Flats Fishing Belize Pre Covid: A simpler time

At the end of a long guiding season I head to Central America for the warm temperatures and the allure of bonefish and permit. After spending the prior six months on the water every day trying to get my clients into fish it is finally my time to be on the bow trying to make it happen. There is something very special about flats fishing. Whether it is the allure of sight fishing that brings you there or the challenge of making a proper cast to fool these finicky fish into biting. There is something for every type of fly-fisherman in Belize. For me personally the allure of the permit is what has drawn me back twice in one calendar year. My first trip was a drastic learning experience I accepted with open arms. It’s not what it always looks like on social media. The reality isn’t glass calm flats and being able to see these fishing tailing at one hundred yards away. It’s being yelled at to cast a sixty foot backhand cast in thirty mph winds to a fish you can’t see and if you screw up, very well could’ve been your only chance for the day or even your trip.  It is these challenges that create such a rewarding experience similar to steelheading.

The hunt and build up to the moment when you connect is special unlike anything else. When it all comes together and you make that right cast. Watching the permit turn and tail behind your fly following for twenty feet making your heart race with excitement before refusing and swimming off.  It happens so fast by the time you’ve realized what has occurred  that permit is in another area code and never going to be seen again. A humble reminder that even when everything feels right the fish always have the final say. I was lucky enough to have multiple opportunities and was even able to connect and land a permit on my second day ever on the flats. I was immediately hooked for life. Before heading home at the end of the week I had already booked another trip.

This time I knew what to expect and had prepared for months. Tying dozens of flies with slight variations, ensuring my line connections were strong, and that my mental state was ready. I told my guide Hillian that I was coming for seven days and my only goal was to hook a “diesel” as he would call them. The elusive twenty five pound plus permit that can frequent the flats of Ambergris Caye. We battled tough north winds for the majority of the trip still managing to find some smaller schools of average size permit that we were able to successfully land some fish from. But the one we were really looking for was being evasive. On the final day the winds had died down to twenty five mph and we decided that we would give the inside flats a shot. The first spot we poled through we saw some permit in the size class I consider mind-blowing.

We spent the next four drifts trying to place the boat in the right locations I managed to squeeze out three good shots in the wind and with one we had a taker. This fish peeled away from the pack making a b-line for my mantis shrimp. My heart stopped and this fish chased and chased finally opening its mouth. I felt my line go tight it was the moment I had waited for and prayed would happen. Within a second the fish had spit my fly out and was one hundred yards away in another direction. My heart was in my throat, legs shaking, I had to sit down it was so overwhelming. After five minutes of contemplation I realized that this wasn’t a failure. This was permit fishing and that I would vividly remember this moment as much as any fish I have been fortunate to land.  Belize will always have a special place in my heart. The culture, the fish, and the surrounding history make this a special place that will be worth visiting for many years to come.

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