Permit Paradise

Permit Paradise

Focused flats angling in southern Belize

  • By: Fly Rod and Reel
The permit is one of those peculiar fish that inspires an angler to imagine-quite irrationally we might add-that the world would somehow be different if only he could manage to catch one. The reason for this of course is that the species not only is quite difficult to hook, but it also requires a long trip to a remote and lovely location even to make the attempt. Despite the fact that fly-fishing for permit has only become practical during the last several decades, a permit trip possesses all the qualities of a mythological medieval quest.

It is not enough merely to make a long and arduous trip, employ the services of the most steadfast squire-I mean, flats guide-then find a fish, and make a perfect cast. No; the fish must also find you worthy; it must choose you as the angler it will surrender to.

Or so it seems. Most people don't get a permit the first time they try for one. Many return home empty handed even after the second and third attempts, and thereafter dream of little but dark tails waving mockingly from just beyond casting range. Often, an angler who manages to catch even a single specimen becomes the focus of much envy among other anglers at the flats-fishing lodge. And then-because the fishing gods have a sense of humor-there are plenty of permit taken by novice flats fishers who originally set out with no other goal in mind but to tag a bonefish. "I thought you told me permit were hard to catch," one of these idiot savants will say to an incredulous friend. Some of the world's finest permit flats are to be found in the Port Honduras region of southern Belize, close to the Honduran and Guatemalan borders. In fact, if you're looking for bonefish, this is not the place to come, as bones on these flats are few and far between. Permit-along with tarpon in the jungle-lined rivers-are the name of the game in this roadless region where jaguars prowl the white-sand beaches and visitors can find shards of pottery left over from the vanished-Mayan civilization. In addition to the Port Honduras coral flats, guides will also take you into the shallow Punta Icacos Lagoon, which also contains plenty of permit despite the fact that it is too muddy to wade. Lagoon anglers quickly lean to distinguish a permit wake from the wake of one of the thousands of rays that are constantly cruising the mud flats. A huge part of this pristine area is encompassed within the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and Payne's Creek National Park, which should mean that it will remain untouched forever. Recently, though, there have been some development pressures that anglers who love this area would be wise to keep their eyes upon… Until about two years ago, anglers who wanted to fish the Port Honduras area had two choices: Stay in the resort City of Placencia to the north and make a long daily commute to the fishing, or-if they were feeling up the adventure-scratch up some accommodations and a guide in the little Town of Monkey River and make a shorter commute. But now there are two very different new fishing lodges to accommodate anglers seeking the grail of a fly-caught permit. El Pescador Punta Gorda-the sister lodge to the famous El Pescador San Pedro on Ambergris Cay in northern Belize-is a luxury resort high up a hill overlooking the tarpon-rich Rio Grande River near the Town of Punta Gorda. Run with painstaking attention to detail by Jim and Debbie Scott, El Pescador PG boasts beautiful, air-conditioned rooms overlooking the rainforest (you'll hear howler monkeys in the morning), as well as a fly shop, gift shop, bar and conference room. While many visitors to the resort choose activities other than angling-bird watching; hiking; shopping, and something called "cave tubing," there are also 12 fly-fishing guides who work full time for El Pescador, and everyone at the place takes the fishing very, very seriously. Jim Scott's first two questions, after meeting a pair of FR&R staffers who had fished there, was "Who was your guide today? How was he?"And at dinner that night, Debbie Scott asked us the same two questions… It's about 45 minutes by boat from El Pescador to the Port Honduras flats. Much closer to the flats-a mere 15 minutes away, in fact-is Black Point Retreat. Your room here is a fabric-walled yurt; you eat delicious Caribbean home-cooking in a dining-room yurt, and the bar is another yurt. These yurts are about as upscale and confortable as such structcures can be-but don't expect air conditioning. In any case, you're right at the edge of the Caribbean, so if you get hot, you can always go for a swim… . Black Point's head guide is the Monkey River native and self-taught genius, Eloy Cuevas. So capable is this graceful, sharp-eyed man that The Nature Conservancy has sent him all around the world to explain TNC projects to the local people who will be affected by them. If you're lucky enough to draw Eloy fo a guide, you are in for an unforgettable day. As for the other guides, with Eloy's help, Black Point is currently developing a staff from the ranks of Monkey River's commercial fishermen. Our favorite part of our Black Point visit was a trip out to the lodge's Seal Caye spike camp among a group of small coral islands 17 miles offshore. Not only did tailing permit appear in our one-acre island's coral lagoon at breakfast time both mornings, but there were some bonefish on the nearby flats, and we caught plenty of them. And the food and acoomodations were at least as they were back on the mainland… Among three lodges-Black Point, El Pescador PG and El Pescador San Pedo-we spent 10 days flats fishing. Did either of us get a permit.? No. Will we go back? How could we resist? Contact El Pescador PG at 800-242-2017; www.elpescadorpg.com. Visit Black Point Retreat's Web site at www.blackpointretreat.com; e-mail to lodge manager Bradley Rinehart at info@blackpointretreat.com.