When I think of saltwater fly-fishing I think of turquoise water, sun-drenched skin, and tons of fast action! The grace of a fly rod coupled with the speed of a saltwater fish sets this sport apart from all others. You cast to the perfect spot…the fish hits…and then ZING, the line races off the spool. It’s extreme fishing at its finest!
Ten years ago I discovered saltwater fly-fishing and my life changed forever. It has become my main loves in life, which is a challenge when you live in Wisconsin. As fate would have it, however, I found a job that feeds my need. I work as an Outdoor Travel Specialist for a Minnesota-based outdoor retailer, selling fishing and hunting trips worldwide. Part of my job is to understand, from personal experience, the places that I sell. Therefore it’s a must that I travel.
As a self-proclaimed, future-famous saltwater fly-fishergirl, I figured it was time to add a few “hot spots” to my résumé. So one day when an invite came across the office fax asking us to come check out a Belizean lodge, I seized my opportunity. I packed my bags faster than you could say “bonefish” and departed alone to this tiny Central American country. Admittedly I was nervous, but the anticipation of seeing Belize had me as excited as a teenager going on her first date.
Upon arrival in Belize City, an island hopper quickly whisked me away to Ambergris Caye. The short, fifteen-minute flight flew us over the most beautiful Azure blue water I had ever seen; I could hardly stand it. As soon as the plane landed I was escorted to the first of two world-class fly fishing lodges on my agenda.
Upon arrival at the first lodge, I got “the tour’ and then quickly made friends with the bartender, Jason, who proceeded to show me his homemade tarpon flies. He even let me keep a few. The following morning my guide and I sought bonefish where the expansive lagoon met the Caribbean Sea. We caught twenty-one bones in four hours! They were small (2-3 pounds) but plentiful, and their large schools, once spooked, would circle back much to my surprise. It was a great morning of fishing, which quickly ended due to a tight schedule.
After waving goodbye to Ambergris, I traveled on to lodge number two. This private island resort was simply amazing a true paradise! The resort sits on is nothing more than a white sand-spit dotted with coconut palms. Cozy, air-conditioned cabanas, private hammocks, a large beach, and a beautiful freshwater pool could not conjure up a more relaxing place in my dreams.
The fishing was fantastic! Here, I fished for bonefish, tarpon, and permit for four days straight, catching no permit (they’re tough buggers) but many bonefish and several tarpon. In fact, I caught my tarpon on one of the flies that Jason had given me. It goes to show you should always trust the locals when it comes to fly patterns and colors! One tarpon was 90 pounds, which after two spectacular jumps in the moonlight took the line down to the backing where it unfortunately jammed, broke off the fly, and was gone. It was heart wrenching, yet exciting. Seeing the moonlight reflect off those big, silvery scales was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in all my days of fishing!
During my stay I also had the privilege of swimming with two ten-foot nurse sharks, visiting with a mother dolphin and her calf just five feet from my fishing skiff, seeing the famed “Blue Hole”, viewing the Red-footed Booby sanctuary at Half Moon Caye, and learning to scuba dive. Scuba introduced a whole new perspective, allowing me to watch tarpon and permit under water in their natural habitat. It was very educational, not to mention cool.
After nearly a week of incredible fishing, delicious food, and eco-fun, it was time to go…a sad realization for me. Belize had a serious affect on my heart…the kind you experience on those rare occasions in life…I fell in love. Of all the tropical places I have fished, none measure up to the beauty of Belize. Whether your quarry is tarpon, permit, or bonefish, Belize offers it all: amazing fishing, incredible scenery, and some of the friendliest people ever. Whether you’re a novice or an expert fisherman, I highly recommend traveling to Belize if you get the chance. You, too, will fall in love.