Water flows like the cycle of life. It comes and goes in so many waves, always changing pace. Sometimes it’s hectic and ever flowing as if life is swiftly passing by. Sometimes it is slowed and collected in tidal pools as if life were paused in time. Susceptible to change the same way our waters are, life is always unpredictable and never following pattern. Life is a constant cycle of highs and lows experienced differently by each individual. As you gain maturity and grow older you start to realize how valuable time and experiences really are. You begin to take everyday one day at a time with appreciation towards all of its aspects. We experience highs and lows in life, relatable to the changes in our tide. Everyday comes with new opportunity, every tide comes with different extremes. Everyday presents room for growth and change within our waters and our lives.
The voice of Cassidy reached my ear despite the howling wind and thrashing waves just over the hurricane barrier. “Tick, tick….stop it….. now keep it coming.” Following his direction, I am able to lure one fish from the school, following the trail that my feather covered hook leaves behind in the pale white sand. The bonefish makes a charge and the water becomes cloudy. I give my line one last long strip and feel what seems to be the dead weight of a rock. I lift and pull on my rod, confused yet frustrated as i think my fly, lacking a weed guard, has put my chance at catching my first bonefish on hold until the next school of fish roam by. I pull one last time to free my fly from the surface of the flat, and from the cloud of sand, aries a bonefish, not swimming but almost allowing me to drag it through the water. I twitch my rod to make it aware of my presence and the fish rushes to the middle of the flat with a certain power unfelt by me or my fly rod ever before. Between two keys my reel makes that sounds that every fly fisherman wants to hear, and in time the silver rocket reaches my hand, labeled as the first fish I have ever tamed in the salt, on a flat, with fly rod in hand.
Usually in the summer I find myself on a river somewhere in the West in Colorado or New Mexico. Flyfishing for me has revolved around feeding trout as they swim against the current. Friends on those rivers inspired me to explore new places scattered between mountains and lush green forest. But, eventually I was led here to Guanaja. The first saltwater destination I have ever angled in.
However, after only living on this island for a few days, I realize that this operation exists for much more than just for the sport of fishing. The people that propel Fly Fish Guanaja strive for the improvement of the community and life in Honduras. They try to inspire the world to follow their mission, to Fish for Change, and not only improve the existing fisheries and environments around us, but the quality of life for all people.
Sitting back and looking at where I grasped my first bonefish, nestled on a flat between two keys only reminds me of walking a high-banked river on the pursuit of trout. The hunt for fish on the river brought me here. The river and the addiction that comes with it developed a passion within me, and this passion has brought me to a place beyond anything I ever thought I could experience on the tropical flats of Honduras. Everyday is an inspiration and a new experience, with new incredible people and for that I am grateful.
By: Daniel Burnum
June 11, 2018
The Island calls, it speaks, it breathes, it feels. Each inhabitant has a bond with the natural world, the smell of the salt air, the warm breeze of the tropics, the connectivity of each community. Each Guanajan follows the other, accepting our tribe of Fly Fisherman and inviting us into their community.
We have all found our magic within the ocean, it draws our attention, it boosts our desire, it stimulates the brain. We follow our passions in life and find that those same passions lie within those around us. Passions aligned we all can have the same mission, to produce a better future for the next generation.
Ever so often mother nature comes knocking on the door, challenging our communities to unite and to focus on the present. Hurricane Mitch slammed the Island of Guanaja in 1998 devastating mangrove ecosystems and leaving the island in disrepair. With this storm, the island was left barren of mangrove forests and vulnerable to the next storm of the century.
When I began MANG in 2015, my mission to restore coastal ecosystems throughout the world was just an idea. I never knew that I would be sitting on the Island of Guanaja mapping out the future of my path to help plant mangrove ecosystems. Today I had my first look at an international planting project. This provided me with further insight regarding mangrove propagation and survivability rates for my nursery in Florida. I found that our practices were very similar as (BICA) Bay Island Conservation Association understood that higher survival rate is boosted through the rooting and growing of mangrove propagules, as well as an understanding that the right sediment type is an essential base for mangrove productivity.
Each seed planted today represented a future of growth, to bring better fishing, to bring better tourism and to bring a new barrier to protect the future of Guanaja. Just like at home a community of avid volunteers jumped at the opportunity to help plant mangroves and to bring about change. This Island is more than geography. It’s a lifestyle. A community dedicated to the land by the sea.
Guanaja’s people come from a long line of descendants that have enjoyed the resources of this beautiful place. Now we must educate to preserve and begin the journey to protect its future and coastal heritage.
MANG – CEO
inspired by: Bruce Neil | Sanibel Sea School
On Day 2, I woke up to an incredible morning thunderstorm. Light rain and claps of thunder filled the air as I took in the morning from the back porch of the lodge, something I did often during my first trip to Guanaja 5 years ago. We got a little bit of a late start to fishing, but that didn’t slow anyone down. Light rain continued throughout the morning, however, I had just enough light to get a shot at a permit on the North Side of Guanaja. All the stars aligned and I was very fortunate to land my second permit and my first here at Fly Fish Guanaja.
After our morning of fishing, we grabbed some lunch and ventured into Mangrove Bight to get to know some of the local people. Our mission was to find a random person and ask them a series of eight questions to create a profile for them. All of the people I spoke with were more than happy to share a little bit about their everyday life and their experiences on the island. One thing that always blows my mind about this place is the openness and hospitality of the locals. Three people in particular, Troy, Lenny, and Emmie, all had incredible stories to share with us, and I am thrilled to be able to share them here:
Lenny moved to Guanaja from Connecticut in the 1970’s. Lenny worked as a US military helicopter mechanic and then was a pilot. His time in the US military sent him all over the world and instilled a desire to travel. At 79 years old he has been content with living in Guanaja since he first came. He has survived helicopter crashes, stage 4 throat cancer, and Hurricane Mitch. After Mitch hit, Lenny recalled the destruction. “A wild rabbit could be seen from miles. The jungle was destroyed and swept away, and the land was barren. But the people pulled through.” Lenny has found his home in this tropical paradise and loves connecting and trying to reach the local kids. He shares a similar vision to the students and staff at Fly Fish Guanaja, as he hopes to change the community through developing lasting relationships with the people and he hopes we can keep coming back.
Born and raised on The Cay, a village on stilts just off the main island of Guanaja, Troy has worked all of his life on the water on fishing boats and dive boats. Troy sees the beauty in the serenity of Guanaja and is thankful he doesn’t have to worry about violence. The biggest challenge Troy sees facing the island is the fact that it is difficult to bring people together for a common cause when the day to day necessity of sustenance is the biggest worry. In his many years in Guanaja, Troy recalls times on the high seas in storms and uncertainty and once his small snapper boat was even hit by a ship while returning home with a huge haul. “It’s just another great day to be alive and well.”
Though only 14 years old, Emmie has been through more in life than most people can imagine. She was born in Guanaja but crossed the border into Texas, where half of her family remains. Back on Guanaja, Emmie helps out by helping clean homes and appreciates the fact that young children can roam free and safe, as everyone is caring and sweet. Pictured here with Emmie is her younger brother Jayden who is actually a US citizen having been born in Texas after Emmie and her mother ventured across the border.
By: Jake Wood and Knox Kronenberg
Guanaja is a place where we not only come to fish, but much more. With the island quickly gaining recognition throughout the world with the release of the new film Beyond The Horizon, all I can do is daydream to my past adventures in paradise. With fly fishing being the main attraction for the majority of tourists who visit Guanaja, to me it is much more. Guanaja is not just a place I visit and fish and soon forget about. This place has sewed a seed in my heart that has steadily grown over the last six years, taking root in my soul—not a day goes by where I don’t think of the island bliss. After six years of involvement with Fly Fish Guanaja’s student program and the relationships I have developed year after year, I am still astounded by the people’s resilience and genuine happiness despite what little they have. With the student program quickly underway this summer, I have heard tales of caught permit, new friendships, and struggles and can’t wait to get back. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the program over the last several years. I am constantly being taught daily and teaching daily just how important it is to take care and preserve this unbelievable place and the people who call it home. – Knox Kronenberg
The fishing and culture in Guanaja is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I have fished in Mexico, Belize, and other parts of Central America but none of those places compare to this special island.
Every morning we get an early start to our days thanks to our island alarm clock: parrots talking to each other high above the cabana we sleep in. After an authentic island breakfast, fishing for permit, tarpon, snook, and bonefish begins.
The first half of every day is usually the fishing portion which of course is extremely fun. However, the service work is really one of my favorite things to do. I can already tell just from one day of work that the locals are beyond happy to have our help. Today we went along different canals and picked mature mangrove propagules to begin their process of replanting into the areas of devastation across the island. Over 90 percent of the mangrove population was destroyed in hurricane Mitch in 1998 and since Guanaja is so isolated, the mangroves have had an extremely difficult time regrowing. Our mission is to take the seeds and manually replant them along different coast lines. It’s really crazy to see how much of an impact the mangroves have on the island and the people/animals living around it. It’s awesome to know you are making someone’s life easier and truly making an impact on the environment.
Something about Guanaja that really gets my attention unlike any other place I’ve visited is the connections and friendliness amongst the locals. Right away it feels like you are accepted into a new family. I really enjoy how all the guides have a different personality and are each there to help you get better. Today we went into town for a little bit and it’s so cool to see how everyone knows each other. No one is mean, there’s no crime, everyone is there to help you out. I think everyone back home could learn a thing or two in Guanaja.
Small hands hold a big machete, skillfully sawing and chopping a half frozen whole Bonita–shark bait for the night. I’ve watched Walter Jr. do this over and over, night after night, chumming up sharks and other fish off the back porch of the lodge.
I’ve had the pleasure of observing, interacting, and learning from Walter Jr. again and again. As a 14 year old boy Walter is one of the most hands on, hard working, and caring young men I’ve encountered and he has impressed me on so many levels. Walter is someone who’s fun to be around, always willing to talk, and ready for anything thrown his way. We’ve wrangled a handful of sharks together and every time is more exciting than the last. His hands on approach to chumming them up, hacking at frozen fish, and manhandling sharks when landed is amusing and something I’ll never forget.
Walter has taught me a lot more then just fishing techniques these past weeks, to me he’s really shown me what it means to step up and fill the shoes of becoming a man. There are some things that he does that I would’ve never done as a 14 year old boy. He’s fully devoted to his family, school, and all other responsibilities. It’s amazed me how on top of everything he really is. Walter isn’t at the lodge most days, he’s recently been in exams at school. I’ve had the opportunity of spending most nights with him, as his father, Walter, stays at the lodge throughout the night with us for security measures with the boats. Every morning both Walters are on an early schedule. Walter Jr. wakes up early with his father to insure that he gets back to Savannah Bight in the morning for his other responsibilities, then often drives the boat back to the lodge by himself. Walter’s understanding of the water, ways around it, and machinery involved with it is impressive and something that was well beyond my knowledge at age 14.
The other evening we took Walter wading with us before dark. We targeted bonefish, as they inhabit the flats surrounding the lodge. Ned and I had fly rods, Walter brought his pole spear, a device unknown to both of us at the time. On our wade we spotted a box fish as we often do. Walter approached the fish with caution, snuck up from behind it, and speared the fish directly in its back half. Ned and I were blown away and astonished at what we’d just seen and we couldn’t stop laughing.
Walter was as happy as we were and super pumped to have speared the challenging critter on his first attempt of the day. I wasn’t aware that a box fish was good table fare at first and when Walter explained that he was going to take the fish home to his mother Ned and I were overly impressed. These are only a few of the examples from this week that have stuck in my head, but over the past 2 weeks Walter has impressed me on a whole new level. His devotion to family, responsibilities, and the water are unlike any I’ve ever seen before. For a 14 year old boy, the maturity level Walter shows is amazing and beyond impressive. I’ve truly learned a lot from Walter Jr., and can see him finding a place in Fly Fish Guanaja, maybe someday as a guide.
By: Jack Gillenwater
We got a relatively early start to our day when Jack, Hagen, Walter, and I headed to pick up the mangrove planting team from a dock in Pachete. Once at the dock, the girls handed us three crates full of mangrove seeds that we had picked the week before. Once they were all on board, we headed to the other side of the island where we would be planting the mangrove seeds. The ride took some time because our boat was packed with eight passengers, which meant that we couldn’t go too fast. Although the ride was long, it was nice to relax and take in the sights that Guanaja has to offer as the sun rose above the horizon.
After a long boat ride, Jack, Hagen, and I put on our wading boots and each grabbed a crate full of mangrove seeds. Our goal was to plant seeds along the beach in hopes of helping to restore the islands mangrove habitat, which has been an ongoing process. The mangroves in Guanaja play such an important role in the safety and well being of various species of fish and birds. After mucking our way through the thick mud, we made our way to a stretch of beach that would soon be filled with mangrove seeds. I realized that I had planted mangroves at the same beach just 2 years before. I was amazed to see how much the plants had grown since I was last there. Empty lagoon was filled with rows and rows of plants that we had planted years ago.
Coming back to this beach made me realize that the Student Program of Fly Fish Guanaja really is making a difference in the island. I could never have thought that planting a seed so small could potentially make such a big impact in the lives of fish, birds, and the people of Guanaja. A small seed of change planted over and over, has grown into something truly special, an obvious difference to the eye, but components of a bigger movement.
By: Ned Cole