“People often ask me why I travel the lengths of the earth to catch fish,” Charlie says. “That is an easy one for me to answer. Have you seen a permit?”
Charlie continues: “My fly fishing hobby, once dismissed as a passion, is now moving closer to an obsession or possibly a full-blown addiction. Yellow Dog Fly Fishing may be partially responsible for this. Either way, I am not looking for a cure.”
Yellow Dog appreciates Charlie entrusting his obsession with us—and it is a good match because taking great care of our customers is our obsession as well.
And for Charlie B, his trip to Honduras’ Mango Creek Lodge and the Belize Permit Club gave him even more fuel to fire his obsession. In his own words, here is Charlie’s entire trip report. If you enjoy saltwater flats fly fishing, you will want to continue reading.
As human beings we are hard-wired to roam, hunt and explore what’s out there. For thousands of years this movement was necessary to find enough to eat. Today we travel for different reasons. In many people, the instinct to roam has waned or disappeared completely. In my case, and I suspect in most of the fly fishermen (and women) I meet, the basic instinct to explore is as strong as ever.
Permit fishing invites the angler to lose himself or herself completely in the immensity and serenity of nature in the pursuit of a beautiful fish that really doesn’t want to be caught. At times we even wade the saltwater flats. By doing so, we willingly join the food chain armed with little more than a nine-weight and perhaps a pair of pliers.
And so onto Honduras. I went there because permit swim there. From Dubai it’s a small matter of a 15hrs 30 flight, a few glasses of Collazzi, some light binge-watching, a snooze and before you know it, you’re in Houston. Overnight at the JW Marriott and then I took a direct flight from Houston to Roatan, which is located just off the Honduras mainland.
Roatan, like Belize, has a British colonial past (popular with pirates, who presumably loved their permit fishing) and as a consequence the locals (unlike their compatriots on the mainland) speak English. From Roatan airport, I was collected by a Yellow Dog representative, and we then drove along the island’s only road from west to east towards Port Royal on the south coast. At Port Royal I stopped at a waterside bar and waited for a boat to convey me to Mango Tree Lodge, a remote eco-lodge situated a short boat ride down the coast.
Mango Tree Lodge is an ideal place to base oneself for a few days. The accommodation is comfortable (on-the-water cabanas), the food is excellent, and the host, Manfred and his wife, genial and welcoming. There is also a permit flat directly opposite the lodge. Which is nice.
I spent four days fishing the “Breakfast flat”, the flats opposite to Port Helene, and the flat close to Isla Murat. With more time, I suspect you could head farther afield to Guanaja. Roatan is a small but legit fishery so the flats are revisited during a trip depending on the tide, but the fish are there. I caught two permit (one on the Breakfast flat) and lost one. I also caught several bonefish. Overall, I would recommend Mango Tree Lodge to anyone. My guide was as fishy and passionate about his craft as anyone you might meet and despite snapping his wooden push-pole and dramatically falling inside the boat on the second day (I feared he had broken his leg), he showed true grit and made it back to shore on one leg and on to hospital (it wasn’t broken thankfully). Fortunately, they grow bamboo at the lodge so the next morning my guide was ready to go armed with one fresh pole and two functioning legs.
After four days in Roatan I flew to Belize City and then on to Dangriga to fish with my friends Wil Flack and Mike Anderson at the Belize Permit Club, located just outside of Hopkins. This was my fourth trip to the Belize Permit Club and after my experiences in Roatan I was full of confidence. When I arrived, the house was full of guests and good cheer and tales of the day’s exploits on the flats.
My first day I fished with [Check name], a guide who likes to walk the flats pulling the boat. The highlight of my first day arrived late in the afternoon on an incoming tide. We found three of four very large permit feeding on a shallow bank. Half of their backs were out of the water. Big black tails. Big fish. My guide held the skiff and I jumped out into the water and approached the fish. I waded within casting distance and directed a good cast in front of the lead fish. The fish spotted the fly and launched towards it. I didn’t panic and stripped long and slow and then I was tight. One strip for luck and then all hell broke loose. The fish powered off towards the coral – I did the best I could, but didn’t really stand a chance with this fish in those windy conditions and the coral. After a minute or two, the fish was lost. Broken leader. If the situation presents itself again, I would tighten the drag and put a 20-pound leader on. The fish was at least 25 pounds.
We headed back to the lodge full of adrenalin and ready for a celebratory Yeti tumbler full of GnT with Wil and the rest of the guests, one of whom, had landed a nice permit.
The next day I fished with Mike, also known as Magic Mike. Mike is one of my favourite guides. I have fished with Mike since his days at Turneffe Flats and enjoy spending hours on the water with him scouting for tailing fish and talking shit. Mike also likes to sing and keeps the reggae music going at all times. And country music. Chris Stapleton is a current favourite. Over the next six days, we caught fish and lost fish. As the week went on, the wind was strengthening from the east (the developing storm that would turn into Hurricane Dorian) and a system to the south close to Honduras made fishing really tough. However, on my penultimate day, I had an experience that will take a lifetime to forget. The outer flats were basically unfishable due to the wind, so we explored some of the leeward sides of the mangroves before deciding to call it quits for the day. As we approached the end of one mangrove islet we came across a channel where deeper water met a flat. Three very large permit were feeding right on the edge. One long cast landed right in front of the fish and one of them charged the fly. I don’t remember much of the next few seconds apart from strip striking firmly to be sure, and then off it went, zipping off to the security of the deeper water. This time, we had set the drag a bit stronger, and soon I had the fish back on the flat and could fight the fish away from the mangroves, or anything sharp. 20 minutes or so later I had caught my personal best permit. The fish was a perfect specimen that even had its own remora attached. Not seen that before.
Mike was delighted. I was delighted. We couldn’t believe our luck given the bad weather and strong winds. We even spotted a small nick in the leader where a ‘cuda or a needle fish must have attacked the fly – when it is your day it is your day.
And that brought my two-destination trip to an end. In 10 days on the flats, I had 9 eats, 6 hook-ups and 4 landed fish.
As to the flies, I only used Alphlexo crab flies. They seem to work.
Would I do it again? Of course I would.