News from Steppingstones

The day to day life of the English owners of a great little fishing resort in southern Belize.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hi, this is Chris with an update of the latest news from Steppingstones down here in southern Belize.

Last week we said goodbye to Brian and Kathy Denton who were with us eight days. I should have known we were in for a fun week, because when we met them at the end of the creek next to the airstrip just off the plane, Bryan already had a rod out and had had a barracuda, a snapper and a small jack. And we hadn’t even got to Steppingstones yet.

These two are the undisputed King and Queen of kayaking. Bryan had resolved to carry out a detailed exploration of the area, and at crack of dawn next morning, sure enough he was out paddling into the pre dawn half light. He came back with a nice inshore barracuda of around 8lbs, plus a snapper and one or two other smaller fish. Bryan uses a combination of light lures and flies weighted with a shot for casting on a light spinning rod. This seems to work well and during the week he put this to good use around Great Monkey Caye and surrounding area. On one of his trips, Bryan surprised a manatee which shot off, and a few minutes later surfaced right beside his kayak. As the manatee we bigger than the kayak, Bryan decided to back off and leave the manatee in peace. Wise decision.

Bryan saw several tarpon jumping around Greater Monkey Caye as he went around. Next day, Bryan and Kathy paddled right down to Monkey River itself, and while Kathy hitched a lift back with us (we happened to be in the village at the time) Bryan soldiered on up the river jumping tarpon and catching snook on the way.

They also had a foray into the lagoon behind us and Kathy showed she is no mean angler herself by bringing in a mixed bag of six fish. We had hoped to have our long awaited path back to the lagoon open by the time Bryan and Kathy arrived, but due to a long list of circumstances we did not finally finish until the day they left. This path some 400yds long, provides an easy access to the lagoon, and we intend to keep our Kayaks moored down there for guests use.

The day after their long paddle, Bryan and Kathy decided to have a quiet day on the end of our dock. Sunny day, cool breeze, shade, cold drinks, and a couple of rod tips to watch. Very pleasant. Anyway two stingrays later, we were all wondering what next. We did not have long to wait. Bryan hooked into a heavy fish which just moved slowly up and down the end of the dock. Eventually, Bryan coaxed the fish along the side of the dock, in preparation for beaching it. By now we had identified his fish as a big nurse shark. Sue ran off back to the house to get her camera for the trophy shots.

However the shark had other ideas. It suddenly shot right through the dock pilings, and threw the hook. After a 30 minute fight you can imagine Bryan was not best pleased. But, being the angler he is, he baited up again straight away and cast out. Within seconds of his bait hitting the water, rod still in his hands, another fish was on! Sue came rushing down the dock, and we had to explain that in the two or three minutes she was away, Bryan had lost his first fish and hooked a second!

The fish turned out to be another nurse shark, a very tired nurse shark in fact because Bryan more or less towed it straight round to the beach where Rambo tailed it. For sure this was the same fish Bryan had lost minutes earlier. Anyway we estimated it at around 60lbs, not quite a record but a superb fish all the same. So the quiet day on the dock turned out quite hectic after all.

Next day at 5.30 am, disaster strikes. Our 26ft centre console skiff Patience sunk off our dock.

So it was all hands on deck (yes guests included) to try to prevent a complete capsize. One of our local friends took his boat down to the village and came back with a boatful of volunteers, plus another boat captained by George, our lead guide. So we ended up with about fourteen of us all shouting instructions at each other and waving arms in the air. I remember thinking at the time that amongst the fourteen different ideas how to save the boat, one of them must be right and would work. But which one?

Well after about an hour we managed to get the boat upright, and thankfully the sea moderated enough to stop more water coming over the side. Our heavy duty pump was called into action and with additional frantic baling, the boat was soon re-floated. The boys towed poor Patience down to the village for cleaning and an engine check. Miraculously, no water got into the engine so a big bill was averted. The inquest into what happened concluded that we had the mooring lines too tight, and a sudden change in wind direction over night was enough to swamp the boat. All in all a lucky escape.

Bryan and Kathy had another early call next morning, this time for their trip out to the reef. The chosen day proved to be easily the best weather, and we awaited their return confident that they would do well. We were not disappointed, and neither were they. Besides two really good barracuda, both double figures, they caught a box full of tuna which were very welcome. We distributed the fish around the neighborhood. The bits and pieces after Rambo had cleaned them, were fed to the ever watchful frigate birds who have learned that 6pm over Steppingstones is a good place to circle. These birds must have incredibly sharp eyes. They fold their wings into a swing wing shape and plunge at high speed after the bits and pieces. We never tire of this spectacle, and use it as another little memory for our guests to photograph.

So Bryan and Kathy left on their way back to Kansas. In the course of their two visits they have become firm friends, and we shall miss them. But as Kathy said, we shall be back next year!


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