I must admit I was a little nervous about traveling out of the country during COVID times. Our adventure to Copal Tree Lodge in Punta Gorda exceeded all expectations and felt VERY safe. Arriving in Belize and going through the “health screening” area was a breeze and didn’t take much longer than having our passports stamped. Getting tested in Belize for the return flight was its own cultural experience without any hiccups.
Everyone wears a mask in Belize and I honestly felt safer there than back home in the grocery store! The tropic Air flight to Punta Gorda follows the coast to the South with great views spanning from barrier islands to jungle mountains.
I had never fished in Southern Belize and I was excited to see the permit fishery that I had heard and read so much about. I was not disappointed. My guides Scully and Alex put me on fish every day, even when the weather was challenging. I caught bonefish in the lagoon and had tons of shots at permit in a variety of different scenarios and tides. If coming tight on a permit is your goal, then this water holds as much opportunity as anywhere.
Copal Tree Lodge is the perfect destination for adventure anglers traveling with non-anglers. While I chased permit, my wife Joan hiked, bird watched, shopped the local market in Punta Gorda, explored Mayan ruins, swam through a jungle cave, relaxed at the spa, and sipped rum drinks by the pool.
Every evening, we would enjoy the sunset over the jungle (with cocktails in hand) while the toucans came to roost and the howler monkeys called. The meals were delicious and the staff was friendly and engaging. The house-made Copalli Rums were on point and abundant.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was on my day OFF from fishing and we went “snorkeling with the Chef.” The day started by departing the Copal Tree Lodge on the lodge boat “Caruso” with Yvette the Chef, Tim the bartender, Captain John and guide Desmond. Side note* A couple of years ago, Desmond was named Tour Guide of The Year for the entire Country of Belize!
This guy was a wealth of knowledge of flora and fauna, Mayan culture, jungle wildlife, reef fish, Belizean history, and much more... After winding through the 7ish miles of the jungle on the Rio Grande, we made it to open waters. We dropped anchor next to a small deserted island.
We snorkeled over pristine fan coral and huge coral heads while swimming with spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, and countless other tropical fish. All the while, Desmond and Captain John were spearing lobsters and snapper and collecting conch. Yvette fired up the cooker on the back of the boat and grilled the lobsters and fried up the snapper with salt and pepper and Mayan spices.. The meal was rounded off with rice and beans, curried chicken legs, and coleslaw.
My mouth is watering as I type this…Of course, Tim did not let any of us go thirsty! After lunch, we waded over to a Caye and walked the beach dodging huge hermit crabs and looking for the small Boa Constrictors that inhabit the island. While walking back to the boat, we were teased by a school of large permit that was tailing up into the gin-clear waters of the flat.
Pro Tip- Take a flyrod! The day ended by cruising back up the Rio Grande, watching tarpon roll in the black waters of the jungle while snacking on Yvette’s conch ceviche, and sipping on ice-cold Belikin beer.
A special thanks to the team at Yellow Dog for handling all of the details of this incredible trip. I can’t wait to go back!
-Nathan Best, Asheville, NCTo learn more about our Belize fly fishing trip and lodge options, trip reports, how-to articles, and more - visit our Belize fly fishing page