Written by: Steven Calaway Brown
Fly Fish Guanaja started on the North side of Guanaja, on a smaller island called Black Rock. Unlike most Caribbean islands made out of sand, Black Rock is made out of black rock, hence the clever name.
It all started with the Danger Monkeys, an elite group of degenerates based out of Durango, Colorado that came to help us explore the fishery before the start of our first season in Guanaja. I hooked up with Joe Delling and the Danger Monkeys guiding in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Joe Delling is a legendary guide from Durango, a former lodge owner in Chile, and more importantly, a key ring leader of the Danger Monkeys. From the Black Canyon to Black Rock, a load of fly guide pirates.
The Danger Monkeys helped tribes like the Garbutt Brothers in Punta Gorda, Belize explore and open their permit fishery. They trained locals, then followed up with clients and vacations. The only cost is the amount of fun they have in the process, which is monumental and immeasurable. Simply put, the Danger Monkeys throw down, party down, tie flies all night, and fish like maniacs with unparalleled fervor. They open doors you never knew existed, then blow them off the hinges.
The first night at the lodge the energy was full throttle, the FFG crew united with Danger Monkeys and everyone was in full force, the times of our lives. A bunch of bros on a private island on the verge of re-discovering a permit fishery that had been left alone for 9 years. Salva Vida and rum poured like a tropical storm and Margaritaville was in session.
Before their luggage hit the floor, fly tying material poured onto the dinner table. The Danger Monkeys were so excited to show their new material, patterns, and ideas. A frenzy of crystal flash and feathers swirling the lodge, a tornado of creation, the first Guide Flies session in Guanaja.
I’d never seen such a stoke for fly-tying, or so much fun in the process. My bewilderment was obvious and AC asked, “Isn’t this what you guys always do?” AC, the man, the myth, the legend, hailing from the San Juan River. AC puts the ‘danger’ in the Danger Monkeys with his horseshoe walrus mustache and deep passion for permit fishing and fly-tying.
“Honestly, I haven’t tied a ton of flies.” I replied, “I’ve been so busy with getting this project off the ground.”
AC looked at me like I had breasts growing from the top of my head. “Get with it bro, this is what it’s all about.”
I understood and was hooked into the deeper level of what makes us fly anglers. It’s all about tying.
Danger Monkey week was a mixed cocktail of fishing, exploration, laughing to tears, at least one random hookup in a broken down disco bar over the water, and new fly patterns that led to Fly Fish Guanaja’s first 2 permit, caught on the same day, with crabs designed the night before.
Last day of the week and nobody had caught a permit. In fact, Fly Fish Guanaja was yet to catch one. We had 3 weeks and remained blanked on permit, a growing concern considering we were starting and bonefish and permit lodge. We stayed up late the night before designing a new crab based on our trials and tribulations of the week.
Early morning we sent the Danger Monkeys out with our guides while I stayed at Black Rock and fished the river mouth.
Tide rushed in with the sunrise, silver bait crashed and the water was live. Schools of bonefish, tarpon, snook, jacks, and even permit share the river mouth feeding grounds on a moving tide.
Standing in the river mouth as fish passed through, the breeze and sunrise at my back. Letting bonefish feed on by, watching tarpon roll within casting distance, feeling water splash from the crash of snook pounding bait, letting it all go, taking in all in, patiently still for the chance of seeing a permit.
Water was root beer and the fish appeared like black oil, the definite shape of a permit tail slid by close enough to grab, headed in an arc to my 2 o’clock. I ducked down and rolled a short cast to my 4. Solid black tail sliced upward into the air, its head went down to our crab. Face down, ass up. Pink lips opened to suck in last night’s crab creation, right in front of my eyes.
Meanwhile, on the South side of the island AC was landing what he thought to be Fly Fish Guanaja’s first permit also.
We had a lot to celebrate that night at Black Rock, the beginning of so much, we had no idea what was to come, least of all, Guide Flies.