Written by: Simon Perkins
Although it’s now an internationally famous permit destination, just twenty years ago, southern Belize around Punta Gorda was terra incognita for most anglers. The story of how southern Belize used the fly-fishing industry to create a local-based economy is truly inspiring. In the early 2000s, a group spearheaded by several passionate and visionary locals decided to make a change to protect their natural resource in a transformative way. Their goal was to eliminate the illegal gill netting and poaching that had destroyed the fishery. These individuals were former gill netters themselves, and so they understood that if they were going to ask fisherman to abandon their livelihood, they needed to be ready to help replace it with something else more sustainable.
Orvis was lucky enough to get to play a role and helped train these former gill-netters to become fishing guides, some of whom are now among the top guides in saltwater flats fishing. One of these amazing people is Scully Garbutt. He was youngest person to go through that initial guide training. Over the past two decades, Scully has has helped people catch thousands of permit and become renowned as one of the best permit guides in the world. But you would never know it from his approachable, kind-natured, and fun demeanor.
Scully has an eight-year old boy named Javohn, who is passionate about saltwater fly fishing and is on a path to follow in his father’s footsteps. But Scully and Javohn have not spent much time on the flats this year. In the summer of 2019, Javohn was diagnosed with a brain tumor . Like any father, Scully prioritized doing whatever needed to be done to support his son. The two of them have spent the last handful of months at cancer centers in Denver and Minneapolis and will be returning again soon later in January.
The good news is that doctors think that the most recent surgery might have removed all of Javohn’s tumor. We will pray and hope this is true, waiting eagerly for updates from upcoming visits. The tough news is that advanced, life-saving medicine comes with a demanding financial toll—one that never made Scully second-guess what he had to do, but one that involves huge costs while also keeping him from providing for his family during the most important part of the year.
The fly-fishing industry and several amazing individuals have stepped up to start and fund a campaign to help Javohn. But there is more support needed. I ask you to please consider joining me and many others in giving to the fundraising site below. The fly-fishing world is a small, tight-knit community. This is a chance to support an incredible person who has a conservation and guiding legacy that we should all strive to emulate—and one that so many of us will benefit from in years to come.
My dream is to one day fish off the bow of Javohn’s skiff. Please join me and many others in that dream.
Simon Perkins is the Chief Operating Officer of Orvis, and part of the third generation of the Perkins family to lead the company.