, we’re using the big guns. Part of the weekend for us was testing which lines we will be using. I opted to test the Royal Wulff Triangle 7-wt, while Tex prefers the WF7F Expert Distance (the old XXD) line from Sci Anglers. Some of the students only had 5-wts, and amazingly were able to get some great casts into the wind. They were serious troopers, and never let the conditions get them down.That night we visited the Loco Coyote in Glen Rose for a group dinner. Let’s just say this place has character, and you definitely get what you pay for. Their “regular”burger covers an entire dinner plate. Overall, a fun evening with most everyone from the day!

My kind of place - sawdust on the floor!!

My kind of place - sawdust on the floor!! Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Yes folks - that is a 'plate' of ribs - or, two plates if you count the second one that all the sides come on. One word: Awesomeness.

Yes folks - that is a 'plate' of ribs - or, two plates if you count the second one that all the sides come on. One word: Awesomeness. Photo by: Tex Moore

Sunday, we moved on to the preparation portion of the weekend, and with a great amount of class time, along with a full run-through of the practical portion of our test. Even though the wind had dropped (to 20MPH gusts), the temperature barely went above 40 throughout the day. Ouch. At every turn we were reminded of all the various vocabulary that the FFF uses in its education programs, along with the proper ways to approach your students with information. I can honestly say that this was a fantastic learning experience for me, and I came away not only with great little tidbits of information and great little techniques that will make me a better instructor, but also a much better ‘feel’ for what the CCI test will entail.

Rex Walker demonstrates to the CCI candidates. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Rex Walker demonstrates to the CCI candidates. Photo by: Bart Larmouth

Both Tex and I talked over the school on the drive home, and agreed that not only was it a great experience with the folks we met and the new things that we have learned, but our level of confidence regarding the test had been seriously bolstered. Speaking for myself, this was a much needed shot in the arm, and I look forward to not only the test itself, but all the training to come! I feel very lucky to have such a fine compatriot and resource in Tex, and also feel that we have a great advantage in being able to prepare together for our test. Only 74 days left to train! I’d better get rolling…..

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Chile 2009!

Day 0:

I’m at the airport preparing myself for the 10 hour plane ride to Santiago…I intentionally stayed up late last night so I could hopefully sleep on the plane. I get to my seat and find out I’m in a bulkhead row and my seat doesn’t recline (Bummer)…..However, I quickly realize that the only 2 vacant seats on the entire plane are next to me!!!! Once dinner was over, I confiscated the vacant seats and slept like a baby until we arrived in Santiago.

Day 1:

It is summer in Chile and the airport is extremely crowed with Chilean vacationers. After a short 2 hour layover I’m off to Balmaceda. 3 hour flight….roughest landing ever and I’m on the ground in Balmaceda…..I’ve always heard about the wind in Patagonia and it didn’t disappoint. My guess is the wind was blowing 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph!

I make my way to Coyhaique and the El Reloj hotel which will be my base of operations for the next 2 days until I depart for Nic Fin Outfitters. The El Reloj is a quaint little hotel with 18 rooms located within walking distance of the town center. It is very comfortable and clean…has wireless internet and a great restaurant…all for $80/night.

Brent Boone

El Reloj. Photo by: Brent Boone

I unpack, change my clothes and embark on a walk around town. The setting is very beautiful….Coyhaique sits in the mountains with views all around. The thing I notice first are all the stray dogs…..I was out for about 2 hours and saw at least 15 strays.

Brent Boone

Yet more strays as curious about me as I am about them. Photo by: Brent Boone

After getting slightly lost, I make my way back to El Reloj for an early dinner and some much needed sleep.

Day 2:

The time difference in Coyhaique is 3 hours ahead of Dallas so my normal wakeup time of 5:30 Texas time lets me sleep until 8:30. After a good breakfast, I catch up on some emails and get ready to explore the city more. Skip Mullen (Nic Fin Outfitters) comes by and I go with him for a few hours to running errands and pick up supplies for the lodge. The hardware store in Coyhaique is called Sodimac and looks just like a Home Depot in the States.

Skip drops me off about 1:30 so I go for another walk around town. Coyhaique is built in a circle and it is very confusing and easy to get lost. After a couple of hours, I begin to understand the lay of the land.

I return to El Reloj, watch some American movies with subtitles, some soccer, rugby etc….dinner and more movies. I’m starting to get bored…two days with relatively nothing to do…no bueno!

Day 3:

Today is the true beginning of my trip….I’m headed to Skip’s lodge south of town and I can’t wait. Skip picks me up about 11 and we run some more errands and then were off. The lodge is about a 2 hours drive from Coyhaique, and the countryside changes dramatically between town and the lodge. Coyhaique is very mountainous with lots of trees and looks very much like the US West. As you drive south, it becomes more arid with areas of pampas, ranch land etc. Once you get close to the lodge, the mountains are extremely majestic and beautiful – tall jagged peaks with glaciers in every valley.

The lodge is located on a small lake with the most beautiful view imaginable.

A view of Skip Mullen's lodge from across the lake. Photo by: Brent Boone

A view of Skip Mullen's lodge from across the lake. Photo by: Brent Boone

At the lodge I meet Skip’s beautiful Chilean wife Viviana, her nephew Stephen, who will be working with them this summer and the chef, Christian. We enjoyed a great dinner and off to bed.

Day 4:

After breakfast, my Patagonia fishing experience begins. Skip and I leave the lodge about 8:30 headed for one of his “secret” lakes. The wind is blowing and its about 50 degrees but high sunny skies. After we unload the boat, we head up the lake about 4 miles to its mouth. Skip and his head guide Adam Henderson custom build their boats, and after years of trial and error, they believe (as I do now as well) that they have built the best fishing boat for both lake and river fishing. See picture below….it has more room than any boat I’ve ever fished out off and its extremely sturdy – the 30 horsepower jet Yamaha gives it a ton of power.

Skip's Boat on the Beach. Photo by: Brent Boone

Skip's Boat on the Beach. Photo by: Brent Boone

Once we arrive at the head of the lake, the wind actually lets up a little. I tie on a size 4 foam beetle and begin casting at the shoreline. I wasn’t past the fourth cast before a 17-inch brown crushes my fly- after 3 jumps and a couple of good runs, I release him unharmed. We fish all day and probably catch (guessing here) 20 fish between 17 and 22 inches…all browns.

My first Chilean brown! Photo by: Brent Boone

My first Chilean brown! Photo by: Brent Boone

Back to the lodge for dinner and a little sleep.

Day 5:

Another day on a “secret” lake. On the way to the lake we stop off at a house to visit with a recently widowed Chilean woman who Skip and Vivi have become good friends with. It is truly amazing how she lives….she raises everything she eats – from vegetables, sheep, cattle, chickens and turkeys. She even makes her own clothes from the sheep’s wool and alpaca hair!

On to the lake…once again it is winding and we have to go up the lake 10 miles, and at about mile 5 we decide to just fish the lower end of the lake. The fishing was incredible. Today we were throwing streamers on a sinking line. We must have moved and caught 25 fish. At one point, we were wading along a long sandy beach just catching 22 inch after 22 inch after 25 inch and the all of a sudden I feel something a little bigger than the normal…..he jumps twice and I can see he is much bigger than the others (which were big in their own right) The fish fights for a couple of minutes and I think were about to land him and for no reason he just spits the fly back at me. I am completely mortified, I just lost the biggest fish of my life. Well what can I do? We continue fishing and catch a couple more 20 inchers and then Skip hooks a good fish…after a few minutes we land him, measure him and he goes 27 inches. After we release him, Skip and I look at each other and were both thinking the same thing but I didn’t want to say it. Finally Skip says, “Holy Shit, your fish looked much bigger than this fish…I think it might have been 30 inches!” The more I thought about it the sicker I got…

Skip's 27-incher. Photo by: Brent Boone

Skip's 27-incher. Photo by: Brent Boone

Off to the lodge for a traditional Chilean Asado (Bar-B-Que) of cordero (Lamb)….dinner is incredible…the lamb is placed on a metal rack and turned over and open flame for about 4 hours. They continually marinade it with this special sauce called Chimychura (I hope that’s how it’s spelled) and the flavor is unbelievable. After a wonderful fiesta it’s off to bed.

Amazing Dinner!

Amazing Dinner!

Day 6:

Skip and I decide to look for a spring creek that he has been meaning to check out….he’s never been there but he knows someone in Villa Cerra Castillo that might know about it. We go into town and talk to Bruno, a local gaucho. We ask him about this spring creek over near the Rio Murta…Bruno immediately says, “That’s on my aunt’s land,” and after a quick “dirt map” and a letter from Bruno we’re off.

Our High-Tech mapping process. Photo by: Brent Boone

Our High-Tech mapping process. Photo by: Brent Boone

It takes us about 2.5 hours to get over there on the bumpy dirt road. I can’t believe it but the dirt map actually paid off and we drove straight to her house. She said, “…of course you can fish!” Which we did  for about 4 hours and caught several nice rainbows…one 23 inches.

rigging-up low res

Skip hooked up. Photo by: Brent Boone

Skip hooked up. Photo by: Brent Boone

It’s time to head back to Coyhaique and we’re 200 KM away and most of it is dirt road……after a 4 hour drive we arrive. Quick dinner and off to bed at 1:00 am….muy cansado!

Day 7:

Skip, I and Stephen fish the Rio Blanco….beautiful river…BIG fish but not huge numbers. Fishing was tough but we managed to catch several over 20 inches.

Day 8:

Skip, Adam and I fish the Rio Paloma and into Lago Caro. Fishing was great we played baseball all day, switching from the front to back, to oarsman. Basically, three strikes (blown chances) and you are at the oars! The Rio Paloma and surrounding valley is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Adam and Skip with some smaller fish. Photo by: Brent Boone

Adam and Skip with some smaller fish. Photo by: Brent Boone

One of mine! Photo by: Brent Boone

One of mine! Photo by: Brent Boone

This is the last day with Skip but I know I’ll see he and Vivi again soon. We’ve become friends in less than a week and I can’t wait to see them again.

Day 9:

After several hours of trying to locate a rent car, I found the last truck in town. It looks like a Baja 1000 race truck with sponsor stickers all over….big tires and loud pipes. I’m off for a 200 Km drive to the Cines Valley and La Posada de los Farios.

Best. Rental. Ever. Photo by: Brent Boone

Best. Rental. Ever. Photo by: Brent Boone

I decided it needed just ONE more sticker.... Photo by: Brent Boone

I decided it needed just ONE more sticker.... Photo by: Brent Boone

After a beautiful 4 hour drive, I arrive at Rex Brygleson’s lodge on the banks of the Rio Cines. The lodge is an old farm house that has been completely remodeled and updated…..very beautiful and comfortable. That evening we have a traditional Chilean Asada and it’s off to bed.

La Posada de los Farios. Photo by: Brent Boone

La Posada de los Farios. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 10:

The plan is for a two day float on the Rio Cisnes with guides Pelayo and Dale (Gringo). We gather all the camping gear and head off to the river. The Rio Cisnes is a beautiful river with tons of fish. Fishing is good….several fish 16-18 inches. This is the first hot day I’ve experienced yet, and I wish I was wearing shorts.

Cisnes Brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Cisnes Brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

After a full day of fishing, we set up camp on the bank and cook dinner and relax.

Campfire Fare. Photo by: Brent Boone

Campfire Fare. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 11:

After breakfast, we pack up camp and continue our float. Fishing is much the same as yesterday….lots of fish on big dry flies..16-18 inches. Back to the lodge around 8:00 dinner and sleep.

Nice Brown in the net. Photo by: Brent Boone

Nice Brown in the net. Photo by: Brent Boone

Pelayo with a nice brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Pelayo with a nice brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 12:

Today Rex is taking me to one of his Secret Spots. He has a canoe stashed in the woods and after a short 10 minute hike, we arrive. We put the canoe in the water and start upstream. Third cast of the day…a big rainbow crushes the dry…very nice fish, about 18 inches. We are in a huge canyon with rock walls all around. We fish for about 5 hours catching probably 40 fish between 15 and 19 inches with a good mix of both browns and rainbows.

Nice Brown on the "secret" river. Photo by: Brent Boone

Nice Brown on the "secret" river. Photo by: Brent Boone

Stashed Canoe. Photo by: Brent Boone

Stashed Canoe. Photo by: Brent Boone

Back to the lodge for dinner and sleep.

Day 13:

I’m headed back to Coyhaique for 3 days of rest before our guest arrive for the hosted trip at Cinco Rios Lodge. When I get back into town, I go to the El Reloj and they discover that they are full, so I head to Mincho’s….luckily, Victoria has a room.

Mincho's Lodge in Coyhaique. Photo by: Brent Boone

Mincho's Lodge in Coyhaique. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 14-15-16:

I tour Coyhaique and the surrounding areas….catch up on sleep, emails and watch plenty of TV.

Day 17:

I return my Baja Camioneta and head to Cinco Rios Lodge….I arrive and am greeted by Lodge owner Sebastian Galileo. After lunch we head to the airport to pick up our guests.

Cincos Rios Lodge. Photo by: Brent Boone

Cincos Rios Lodge. Photo by: Brent Boone

Among the guest is my father, Don. This is his first trip out of the US and I can’t wait. He taught me to fish and has been my number one fishing partner my entire life.

My Dad arriving in Chile! Photo by: Brent Boone

My Dad arriving in Chile! Photo by: Brent Boone

The flight is on time, and with no lost baggage we’re off to the lodge. Everyone cleans up after a long 15 hour trip…dinner and early to bed.

Day 18:

At breakfast, head guide Claudio explains the procedures, who’s fishing with who and lays out the entire week.

My Dad and I will be fishing with Gringo guide Jeff…this is Jeff’s fourth season in Chile and he knows the area well. We fish the Rio Aysen and have great luck…..15 fish apiece on dries and streamers….rainbows and browns…all fish are 17-19 inches.

My Dad taking in the scenery on his first day of fishing. Photo by: Brent Boone

My Dad taking in the scenery on his first day of fishing. Photo by: Brent Boone

Nice Brown. Photo by: Don Boone.

Nice Brown. Photo by: Don Boone.

Rio Aysen pale Rainbow. Photo by: Brent Boone

Rio Aysen pale Rainbow. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 19:

Today we are fishing Lago Elizalde and the outlet. Cinco Rios has a jet boat on Rio Paloma that is used to access Lago Elizalde…after a 10 minute run down river you take a small tributary about another 10 minutes into Lago Elizalde. This is another one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We head into the lake first….the wind is blowing so we find a spot out of it and start fishing. My dad is using a size 4 Fat Albert and I’m throwing a black streamer on a sinking line. We immediately start catching fish….18 inch brown, 19 inch brown, 20 inch brown…22 inch brown……after 8 or so fish we come to a point and Jeff says “Get ready for a big rainbow…this is the only place on this lake that we catch rainbows” sure enough…..two 19 inch rainbows on back to back casts on dries.

Lago Elizalde Rainbow. Photo by: Brent Boone

Lago Elizalde Rainbow. Photo by: Brent Boone

We have lunch near a beautiful sand bar next to a waterfall, and afterward we fish the lake for a couple more hours….19 inch brown after 19 inch brown….all day long. We arrive at the outlet around 2:30….the water is CRYSTAL clear…tons of dead logs litter the bottom…it is incredible. I’m throwing the sinking line and move fish on the first 4 casts but fail to hook-up…on the 5th cast, out of nowhere it looks like a huge log coming at my fly….CRASH….I hook up. I immediately realize I have a huge brown on and I have to maneuver him out of the logs…after 3 jumps and a couple long runs we land him. 25 inches and HEAVY!

Our amazing lunch spot. Photo by: Brent Boone

Our amazing lunch spot. Photo by: Brent Boone

My biggest fish (landed) on the trip. Photo by: Brent Boone

My biggest fish (landed) on the trip. Photo by: Brent Boone

We fish the remaining part of the outlet and catch another 10 fish on our way back to the pickup….all in all, the best day of fishing yet!!

Day 20:

Today were going to fish a small lagoon in the morning and then try and hook up with a King Salmon in the afternoon.

We arrive at the lagoon, gear up, unload the boat and start fishing. My dad’s on the front of the boat fishing the size 4 Fat Albert and has perhaps the best 2 hours of fishing ever….he proceeds to catch 9 brown trout over 20 inches and loses one I’m guessing was 24 inches. I don’t catch a single fish…

Dad with a great brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Dad with a great brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Dad proves again he is "the man." Photo by: Brent Boone

Dad proves again he is "the man." Photo by: Brent Boone

After lunch we drive south to a spot on the Rio Simpson that typically holds King Salmon and we fish for awhile. My dad hooks one but it gets off quickly. Finally I hook a big female – she jumps 3-4 times, takes some runs and then I’m in for some work. After 25 minutes and a few more jumps and runs I get her close to shore. I tell Jeff to get ready and I slide her up into the shallows, and as Jeff grabs her tail she flops one more time and CRACK! There goes my tippet and the fish…. Oh well – no photos but a good time, and definitely memorable!

Back to the Lodge for dinner and sleep.

Day 21:

This day is a sightseeing day we drive to the Valley of the Moon, fish the Nirehuao and the Emperado Guillermo…catch 15 fish, but nothing exceptionally large. One beautiful drive however!

Valley of the Moon. Photo by: Brent Boone

Valley of the Moon. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 22:

Today we drive up to Cinco Rios’ sister lodge: Estancia del Zorro. It’s about a 45 minute drive east of Coyhaique near the Argentina border…the area is mostly pampas and there is a spectacular spring creek running through the property. Fishing conditions are tough:70 km winds and the spring creek is only 5 ft wide at its widest. After we learn how to fish these waters we have good success – we catch 12 -15 fish from 16 to 22 inches. I see several fish over 25 inches but spook everyone before I have a chance to cast to them….just typical spring creek fishing.

Estancia del Zorro Spring Creek. Photo by: Brent Boone

Estancia del Zorro Spring Creek. Photo by: Brent Boone

One of the prettier fish for the day. Photo by: Brent Boone

One of the prettier fish for the day. Photo by: Brent Boone

Dad's nice Spring Creek Brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Dad's nice Spring Creek Brown. Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 23:

On our last day of fishing at Cincos Rios we’re off to Lago Azul and Lago Desierto. These lakes are accessed by taking a jet boat up the Rio Mogote.

A Cascade into the unique-colored Lago Azul. Photo by: Brent Boone

A Cascade into the unique-colored Lago Azul. Photo by: Brent Boone

It’s raining when we start fishing and it never stops…..pouring rain all day but let me tell you….the best fishing of all. We move and/or catch at least 40 fish all over 18 inches. When we leave, the Rio Mogote has risen about 3 feet and is completely muddy, making for an interesting jet boat ride back out, an incredible day, and a great way to finish the hosted trip!

Not a dry day. Photo by: Brent Boone

Not a dry day. Photo by: Brent Boone

Please ignore the raindrop on the camera lens! Photo by: Brent Boone

Please ignore the raindrop on the camera lens! Photo by: Brent Boone

Day 24:

Today is departure day for most of the guests so we have a leisurely breakfast, go to town for some shopping and then take them to the airport. My dad, Adam Maris, Phil Napolitan and myself are staying for a few more days so I arrange to use a boat from Skip Mullen.

Skip's Raft on my Rental. Photo by: Brent Boone

Skip's Raft on my Rental. Photo by: Brent Boone

Phil Napolitan and Adam Maris get geared up. Photo by: Brent Boone

Phil Napolitan and Adam Maris get geared up. Photo by: Brent Boone

That evening we go to this lake that Adam and Phil had fished with their guide a few days earlier – there is a beautiful river coming into the lake that was very successful for them. Adam says it’s about a 10 minute row across the lake to the river. Knowing Adam, I plan for 30 minutes. When we get there I quickly realize what Adam thought was 10 minutes was actually 50 or more. We set up the puma raft and dive in! The wind is blowing and it is all we can do to get to the river. It’s very beautiful but fishing isn’t that great, and I think the cold weather has them shut off. We leave the river about 9:00 and it gets dark at 10:00 so I’m a little worried we won’t make it back before dark. When we get out into the lake, the wind has changed and once again I have to fight it the entire way. To make matters worse, as we’re rowing back, somehow one of the rods gets dropped into the water and as I go after it I fall in! 100 ft deep, waders and all! Sounds much worse than it was but could have been very dangerous. I get back into the boat soaking wet and cold, but luckily the 1 hour row keeps me warm. It’s dark when we reach the truck and we still have 30 minutes of work to do. Luckily for us the restaurants in Coyhaique stay open late….we eat at 11:30 then off to bed.

Day 25:

Dad, Adam, Phil and I drive up the Rio Manihuales valley in search of some good wade fishing we find what I think is the Rio Picacho….first two cast I catch a fish and I think it is on! It definitely was not on- we didn’t have another bite.

After a late lunch we drive to a spring creek someone told me about. He said it has huge fish but is almost unfishable because of all the brush and debris, and he was correct – it’s very marshy but holds big fish. Adam caught an 18 a 19 and had a huge 24 incher refuse his fly – tough fishing but we had a great time.

This beautiful water produced great fish! Photo by: Brent Boone

This beautiful water produced great fish! Photo by: Brent Boone

By the time we leave it already getting late and we still have 2.5 hours to drive so we stop at a minimarket in Villa Manihuales and grab empanadas, chips, cookies and a Coke….not healthy but much needed calories!

Day 26:

Adam and Phil are going home today…more shopping in town then off to the airport.

Aeropuerto. Photo by: Brent Boone

Aeropuerto. Photo by: Brent Boone

My dad and I sightsee the rest of the day.

Day 27:

Today is the last day of my trip. While I’m disappointed to be leaving, I’m anxious to get back to the States to my family. This has been the trip of a lifetime – an entire month in Chile with 20 plus days of fishing.

Incredible fishing, incredible beauty, and most importantly, incredible people. These folks are the kindest, friendliest people I’ve ever met, and I cannot wait to see them again!

Until my next adventure,

Ciao!

Brent

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The first report from Brent:

Hola mi Amigos!!!

I arrived safely in Coyhaique after a 10 hour flight to Santiago and a 2 hour lay over in the busiest airport ever!! Next was the three hour flight to Balmaceda, and when I arrived I knew the wind was blowing because we landed on one wheel and after about 400 yards the other wheel finally touched.  I thought the wind blew in the Texas Panhandle……that’s not wind.  The locals say Balmaceda is the windiest place on earth, and they are probably right!

After a beautiful autobus transfer to Coyhaique I arrived at my hotel (El Reloj).  From what I can gather this is the best hotel in Town – only 18 rooms but very nice and clean, and the views are incredible!  They have a restaurant in the hotel that is fantastico!

The country side is amazing….lots of sheep and cattle ranches…beautiful rolling hills with tall grass.

The town of Coyhaique is in a beautiful valley but is what you would expect of a town with 30,000 people.  Not alot of money but also no poverty.  Typical of Latin America, no one mows their lawns or paints their houses regularly.  The Centro de la Ciudad is very nice…centered around a very nice park, the shopping is endless.

There are also more stay dogs here than I’ve ever seen….I bet I’ve taken pictures of at least 20 dogs over the past two days.

The people are very friendly…no one speaks English but the past 3 months of spanish classes are paying off.  I actually translated for 2 Americans last night in the restaurant!!!!

Skip Mullen of (Nic Fin Outfitters) is picking me up in about and hour, and  I will be out of touch for a few days (no internet access).  But rest assured I will have lots to report when you here from me next.  Skip told me yesterday that his average brown trout is 6 lbs.!!!!!!!!!!  Holy Sh** I can’t wait!

Saludos!!

Boone

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