Words by Will Rice
Photos courtesy of @yellowdogflyfishing
Here at Riversmith we love to fly fish… but we also love to travel and fish. Fishing close-to-home is always going to be the mainstay for most of us, but there is something about taking on the challenge of a place and/or species you haven’t quite figured out is exciting and compelling.
We just covered a few winter fly fishing strategies and tactics here in Colorado in a previous essay (check out Part I and Part II if you missed it), but in this series we’re going to cover winter fly fishing options outside of the Rocky Mountain West.
Sometimes, a trip south of the border during the cold winter months is just what the fishing doctor orders.
A Fly Angler & Guide Search A Saltwater Flat
When you start to consider fly fishing outside the confines of trout or even freshwater generally, the options on where you can fish and what you can fish for seem limitless. I wanted to tighten the aperture of this essay to make sure the places we explore are somewhat easy to access from the US, and focus on places that the Riversmith team has experience with – hands on.
In a similar fashion to how I suggested using your local fly shop as a resource for local fishing, I wanted to highlight Yellow Dog Flyfishing as a subject matter expert for all things destination fly fishing travel. To that end, much of what follows has been gleaned from my own fishing experiences at these locations and lodges combined with up-to-date information from Yellow Dog themselves.
If you haven’t experienced fly fishing in a saltwater environment or fished in Central America, South America or the Caribbean, this two-part series explores a few options, lodges and outfitters worth considering.
1) El Pescador Lodge
Belize was one of my first destinations when I began saltwater fly fishing. Situated only 15 minutes by light aircraft from Belize City on the island of Ambergris Caye, El Pescador Lodge offers consistent sight fishing opportunities for bonefish, permit and tarpon. The lodge has been in business for over 40 years, is one of the best-run, most famous fly fishing lodges in all of Central America. El Pescador Lodge is one of the more popular lodges for anglers who are just starting to experience saltwater fly fishing and remains an all-time favorite destination.
Grand Slammin' in the Heart of Mexico
Mexico is probably one of the most popular saltwater fly fishing destinations outside of the United States. There are different areas around the Yucatán Peninsula specifically that offer anglers a shot at four different well sought after and challenging species - bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook (sometimes referred to as the saltwater super slam). If you have never had a chance to cast a fly at any of these species in a clearwater environment, Mexico is a great place to get your feet wet.
2) Pesca Maya
I visited Pesca Maya Lodge early on in my international travels and it is the first place I had the chance to cast at a permit.
Going Long For A Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon or Snook
From Yellow Dog: "Situated in the middle of the 1.3 million-acre Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Pesca Maya Lodge offers a solid fishing program, great food, and one of the best values found anywhere in the world of saltwater flats fishing. Originally opening in 1996, Pesca Maya has established itself as one of the Yucatan’s most popular fishing destinations. The property is located 90 miles south of Cancun on a long, narrow strip of the barrier beach that is virtually surrounded by the waters of Ascension Bay and the Boca Paila Lagoon. If you’re a beginning saltwater angler, Ascension Bay is one of the best places in the world to catch your first bonefish, tarpon, snook, or get a shot at a permit. For more seasoned anglers, this is one of the world’s best locations to target permit with a fly. With hundreds of square miles of flats, it is not uncommon to see bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, barracuda, and other species all on the same day."
Snook... Should Not Be Overlooked
3) Tarpon Cay Lodge
Fishing for tarpon is an apex experience but maybe not the best place to start if you're new to saltwater fly fishing. One exception to that school of thought might be targeting baby or juvenile tarpon. One place you can do this is Tarpon Cay Lodge located in the northern part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Feeding & Jumping A Juvenile Tarpon From The Deck Of A Panga
From Yellow Dog: "The small Mayan town of Rio Lagartos is directly adjacent to a marine reserve and offers anglers excellent opportunities at catching juvenile “baby” tarpon. For anglers specifically targeting juvenile tarpon, this is possibly the best fishery in the world. The tarpon generally range from five to fifteen-pounds with the occasional fish breaking the 25-pound mark. Anglers typically get shots at barracuda and snook in the mangroves and there are a few permit on the ocean side. Short boat runs and abundant shots and action make this destination a great opportunity for anglers of all ages and skill levels..."
Stay tuned for Part II of our Travel Fly Fishing series where you'll find destinations closer to home... and a bit further south.