Welcome to Belize

Belize 2001; In the Beginning

By Al Campbell

Roughly 100 miles north of my home is a sign at a roadside "point of interest" that says, "You are at the exact center of the North American Continent." That means I live a long distance from any ocean. It also means my saltwater fly fishing experience is very limited. So, when is was notified that I had been selected as one of six flyfishing outdoor writers to enjoy a fly fishing tour of Belize (all expenses paid), I panicked.

Al on the left,
in Belize

To put it mildly, I didn't have a clue about what to expect from the fish I would encounter there. In fact, I wasn't sure what fish I would encounter, what they usually eat, what flies are available to imitate that food, or anything else important to my trip. However, I did know where to start looking; right here.

There are some great saltwater fishermen who frequent the Fly Anglers OnLine chat room. There are also some great saltwater guides who write articles for this internet magazine. Oh yea, in case you forgot, Fly Anglers OnLine is more than just a web site; it's a recognized and accepted magazine published entirely on the internet. In fact, it's that unique status and audience that interested the Belize Tourism Board enough to select a writer from this magazine to be part of their publicity tour. You, our readers, are important to the fly fishing world.

Back to my point; I started my research here. I pestered and hounded everyone I thought could supply me with a new tidbit of information I might need to help me prepare for my trip. I researched fly pattern books and catalogs, visited the web sites of any fly fishing lodges I could find in Belize, including the ones I was scheduled to visit, and researched the species of fish they mentioned. I visited www.go.com and typed in words like bonefish, tarpon, permit, knots, etc. in an attempt to dig up any information I could find to help me prepare. I spent hours reading, studying and wondering what I was missing.

I started practicing my double haul in a quest for accurate 80 foot casts. Frankly, my long casting skills were pitiful. I can land a size 20 midge pattern within inches of a feeding fish on a 20 foot stream, but anything at distances longer than 50 feet was pretty much out of the question. Sure, I could cast that far, but my form was obscene, grotesque and sickening. I needed practice, and I had only two months to prepare. Can you say, "Slow down and watch your back-cast?"

I was determined to tie all my own flies, so many of my night hours were spent at the fly vise burning the midnight oil. Trout flies and bonefish flies aren't even slightly similar. Well, they weren't similar before I started tying them. I'll tell you more about that later when I cover the flies we used but that is a different article. Anyway, I tied several hundred flies in two months getting prepared to face bonefish, permit and tarpon; gratefully most fly tying skills relate to saltwater flies as well as to freshwater flies.

I borrowed fly rods and reels in sizes I don't own and never needed for before this trip. Some of the FAOL Sponsors sent me items I needed to make my trip complete including specialized clothing, leaders, lines, tippets, and a few fly-tying materials. Let's say it became a community affair before I finished getting ready. Thank God for folks who care. I couldn't have done it without them.

I pestered Sue McGill at Richartz Fliss Clark & Pope, the publicity firm who coordinated airline schedules and reservations. She is a very patient person. She calmly answered all my questions about humidity, temperatures and water quality in Belize. I'm sure she wanted to tell me to take a chill pill on several occasions, but she didn't let on that anything bothered her. Itineraries, schedules, reservations and notifications were all made and passed on with the precise skill that comes from years of practice. She didn't miss a thing.

I'm telling you all this so you'll know I panicked. I didn't have a clue. However, I learned. I learned a lot, and I'm going to pass a lot of that information to you in the coming weeks so preparation for your trip to a tropical fly fishing paradise will go more smoothly than mine did. Don't get me wrong, preparing for such a trip is part of the fun, and I did enjoy the preparation phase a lot. I won't take that away from you; I'll just make it easier and less frustrating.

Stay tuned, in the weeks ahead I'll cover everything from eyewear and clothing to flies, reels, rods and lines. I'll also take you on a photographic tour of the Belize I saw and try to pass on the flavor of the places I visited. Oh yea, I almost forgot; I'll tell you about the fishing too.

See ya then. ~ Al Campbell

More of Al's Adventure

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