Belize Fly Fishing Packing List
What equipment do you need for fly fishing?
When going on a “destination” salt water fly fishing trip, the question of “what to bring?” or “what is a good Belize fly fishing packing list” is extremely important to the overall success of your trip. As one of Belize fly fishing guides, I can’t tell you how many times over the years, that I’ve run into people who, having traveled a great distance to get to Belize, have arrived completely unprepared for their week of fly fishing. Bringing down your favorite trout reel and a couple of flies for a week of bonefishing is simply not sufficient for the task at hand.
The strength of saltwater fish will surprise even the most ardent of freshwater enthusiasts who are experiencing the “salt” for the first time. The power of the fish that you’ll be targeting while fishing with us in Belize, dictates that you must come prepared. Losing the fish of a lifetime because you decided to save some money on leaders or fly line is not a mistake that you want to make.
The packing the proper gear will greatly reduce the heart break and frustration that losing a quality fish causes. Being comfortable and having the proper gear is essential to the enjoyment of your trip. In a country like Belize, where you’ll often find yourself fishing in out of the way places where there are no stores or opportunities to purchase items you might have left at home, it is imperative that you come prepared.
Fly Fishing Packing Essentials
Aside from the regular type of clothing and personal effects that you would bring on any holiday, I have included a list of often-overlooked items that may be difficult to purchase or find here in Belize. Bringing these items, whether you’re staying with us in a resort town or out on one of the outer islands, will ensure that you are comfortable and properly prepared to get the most out
of your trip to Belize.
- A light rain suit for the occasional shower or boat spray
- Thick soled flats boots
- Polarized sunglasses (2 pairs) Amber, yellow, green or gray.
- Sunscreen and lip protection (15 or higher and waterproof)
- A good fishing hat that will both keep the sun off you as well as cut down on glare (dark billed)
- Wading pack with water bottle
- Go Pro / Waterproof camera
- Extra batteries
- Insect repellent
- Extra light clothing for fishing to help keep the sun off you
- Reading materials
- Good walking shoes
- A small flash light
- A small hook sharpener
- Sun gloves (if needed)
- A supply of small US bills (5’s-and 10’s)
- Zip lock bags
- Shaving kit
Belize Fly Fishing Packing list base on fish species.
A 7 to 8 weight rod is ideal for bonefish. These weights allow the angler the power to adequately deal with wind (which is a constant companion throughout the Caribbean) while still providing the finesse to present the fly as delicately as possible. I enjoy chasing bones with 5 and 6 weight rods (when conditions allow) but many anglers, particularly inexperienced saltwater fly rodders, will have trouble when going this light.
• A 7 to 8 weight rod
The reel that you plan to fish for bones with should be a disk drag reel with a capacity of 200 yards of 20 pound backing. While this may seem excessive to those new to our sport, veteran anglers both understand this necessity and embrace it. Because Belizean waters are so rich and varied in terms of species, it would be a shame to be fishing for bones with 100 yards of backing on your reel, only to encounter a 25-pound permit on the flat you are wading. A missed opportunity like this can ruin your day!
• A disk drag reel with 200 yard capacity
For bonefish, a weight forward floating line to match the weight of your rod is what you need. Some fly rodders, and many retailers for that matter, are of the opinion that you should be over matching your line by a weight. For instance, if you have a seven-weight rod, you should be loading the reel with an 8 weight fly line. For larger species, I would agree with this, but not for bones. In most situations when bonefishing in Belize, you will be fishing in skinny water (1-3 feet) where a heavier line will work against you in terms of the sound and splash the line makes when you’re presenting the fly.
Stick to matching the line to the rod! There are times when we encounter bones in deeper water (6-8 feet) in places like the north end of Glovers Reef. When this happens, it’s good to have a weight forward intermediate sinking line to help get the fly down to the fish. However, this is by far the exception as opposed to the rule. A floating weight forward line to match the rod will handle most
bonefish situations more than adequately.
• A weight forward floating line to match the rod
• A weight forward intermediate sinking line to match the rod
For most fly rodders chasing bones, an 8 to 12 pound, nine foot-tapered leader will work nicely. These can either be purchased at your local fly shop(3M makes an excellent tapered saltwater leader) or, many anglers enjoy building their own. A nine-foot leader is much easier to control than a longer one in the face of a blowing wind and allows for a more accurate presentation. On calm or clear days, or when fishing on a falling tide, when the bones are a little more nervous and spooky, it will help to go with a longer leader. Switch from your 9 foot to a 12-foot leader. The conditions will often dictate what you need to use so it pays to be prepared.
• An 8 to 12 pound, nine foot tapered leader
Fluorocarbon tippet of 6 to 8 pounds will be more than sufficient.
• 6 to 8 pound fluorocarbon
Many of our first time clients, who have fished elsewhere in the Caribbean for bonefish, will often come with the assumption that what worked in the Keys or the Bahamas will work in Belize. And to an extent this is true, as bonefish in general are a very accommodating species compared with some of the other fish that inhabit the flats. But, there are some important subtleties that need to be recognized. Anglers coming to Belize will have more success if they bring flies in size 6 to 8. To be sure, a variety of different sized flies is important and it’s good to have a healthy mix of sizes, including some large ones.
Overall however, the smaller sized bonefish flies will produce more fish. Another important thing to keep in mind when preparing your fly box for a trip to Belize to fly for bones is that you will encounter a variety of fishing situations and bottom surfaces. White sand, light and dark brown coral, as well as lush turtle grass beds, will all dictate the both the colours and sink rates of the flies that you should be using. By having aspecific pattern in a variety of colours and tied with several different sink rates in mind, you’re increasing your odds considerably.
- Mathews Bonefish Bitters: in brown, olive and chartreuse (size 6-8)
- Crazy Charlie: in pink, olive, tan, and white (size 6-8)
- Clouser Minnow: in chartreuse, white, rust, brown (size 4-8)
- Gotcha: in pearl, tan, and root beer (size 6-8)
- Bob Popovics Ultra Shrimp (size 4-8)
- Winston Moore’s Agent Orange (size 6-8)
- Snapping Shrimp in: brown and olive (size 6-8)
The average permit in Belize will weigh between 12 and 16 pounds, with much heavier fish being very common in Southern Belize. The ideal fly rod when targeting permit, is either a 9 or a 10 weight. These weights will allow the angler to cover the broad size spectrum that this challenging fish comes in. These rods will also allow the fly rodder to cast the often bulky crab flies that a 7 or 8 weight simply isn’t designed for. I use an old three piece, Sage RPLX 9 weight exclusively when specifically targeting permit. This rod has gone to war with some real monsters and has never let me down (my knots are a another story)
• A 9 or 10 weight rod
The unique oblong shape of the permit, along with its oversized fork tail, allows the fish to generate a great deal of power. When you add a dose of fear to the permit, which happens when the fish realizes that it’s hooked, the permit has to be the strongest fish, pound for pound, that swims in the ocean. To ensure that you won’t lose the fish once it’s hooked, especially if the permit is over 20 pounds, you need disk drag reel with at least 250 yards of 20 pound backing.
To watch a good sized permit make run after run, is a very special thrill for even the most experienced angler. The drag system is critical and must be absolutely smooth throughout the long runs that a decent sized permit will make. If the drag jerks, even just a small amount, your permit is as good as gone.
• A disk drag reel with 250 yard capacity
A weight forward floating line to match the rod is what you need to outfit yourself with. However, in this instance, there is some merit in overloading your line by one weight, particularly if your facing a stiff wind. Individual preference plays a big part in fly fishing successfully for permit.
• A floating weight forward line to match the rod
Many of our clients like to use 10 to 12 pound leaders for permit. This is fine for schoolie permit in the 8 to 12 pound range, but inadequate for larger fish. Many of my guides in the south who specialize in permit won’t even let the anglers in their boat cast to a permit unless they are using 16 pound leader material. This is because Southern Belize has such a healthy population of big permit and the guides have seen too many huge fish lost to mangrove roots and coral. They have thoroughly drummed this lesson into me to the point where now I won’t use anything lighter than 16 pound test.
• 16 pound test
For large permit, 20-pound fluorocarbon tippet will work well.
• 16 pound fluorocarbon
The advances made in permit fly design over the past 10 years have really helped to make catching a permit an actual possibility. And if you’re serious about catching a permit on a fly rod, Belize is the place to be. The one thing I need to stress here is that the flies should be smaller than you’d expect, even if you’re planning on concentrating on large permit. We see many clients who come down with Merkins, McCrabs and other crab patterns tied on size 1 and 2 hooks.
These flies are simply to big for the best permit fishing in Belize to want to eat. In this instance, you’ve got to “match the hatch” by offering to the permit, flies that are the size of the crabs that it will normally encounter while feeding on the flats. This means flies tied on size 4-8 saltwater hooks.
- Del Browns Merkin in: brown and tan. If you tie your own flies, substitute the brown wool for olive (size4-8)
- Turneffe Crab in: olive, cream and green (size 4-8)
- Will Baur’s Belize Permit Crab in: olive, brown, and green (size 4-8)
- The McCrab (size 4-6)
- Chernobyl Crab (size 4-6)
- Crazy Charlie in: white (size 4-8)
For juvenile tarpon in the 20 to 50 pound class, a 9 or 10-weight rod will work nicely. Catching tarpon this size on a light fly rod is an absolute thrill. In fact, I much prefer to chase the smaller tarpon because they don’t wipe you out physically the way a large tarpon often will. When the larger tarpon (100+lbs) start to show up in the spring, you need a rod in the 11 to 12 weight class.
• A 9 or 10 weight rod
The small to medium sized tarpon require a smooth disk drag reel with a capacity of 300 yards of 30 pound backing. You can get away with a reel that holds less line but you then run the risk of losing a good sized tarpon that may show up and take your fly. For the larger fish in the 100 pound + category, you’ll need a reel with 400 yards of 30 pound backing. This may seem excessive, but when you consider that the Belizean record for tarpon on a fly was set last year, at just a hair under 200 pounds, it’s far better to be safe that sorry.
• For juveniles – A disk drag reel with 300 yard capacity
• For big tarpon – A disk drag reel with 400 yard capacity
Because tarpon can be found in a variety of situation and depths, it really pays to be prepared with a couple of different tarpon lines at the ready. For juvenile tarpon, you’ll need a weight forward floating tarpon line to match the rod. It’s also a good idea to have a type 6 fast sinking line for those tarpon in deeper water. Another way to get at these fish is to use sinking shooting heads. In this situation, I highly recommend over lining your rod with a 300 to 500 grain shooting head.
For big tarpon, you’ll need to start out with a weight forward floating line to match the rod. Tropical fly lines are generally a little stiffer which is good because they help to turn over the heavier flies that big tarpon like to hammer. To get at tarpon in deeper water, it pays to use a type 6 fast sinking line or sinking shooting heads. Again, as with smaller tarpon, I recommend over lining the rod with a 300 to 700 grain shooting head.
• For juveniles – 1) A weight forward floating line to match the rod 2) Type 6 fast sinking line 3) 300 to 500 grain shooting head
• For big tarpon – 1) A weight forward floating lineto match the rod 2) Type 6 fast sinking line 3) 300 to 700 grain shooting head
The tarpon’s mouth is comprised of cartilage and bone and is therefore very rough and abrasive. Even a relatively small tarpon in the 20 to 40 pound range can shred your leader or tippet in no time. All tarpon leaders should be tapered and can be either store bought or made by the angler. The actual leader does not need to be more than 9 feet in length. The leader for juvenile tarpon should consist of either 30 or 40 pound butt section, with each subsequent tapered section dropping by 10 pounds (30-20-10) Keep in mind that the butt section should always be exactly half of the overall length of the leader. When constructing a leader for big tarpon, the butt section should be 50 pounds with each following section dropping by 10 pounds (50-40-30)
• For juveniles – A tapered 9 foot leader with a 30 to 40 pound butt section
• For big tarpon – A tapered 9 foot leader with a 50 pound butt section
For juvenile tarpon, a 40 to 60 pound shock tippet is needed to hold the fish. Some anglers prefer to go lighter, but I don’t recommend it for the average angler. For big tarpon, a 100 pound shock tippet is required to have any chance of landing the fish. The shock tippet should be 12 to 16 inches in length.
• For juveniles – A 40 to 60 pound shock tippet (12-16 inches)
• For big tarpon – A 100 pound shock tippet (12-16 inches)
There is a great debate amongst those who like to chase tarpon with a fly about which is the most effective size for tarpon flies. From what I’ve observed here in Belize, by far the most effective size for tarpon flies is a pattern tied on a 3/0 saltwater hook. Larger flies will work for bigger fish, especially in specific situations (like when the tarpon are motionless just under the water level) but overall it’s quite amazing how smaller flies will consistently take very large fish. For the smaller tarpon, hooks ranging in size from 2 to 2/0 are highly recommended to add on your belize fly fishing packing list.
- Stu Apte tarpon fly (size 2 to 3/0)
- Black Death (size 2 to 3/0)
- Cockroach (size 2 to 3/0)
- Boilermaker in: red and white (size 2 to 3/0)
- Lefty’s Big Eye Deceiver in: white, chartreuse, and blue (size 2 to 3/0)
- Moore’s Yellow and Grizzly (size 2 to 3/0)
- Sea Foam Popper in: yellow and white (size 2 to 3/0)
- Sea-Ducer in: orange and white (size 2 to 3/0)
Fly Fishing Packing List
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