Welcome to our newest travel series, brought to you by YETI. In this series, we will be highlighting some of our favorite fly-fishing destinations around the world and providing you with some essential angler insight to help complete your mission. Just like the new YETI luggage, this guide will aim to help you get from point A to B, but whatever adventure you choose to have in-between is up to you.
In this installment of A2B, we will be looking back on a recent trip to Southern Belize. Our travels took us to the lush rainforest jungles and then to the expansive saltwater flats where we hunted for tarpon, permit, and bonefish. We were immersed in the Belizean cultures where we ate the Garifuna cuisines and traveled to ancient Mayan ruins.
What to Know Before Traveling To Belize:
The country of Belize is no bigger than the state of Massachusetts, it is a lot smaller than you would imagine. It boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Small islands dot the coastlines and rainforests thrive on the mainland. Making it a traveler’s playground! And not to mention the primary language is English. The locals of Belize are some of the most hospitable people in the world.
With COVID still restricting travel across the world, traveling to Belize is straightforward at this point. International travelers can now visit Belize by staying in an approved Gold Standard hotel and providing proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 96 hours of arrival, a negative Rapid Antigen test within 48 hours of arrival, or taking a test upon arrival at the airport. Plan accordingly when making your travel plans to Belize.
Where to Fly Into:
Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, located in Belize City is the only international airport in Belize. The small airport stays busy with direct flights from many international destinations as well U.S. cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Charlotte, Chicago, Toronto, and Newark. Once you fly into Belize City, the best way to travel is by commuter air travel. Tropic Air and Mayan Island Air are the two airline companies that have consistent flights throughout the smaller towns and destinations in Belize.
The commuter flights make it easy to travel to multiple different destinations in Belize. The flights are relatively cheap and the flight times are short. Our travels brought us on a 45-minute flight from Belize City south down to Punta Gorda. After we stayed in Punta Gorda we flew to Placencia and then back to Belize City. The commuter flights can be booked the day of or weeks prior to your trip.
Preparing for Your Trip:
For all of your non-angling needs, here are a few items we suggest packing along for your journey. Needless to say, there’s always more (or less) you can choose to equip yourself with, but that’s all dependant on what kind of traveler you are. Here are a few items we were glad we brought, or more likely, wish we had:
The Right Luggage: YETI’s 2021 Lugagge Line:
The new luggage line from YETI is exactly what you would think, a rugged and well thought out product. That is built to last a lifetime and practical. From suitcases to backpacks, to carry-ons – this new line is built to withstand anything from the harsh hands of baggage check to the exotic angling destinations of your dreams. With more space than you’ll know what to do with, bulletproof composure, you can kiss the days of travel turmoil goodbye.
2. Sun Protection!! Hats, Buff, Sun Shirts, & Reef Friendly Sunscreen:
The crystal clear water and flats of Belize are a giant reflector for sunlight. When heading out on a fishing trip, it is essential to have some SPF protection. You will thank us later. The first day of fishing was the only day that we didn’t where a BUFF on the water. The sun is that intense. Which isn’t necessarily the worst thing while on the water….
3. Snorkeling Gear (Mask and Fins):
While our main priority of the trip was fly fishing, and I’m sure many other anglers will have the same priorities having a snorkel mask and fins was about the best item of gear we could have brought. The water in Belize is crystal clear and the reefs are stunning. After standing on the bow of the boat for hours on end, a quick swim into the warm Caribbean waters was all we needed to keep our head in the game when saltwater fly fishing. Nurse sharks, sea turtles, lobsters, parrotfish were some of the highlights.
4. Waterproof Backpack:
A waterproof backpack like the YETI Panga 28 Backpack, was essential for our days on the water. The Hydrolok ™ Zipper keeps all water out, giving us confidence that our cell phones and camera gear would stay bone dry while out on the flats.
5. Flats Sneakers or Boots:
While when were in Southern Belize, our fishing days involved fishing from a Panga (Flats Boat), we ended up doing a good amount of wading on the flats. The Belizean guides like to get out of the boat in order to stalk and get closer to a feeding fish. Making it easier to get an accurate fly cast to the fish. A good pair of flats fishing-specific boots makes the world of difference when trying to walk through the rough coral ocean floors.
Anglers Packing List:
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely planning on going fishing. Good for you. Below, we’ve coordinated with some the local guides to put together a list of some saltwater fly fishing essentials you should try to bring as there are no fly shops or sporting goods stores with fly fishing gear.
Info via Blue Horizon Belize:
Flies for Southern Belize
Bonefish: smaller shrimp and crab patterns (sizes 4-8) with medium weight.
Examples: Crazy Charlies, chicos bonefish special, bonefish slider, merkin crab, gotcha, christmas island special, mcfly crab, pink puff, bone crusher, meko special, bonefish scampi, go-to joe
Permit: small crab and shrimp patterns (sizes 2-6) with weight to get to the bottom efficiently.
Examples: avalon, christmas island special, matthew’s turneffe crab, merkin crab, kung fu crab, hover crab, mcfly crab, bauer crab
Tarpon: unweighted baitfish patterns on larger hooks (sizes 1/0, 2/0), just a few with weight.
Examples: tarpon toad, tarpon bunny, black death, cockroach, deceivers, clouser minnows.
Fly Rods for Southern Belize:
Bonefish: 7-8 weight. For calmer days on the flats, a 7 weight fly rod will serve you right with a little more finesse for a perfect cast. It is nice to also have the 8 weight for casting into the wind.
Permit: 8-10 weight. For the calm days on the water, an 8 weight is best for accurate casts. However, a 10 weight is the go-to for wind and the fight. A 10 weight is a perfect choice for permit.
Tarpon: 10-12 weight. A 10 weight is a great choice when chasing the smaller tarpon in the mangroves or along the flats. For larger tarpon, having a 12 weight is best to get a lengthy cast into the wind and tame them on the fight.
Reels and Fly Line for Southern Belize:
Matching the rod weight is essential. Large arbor reels allow you to retrieve more line with each reel. A sealed drag system does not allow harsh salt in and assures that when the moment comes, the drag will perform without complication. It is essential to have a saltwater-specific fly line.
Southern Belize Fly Fishing Lodges:
Below are the two different lodges that we visited during our stay in Southern Belize. While there are smaller operations and independent guides, these two lodges had experienced guides, local cuisines, and comfortable accommodations.
This eco-resort is located in Punta Gorda, Belize, the southernmost town in Belize. The lodge sits atop a hill in the rainforest overlooking the Caribbean ocean. A short drive down to the marina and we were fishing the flats of Southern Belize in search of Permit.
Located off the coast of Placencia, Belize the Blue Horizon Lodge sits on a small caye or island. The lodge is newly rebuilt, with decades of fly fishing history from head guide Lincoln Westby. The lodge is an anglers paradise, with endless flats in all directions.
Additional Activities of Interest (For non-anglers):
While not everyone may not be a die-hard angler, there is plenty to see and do in Southern Belize. Here are some activities we recommend for the non-angler.
Lubaantun, Blue Creek Village, and Cave Swim
Nim Li Punit Mayan Site and Rio Blanco Waterfalls
Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve
ATM Cave – Actin Tunichil Muknal
SCUBA Dive or Snorkel Glovers Reef or Turneffe Atoll
Southern Belize is truly UnBelizeable!
Southern Belize is a hidden gem, the travel is easy, the sights are stunning and the local people are welcoming. Not to mention the fishing is top-notch and the local fly fishing guides make the experience one you will never forget. You better Belize it!
Thank you to YETI for making this guide possible. If you’re planning an adventure anywhere, domestic or international, be sure to check out their new luggage line that will ensure you get from A-B without hassle or worry.