Of all the fly fishing opportunities the Caribbean can present, a grand slam is one of the most challenging and unique scenarios to achieve.
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) defines a “Grand Slam” as catching the following species on the same day: bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Catching all three plus a snook in the same day is referred to as a Super Slam. Though both are possible, they are feats rarely achieved by an angler over the course of a day. However, it is quite possible to accomplish over the course of a fishing trip.
We sat down with Yellow Dog’s Program Director for Belize and Guatemala, Cameron Davenport, for some insight. Spread out over two posts, Davenport explains the best ways to make this coveted accomplishment a reality for your next Caribbean fishing trip.
Start in the right place
“The best locations for slam opportunities correlate to the diversity of the species found within a particular fishery,” said Davenport. “The great thing about fishing the Caribbean is anglers will have grand slam opportunities year-round depending upon where you fish.
Some areas will provide a diversity of species throughout all twelve months of the year, while others in the region will provide opportunities within only specific months of the year. Talking with Yellow Dog can help you figure out the best location to pursue when you decide to plan your trip.”
Practice your Accuracy
“If a grand slam is in your sights for your upcoming fishing trip, the biggest step anyone should take to prepare is to practice casting. Cast on the lawn, a neighborhood pond, your local trout stream or river,” said Davenport. “If you have a windy day get out and do some casting. Casting on a calm day is good, but when you are heading to the saltwater flats, you need to plan for the wind. The wind is your friend; a flat calm day in the salt makes fish more spooky than normal.
A nice ripple on the water is always best. Accuracy is more important than distance. If you can cast accurately at a distance of 50 feet and be within three or four feet of your target, you will be in the game all day long. Make sure to practice your casting into the wind from all directions because when out on the water, you never know what direction a fish will be coming from. Being ready to cast at a moment’s notice, in any direction will be critical to your success.
Play the game, know your fish
“The opportunities are always going to be different and varied when out fishing but if you have a fish that’s working the bottom, don’t just make a cast,” said Davenport. “Wait and observe that fish. See what it is doing, see how consistently it is feeding, observe what direction it is going, and then try to drop the fly in its vicinity.
By booking with Yellow Dog you will be in the right location, at the right time, with the right gear, and fishing with the right guide. Listen to your guide; they have the intimate knowledge of their fishery and the species within to help you be successful.”
Make a plan with your guide
“Getting a grand slam is a goal you will want to communicate with your guides. They will formulate an approach to help you reach your goal,” said Davenport.
“When it comes to a grand slam, it is about having a plan but also being flexible to adjust your tactics if something is not working or the conditions have shifted. Should things go south on an attempt, shake it off and go on to target a different species.”
Listen to your guide
“I have seen a countless number of anglers miss a hook up when the guide says, ‘He ate your fly, set!’ and the angler responds that they did not feel anything,” said Davenport. “It happens to many anglers where failure to listen to the guide results in a lost opportunity. Remember, no one wants to connect with a fish more than your guide does. Trust that they have your best interests in mind. When your shot does present itself, remembering to do a strip set is critical.
By stripping in a quick 6-8 inch pop, anglers will have enough force to set that hook for bonefish and permit. For tarpon, you will need a much more aggressive set to sink a hook. Your guide will also know the best times to target specific species throughout each day. I would recommend asking about the plan for the day before leaving the dock each morning. By communicating and being on the same page throughout the day, you and your guide can work together to accomplish your grand slam goal.
Remember to read Part II of how to increase your chances for a successful grand slam on your next fishing trip to the Caribbean.