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Belize Trip 2024 Reviewed

Belize Trip 2024 Reviewed

Sometime last fall, I was sitting on a mountain discussing the universe with my friend Jory.  In the depths of that conversation came the reality that we are getting older quicker than we think, and all of these things we want to do in life are not going to manifest themselves.  We are not going to see faraway exotic locations if we don't do anything to make it happen... So what do we want to do in the next year?  How do I want to spend my next birthday? 

Jory with his first bonefish

The answer to the birthday question was: on a flats boat in Belize followed by a rum punch and an epic sunset, celebrating my first permit on the fly...  Jory said it sounded like a great time.  We started looking for plane tickets soon after.

I am by no means a flats guru.  I love it.  A week on the flats revitalizes my love of fly fishing. I have two young kids and find myself with increasingly less free time to get onto the water around here.  The bulk of my fishing lately seems to be crammed into 4-day stretches in faraway locations, but I am fine with that. Life changes.  Roll with the changes.

My flats experience is still fairly limited, and I am changing that as often as I can.  Belize has shown to be an affordable trip where I can fish hard, relax even harder and tick some things off my bucket list.  Plus, island life is growing on me...

Altun Ha Mayan Ruins are worth a visit

Location:  I stayed on Caye Caulker.  Its a nice little island full of good food, fun times and a really relaxing vibe.  Highly recommended if you prefer the backpacking crowd over a high-end fishing lodge. 

Our taxi driver was great

I stayed at Sea Dreams Belize.  This is my second trip there.  Its a very cozy, beautiful hotel, and has some of the nicest staff I have encountered in my travels.  I like the breakfasts and the after-fishing drinks and appetizers.  Plus the sunsets on their private dock are worth the price of the room.  I chose it the first time because it was easy to book the guide and lodging at one place.  I went back because its worth it.   

Caye Caulker is not the only option for anglers.  San Pedro (Ambergis Caye) is a larger town just north of Caye Caulker.  It is a bit more expensive there for lodging, food and fishing guides, but it also has more of a city vibe.  We notice that folks with suitcases tend to get on the San Pedro ferry, folks with backpacks tend to get on the Caye Caulker ferry.  One note is that the nightlife on Caye Caulker is very inviting.  If you really want a quiet time, it might not be the right place.  Bass beats and loud drunk people can be a bit much if you just need a night of quiet....
We flew from Seattle directly to Belize City, which is nice, but the flight arrived later in the evening, too late to catch the last ferry to the island.  We chose this option so that we could spend a day on the mainland and have a chance to shake off any jet lag before fishing hard.   After a nice dinner at the hotel and a solid night's sleep, we hired a taxi to take us out to see the closest Mayan Ruins, Altun Ha.  Our taxi driver, Pashcal is the man.  He is a super nice, jovial guy, and he made our trip that much better with his local knowledge and friendly banter.  We made sure to have him pick us for our drive back to the airport on the last day.  

After the tour, we grabbed the ferry to Caye Caulker.  Jory needed to fish.  So we went to the dock at our hotel and he immediately caught 3 bonefish on a 10wt with a clouser....  typical Jory.  

Four Days of Fishing

Jory casting to Snook

An article relating to gear and flies will be found here (when complete)

We had four days lined up with our fantastic flats guide, Dennis Young (Instagram @flyfishing501bze)  The only expectation that we set was that we wanted to have a good time.  So he showed us a good time.  We appreciate that we had four totally different days of fishing.  Dennis worked his butt off for us.

The first day was really windy, and the wind was coming in from the North instead of the typical E/SE.  It made finding clear, fishable water a little challenging, but we did it.  Our first morning was spent looking in mangroves for snook and tarpon.  We found a few.

Jory made one perfect cast to a 40 pound Snook.  It ate the clouser minnow (2/0 chartreuse/white) and he trout-set that hook right out of its mouth.  We had warned him that he would likely do that on his first big fish.  Most seasoned trout anglers do it on their first big salty fish.  I did it on my first Dorado.  He was lucky that it did not shatter his rod as the Dorado did to me years ago.

When it was my turn on deck, Dennis knew what I wanted.  I did not have to say anything.  I already fished with him for 3 days last summer, and he knew I wanted to chase permit.  I came back to fish with him because of how passionate he is about chasing permit and how damn good he was at putting me on them.  Better than I was at casting to them, and better than I deserved.  He is in the upmost echelon of fishing guides.

He took us into this shallow cove and found the school of permit.  It took about an hour of chasing them before I hooked up.  My birthday was not mentioned until the permit was in hand...  It was the birthday present I always wanted.

I got my birthday permit!

Now I tied (I'm not kidding) 200+ flies for this trip.  I think 200 is a conservative estimate.  I brought about 200 and left many many more at home.  I like tying flies.... 

I tied nearly every bonefish pattern I could think of, a pile of baitfish, and tons of Avalon Permit flies.  Dennis prefers those over crabs, but I also brought plenty of crabs.  Now imagine my disappointment when we pull into find these permit, and he asks if I have a Pops Bonefish Bitters.   I didn't...

Dennis gave me one out of his box, and I caught my first permit on a Pop's Bonefish Bitters, tied by Pops himself.  Pops is Dennis' father and one of the most famous Belizean guides ever.  Given the situation, I am ok with not using my own fly on that one... 

After lunch, we chased a school of resident tarpon around some docks.  I managed to hook 2 tarpon on consecutive casts, but both popped off quickly.  The day ended like most others in Belize with us watching a gorgeous sunset sipping on a rum punch.

The second day was a bit rougher for fishing and weather.  I split up with Jory and sent him off with a different guide for the day.  Dennis and I chased tarpon for a few hours, but they weren't playing.  It was a pretty chill morning.  We went out to an island with a bunch of houses and docks, but there were almost no people there.  We fished from some of the docks, poked around some holes looking for anything.  I watched Dennis unload an entire fly line with one false cast on my Douglas Sky G 10wt.  That gave me a pile of energy to see someone cast so well.  I got a second wind after feeling a bit defeated from not finding any aggressive fish.

Pops Bonefish Bitter

Then we saw a big school of bonefish come into a hole when we were looking for tarpon. I caught a ton of them.  It was more than fun. No matter how many times I catch bonefish until I am tired of it, the next time I see a school of bonefish, its like I have never caught one before... 

Here is a blog involving that session and Umpqua HD Fluorocarbon Pink Tippet

We saw more permit on that second day than I have ever seen.  There were large schools of them at just about every spot we went to.  They were just really disinterested in my presentation.  I made dozens of great casts that would have caught fish if they were in the mood.  Typical permit fishing.  No complaints.  A heck of a great day.  

No filter Belizean sunrise

The third day was different again.  We started off by hitting a few mangroves, but Dennis asked if we wanted to go after big tarpon?  Really?  Of course!  I was under the impression that the big tarpon don't show up until March or April (it's early February).  He informed me that there is a school of BIG resident tarpon that hang out in a certain area.  Its deep and open, exposed to wind, and sounds like a blast.  

Dennis Tying a fly in the middle of the bay

All of the tarpon we had seen up to that point were 15-30 pounds.  These open-water fish were 80+.  I became weak-kneed when the first fish rolled just in front of our boat and all I saw was a tail that was over a foot across.  

After an hour of blind casting with sinking lines towards the occasional rolling fish, Dennis decided we needed a heavier fly.  We didn't have what he wanted.  He didn't either.  So he did something I have not seen before.  He took apart a heavy-eyed permit fly, took the eyes off it and tied them onto our Tarpon Snake, whip finish, UV epoxy and everything.  All on a boat in the middle of the bay with no vise.  This is a serious professional guide....

After being thoroughly worn out from casting heavy flies over and over for hours, we motored over to the city and went up the Little Belize River.  We saw a slice of life that was humbling.  The squalor and pollution was overwhelming, but it was also completely contrasted by the smiles, positive attitudes and overall friendliness of the folks we encountered along the river.

We were chasing freshwater snook or juvenile tarpon, but were unable to find any.  Still worth the boat ride.

We ended the fishing day by heading out to a muddy flat by the city and catching bonefish until our arms hurt.  Then we hit the hotel, grabbed a rum punch and watched an epic sunset.

So many bonefish

The fourth day of fishing was different again.  We went to another completely new area to me.  This involved crossing a big channel in some heavy chop and

seeing Ballyhoo skipping on the water.  While we wanted permit, we found few.  We battled the wind much of the day, not quite able to fish the areas that we wanted to get to, but found fish in the areas that we were able to fish.  There were so many sharks around that set of islands, it was eerie.  We also saw dolphins and manatees, which just adds another layer to the experience.  What cool creatures!

We found no permit, but we did find a ton of bonefish, and that's never a bad thing.  So we caught bonefish again until we just didn't want to any longer.  We called it a trip, headed back to the hotel, grabbed a rum punch and started looking at dates for 2025.

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