Written by: Steve Brown
Patrick showed up at Jones Caye several years ago to claim his job with Fly Fish Guanaja, it was his birthright. By the time Patrick became a young teenager, Fly Fish Guanaja already employed his mother and many cousins. Patrick’s mom is Lorena, who cooks and cleans for with her sister Amalia. Amalia Jackson has 6 of her children working for Fly Fish Guanaja: guides, chefs, housekeepers, and captains. Fly Fish Guanaja is not a company, it’s a family.
Patrick was only 17 years old and came across timid and shy. The only job I had for him was as a supply runner, and I was skeptical to give it to him because the supply runner position is ideally on the guide track. Supply runners have the chance to learn everything through being around our operation all the time, and the ultimate goal is to end up as a Fly Fish Guanaja Guide, the best job on the island. Edwin had officially grown out of the position into a full-time guide and we needed someone else to get supplies for the island, which was no small job. Operating out of a private island is a balance of bliss and hardship. While it’s a dream to have your own private island, surrounded by fish, accompanied by friends, it’s also a huge challenge. Simple tasks like getting toilet paper can mean a harrowing boat ride to a store that might or might not be open, and maybe has toilet paper. Patrick’s job was getting all supplies to the island, driving staff back and forth throughout the day in a panga, getting the pangas ready for the guides in the morning, and helping them break down in the morning.
Although Patrick didn’t appear to be the next all-star guide, he excelled as supply runner and became the best we’d ever had in quick time. Details I used to manage just started getting done without my order. Fewer and fewer emergencies occurred, we had back stock of the important things. Without saying a word, he dealt with all the guides and their requests, often thanklessly doing parts of their job. Patrick made everything easier for everyone.
By his second year, he had our lodge logistics dialed and at least that part was smooth sailing. He was still a young man with few words, to us anyway, and I had a hard time imagining him as a fly-fishing guide entertaining clients all day. He was so shy and didn’t seem to grow a love for fly-fishing.
Until I came back from fishing one day and saw him casting off the deck of the boathouse.
From a distance, I could tell someone was double hauling nearly all of the line with a perfect loop. As there are only a few of our guides that can cast that well, and our clients were all out fishing, I was confused at what I was seeing. Did another client I forgot about just show up at the lodge? No, it was Patrick chucking some major line. Little did know, he was spending his breaks learning how to cast, simply by watching others, silently. It was amazing to watch this kid, he was casting better than most of our guests and almost all of our guide staff at the time.
At that moment, I realized Patrick was paying more attention to the sport than I’d realized, it occurred to me I really needed another fly-tier on site. I’d taught most of my guides how to tie a few flies but none of them took to it with a passion. They got creative and distracted too fast, spinning new crazy versions of flies never to be reproduced even once, not very productive.
That very night I was tasked again with tying my custom bonefish flies for our guests the next day, they were the only patterns working and I was the only source. I told Patrick I needed him to learn something else new and sat him down at the tying table in the boathouse for the first time. Within minutes he was keeping up with me, and by the end of the night his Guide Kwans were looking better than mine, perfect in fact. I’d never heard of anyone learning to tie so fast, what luck! The next morning we had 24 Kwans to send out, AND I was able to go to bed approximately when everyone else did! Oh, the times, they were a-changing.
Patrick became our signature lodge tier and tied countless flies for our guests, productivity increased, and more fish were being caught, no question. Now guests could use our patterns even when I wasn’t there. Patrick was not only a pro caster but fly tier too and our lodge couldn’t operate smoothly without him.
As the years rolled on, Patrick’s personality blossomed. Mind you, I’m sure he’s always been outgoing to his people in Guanaja, it’s just the cultural collision likely left him speechless for a few years around us.
Along with his skills off the water, Patrick started getting in our pangas, acting as first mate for our head guides and learning all the ropes. Inevitably a guide didn’t show up on time, and there was Patrick, Mr. Reliable, at the ready to step in as a guide creating a seamless day for our guests. He learned how to get any level of angler into Guanaja bonefish and began the permit hunt.
The Fish for Change Student Program in Guanaja became Patrick’s favorite time of year and he connected with our students so much they requested him daily. Turns out Patrick is a kid at heart and engages with students on a unique level.
By the time Dave and I started Guide Flies, it was clear who our local head instructor and tier was going to be. Patrick jumped right in and started teaching our new local staff. He taught his wife Claudia, who started tying at home and was quickly making hundreds of the best prince nymphs I’d ever seen. They have 2 beautiful children who are learning to tie as well.
Guide Flies started from scratch, however, the core team had prepared for a long time. Patrick was crucial in launching Guide Flies. Even though English is the first language of the islanders, it’s a different form of English coming from a different way of thinking. Much is lost, even when there is no translation needed. Sometimes apples to apples is more like oranges to coconuts in our communication and Patrick brings it together.
Patrick not only helped teach our team how to tie, but he also invented some local saltwater patterns of his own. Growing up in Guanaja and becoming a fly-fishing guide gives him an intimate knowledge of the fishery and its many creatures we imitate.
Patrick co-designed many of our first saltwater patterns with Dave McKenna like the Guide Mullet and Guide Toad.
Everything is humble about Patrick, especially his house. In fact, he really needs a new one and every season we stay in operation he gets closer to that goal.