My life’s passion of throwing flies at fat trout on the “Big Mo” and several infamous rivers in Montana just wasn’t enough to quench my thirst for adventures for unknown worlds. While another cold winter was settling in it became very apparent that I needed a change. The day came when I set out to try my luck at casting for “ghosts“ in the crystal clear waters off the coast of Belize.
Being extremely naïve and not knowing essentially anything about salt-water fishing, I unknowingly became immersed in a new culture of fly-fishing. I knew nothing of flats, atolls, bonefish, permit, tarpon or 12 weight rods and what the hell is a crazy Charlie, a pink puffer, bonefish bitter, or a clouser?
While reading about the greats like Lefty Kreh and Del Merkin, I quickly realized that this was an elite club and to pursue a challenge like saltwater fly-fishing would be no easy task. My life’s quest seemed to always revolve around fly-fishing, but to enter a new arena of saltwater fly-fishing would require me to invest in more gear, the most reliable and best gear in the world. That’s why the first place I went to gear up for this trip was Sage; I had already trusted their gear for all my fly-fishing adventures for the past 20 years.
After spending months researching, I was off to a place where warm water, sunny skies, and fish turn men into liars was waiting, Belize! If flying to a third world country in search of bonefish, permit and tarpon wasn’t enough, I concocted an even bigger trip in my mind. The journey would lead me to an extremely remote island approximately 60 feet wide and located on an atoll in the middle of the Caribbean. No inhabitants, no electricity, a small shack destroyed by past hurricanes and rumors of large saltwater crocodiles. I brought a small cooler with a cache of food, a 10-foot pontoon boat, plenty of fishing gear and a set of 3 rods for my weeklong rendezvous. 890 SALT, 990 MOTIVE, and the 1090 SALT
I steadily waded across the hard flat, trying not to think about all of the unknown dangers lurking beneath the water such as saltwater crocodiles. Immediately, I saw a large tail sticking out of the water, some sort of jack but I wasn’t sure and it vanished within seconds.
Suddenly all the stories and myths vanished as I sat staring not only at a school of 500-600 bonies, but I actually saw a double-digit bonie! It cruised at the front of the pack, protected on both sides. As I looked past the school of bonies, a large dark shadow appeared on their flank, “barracuda”! It was then obvious they were very unsettled and very skittish. My heart started racing, as the distance grew further apart I didn’t have much time to act. I make a hard left turn and unbeknownst to me another huge school of bonefish was heading my direction. I quickly picked up the line trailing behind me and let it fly! My pink crazy Charlie landed at the front of the school, all the fish scattered; “damn it”! I slammed my rod into the water in frustration and as I looked up I realized that the school regrouped right over the top of my fly. It was then I took a deep breath like if holding it for eternity and made two sudden jerks with my fly and before I knew the ghost had taken my fly. The line went ripping through my fingers, drawing resistance with my rod and holding on for dear life. I was screaming “I got one, I got one; holy sh*t I got one!” Right when he seemed to be running out of steam I noticed a silhouette charging through the water. Once again, the line rocketed through my fingers sending chills through my body. The run lasted approximately 200 feet and then the line went slack. I wasn’t sure what happened. “Damn”, what did I do wrong?” As I reeled my slack line in I discovered the head of a probable double-digit bonefish. The large barracuda had hit it hard, tearing it in half with it with its teeth and making a meal of my prized catch.
Avoiding disappointment, I decided to keep chasing the school until late in the afternoon. Fortunately, at the end of the day my forearm was quite tired after fighting and catching numerous bonefish and one very large barracuda on the flats.
Born and raised in Montana on the infamous Missouri River Ted Chase is a professional fly fisherman and wildlife photographer. He grew up fly-fishing on the famous Big Mo, but always enjoys escaping to new worlds in search of adventure. Ted and his wife Mara run the Summit Mountain Lodge, providing premier cabins on the border of East Glacier Park in Montana. The lodge offers a great launching point for anyone looking to fish the rich rivers of the big sky state.