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Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe

Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
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May 15, 2008 - Location: La Paz, Baja California

Greetings from La Paz! The last 3 weeks have been quite an adventure. The travel technique of "rush to relax" has been practiced in my family for as long as I remember. It appears that I have inherited the genes. I have covered a lot of ground (and water) since my last update. Here are the details.....

I drove from Honduras to Belize in one, long day. One can never tell how long it will take to process through international borders. It is usually best to remain cautiously pessimistic. When I arrived at the Honduras-Guatemala border, things seemed to be looking up as the customs agent efficiently collected the necessary VIN’s and filled out the paperwork. Then they said "una problema." Seems that this crossing is relatively new and was not yet equipped to take money and issue a receipt. They said it would be necessary to go into the border town 30 minutes away to consummate the transaction. No problema! I said. Just tell me where to go. "You cannot enter the country with your vehicle." Huh? "You will have to take a taxi." Well...... okay. Where are the taxis? "There are none." I think you can see where this was headed....... Fortunately, a lady standing nearby agreed to take me into the town, wait and return me to the border. So that is what I did...... paid $30 in taxi fare to pay the $6 customs fee. This is "business as usual" in these parts.

I arranged a day of permit fishing with "Scully" in Punta Gorda. We were cruising along at 25 mph on the way out to the flats when the boat suddenly went into the sharpest turn I have ever participated in. Everything, including the humans in the boat; were nearly catapulted into the water! The boat stopped and I was mentally choosing between "Dude, that was NOT necessary" and "You must have seen one hell of a fish back there!" When I did turn around, I found Scully to be in a bit of shock. "Mon, the steering cable broke! It scared the hell out of me!!!" Umm...... me too? That day was cancelled.

I did go out with Scully the following day. Holding to my recent luck with guided trips, we didn’t see a single tailing permit. NONE! We did see quite a few schools that were in transit to somewhere. "Throw your fly in front." Scully said. "Really? They seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere...... else." I replied. I have now joined the significant list of anglers that have paid good money to not catch a permit.

Next stop was Ascension Bay. I drove to the end-of-the-road town of Punta Allen. "PA" as they call it. Besides being a quaint little town with a few expats, PA has (this is conjecture on my part) the highest number of tropical fishing shirts per resident in the world. It is really insane. Every guy in town wears an Ex Officio, Columbia or Patagonia, etc. shirt. You know the kind....... light in color with quick-dry material. I felt like I was back at the Denver Fly Fishing Expo! The reason for this phenomenon is simple: everyone is a fishing guide. No joke!!! There used to be plenty of local fishermen who’d keep an ample supply of fresh fish on the plates of the local restaurants. Now, because the fishermen make more money guiding than selling fish, the restaurants serve imported, frozen fish! Strange, yet understandable.

One day I found a local guy to give me a ride to some flats and return for me at the end of the day. After being dropped off, I walked about 100 yards, stopped and realized that I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of bonefish. The only noise to be heard was the schools splashing in the shallows after being spooked. It was a good morning. At about 10:30am, the tide being to ebb and suddenly, where there had been armies of fish, there were none. Since I had a 4pm pick-up, I spent the next few hours wandering around and trying to find a patch of land to sit down on (it was mostly mangroves). On the whole, it was a successful do-it-yourself experience.

The next day I was dropped off at the "permit spot." This time I asked my panga taxi to come back at 2pm (I lurn good!). I covered about 3 miles of flats and didn’t see a thing. Well....... a small barracuda, but that was it. I may have to set aside some time in the future for a serious pursuit of permit. Till then, permit 2, Dan 0.

While I was in PA, I befriended the Grecas family from Minnesota; Jeff, Susan and their son Cassidy. In addition to letting me set up my tent in front of their property, they made great company. Jeff entertained with stories of his work in Antarctica. Susan talked about the ups and downs of owning a restaurant/bar back home. Cassidy played his P2P (the second "P" is for "portable" I learned). My job was to run to the store for beer. A big "thank you" to the Grecas clan!

The next stop was Isla Holbox (pronounced "Holbosh"). It is a famous destination for tarpon. I was pretty sure it was going to be my time to catch some tarpon. I mean, a person can only go so many guided trips without even getting a whiff of success. Right?? I have come to realize that when the guide starts talking about the other "factors" that affect the fishing (wind/no wind, clear/dirty water, rain/no rain) BEFORE he starts talking about the fish, it is a bad to very-bad sign. We searched an area the size of the Bermuda Triangle and didn’t even SEE a tarpon. Come on! I think I may have depleted my luck with the salmon I caught in Chile. Or perhaps those were just an aberration in a longer run of bad luck. Anyway, I cancelled the next day and just sat around on the beach. Later, I ran into Alejandro, who operates the tarpon club. I hesitantly asked him if they had a good day. I was fully prepared for him to say "It was unbelievable! They were practically jumping into the boat. We had a small child..... perhaps it was an infant, who had never fished before and who had to hold the rod in its gums catch an 80 pounder!" Braced myself and was probably turning glassy-eyed when he said "Nothing today." I was almost happy! I guess it was confirmation that I correctly called my bad luck. Bad luck or no luck, it feels good to be right about something occasionally.

Next up was the drive to Mexico City. Everything was going along just peachy till I actually entered the city limits. I was just driving down the main street with millions of other people. The light turned red, I stopped, 2 cars flew past me. Then a policeman taps on my window and says that I ran I light "back there." Huh? No I didn’t. As a matter-of-fact, the bus that was next to me just ran THIS light! "Pull over there." Great. Next he takes my license and pulls the whole "I’m putting this in my pocket" gesture. Can’t corrupt cops come up with something more original???? I mean..... I saw that in Russia and Panama! Get your own evil gesture for frick’s sake!!!!! "How much?" 2800 pesos. What a joke..... he wanted $280 bucks. So absurd. The problem was......... he (and his gordo buddy) were quite serious. I tried to reason with him; then I unsuccessfully played the poor traveler card. When I pulled out my money, I only had 1800 pesos. He wanted 1000. I told him that would leave me with only 800 for my last 2 weeks in Mexico. He didn’t even hesitate to ignore or disregard my plight. I gave him the pesos and drove to the next intersection. I was a bit perturbed...... perhaps even fuming. While waiting at the light, I noticed that these police too had seen me and were making their way over while pointing and blowing their whistles. "I literally can’t afford to drive in this city!" It was as if I was being chased by a swarm of killer bees and each stoplight was the equivalent to falling down. The light turned and I shot forward. In my mirrors I could see them start running after me. I stomped on it and made it through the next light. At the intersection, the exact same thing began to take place. A new set of police spotted me and started walking over..... whistling and motioning with their hands. The light turned green and I bolted for an opening between two cars and then made a quick turn off the main street. Holy sh!t! This is crazy!!!! Fortunately, I found my destination in a matter of a few minutes.

My destination was the home of Jose Alvarez. Jose had sent me an e-mail back in the Fall suggesting some ideas on fishing destinations in Central America and Mexico. Over the next few months we swapped a few messages and I was looking forward to meeting him and his family.

Fortunately, my stay with Jose and his family more than made up for the crazy police situation. Although I would have liked to spend more days in Mexico City (with someone else driving) as well as do some fishing in the lakes nearby, my schedule required that I leave early in the morning. Jose woke up at 5:30am and led me through a maze of streets and turn-offs to the highway heading west to Guadalajara and eventually Mazatlan.  I am indebted to Jose, Beatriz, Azucena and Rocio for their kind hospitality. Meeting people like the Alvarezes are the experiences that really make this adventure so incredible.

I will spend the next 2 weeks fishing my way up to San Diego. After that I will be heading up to my old "home waters" at the Green River in Utah. After that I will be making my way to Calgary to experience the "Stampede!!!" as well as the fishing opportunities nearby. I am in the "homestretch!"

I have finally received my laptop and purchased a new, waterproof camera. I promise to keep to a more frequent update schedule. Mucho gracias!

Searching for permit in the early morning near Punta Gorda, Belize

The road leading to Punta Allen, Mexico.

My beachfront accommodations in PA.

Mainstreet in Isla Holbox. There are only a few cars on the island.
Everyone gets around in jacked-up golf carts

Sunrise on Isla Holbox.

While searching for tarpon we came across a huge school of Jacks. I managed to land 2 nice ones
before we got back to the business of searching and searching..........

If my trip has proven anything worthwhile, it is that a good navigator/co-pilot is
absolutely necessary to steer safely through this treacherous world!


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