WEB BONUS: More on Belize
- By: Fly Rod and Reel
Gearing Up for Belize
Bonus content from our Autumn 2010 issue “The Traveling Angler” column…
“Okay,” our guide Fabian said from his poling perch. “Ahead of you at 11 o’clock in that gap next to the bare branch. See him? Big snook.”
We were poling down the edge of a mangrove-lined shoreline that fell off onto a sandy shelf on the flats of Turneffe Flats. The wind had finally eased off, so making a cast wasn’t going to be the problem it had been an hour ago. Unfortunately, the fish Fabian had spotted was five or six feet back in a four foot gap in the mangroves and a couple of big leaves were hanging down here and there to make things even tighter.
“You gotta be kidding?” I said. “I couldn’t put a fly in there with a sling shot.”
“You gonna fish, or you gonna whine?” asked Pat Dunlap.
After couple of false-casts off to one side to measure distance and see how tight a loop I could get with a 30-pound bite tippet in front of a 2-inch long Deceiver, I made the shot. And of course I hung up about halfway into the tunnel and spooked the best snook we’d seen in three days.
“My turn,” Pat said.
A quick 8-weight line rod is fine for bonefish, as well as for snook with little popping bugs. It will also work for the small reef jacks and snappers. But for more fun on the small guys, bring a saltwater 6- or 7-weight. Barracuda and bigger jacks demand something beefier, and for them both Pat Dunlap and I fished 10-weights.
While the snook and barracuda, and of course bonefish, can be fished with floating lines, sinking lines are a help for snappers and jacks. That means lines like Scientific Anglers’ Streamer Xpress or Rio’s Outbound Short integrated shooting heads, or separate 25 to 30 foot heads looped or knotted to a dedicated running line. The advantage of the integrated head is that there’s no bulky loop or knot to complicate retrieving the fly up to within 10 feet or so of the rod tip (and you’d be surprised at how many fish will follow and take up close). The disadvantage is that you’re stuck with a single sink rate where using separate heads will give you options.
In a couple of places I was successful by being able to switch from a type 6 sinking head to a type 3, which got me longer drifts without hanging up on bottom structure. 200 grain heads is about right for my 6 weight, 300 on my 8 weight, and 350 grains on my 10. With separate heads and the lighter lines I used Gamma Tech’s .022” or .024” mono shooting line which make distance casting easy. For the 10 weight, I went to Airflo’s .030” Ridge Running intermediate running line, built on a core that has very little stretch, transmits a good feel on the retrieve, and is pretty tangle-resistant.
Small poppers and Crease flies for more open water, and the usual assortment of Clousers, Deceivers and baitfish patterns for punching back into the mangrove openings.
Because barracuda are fly destroyers and we weren’t certain what would work, we came prepared with a box full of ‘cuda flies in a number of different patterns. Our most productive, a 6”long double-hooked mylar tube in lime green, was good for two fish. More durable flies, of long Fish Hair or the like, lasted longer, though combing them out after a fish had had a whack at them was a challenge. A short wire bite tippet is mandatory.
Jacks and Snappers
Clousers and Deceivers in chartreuse and white, from 1.5” to 3” in length did the trick, though we also took fish on Blanton Whistlers, tied on Eagle Claw 413C 60 degree jig hooks….the same flies we used for California Delta striped bass
Everything I read told us to have a good supply of unweighted Bonefish Bitters for Turneffe’s ocean side flats. But when Fabian looked in my box he inevitably chose small (size 6) Crazy Charlies in tan or white. When I asked about the Bitters, he was non-committal. Go figure.