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Long Caye Outpost Camp: Belize 02-25-2012

I just recently received this trip report from Chris Finlay on the Long Caye Outpost operated by Belize River Lodge. Sounds like a great trip... I thought it was interesting and that everyone would like to see it. Thanks Chris!

What I look for in a good fishing trip is easy travel, being remote without being uncomfortable, and really good fishing.  As a self-employed, father of four, time is a premium and there is nothing worse than wasting four or five days with a bad trip decision.  I recently returned from a really good trip to the Long Caye Outpost of Belize River Lodge with a fishing buddy, Jim, and felt compelled to spread the word.

When I was looking to plan my trip, I contacted my very trusted friend, Scott Heywood of Angling Destinations for recommendations.  He understands my skill level, schedule requirements, and fishing preferences and has always made the perfect recommendations. Scott is a relationship guy who has been virtually everywhere in the fishing world and really takes pride in putting his clients in the right situation.  This trip continued his perfect track record in this regard.

First off, Belize was really easy to get to from my home near Washington, DC.  I left early in the morning, and arrived in Belize City at 11 am.  As soon as we walked out the door, Mike, the owner of the Belize River Lodge, was waiting to whisk us away. The airport was efficient...  bags came out quickly, and customs into Belize was simple.  The people were friendly and were obviously happy to have us visit their country.  Five minutes from the airport and we were at a boat ramp where a Panga was waiting to take us across the Belize River to the main lodge. 

When we got to the lodge, Raul, our guide for the trip was waiting for us and ready to go.  We handled the admin part of the trip up front with Margeurite, Mike’s wife, grabbed a couple recommended flies, just to be safe, and we were all set.  We changed into fishing clothes, packed away our travel gear, and assembled a couple rods.  Within an hour of landing, actually landing in the plane, we were in Raul’s boat and heading to fish.

Our first day was overcast, but with little wind, so we headed to the mangrove flats to target snook and bonefish on our way out to Long Caye.  We decided that we would be better of fishing our way out with our gear in the boat, which is plenty spacious to accommodate the extra baggage, rather than simply take the hour boat ride out, drop our gear, and then fish.  We were glad we did.

Jim kicked it off and by one o’clock had landed a bonefish.  Not real big, maybe 2 pounds or so, but nice and feisty, and provided a couple good runs.  After that fish, we pushed on and I was able to target a couple snook hiding under the mangroves branches shading the water.  Casting into the mangroves reminds me almost of small stream fishing where you are trying to make quiet casts into pockets with overhanging mountain rhododendrons.  In short, it is tough to get the fly deep enough under the branches without slapping the water with the line and fly to scare the fish off. Despite my generally mediocre attempts at this, the Puglisi Everglades fly coaxed the Snook out with an aggressive take.  The real challenge came in getting the line on the reel without letting the fish get back under the mangroves and tangle the line on the countless branches and roots.

Our first day continued like this with us each landing several good fish.  We ended the day casting to some resident tarpon.  They generally snubbed our offerings, but I was able to jump one tarpon as the skies darkened.  We fished until it was almost dark and we were forced to make the final 10 minute run to the Outpost Lodge.  By the end of the first day, I was already amazed at the quality of the fishery.  Not to mention that we got almost 5 hours of fishing time in on our travel day.

As we pulled up to the dock, Kevin was there to grab gear and show us to our accommodations.  Mike, the lodge owner, indicated that he was trying to determine whether to call the Long Caye operation either “Long Caye Island Resort” or “Long Caye Outpost”.  I think that Outpost is definitely a more accurate description.  The “lodge” is made up of a guest house with three bedrooms (each with two twin beds), 1 bathroom, and a common living and dining area.  The bedrooms and living area are not large.  Since we were the only ones at the Outpost, we each had our own room and were quite comfortable.  However, it would be tight to share a room with gear for a week, but doable since we were hardly there other than to sleep.  I would also say that the accommodations would be very crowded and potentially uncomfortable with 6 people there unless it were family or good friends.  In addition there is a kitchen and staff quarters and a guide shack for staff.  The grounds were nice and picked up, and the facilities were clean. 

Arita was our cook and she did a very nice job on pretty basic comfort food that stuck to the ribs, and always served with a smile.  Kevin, the camp manager, was also great.  He would grab he rods at the end of the day and rinse them off, kept the place going and generally was helpful in any way.  All power was from a generator that ran the entire time we were there to ensure we had power for fans and lights and electrical sockets.  The only real negative of the lodge for me was the fact that my cell phone worked there. All in all, the Outpost is not fancy, but the location is awesome and really provides about an extra 2 hours of fishing each day.  I will trade fancy food and accommodations all day for better fishing, but in this case, we really didn’t sacrifice much either way.

For the next two days, the weather was beautiful and we primarily targeted permit out at the reef and tarpon along some of the ocean side mangrove flats.  There were no shortage of fish in any of these places and our success was only limited by our inexperience fishing to these species.  In particular, the tarpon proved a challenge to get the strip set successfully, but we had numerous strikes and jumped a couple.  Jim in particular had great success with his black and purple Puglisi Peanut Butter fly but they simply proved elusive to the hookset for us.

As I mentioned, our guide was Raul, the head guide at Belize River Lodge.  He was the consummate pro.  He must have gotten frustrated at times with our missed opportunities, but he never let us know it.  He has a great attitude and was a lot of fun to be around and fish with.  He worked tirelessly poling us around in his Panga against the wind, against the current, and always seemed to have the boat positioned properly to give us the best shot at the cast.  What struck me as perhaps the most differentiating is that if he missed seeing a fish that we pointed out, instead of making an excuse, he simply stated that he did not see it, or was looking in another area.  To me, his honesty really fit with his whole personality.  The other notable point to make is that we fished long hours.  We would leave the outpost by about 7 and did not return until almost 6pm when it began to get really dark.  Since we began fishing about three minutes from the Outpost, we really could maximize our fishing time.  It was really amazing if you think in terms of time fishing.  It is like adding an additional day of fishing time in a three-day trip.

My personal highlight of the trip came as it was getting dark on the last night of our trip.  We were back to a spot close to camp that we had routinely seen tarpon up on the flats right next to a deep channel.  Up on the flats they seemed only mildly interested in feeding, instead choosing to head to the channel to feed.  It was as if they were mocking us rolling out in the channel after they leave the flats.  We could not reach the fish from the flats.  So, Raul positioned the boat out in the channel and dropped the anchor so that we could have real shots at getting to where the tarpon were rolling.

I started throwing a Black Death fly, which got looks and a strike on the flats, but seemed to get no interest in the deeper channel.  Raul looked at my fly box and selected a chartreuse and white Clouser type fly (on steroids with big lead eyes and a 3/0 hook).  Within a couple casts into the channel where the fish were rolling I was able to get a strong strike and a solid hookset.   It is simply amazing to see a fish this big to jump and run and fight like it does, (and this was just a relatively small tarpon.)  After numerous jumps and runs, I finally landed the fish after about 25 minutes.  As it began to get tired and was closer to the boat, it made no less than a dozen passes under the boat giving its last effort to get away.  I can now tell you that I am addicted to tarpon fishing for life. 

Our final morning, Sunday, we woke up, having packed our gear the night before, and had a nice breakfast.  The sun was mostly out, but the wind was kicking pretty hard.  We had a leisurely breakfast, finished packing, said our goodbye’s to the staff, and loaded our gear for the hour trip back to the lodge.  Our flight was not until 3:30 to head back.   We thought our flight was earlier so we poorly managed our day.  We could have easily gotten another half day of fishing in.  Alternatively, there are Mayan ruins within 30 minutes as well as Rainforest Zip Lines and floating underground rivers with headlamps, all three of which I intend to do on my next trip.

In summary, this was a great trip based upon a several specific factors:
1.  Access was easy and fast.  The fact the Belize River Lodge is only a few minutes from the airport is key.  Also, the great attitude and efficiency of the airport and customs staff in Belize is in my experience wholly different from the Bahamas, and made getting out of the airport a quick pleasure. A Thursday to Sunday trip would easily allow 2 full days and 2 long half days of fishing.

2.  Raul was a great guide, perhaps the best all around that I have had the pleasure to fish with.  He worked long hours with a smile on his face.  He provided good instruction on casting tips and knew where to find fish in all conditions. 

3.  The Long Caye Outpost was comfortable and right in the middle of great fishing.  I think it added almost 2 hours to our fishing day to stay there rather than the main lodge.  For two of us, it was spacious and very comfortable.  The staff is very friendly, the house was clean, and the food was good.

4.  The variety of fishing options is unlike anything I could have imagined.  I can see how a better (or a little luckier) fisherman could have real opportunities for grand slams and super grand slams. The fish were everywhere in good numbers.  Even permit were routinely spotted, both out at the reef, along some of the beach areas, and on the flats.

The Long Caye Outpost is a relatively new offering for Belize River Lodge, and I think a very positive option under the right circumstances. I strongly recommend this trip.I am personally looking forward to getting back down there with my sons (ages 13 and 11), not to mention that this may be my new favored long weekend getaway.

Written by Chris Finlay








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