It’s probably not that surprising that we do the vast majority of our fishing for trout and atlantic salmon, but once in a great while we break out and do something else. Example: my trip to Belize over the New Year. It was more of a general vacation than a strict fishing trip, but I definitely brought along a 9-weight so that I could chase a few bonefish. And now that I’m back in frigid New England, I’m happy to say that I learned a lot about fly-fishing there, and I’m definitely planning on going back as soon as I can arrange it to fish some of the areas which I really only got to check out briefly. This post has nothing to do with bamboo rods, but here are my 5 favorite things about Belize. At the very least Marc will be jealous, which will be good payback for all of those nodes I’ve had to press over the years.
(1) Bonefish (lots of them)
They’re devilishly hard to see, but I had a great time chasing Belize’s gray ghosts. They’re spooky, they go like a bat-out-of-hell when you first hook them, and they’re surprisingly pretty fish. I also learned that it takes a good bit of experience in order to see them, especially if they aren’t tailing (which is kind of a dead give-away, sort of like a rising trout). What I also found interesting is how much they move around and that it’s rarely in the same direction for more than a few moments. You can catch them with a short cast, but more often than not I did best with slightly longer casts and placing the fly about 1-3 feet in front of the fish. Fly patterns seemed to make less of a difference than presentation but that could have been entirely coincidental.
(2) Travel — it’s easy getting around
I’ve been lucky enough to travel in a lot of places including a number of countries in Latin America, and I have to say that getting around is not always easy or cheap. So I was happily surprised by Belize. It’s a small country (only 300,000 people!), the infrastructure is reasonably good, and you almost always have two options to get you where you want to go: (1) by boat which is fairly convenient and usually quite reasonable, or (2) by plane which is quick and also generally pretty reasonable (most in-country flights are no more than $50 or $60). The nice thing is that this makes it an ideal place for hopping around and exploring the country’s various nooks and crannies. Also when we went inland by car there was no traffic to speak of. It’s definitely a place where you could rent a car and get around without too much trouble which is a far cry from some other countries where doing so is akin to having a death wish.
Okay Belize might not be renowned for its cuisine, but you can’t beat fresh seafood straight from the ocean. My particular favorite? Conch Ceviche. A close second is lobster or red snapper thrown right on the grill. Belize’s food isn’t fancy. Breakfasts tend to be pretty plain, (quick tip: if you’re a coffee junkie and will be there for a while, you may want to bring some of your own. I found Belize’s coffee pretty mediocre) and most meals include some combination of rice and beans. But hearty simple meals aren’t too tough to come by if you snoop around a little bit and if you like fresh seafood without too many frills. Oh, and don’t forget to wash it down with a Beliken, Belize’s national beer. Everyone else will be.
Given my druthers I’d almost always rather spend my time on top of the water trying to catch the critters that live in it. That said, I really loved diving in Belize. The visibility is generally quite good, the water is warm, and compared to most other places in the Caribbean, Belize has done a good job taking care of it’s marine ecosystems. We spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, moray eels, a bunch of different reef fish, and the coral was pretty healthy. If you go diving there yourself, make sure you head down to Turneffe Elbow. We weren’t lucky enough to see them but apparently you can often see very large gamefish (marlin, etc..) chasing bait just off of the reef. Pretty amazing to be able to see big bluewater fish so close to shore.
(5) Mayan Ruins
Tikal in Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula may garner most of the tourists, but that’s what makes a lot of the ruins in Belize that much more special. You won’t have to battle the crowds, many of the sites are nearly as spectacular, and they’re easy to get to. Our favorite was Lamanai, which you arrive at after a lengthy riverboat trip through the jungle which alone was practically worth the trip. It’s a great way to get off the water for a day and do something a little different.
(photos 3-5 from flickr)
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