Home to a diversity of saltwater flats fly fishing habitats—from reef-side flats to backcountry lagoons to white-sand beaches—the saltwater fly fishing in northern Belize offers some of the planet’s most varied opportunities for bonefish, tarpon, permit, snook, and several other species. Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures is proud to partner with the region’s lodges and outfitters to provide anglers with unprecedented access to a wide range of destination lodges and day trip opportunities.
But, none of it matters if you don’t tie the right fly onto the end of your line. Because Yellow Dog and Belize go hand-in-hand and compiled from our decades of experience fly fishing in Belize, here is our list of the Five Must Have Flies for northern Belize.
EP Spawning Shrimp
Enrico Puglisi (EP) flies have been responsible for many anglers’ first permit caught on a fly rod. And, his EP Spawning Shrimp could be the leader of first-time fish caught. Tied with Puglisi’s signature fibers, life-like legs and eyes, this is a pattern with the perfect blend of color contrast and realism. Puglisi, its creator, says the fly’s genius lies in the simplicity.
“Sparsely tied with two different FP fibers and very little flash makes it move in the water like a real shrimp,” says Puglisi. “And, because of the fibers, once in the water the fly changes to a translucency that is irresistible to any gamefish.”
Available in a variety of colors and sizes, this pattern can be ideal for skinny water bonefish, spooky tailing permit, or with heavy eyes can get done to fish in deeper water.
Christmas Island Special
This fly may have been created for bonefish on the other side of the world, but, it was a great gift to bonefish anglers in northern Belize. The Christmas Island Special is a slender and flashy fly, the weighted eyes help the fly get in front of fish quickly and its sleek profile makes it easy to cast. This fly is a guide favorite from Ambergris Cay to Turneffe Atoll and guides will use it primarily for bonefish, but it has worked for permit. Ideal for sandy bottoms, which are prevalent throughout northern Belize, it can be tied in a variety of colors.
Grey York, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures Belize Program Director, says “Simple can often prove more effective for bonefish flies in Belize.”
“With only a few materials needed,” Grey continues, “the Christmas Island Special is also a great fly to learn saltwater fly tying. Whether you are tying your own patterns or supporting your local fly shop for some production flies, be sure to purchase high-quality hooks, because Belizean bonefish can pull hard.”
If you are ready for a wild ride, then carry the Tarpon Toad while in northern Belize for the region’s populations of migratory and resident tarpon. Developed by Gary Merriman, owner of the Fish Hawk fly shop in Atlanta, this fly’s introduction increased hook-up rates for anglers from Key West to Cuba to Honduras. In the 1990s, Merriman needed a light-weight, slow sinking fly for sight-casting to Key West-area tarpon. Originally tied with a rabbit fur tail, it is now often tied with marabou. Whether rabbit fur or marabou, the Tarpon Toad is a mainstay for any fly box headed to Belize. Recommended sizes should be from 1/0 – 3/0 and favorite colors are black/purple and white/chartreuse. And, we won’t judge you if you love this fly so much you want to kiss it. But, it will still remain a toad.
Designed as a baitfish imitation primarily for big tarpon, McKnight’s Homeslice also works well for snook. Invented by Yellow Dog’s own Doug McKnight, laid-up tarpon often can’t resist this creative fly. McKnight, respected throughout the international fly-tying community, tweaked his popular trout streamer, the Home Invader, to create this enticing fly. McKnight’s favorite color is purple or a purple/black combo and he says the foxtail fur gives it a life-like appearance when stripped through the water.
“The Homeslice has a ton of action,” McKnight says, “and a very realistic baitfish profile when wet, it is also a breeze to throw compared to many other patterns tied with synthetic materials.”
“You put this in the right spot to the right fish, it will get absolutely murdered!” McKnight exclaims.
Developed not far from northern Belize in Mexico’s Yucatan, the Raghead Crab is a merkin-style pattern. Tied exclusively of synthetic materials, its large lead eyes force the fly to ride “claws-up,” acting like a crab fleeing from the hungry jaws of a permit. Created primarily to entice permit, this fly also works well for the bonefish of northern Belize. Jan Isley is credited with inventing this easy-to-tie imitation. Easy to cast and stops-and-sinks well for permit or strips well for bonefish, no trip to northern, or southern Belize for that matter, should be made without these in your box. Yellow Dog’s favorite colors for permit are Casa Blanca and tan and for bonefish tan or olive.
If you’re new to saltwater fly fishing or working on your bucket list of species, the flats of Northern Belize and the destinations Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures features are a good choice for an exciting experience. Few places exist in the world with as much variety of flats fishing paired with an abundance of hard-working and experienced Belize fly fishing guides and lodges.