Red River, NM – Summer Trip

June 29-July 4th 2018:

Alriah and I travelled to Red River, NM with our new puppy, Arlo. We were ready to escape the heat of Dallas, TX and enjoy the high elevation and cooler temperatures. I was also stoked to do some fly fishing, since I had not done much of that for the last 2 summers. After a long 12 hour road trip, we made it with a little bit of daylight left, went to the grocery store for some basic food supplies, and settled into my parents cabin.

We had heard about the drought and the fires that went ablaze prior to our trip, so we knew that the activities would not be as bountiful as other trips to the area. However, we knew that we had a special stretch of stream right behind the cabin. Right away the first morning, I went fly fishing and hooked into a couple nice brown trout. Alriah came down to the stream’s edge and took some photos. She also handed me Arlo so he could get up close and personal with his first trout. That afternoon, we decided to drive up the road that runs along the Red River to the access points for East Fork and Middle Fork. These were both closed due to fire danger. We had heard that all trails and national forest access points were closed, but we didn’t realize that the blocked off access points would be so stringent. It was good to check it out at least and I got to take the Jeep on a couple rocky roads. “Gandalf the Gray” needs that from time to time. Our next step was to go into town and ask some questions. When we got to town, we asked the guys at the local fly shop where we could fish, and one guy said that the only spots to go were in the Red River in town and also down at the Rio Grande, unless you have access to private property. This made us grateful for the fly fishing opportunities right by us at the cabin, which is private property, so we could access it. While we were still in town, we went to the newly opened Red River Brewing Co. They make some good beer and cider that we both enjoyed with some fried pickle spears. I got the Lazy Bear Blonde Ale and Alriah got the tractor red Apple Cider. We saw the World Cup highlights on the TVs inside and got pumped to watch the upcoming games. Afterwards, Alriah re-enacted a memorable scene from Dumb & Dumber. “You wouldn’t happen to have a cup of hot water, would ya?” After paying our check, it was time to pick up the “Big Mountain Brisket” pizza from Anchovies, which we enjoyed for dinner and lunch leftovers the next day. The next couple of days turned out to be very relaxing, as we watched the World Cup (Round of 16) Sunday and Monday. Watching soccer is fun! Both Sunday games went to penalty kicks with Russia prevailing over Spain and Croatia over Denmark. The Monday games were a bit different and both finished in regulation. Brazil handled Mexico soundly at 2-0. Belgium came back and scored in literally a last seconds goal, a true buzzer beater, winning 3-2.

We also had the great outdoors and we would go out to walk by the stream at our leisure, with Arlo joining along. We got some good photos too!

The stream is very low right now, but there are multiple cascading pools where the water gets deeper. This pool in the photo below is right behind the cabin and holds plenty of trout at various times. It is usually a sure shot that I will catch a trout here if it is fresh and has not been spooked. The trout like to hide out in the deeper water below cascades and this is also a prime spot for flies and other food sources flowing downstream.During the stay, I caught plenty of brown trout in the 11-12 inch range. I can tell that these brown trout are wild and healthy by the distinct red-orange spots that can be seen on the sides and the adipose fin. They weren’t very big, but had some girth, and put up quite the fight for their size. Here are a couple photos showing the size of the the trout and the striking markings they display. The best fly to use was a size 14 elk hair caddis. The caddis flies were hatching and I could see them falling on the water. At one point, one landed on my hand as I was holding an artificial elk hair caddis in the same hand. I visually inspected the similarities and size, color, and shape were right on. This is what you call “matching the hatch”. Here is a close-up photo of a caddis fly that landed on a rock beside me. Now, there is usually a lot to see and do around Red River, such as hiking through the forest to mountain peaks and glacial cirque lakes, as well as the all-terrain Jeep excursions. Since we were not able to explore those adventures, we enjoyed the stream right by the cabin and the surrounding nature. Alriah started to learn how to fly fish and I can already tell she is improving. It is just a matter of time before she hooks her first trout. She hooked into one brown trout in pool below the cascades, but it came off due to loose tension in the line. Next time! During the fly fishing session, a green hummingbird came right up to us to just say buzz at us. It was a cool encounter and another example of how nice it was to be out in nature. We concluded the day with some Mexican food at Sundance in Red River. The food was really good but we were stuffed afterwards. It was fitting, because I ordered the stuffed sopapilla. I should have known what I was getting into. We did go on a walk with Arlo when we got back to the cabin, so that we could kick-start the food settling in our stomachs.

For the final day, we drove out to the Taos area and met up with our friends Justin and Katie, and Jenna. We coordinated the day before and the original plan was to meet up in Taos and eat at a dog-friendly Mexican food place. When Alriah and I arrived in Taos, we realized that it was very crowded, there was lot’s of traffic, and it was fairly hot at the lower elevation. When Justin and the gang were driving into town, they called and we then decided to improvise and drive up to Taos Ski Valley, where it will be cooler, and we can eat there. Alriah and I arrived first and scoped out a place called Stray Dog Cantina. We planned to go there when the rest of the group arrive, and once they arrive, they got to meet Arlo for the first time. We headed over to the restaurant, and found that it was packed and the management just ignored us, not even letting us know a wait time. We then tried to drive up the all-terrain road to The Bavarian, which is by Lift 4. I am very familiar with that area and have eaten there while skiing that adventurous side of the mountain. The restaurant is closed for renovation, and plus, the road is closed due to fire danger (go figure). So we settled on a pizza shack, which was owned and operated by just one guy. It was quite good! We sat on the patio and shared 3 pizzas, which are made with whole wheat dough. With new energy from the good pizza we just ate, we tried to go out fishing. We scoped out the portion of the Hondo that is right below the ski lifts. It was tiny and we didn’t even see a trout. So then, we headed to our last option, by Justin, Katie, and Jenna’s condos. We had a fun time fishing that. I caught one small brown trout right off the bat, and then fished further downstream, while Alriah took Arlo on a nice walk on the stream side trail through the woods. Justin caught several brown trout further upstream. After o’ clock rolled around, it was time to head home. It was fun to hang out with our friends and just be in the mountains, eat good food, and fish some. This was the last main event of the trip. That night we packed, and headed home the next day. We were sad to leave but really enjoyed our get-away in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.

Introducing…Arlo the Mini Fluffball

This will be a short post but we have a new addition to RiverEv Adventures.

If you are a consistent reader of my blog, you already know about my wife, Alriah. You have also read about my Dad and brother in our fishing adventures. Now, we have a furry addition to the blog. His name is Arlo. We picked him up on Saturday, June 16th, and we have been training him ever since. He will be an exciting addition to our adventures, so stay tuned. Here he is…the first day as a part of our family.

Washington DC – First Timers

Here’s a blog post about Washington DC from the perspective of first-timers… One thing of note…you will notice that I used the word “impressed” while writing this article…well, it was impressive to say the least.

My wife Alriah had a work trip during the week so we planned for me to fly in Friday evening and enjoy the extended Memorial Day weekend. Going into the trip, I just knew that the National Mall was huge and that the monuments and museums were a must. I knew other facts of course but I did limited research. We slept in the first morning and then made our way for breaki. We ate at Old Ebbitt Grill which has been there since 1836. We found out later when we looked at the menu. I got the chicken and waffles, and I was not very impressed I might add. After that, we checked out the White House, and it was smaller than I imagined. And then when we walked south to the National Mall, we saw the Washington Monument. And now I was impressed! My impressed state would continue to rise. We went to the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and the Constitutional Gardens. Photos below…

Lincoln has great posture.

Alriah is smiling but the tip of the Washington Monument is actually very sharp. This photo was taken pre-poke.

The sandblasting of the granite is incredible at the Korean War Memorial. Good job with this impressive stone imaging product, Cold Spring USA.

A perfect circular hedge cut on the bosque of trees trimmed to an even head clearance height. This was a great relief from the heat.India represented by my half Indian wife.The Constitutional Gardens with the Washington Monument in the background.These are in close proximity to one another, relatively since the Mall is so big! All were very impressive in grandeur and worth it to see in the blazing heat. Hydration is a must!

Now one thing I learned was that I do not particularly like asking people to take photos of us. I will do it but I am hesitant, partly because I am strategically looking for the person who is the least occupied. Everybody is willing to help out by taking a photo though! We were HOT and wanted to get indoors. We went to the African American History Museum and it was packed out the door with a long stand-by line. We then decided to try the Museum of Natural History, but by the time we made it, it was time for lunch, and plus the line to get in was very long. The nearby food stand was all junk food so I looked on Google Maps for some close-by food options. I saw that there was a restaurant in the Museum of the American Indian that sounded good. We walked there and I was impressed by the landscape architecture. There was a cascading waterfall/stream fountain and a curved path, with random large boulders, and native planting’s in the raised planter area, which was very large. I like how the space leading to the museum entrance was very neatly organized and had purpose, but it also was free-flowing and organic in nature, playing homage to the “native” landscape cherished by the American Indians.

We went inside and ate some tasty bison burgers (meat > bun), and then went through the Trail of Tears exhibit. It is so sad what the Native Americans went through when they were forced to relocate. It is good to know that this country now has a better sense that all men and women are created equal and are made in God’s image. We didn’t spend too much time in this museum since we were yearning to go to the Natural History Museum. At the first level on the way out, I was impressed by the replicas of a traditional Hawaiian canoe and an Alaskan kayak. It is so cool how the canoe and kayak forms used for centuries by the Native Americans are so close to what you can buy and enjoy today. It makes me even more excited about my upcoming kayak fishing trip below the dam with my Dad. We made our way across the lawn to the Natural History Museum and had to re-route some because the north sidewalk was under construction. We made it through a short line and then we were greeted by a mounted African elephant. So huge! We checked out the ocean exhibit and saw some prehistoric fishes that were so monstrous looking…such big teeth! There was even a full skeleton of a 50 foot long ocean monster that looked like the alien spaceships from The Avengers. After this, we saw that there was an ocean theatre. We both were captivated by a documentary on submarines and going to the depths of the ocean, witnessing the crazy and bioilluminescent creatures that inhabit the deeps. Then Alriah lovingly pointed out that we can watch documentaries anytime but we should maximize checking out the museum. We made sure to marvel at the big whale hanging from the ceiling. Right after that, we checked out the reef portion of the exhibit. I was impressed by the live coral and fish aquarium more than the preserved dead fish/crustacean samples in jars. We went through the human origins exhibit which was interesting to say the least. I belive that God created us as fully human in the garden as Adam and Eve. These evolved human-like creatures must have just gone extinct, but I wil not know for sure until I ask God in Heaven. Soon after we made it through the exhibit, the workers were yelling at us to leave the building because the museum was now closed. When we got outside, it started to sprinkle, which was nice because it was such a hot day, and we walked a lot…over 7 miles! We walked back to the hotel room, it was located a couple miles away, and just relaxed for the rest of the evening. And then we started to discuss what we wanted to do on our 2nd day in DC!

The next morning, we decided to sleep in because of the big day we just had. After sleeping in, Alriah looked up some brunch spots in Georgetown, which was on our list. We chose to take a taxi to Georgetown Waterfront Park, and see what restaurants we would find. Right when we got out of the taxi and approached the large ellipse fountain, we saw Farmers Fishers Farmers. This is a place which was on the top restaurants list that Alriah was looking at. The only option was their $32 buffet, which is a lot of money but the food looked super good, so we decided to load up for the day. We were seated outside on the patio and started off with some coffee, and then they randomly brought out the most delicious cinnamon rolls…excellent surprise! When I poured milk in the coffee, the milk turned into a galaxy, much like the Milky Way, as it emulsified into the coffee. After this, we had the Eggs Benedict. I had never had this before, but they were also extremely delicious. Eggs with a yellow great on an English muffin…YUM! And then we went inside for the buffet selections…so many options, and the plates we grabbed were piping hot! Egg scrambles, French toast with Banana Foster and berries, even build your own crapes, this place had it all. Let’s just say that we had at least a couple rounds on top of our initial plates served to us, and man, we were stuffed! I just wallowed in my chair, but eventually it was time to go for a walk along the waterfront park. We saw a bunch of people kayaking in the brown murky water, which it was a nice & sunny day for it if you were dressed prepared. The park was well-done from a design standpoint. There was a series of seating opportunities, distinct paving patterns, lawn areas, and even bioretention areas with for storm events. Directly adjacent to the park was a very steep alley that we hiked up to the stores. The buildings look like they have been around at least since the 19th century. When we made it to the top of the steep drive, we checked out a couple stores and then checked out on Georgetown. We took an Uber to the Arlington National Cemetery. There was an absurd amount of traffic heading to enter the cemetery and we were in the Uber for about 40 minutes. The nice Uber driver definitely didn’t make money on us, because the fare was based on distance and we only went less than 2 miles. Once we got to the cemetery, we were overwhelmed by its size. After using the restrooms and buying some waters, we opted to take the guided shuttle tour. Now let’s just say that the cemetery was very humbling to see all of the grave markers for the men and women who gave their lives to protect this country. About midway through the tour, the shuttle stopped at the tomb of the “Unknown Soldier”. This is where soldiers were buried that were not identified but the country wanted to honor them in a very special way. We showed up right in time to see the “changing of the guards”. I was very intrigued by this. Every half hour this time of year, there are 3 guards that go through a meticulous process to change out the guard watching over the tomb. Every step and movement was precise and their faces were as serious as could be. We heard from some other tourists that the soldiers serve for an entire year and are confined to living below the memorial and cannot have any contact with the outside world. They must devote their time to memorizing National Cemetery history and keeping their equipment in tip-top shape. I was thinking that this would not be a task for me, but I am sure that I would be reading a lot of the Bible if I was one of these soldiers. Talk about a lot of time for meditation. Here’s a good photo that shows the spirit of the cemetery. After the tour of the cemetery concluded for us, we decided to head back to the hotel and relax because it was very hot. We then met up with Alriah’s old-time friend from boarding school and headed out for dinner. We tried to go eat at a local fancy French place. As soon as we sat down and saw the expensive menu that didn’t even look that appetizing, we were wondering what we were thinking! We excused ourselves and disappointed the waiter, but we were now heading to Chinatown! We walked around looking for a restaurant and then saw a noodle restaurant with a glass window that displayed their noodle master. Now, I will tell you that this guy made his noodles with ease…since he was an old man with years of experience. We decided to check it out and the noodles and dumplings were quite good. After dinner, we walked around and then spotted a gelato place. After stepping inside and ordering, we were soon impressed with the green tea gelato. We had a good time hanging out with Alriah’s friend and they capitalized on a great opportunity to catch up.

Monday morning, was our last day and we decided to go check out the Museum of the Bible. We had recently heard about this brand new museum and this was a great chance to visit. This was a very informative experience. We got to see very old prints of the Bible and even some old manuscripts. It is amazing to see how the story of the Bible has been maintained for thousands of years. God’s word has been preserved by the faithful duty of his followers over the years. The “Stations of the Cross” exhibit was powerful to see metal sculptures portraying the suffering that Jesus went through…all so that we can spend eternity with Him by just believing in Him as our personal Lord and Savior. He paid it all as the ultimate sacrifice.

Here are a few photos from the Museum of the Bible.

This was a great conclusion to the trip. By the time afternoon rolled around, it was time to take a taxi to the airport and head home. We enjoyed our trip to visit the historic Unites States capital.

The Honeymoon – Sian Ka’an Biosphere

The big wedding day finally came and went!  On 02.24.2018, I married the love of my life, Alriah Pereira…now Hunt.  All of the wedding planning came to fruition and we had a great time in Tulum, Mexico with our family and friends, celebrating our big day.  Friday, most of us went to Casa Cenote to check out the crystal clear water and freshwater fish swimming amongst the mangrove roots. The wedding the next day went mostly as planned, and everybody had a great time… It started raining after the ceremony and some of us got wet while taking photos, but we were blessed by a beautiful rainbow, which we feel that that was a sign from God that Uma (Alriah’s Mama) was there with us in spirit. We enjoyed a good variety of tacos and drinks at dinner, while being enchanted by our reception playlist, consisting of a selection of ska, reggae, tropical house, and easy listening tunes. This is a great playlist that we are saving for future hang-outs and chill sessions. After dinner, we all danced the night away on the small wooden dance floor. I would write more about the wedding events but this blog post is about the honeymoon adventure that followed!

The next morning, it was time to begin our adventure, which we would be traveling further south into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere at a small resort called Mukan.  Alriah and I had a shuttle set up at 1:30 PM departing from ZAMAS, which was great because we wanted to just relax after a very busy day…getting married!  We had breakfast with Alriah’s Dad (Mannu), sister (Rene), and brother (Amon).  My cousin Jake also joined.  We said goodbye to family and friends as their shuttles departed for the Cancun airport.  Mannu and Rene were staying an additional day so we all decided to go check out a cool little shop/Hotel called Azulik that my brother (Parker) and sister-in-law (Emily) told us about.  This place was fancy and was intricately designed with plants, water pools, expensive clothes, wood wick patterns, swings, and mirrors.  It reminded me of Rivendale from Lord of the Rings.  We took some unique photos and definitely just browsed (everything there was super expensive!).

We were definitely just browsing! After that, we went and got some smoothies and kombucha tea, and ran into Parker and Emily again, since the smoothie shop was a part of their hotel. Shortly after, we all said our goodbyes, before Alriah and I met our shuttle at ZAMAS to take us to our honeymoon destination!

The shuttle was very comfortable and after about an hour, we arrived at a dock where a boat was waiting for us. This was the first time we saw the lagoon and it was beautiful to our eyes. Here’s Alriah about to step onboard the boat…

The water color is one that I have never seen before. Super clear with a greenish-tannish hue to it, very unique to this region. Check it out below…This makes for a neat iPhone home screen background.

We had 2 guys that guided the boat, one of them manned the motor while the other stood up front to spot out any obstacles just in case so we wouldn’t run into them if they were in our path. We noticed that he had very large feet…gorilla-sized. I guess this helps with the balance of standing at the front while the boat bounces around in the waves. Impressive! When we got to a narrow passageway between mangrove trees, we slowed down and then spotted a baby crocodile to our left. It was small and non-threatening, but it was the first of several forms of wildlife we would see during our honeymoon. Check out this video of boat-ride entrance into the Sian Ka’an…

Entering the Sian Ka’an – Crocodile Spotting

After about 1.5 hours, we approached the lagoon dock for Mukan resort and and there waiting for us was the hotel host, Beatriz, and one of the waiters, Manuel. And I’ll add here that everybody to this point was very friendly and that would continue for the rest of the stay.We were able to pick out a drink from the ice bucket and then Beatriz gave us the tour. The resort was like a paradise! There was sand almost everywhere with plants sporadically growing in some places and thoughtfully preserved and protected in other places. The resort had the feel of a tropical Zen garden. Beatriz stated that all of the plants were natural and were not planted, but with the way the resort was planned, it appeared that some of them were. I really liked how the resort was organized, so that it felt like you were in a manicured environment but still enjoying the natural essence of the beach. There were many coconut palm trees and smaller shrub-form palms.

We settled into our room and then made it back to the restaurant to have some delicious quesadillas, super fresh guacamole, and cocktails, where we met Pablo. Pablo asked us what we wanted for dinner and we enthusiastically said “lobster”. I had never had it before, besides in a quesadilla at a Dallas restaurant. We were then introduced to Charlie who is the groundskeeper, and snorkeling/fishing guru for the resort. He said that he was going out snorkeling and if he caught a lobster, he would bring it back and the kitchen would cook it for us. After enjoying relaxing at the restaurant and checking out the beach, we went back to the room to get dressed for dinner. We got to dinner which was candle-lit and under the stars, and guess what! the new waiter Luis said that lobster was on the menu! Way to go, Charlie! The lobster was delicious, and one of the best meals I had ever had. Here’s a picture of the meal…

We went up to the rooftop after dinner and had a chance to view the stars. I saw a shooting star but Alriah wasn’t looking at that portion of the sky at the time. I promised her that it was awesome. It was a great conclusion to the first arrival day to Mukan and we still had 3 entire days ahead of us…

The next day we did a whole lotta relaxing! We chose to have breaki (Alriah loves to call breakfast “breaki”) by the beach in a table by the sand. Something something new I that have never tried was on the menu…a dish called chilliquilles. They are like nachos for breakfast with shredded chicken. What was even better was the artisan bread with jam, which was great fuel to start the day. Breakfast was really fun this morning. Luis came by and showed me how to get coconuts out of the palm trees, using 2 methods. The first method is with a blade at the end of a long pole. The second method, which is more fun, is to climb the tree and twist it off. I like climbing! Next time, I will climb further down before jumping off. That sand is soft but it is still a hard landing, even at 6+ feet and cushioning the blow by bending my legs. After breaki, we decided to walk along the beach and check out a fishing spot at the edge point of a cove, which was supposed to be calmer. The waves were crashing in on the main beach. As we walked along the beach, there was a lot of trash along the beach. It is a sad reality that in such a remote and beautiful place like Mukan, there is still a lot of trash that washes ashore and collects, when it is not being consistently maintained. Mukan does a great job of keeping the beach clean within the grounds of the resort, and we could see that it is a lot of work. The guys that worked for Mukan were even burying the mounds of seaweed that washed onto the beach. The seaweed wasn’t a bother to us since it is just a part of nature, but we appreciated their hard work. Now, when we reached the point in the beach, there was a shallow sandbar that I tried my hand at fishing. I didn’t catch anything but it was nice being out in the water. Here’s Alriah and I enjoying the beach…seaweed and all!

After a little while, we went back to spend some time indoors and then went to have lunch at the lagoon dock. I think we had quesadillas, guacamole, and ceviche (the Mukan staple). It was so relaxing out there by the water and our server Luis made some awesome mixed drinks. His margarita creation with Pescadores ale was so refreshing, and the best one I have ever had. From the dock, there were a lot of fish hanging out by the posts. There were puffer fish, needle fish, and another cool-looking pearly white fish that I do not know the name of. I decided to wade in the water and cast out with my saltwater fishing rod and reel. No luck! So I decided to catch the fish via underwater GoPro video. It was easy to walk up close to them in the crystal clear water and get a good look.

The Mukan Lagoon Dock

After we had relaxed for a while, Alriah and I paddled out in the tandem kayak. We did this even though Pablo said to watch out for the crocodiles! We didn’t see a crocodile but saw a big barracuda or bonefish. I wasn’t quite sure but it was big, however, it did not bite my swimbait lure. I think that the moss green braided line was too visible in the clear water. Next time, I will bring some clear fishing line. Since I didn’t have any luck fishing, I asked Alriah if she would want to go fly fishing with a guide the next day. She encouraged me that that was a great idea so we booked a half day guided trip for the next day. She is such an amazing wife that encourages me to “go for it” when it is an activity I love, even though there is a cost associated with it. We just relaxed for the rest of the day in preparation for the next day’s fishing trip. I was so excited! We got dressed up for a romantic dinner at the roof top. I wore my olive green Cambodian dress shirt and Alriah wore a stunning dress. Another server named Irving presented the menu to us and we enjoyed relaxing in the comfortable weather and ocean breeze.

The next morning, we had breaki at the dock fairly early and waited on the boat to arrive. While eating the delicious meal, we spotted a spotted eagle ray hanging out right by the dock. Wow!

Shortly after, the boat showed up and we were ready for action. I was wearing my Simms fishing shirt and hat that Alriah got me for Christmas, and Alriah was wearing her Simms fishing shirt which looks so cute on her. We had 2 guides for the day and the captain was named Francisco. We soon realized that they did not bring the fly fishing equipment so the next stop was to go to Punta Allen and pick up the rods. They brought in 2 rod & reels, and I used one with a Habit reel. I was surprised at how nice the gear was. It was a 6 or 7 weight. We started off fishing in the shallows of the lagoon and I was at the front of the boat casting. We hardly saw any fish movement but we did see a flock of flamingos. I didn’t even know that there were flamingos in this part of Mexico.

Since, we weren’t catching anything, Francisco decided to take us to the Caribbean side and fish the shallow grassy flats at the beach past the lighthouse. It was a long and bumpy ride but we were glad to finally arrive and get in the water and relieve ourselves. Alriah was such a trooper to hold it for that long. Bladders full + bumpy ride = no bueno!

The strategy now was to slowly wade in the shallows and sight-fish for bonefish. Alriah wasn’t fishing but walked nearby with the GoPro camera, and she had fun doing that. Now, my polarized glasses were getting foggy and ruined from the saltwater, since they were a fairly cheap (but comfortable) pair by Abaco, so I was glad to have Francisco next to me helping me spot the bonefish. Fly fishing in saltwater flats is a lot different than fly fishing in the mountains. You have to be stealthy in these situations and make quick short casts. The bonefish move so quickly that you only have a few seconds to get your fly out to them before they’re gone. The fly he set me up with was a brown muddler minnow type. At first, I could tell that Francisco was getting a little frustrated because I was missing some opportunities since I was not used to this quick method and also holding so much line out in my left hand. Soon enough though, Francisco said “cast” and I could see some movement in the water…he quickly said “strip, strip” for me to I strip the fly line with my left hand, making the fly swim in the water, and then “BOOM” I was hooked on to my first ever bonefish. Francisco was trying to help with instructions but I let him know that “I got this!” I am quite familiar with fighting a fish on the fly rod, but really appreciated him showing me how to hook one. Right away after being hooked, the bonefish would pull hard and relentless for about 30+ seconds at a time. I would let it run with the line when it was pulling hard so that it wouldn’t break the line, but after a little while, it would let up and I would have the chance to reel it in some. These guys fight so hard for their size! This process went on for about 6 minutes and then I landed the fish. I know that it was about 6 minutes because Alriah videoed the whole thing! It was quite slippery and sleek, and it was a little bit of a wrestle to grab the fish. Once I had it in my hands, I realized that it was even neater looking in person, displaying a shiny silver color with bands along its back, with a long pointed mouth. Alriah cheered me on for catching my first bonefish and took some photos. A few minutes later, I caught another bonefish which was a little bit bigger…another great fight! The fishing then slowed down and we went back to the boat to eat our sandwiches and enjoy some cold Pescadores ales! We both fished for a little bit at the nearby reef with my casting rod & reel, and even saw a shark! We were glad to be in the boat at that point for sure! We didn’t catch anything at the reef but it was worth a shot. After cruising around the reef for a little longer, it was time to head back. We enjoyed being out in the boat and our guides did a great job. It wasn’t just a fishing trip, but it was also a wildlife viewing tour. We saw a manta ray, flamingos, bonefish, osprey eagles, and a shark…traveling from both lagoon to beach to reef water environments.

After such a long day in the sun, we relaxed at the resort for the rest of the day, enjoying good food, in a tropical atmosphere, with the best company (each other)! We also went to sleep fairly early because the next morning we had planned to view the sunrise at the beach!

The next morning’s alarm went off on my phone but it was no big deal because it was sunrise-at-the-beach time…and it was a spectacle to see! Photo below cheers-ing our morning coffee!

Next plan for the day was yoga before breakfast. Our yoga instructor was a hippy lady from Spain. She was all about the yoga, and when Alriah and I showed up for the 8 o’ clock class, we thought it would be quick, get some stretching in, and then enjoy breakfast. Well she turned the yoga session into almost 2 hours…and after about an hour, we were very stretched and getting hungry! I tried to make hints that I was getting up and about to leave, even dancing to the music, but these hints went over her head. Let’s just say that when yoga finally ended, we went and enjoyed our breakfast more than we would have otherwise. We relaxed more, and Alriah even got a massage, and then we had lunch (more ceviche). We each enjoyed a pina colada and then waited to go snorkeling with Charlie at 4 o’ clock which we set up earlier in the day. Now we realized that it would have been a good idea to wait longer after eating lunch and drinking the pina colada, but we both knew we were good to go and ready, or at least we thought so. Once we got the snorkeling masks and flippers on, we got in the water and started following Charlie. Charlie is one fast swimmer! We swam furiously just to keep up. Once we made it out to the reef, we some some colorful fish and took some GoPro videos.

When we were at the reef, there was a lot of turbulence created from the waves, and we nimbly swam to dodge hitting any of the coral when the waves were going frantic. That was only for a small stretch though, and the water got calmer as we were further out…I guess the waves were breaking against the coral reef just right to create that turbulence. Charlie then saw a conch shell at the bottom and went down to the bottom to put it in his bag. When we all came to the surface, he mentioned that he would bring it back and give it to the chef to cook for us. He had already gotten a lobster for us the first day, and now we were going to enjoy snail ceviche. We kept swimming out, and it was out at a distance from the shore where we were swimming along and Alriah pointed down to a big stingray. She was brave and kept swimming, but I froze above it, only thinking to point the camera at it. I regained my wherewithal and swam further and just yelled “that was a big stingray!” In my muffled underwater voice. Charlie, the snorkeling guru, went down and tapped the ray on the back and it swam off. Here’s the video of this epic footage…

Snorkeling with a BIG Stingray

After this, I mentioned to Alriah that I was tired from all of the swimming and she agreed that it was time to go back. I swam frantically for about 100 yards just to catch up to Charlie and get his attention that it was time to go back. Swimming back was easy since we were just going with the waves. Once we were back, we got ready for dinner at the lagoon dock. It was peaceful and we saw a beautiful sunset but we were tired from snorkeling earlier.

It was very late to eat dinner since it was busy at the hotel that day and it takes a while to eat ceviche. We got our food eventually though and enjoyed it, even though this was probably the 4th or 5th time we had ceviche this trip. We just couldn’t say no because they were so nice to cook up the conch that Charlie retrieved for us. After dinner, it was time to walk back to the room and we zonked out quickly since we were so tired.

The next day was our last day in Mexico for our wonderful honeymoon. We enjoyed breaki, said bye to all of the nice people who worked there.After Beatriz let us know that our boat was ready to take off, we then walked to the lagoon dock to ride the boat back with a new captain named Bomby to the shuttle pick-up point, which would take us to the airport. Bomby even mentioned that he would take us out fly fishing next time we are there, and that he would take us to some great spots for bonefish. I got his contact info for next time.

That morning, we soaked in the tropical environment, sea-to-lagoon that morning, because this was a trip that we will never forget. Alriah captured this awesome photo of the sunrise half-way hiding behind the Mukan wooden sign.

Mukan Resort is highly recommended and they make the stay super special. It’s an investment for sure but worth it! We are ready to go back to Tulum and explore the area some more, maybe making it back to the Sian Ka’an. Until next time!

Crooked Creek Arkansas – Smallmouth & Largemouth Bass

Oct 19th-22nd-

A couple months ago, me and my bro Parker were talking and decided to go on a camping and fishing trip.  We planned for October so the weather would be nice.  We invited Dad and decided to make it a birthday trip since we would be leaving the day after his birthday.  My buddy Justin told me about a clear, rocky stream in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas that held some big smallmouth bass.  This stream is called Crooked Creek.  He went many years ago and had been wanting to go back for a long time, and I have been wanting to go ever since he told me about it.  I told Justin we were going on the trip and invited him to come too.  We had the trip on the calendar and were anxiously awaiting but then before we knew it, the trip was here.  We discussed logistics and we decided to bring me and my Dad’s kayaks and we would take turns floating the short stretch of the river.  We loaded up the Excursion fully and even filled up the trailer on top of the 2 kayaks.  We had everything we needed to camp comfortably for many days, all the gear to cook some good meals and sleep well.  We left Thursday after work and picked up Justin at 3 pm in Rockwall.  Now, Google Maps says it takes around 7 hours to get to Bull Shoals White River State Park, where we were staying, but it actually takes around 9 hours after you slowly drive through the winding roads in the hills of the Ozarks.  We made it at around midnight, very tired, and set up camp in the dark, which is definitely tricky when you don’t set up your tent very often.  Dad and Parker slept in a 3-person, Justin had his 1-person, and I had a spacious 3-person tent all to myself.  I slept well on my air pad and comfy sleeping bag and was ready to fish in the morning.

When we woke up, we could actually see the surroundings that we were blind to as we drove into at night.  We were staying right next to the White River, and amongst the morning mist, we could see many fishermen in boats trying to catch the big trout that the river is famous for.  The trout fishing of the White River is something we all wanted to plan a future trip for.  We all had our minds on the smallmouth bass of Crooked Creek this trip.  We cooked up some sausage, bell peppers, & eggs on the Coleman grills and made breakfast tacos.  This is my camping tradition, which is always good fuel for a day of adventure!  We loaded up in the Excursion and headed down to Yellville to scope out our take-out spot at the bridge.  Once we were familiar with the surroundings, we headed up to Kelly Slab where me and Justin put in the kayaks.  The plan was for us to kayak fish the 4 mile stretch for 3 hours and then switch off with Dad and Parker, who would start off wade fishing.  Read more to see how this plan turned out…

Here’s a view of where we started fishing and Kelly Slab upstream.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0363.JPG

We quickly found out that in order to get to the fish we needed to skip the shallow portions and float to the deep pool with large submerged rocks or to the fast moving current in more channelized areas.  We each caught a couple fish at the first hole but weren’t having much luck.  I caught a smallie on a brown mini chatterbait and one on a 4″ silver gray yamasenko regular weighted rig.  However, we could see some big bass swimming underneath us as we floated by.  Looking underwater with our polarized glasses allowed us to really sight fish for the fish and the biggest ones lurked deep underneath in the darker green water.  A couple hours later, at another large pool, Justin started using a green pumpkin creature/crawdad plastic tube on a shaky head hook with a wacky rig.  This method worked because the bait looked realistic in the clear water and the shaky head provided a lot of frantic movement and noise when bounced against the rocks.  Justin caught several fish as it started to rain lightly and the temperature dropped and got rather chilly.  We were just hoping it wouldn’t rain because we were unprepared.  I started to try this set-up and started to get lots of bites and hook-ups but it was hard to keep the fish hooked since with the wacky rig, the plastic tube was lower on the hook.  Further downstream, we parked the kayaks and wade fished.  I kept fishing with this method and, sure enough, next to a large rock and finally hooked a good sized fish.  It fought hard and the line on my reel retrieve was caught which made it even tougher to bring in the fish.  Once I landed the fish, I admired what was probably a 13-14″ smallie with beautiful distinct markings on the side.  After getting some photos and an underwater video with the GoPro, I let it swim off.

Here’s the fish and the catch location in the photos below.  The first-person view photo of the fishing hole is now my desktop background at work (helps me envision this great fishing spot).  In the video, you can see the beauty of this fish very clearly as it swims off underwater.  I also filmed the lure set-up I was using and described above, which the bass moved the tube up the hook.

We looked at the time and realized that it was already 3 o’ clock or so and we were only about half way according to GPS.  When fishing, time flies by, and we realized that not only was the original plan not going to work, we needed to paddle hard to make it to the bridge before sundown.  We paddled with fury but stopped to fish the best holes for short periods of time.  We floated across a true honey hole that had deep submerged boulders that held a bountiful amount of fish.  It was like looking into an aquarium with our polarized glasses. I got a good underwater video with the GoPro.

I managed to catch a good largemouth on a green pumpkin mini chatterbait.  In the deeper, dark green water, I found that I could get away with less-realistic, bulkier lures that provide more noise to attract.  The mini and micro chatterbaits are an all time favorite lure and have caught me some big bass, and this deeper and darker water is a good place to use them.IMG_4983

We wanted to keep fishing this honey hole but had to keep moving downstream because there was over a mile to paddle and about an hour until sundown.  As we paddled, the creek became more and more shallow as Crooked Creek disappears underground in the substrate.  Then, we had to drag the kayaks and navigate over slippery rocks, which were very tricky and required the nimble use of our feet.  Luckily, our knees and ankles were not hurt and I saw Parker right after we heard the nearby traffic, which signaled us that we were close.  Dad and Parker did not have much luck so when we loaded up and headed back, we came up with a plan to rent (2) kayaks from Crooked Creek Canoes and float together further upstream.   I called the owner, Becky, and through some investigating on Google Maps, I found the meet-up location called Snow Point, where her helper would be waiting for us with the kayaks.  On the way back to camp, we went to Wal-mart to pick up some shaky head hooks and some crawdad tubes to use, since this was the best set-up of the day.  Parker and I also bought some 4 lb line since we were using 8/10 lb line, which can be seen by the fish in this clear water.  We were all set-up for the next day.  That night, we ate like kings!  We grilled out some steaks, portabella mushrooms, and green beans.  It was a great meal to enjoy with some craft beer/cider and then we hit the sleeping bags for some shut-eye.

The next morning, we made the same breakfast tacos and headed out to Snow Point for our 9 am meet-up.  I navigated with GPS on Google Maps because there were several back-roads to get there.  We got the kayaks for Jack and paid Becky (luckily Dad had cash).  Te plan was that Jack would be waiting for us at George’s Creek before sundown, and then drive us back to get the Excursion and trailer.  This was a 5 mile float so we knew we had a full day ahead of us, especially after Justin and I’s experience from the day before.  We were hoping that since we were further upstream and further away from where the creek disappears underground, there would be less portage and that we could just keep paddling.  Parker and I both re-spooled our reels with the 4 lb line and we were ready to go.  We put in the kayaks and started paddling downstream.  It was nice that we were all together fishing.  It wasn’t long and I caught a largemouth bass on the shaky head and crawdad tube set-up.  This time I used a regular rig with the tube sitting up by the head of the hook to provide better hook-ups.  This strategy slowed down and I changed to the 4″ weighted yamasenko I used before and caught a couple bass.  Parker and Dad weren’t catching anything yet so I gave them each one of these senko worms.  Pretty soon after, Parker hooked into a largemouth with the senko set-up that proved effective.  He was happy to land a fish.IMG_4992

Here’s Dad enjoying the scenery and showing me what he was fishing with on his other rod, the Lake Fork Live Magic Shad.  (We all had 2 rod set ups going)IMG_4995

When there was fast current, we would bank the kayaks and fish in the pools below current.  This was Justin’s favorite strategy.  Here’s Justin with a nice largemouth.IMG_4984

Everybody was catching fish and on different types of lures but it was getting late in the afternoon and we were only about halfway according to the GPS on my phone.  In order to make some headway, we had to start really paddling to make it to the take-out spot before it got dark.  We concentrated our efforts on the best holes.  We made it to a deep hole with very large boulders again and I hooked into probably my biggest smallie of the trip, which pulled the rod underwater and pulled the kayak around.  Eventually, I was able to bring the fish in close and it swam off a couple times as I tried to grab it.  I was stoked that it didn’t throw the hook and on the third try I got a hold of the fish and held it firmly until I was able to take the hook out.  This one was also caught on a shaky head with the crawdad tube, a combo that was very effective this trip.  This type of finesse fishing is really fun and I want to try it out below the dam at PK Lake, which is also a clear water stream situation.  I also noticed that all of the smallmouth had a white mark on the gill plates.  This is a characteristic I didn’t know about until this trip.  Here’s the bass below.IMG_4996

This is a really pretty creek and especially during the fall when the leaves are changing color.  I even spotted a couple kingfishers perching on trees overlooking the creek.  We enjoyed being on the water and didn’t want the day of fishing to end, but we were losing daylight.  Here’s Dad admiring a largemouth he caught at dusk.  IMG_4999

Soon after this, we paddled around the last bend and knew we were close since I was checking on the GPS.  We made it to maybe the best hole of the trip but only fished it for a few minutes.  Parker quickly caught another largemouth and then we paddled the last stretch.

Jack was true to his word and he was there waiting for us.  Now, this guy liked to talk.  He told us a story of how many years ago he was working as a tire repair man and the tire blew up and tore up his face and the doctors had to rebuild it and he almost died.  He told many more stories in the short 10 minutes that Dad and I rode with him back to the Excursion.  I was really impressed by his attitude for life though!  We went back downstream to pick up Parker, Justin, and the kayaks.  We were super hungry since we didn’t eat the entire time on the water, and quickly devoured an entire bag of BBQ potato chips, but that didn’t spoil dinner!  We ate a good meal that night of sausage, squash, and black beans.  We then put up all of our stuff because we heard a big storm was rolling in (our neighbors at the campsite made sure to tell us all about it!)  The report was correct and for about 2 hours (we were pounded with torrential rain and howling winds), but the tents held up!  My Alps Mountaineering tent didn’t let any water inside the tent.  Justin wasn’t as fortunate since he had some holes at the bottom of his tent from previous trips…so some water got into his but he said that he managed to sleep.  The next morning, we shook as much water off the tents as we could and packed them up and hit the long road back to Dallas.  Crooked Creek was a blast and I’ll be looking forward to going back to the clear streams of Arkansas to go bass fishing.

 

Pure Michigan – May 2017

My girlfriend at the time (now fiance) Alriah and I went to Michigan this Memorial Day for my buddy Chris and Anna’s wedding.  It was a charming wedding on Saturday at the Muskegon Country Club.  Congratulations to the two of you!  It was an extended weekend and we were flyinh back on Monday so we had a full day Sunday to have fun exploring Michigan.  We stayed at the Shoreline Inn in Muskegon and right after breaki, we went to Silver Lake Sand Dunes right next to Lake Michigan for some sand dune Jeep driving through Parrot’s Landing Jeep Rentals.  When we got there, we went through a short orientation and got in the Jeeps to drive over to the dunes.  We were instructed to drive in 4×4 (obviously) with low traction on.  Also, the tires are deflated to 10-12 psi to float on the sand.  We had a funny tour guide named Paul who took us around the dunes for the first hour.  All of the Jeeps in the tour were like a bunch of baby ducks behind the mother.  He showed us the ropes and had some clever analogies he shared on the intercom.  THere are some ripple bumps in the sand called whoop-de-doos…we really enjoyed saying that term…”WHOOP-de-DOOS!”  To end the guided portion of the tour, he brought us over to the big steep hill where many ORV’s attempt to climb.  We got some cool photos in the sand and the clouds had a unique shape and looked very dramatic.img_2640.jpgIMG_2646IMG_2653 (1)

After the hour was up, we had an hour of freestyle riding.  It also started to rain so we put the windows up…and then water was seeping into the floorboard so we put our backpack out of the water’s reach.  When I was driving, I wanted to go explore the trails around the trees even though they said not to go close to the trees.  That was one of the main rules.  We were in a fairly thick grove of trees and I tried to go up a steep hill, but with the rain there was low traction so we couldn’t make it up.  The only choice was to go back down the hill in reverse, which the tires slipped and I almost got us stuck in the trees (at a slow speed by the way).  It was tricky but I got us out of it and we decided to stay out of the tree areas to be safe.  Riah then took the wheel and did a great job of driving.  IMG_2650

We went up a ridge which got really narrow and also there was a steep hill we could not traverse so Riah was able to bring the Jeep in reverse down the hill as well.  Here’s the compilation video of our Silver Lake Sand Dunes Experience.

We made it through the Jeep driving experience scratch free and returned the Jeep back in great condition so we wouldn’t have to pay a fee.  After the Jeep driving, we were hungry and ready for lunch.  We drove to a charming town nearby called Pentwater.  The first thing we did was go eat at Garden Cafe thinking it would be a good place for lunch.  It was not.  Probably the worst food we have ever eaten.  The grilled perch and veggies didn’t have any flavor at all.  We didn’t let bad food bring us down though.  We weren’t planning on buying anything but we each found some nice polarized sunglasses at a good price point by a brand called Abaco.  I got the blue lenses and Riah got the purple lenses and we both have clear frames.  I like them because they fit my head comfortably and were polarized for fishing.  Here’s us showing off our new shades.IMG_2676

When we were down by the water of Pentwater Lake, I was wishing I had a fishing rod.  Me and Riah saw a monster smallmouth bass in the clear water in Muskegon Lake by Shoreline Inn the day before and I knew there were some big fish to be caught in this area.  Here’s a photo of me pretending to fish.IMG_2672

We then went to check out the huge expansive Lake Michigan, you can’t even see across.  We checked out the pier and put our feet in the water just to say we did. img_2666.jpgIMG_2680

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It was time to head back to the hotel and get some dinner but first, we had to do some planks at Pirate’s Plank that we saw on the way to Pentwater.img_2695.jpg

When we got to the dinner place called The Lake House, the food was actually really good.  We got a pasta bowl that was great to share.  IMG_2709

Also, there was an amazing sunset for us to view and take pictures of while we ate dinner.IMG_2715IMG_2713

Also, one of my favorite things to do in life is to take pictures of Riah taking pictures of nature which she is so intrigued by, and so am I.  She’s a great photographer but the pictures are better if she is in them.

It was a great weekend trip to Michigan and we had a lot of fun together.  We got to celebrate the Ferguson wedding and then have an awesome day’s worth of adventure.  Also a plus, when I filled the rental Toyota Corolla back up to return, it only cost $14.  Now that’s great gas mileage!