I just returned from a lovely long weekend on Guanaja, a gorgeous island off the coast of Honduras. Now before you all start looking it up on Google maps…don’t. Don’t figure out where it is. Don’t look up flights. It is now one of my favorite places, and as much as I love you all, I don’t want you messing it up.
It is a little like Planes, Trains and Automobiles to get there. Only in our case it was cars, planes, smaller planes, and boats. It is not a trip for the faint of heart or the queasy of stomach, especially since the little 8 seater you finish the trip on sees no reason to have air sickness bags (Angelo, seriously, you need those!).
But for true white knuckle fun, you have to take the boat trip to your lodging. You climb in an open air boat and take on “the road”, which is the path through the reefs that snake around the island. The water is hypnotizing, moving from black blue, to sapphire, to turquoise, to silver and back again. You watch it streak beneath you as the boat slides around the island. And just when you think that it can’t get any more intoxicating, you pull your eyes off the water and notice the island. Mountains reach up out of the water off the backs of sandy beaches. It is lush and green and everything you think a tropical island should be. You take a deep breath, and realize how thankful you are to be there.
And you are there for the fishing.
Three days of tracking the tides. Three blissful mornings of putting on damp clothes and wet boots. Screaming boat rides to get to the flats before the tide changes. Stalking the bonefish through the sands and sea grasses. Watching their tails rise up to dare you to catch them. Energies on the water, wakes from schools that travel against the grain of the rippled water. Cast in front of them. Then wait. Strip a little. Now wait. He took it, he took it. Let him run! Pole up. Reel in the slack. Let him take the line if he wants to. Rod up, reel him in. There he is, exhausted at the end of the gossamer line. Gentle now. Leave him in the water. He’s a good size. Nice for your first bonefish. Take the picture. Let him go.
Breathless and smiling ear to ear you think, “Damn, I want to do that again!”.
And that’s why you have the nicest, most patient guides in the business there to get you on more fish: Brownie, Pablo, Darren, and everyone else. Pablo had the misfortune of being in charge of me. I’m not sure what karmic debt he was repaying to pull that assignment, but if he was exasperated with my miles of tangles, wind knots, bad aim, or my penchant for hooking him on my backcast, he never showed it. Calmly and quietly we would patrol the flats. He would point out the fish, and then watch me spook them away or cast in the exact opposite direction he had given me. His quiet calm was just what a rushed suburban Mom needed. “Relax…it’s just a fish.”
At the end of the day you took your dinner on the deck if you so wished. You drank a cold beverage and talked over the day’s fishing with a cast of characters that only make the whole thing better. In a beautiful house, on a beautiful island you talked trash, tied flies, and thought “Shit, this won’t last forever.”.
I could go on and on about the houses built at impossible angles on the mountainside, or the ones hanging over the water. I could talk at length about the wonderful people that shared this experience with me. Then there is Graham’s, the Bight, the sunsets, tailing permit, tarpon… too much to mention. And I didn’t even tell the story about the barracuda giving me the evil eye. Perhaps the best part was being invited back (sorry Pablo). But at some point people stop caring about how great your trip was, no matter how much you wish to gush over it.
So, don’t go there. Let us have it all to ourselves. Don’t ask for the outfitter’s name because I won’t give it to you. Well, alright, I would…but only because I want to make sure that they keep bringing us there.
“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”
– Herbert Hoover