Trip Report: Turneffe Flats (March 23-30th, 2024)

Trip Report: Turneffe Flats (March 23-30th, 2024)
Words + Photos: Josh Thelin

It wasn't long into our departure day that I received that first (dreaded) text from one of the group members..."our flight's been delayed."

It had felt like spring here in Maine for almost a month, but of course we had to fly out on the same day a snow storm decided to roll in. While I packed some last minute items into my duffel bag, I checked my weather apps and the snow appeared to be arriving earlier than previously expected. Snow starting at 6:00am, flight leaving at 6:03am. We boarded on time, but didn't leave the ground until 8:00am... Weather Map BelizeAlthough all ten of us did make it into Belize City in relatively decent time later that afternoon, everyone's day unfortunately included some forms of delay and winter weather woes. Some were coming from Portland, some from New Hampshire and Boston, into Charlotte, or into Atlanta, then into Belize City...But once we stepped foot off of the planes, the 95 degree weather easily erased memories of the snow burdened northeast. The trip over to the atoll from Belize City takes a little over an hour but allowed us plenty of time to settle in and get dinner.

The weather for our week at Turneffe Flats was good. About a grade B. Northern winds were common (prevailing are easterly), and when gusty, made casting tricky or lack of sunlight made it tough to spot fish, but that's par for the course. Temps out on the atoll during the day were about 85F on average. We ran into no serious weather or even rain, so all in all it was a win.

Turneffe Flats Fly Fishing Trip Report(sunrise over "home flat")

Our group had a pretty wide range of goals for the week. Some wanted to catch their first bonefish, some their first bonefish specifically while wading, others were curious about the resident tarpon, and a couple others set sights on permit. I shared a boat with friend Jake Nichols who, after our first day, set our week's goal (and certainly mutually agreed upon) to targeting permit. If successful, it would be Jake's first.

In the early evenings, while everyone returned home from the day of fishing, success reports would start to trickle in from the others. A lot of bonefish were caught and great stories of tarpon, large jacks and snapper, barracuda, and more would circulate among everyone. One of my favorite stories was from someone who wanted to catch their first bonefish while wading and (personally) spotted + sight fished. After a couple of days, we were returning to the dock and with a beer in hand and a great smile on his face he greeted me with the play-by-play of this first "flats bonefish," as he described it. As our weather was pretty forgiving, it gave the group great opportunities to see (literally - with good stretches of sunlight) how great of a fishery Turneffe Atoll is. When the light was right and the situations presented themselves, we had some awesome sight-fishing moments that get burned into your memory. Scenes, dancing in your head, of fish over white sand curiously chasing flies never gets old...Fly Fishing Turneffe Flats BelizeIt wasn't too long into the week of Jake's first permit hunt that we were put onto fish by our guide Mark. Various flats, channels, and mangrove lines all provided shots at good sized permit. Our second day provided heart pounding situations with big tailing permit and refusals. Yet, it was only one day later that things started to really come together.

Shortly after a quick lunch break and the turning off of the Steel Pulse playing through my phone, we spotted a couple of permit cruising over white sand on one of the prettiest flats in the area. We had bright, high sunlight and the pieces of the puzzle seemed to be all falling into place. With a great cast just slightly ahead of one of the fish, we watched this permit slowly follow, twitch, dance around, then finally eat Jake's crab pattern. Fly Fishing for Permit Turneffe Flats BelizeAfter a great celebration and series of high-fives, we said to ourselves: "and it's only halfway through the week!" As the days passed, we found ourselves enjoying our time chasing permit. We saw them everyday, had shots, heartbreaks, laughs, and everything else that's involved with a focused attention on permit fishing. 

The permit fishery at Turneffe Atoll can give you a wide range of opportunities and locations where you'll find them. The unique dynamics of the atoll provide a complete mix of classic Belizean oceanside flats with reef drop-offs to lagoon flats on the interior of the atoll that can make up an assortment of different water. Channels, flats, mangroves, and varying depths on this interior also give perfect habitat for permit. Boredom wasn't an issue as there was always another piece of water that we could try. Fly Fishing Turneffe Flats Belize Permit Bonefish TarponAs the "cocktail hour stories" continued throughout the week, our group's dynamic with a wide range of goals and expectations presented some awesome pictures of catches and funny stories of missed fish and mishaps. Hooked stingray on crab patterns, barracuda bitten bonefish, permit that broke off, etc. were all fodder for entertaining evenings.Turneffe Flats Lodge Belize Fly FishingLike most good fish stories, this one also starts with: "So on the last day...." And indeed it was. On Friday morning, our last day of fishing, we headed to an area that we had fished previously and seen some large permit. Shortly after Jake jumped on the bow, our guide spots a couple of nice fish pushing water and moving along a drop off. With poor light visibility, our only reference was the wake of the water. The fish started to move right-to-left, Jake put his fly right on target and after one strip the line came tight. After roughly a 10 minute battle, Jake got to hold his second permit!

Fly Fishing Turneffe Flats Belize Permit
With that, our week came to an end on a high note. The following morning, the day of our departure, was one of the best weather days of the week. A delicate easterly breeze and warm sun. Of course...But, it was a good send off and certainly a way of subtly inviting us back again. 
Turneffe Flats Belize Fly Fishing
Check out our info page on Turneffe Flats Lodge HERE 
We have another hosted trip scheduled for Turneffe Flats April 19-26th, 2025. Availability is limited. Contact us at if you would like to join us or want more info!
Fly Fishing Turneffe Flats Belize Bonefish Permit Tarpon

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Ask the Guide: Best Flies for Cuba

Ask the Guide: Best Flies for Cuba
Words + Photos by: Josh Thelin

On a recent trip to Cuba, after a week of fishing, I asked my guide Frankie what his favorite flies were for the areas we were in. The fishing was over mixed flats (both white sand and turtle grass) as well as deeper channels for tarpon. We covered the area from Cayo Largo to Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth). With the primary target species of Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon, here are the ones that made his list:

Best Flies for Cuba Fly Fishing


  • Strong Arm Crab - This was the first crab pattern he asked for when going through our fly boxes. Originally out of the Keys, and now also a popular pattern throughout Cuba and Belize for Permit, it's a variation of a Merkin but with a prominent claw made from chenille. Similar in idea to a "fleeing crab."
  • Avalon Very particular with this one. It had to be the original. Most of the mass produced versions of this fly Frankie did not like as their tails/rubber legs were not of proper length and the proportions of the rabbit strips usually were off.
  • Spawning Shrimp - This was the tried-and-true all a-rounder. Whether it was for permit or bonefish, our guide had a lot of confidence in this fly. We rarely saw a refusal with the versions that we tied/brought down. Mine were all tied on #4 & mostly #6 hooks. Most of the ones I fished and liked were tied on the #6 AHREX Salt Jig (SA254) hook. Now my favorite hook for larger shrimp flies. Below is a example of one I tied before the trip that worked well.
Cuba Spawning Shrimp Fly Pattern


  • Spawning Shrimp - see above
  • Webster's Shrouser - This got the attention of Frankie quickly. As we went through our fly boxes and I pulled these out, they said "tie that one on!" The Shrouser stayed on for most deeper water situations as I only had them tied (by Joe) on smaller lead eyes. But when we used them, they worked. Although no permit were caught on it, Frankie said that it would be ideal for them down there as well. So I left him a few in hopes of a photo soon. (This is the fly that's hanging out of the bonefish's mouth in the picture above)
  • Squimps - A popular bonefish fly also in Belize, the Squimp was a requested pattern by our guide.


  • Black/Purple - Mostly Tarpon Bunny and Stu Ape style Tarpon patterns. I tied all of mine on 1/0 & 2/0 Gamakatsu SC17 hooks.
  • Tarpon Toad - Both in black/purple & lighter/chartreuse colors.
  • Gamechanger - Worked great on channel tarpon with sinking lines. Due to weight when wet, they can sometimes be a little sloppy for sight casting on flats.
  • EP Peanut Butter - Also a preferred snook fly for the location
  • Mini Dragon Tails - With the mini tails, not the regular Magnums. These can be the ticket down there and give the fish another "look" if you think they aren't responding to other patterns.
Best Flies for Cuba Fly Fishing

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Top 5 Early Season Striper Flies for Maine

Top 5 Early Season Striper Flies for Maine
Written By: Joe Webster

The time is certainly near and one of our favorite local fish, the striped bass, will soon be returning to the Maine coast in search of abundant bait and preferable water temperatures. Here are 5 flies that we would never leave home without when targeting striped bass in May and early June in our local waters!

For our FULL collection of striped bass flies click HERE

1. Crouser Fly

Crouser Fly Pattern

Designed here in house by our own Joe Webster, and now produced by the fine folks at RIO Products, the Crouser (half crab, half clouser) has become one of the most used flies for targeting early season striped bass here in Maine. This fly excels in rivers, marshes and estuaries where abundance of small bait such as crabs, shrimp and small baitfish are present. And the best part about this fly is it could really imitate any of them being a vague, creature bait style fly. Olive/light olive and brown/olive are Joe's favorite color combinations as they represent green crabs and shrimp well, however tan/white and olive/white have become local favorites, especially those fishing in Casco Bay just north of us. This fly was designed to be dragged directly on sand or mud bottom with a sink tip fly line. However they also work well with an intermediate or floating line when sight fishing or when the bottom has too many obstructions to drag a fly on (mussel beds, rocks, sea weed etc.) Check them out HERE!

2. Bucktail Deciever

Bucktail Deceiver Striped Bass Fly Pattern

A Bob Popovics classic, the Bucktail Deciever is likely the most versatile bait fish patterns out there. These can be tied as small as 3"-4" and in excess of 12" long when utilizing the use of extensions. Simply match the hatch with size and profile with this fly and don't worry about matching exact colors of baitfish. If anything worry about tone vs color, meaning a darker (or black) fly for low light conditions and stained water, and white or pastel colors for clear water and high sun. This fly can be fished on a floating, intermediate, or sink tip fly line. We have a great assortment of these flies HERE!

3. Half and Half

Half and Half Striped Bass Fly

For when you need to get your baitfish pattern a little deeper, or through heavy current and swells, the half and half is a must have when classic unweighted deceivers aren't getting the job done. We are particularly excited about our new Jiggy Half and Half and encourage you to scoop some up before they're gone! Click HERE for link!

4. Hollow Flat Wing Deciever

Hollow Flat Wing Deceiver Striped Bass Fly

Especially for those who are looking to target larger fish, a wide profiled larger baitfish pattern is certainly a requirement, particularly if fishing around outflows and river herring runs. The 6/0 version of this fly hits the mark perfectly and is a great size and profile for this occasion. These flies will also  work very well off of rock/ledges where a wider variety of baitfish such as pollock or mackerel are also present. All sizes and colors of Hollow Flat Wing Deceivers are available here!

5. Little Black Clouser

Black Clouser Striped Bass Fly Pattern

Couldn't make the list with out including this little guy.  A small size 2 matte black 3" long clouser is a not so secret local favorite that has been catching up bass for years. Before the crabs and crousers, there was the little black clouser. Drag directly on sand or mud bottom with a sink tip line for best results. Little Black Clousers found HERE!

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Trip Report: Cuba (January 6-13th, 2024)

Trip Report: Cuba (January 6-13th, 2024)
Words + Photos: Josh Thelin

I didn't know what to expect. It was not only my first time in Cuba, but I had heard so much about the flats fishing and the culture (specifically of Havana via music) that l hoped it would live up to my anxiously driven expectations. Before arrival, I arranged an AirBnB in Old Havana for the night before our departure on the boat. This provided not only a less stressful travel day - not concerned with connecting with planes, vans or boats on time - but it also gave me some time in Havana to walk around and soak a little of it in. We were scheduled to be on the live-aboard (mothership) for the remainder of the week.

The evening of our arrival my fishing partner and I got a couple of drinks at El Floridita, a famous bar and favorite of Ernest Hemingway, while live music at the entrance kept people dancing. Then later we sat next to Clive Owen during a relaxed dinner. Once finished, we parted ways for the night and I took the long walk home listening to live music coming out from the various bars and clubs. Stopping at times to listen, I began to see why Havana has long been a place people come to do just this...and the fishing hasn't even started yet.

Fly Fishing Cuba Bonefish Permit Tarpon(old havana near the main port)

The Canarreos is a section of cayes, flats, lagoons, and channels, that all interconnect from Cayo Largo westerly towards Isla de la Juventud. Our trip would take us from the most eastern point of Cayo Largo westerly to IDJ. This would be our area of interest and would take us about a week to get from one side to the other and back. As we progress, the geography changes and so does the fishing. At the beginning, in Cayo Largo, it is more recognized as a bonefish and permit area. Then as we move west, we will hit Isla de la Juventud, some of the most famous tarpon water in the Caribbean. With a sprinkling of consistent bonefish waters in all areas, the fishing is always showing you something new.Fly Fishing Cuba Bonefish Permit TarponOur first day on the water we hit some great weather conditions. Quality sunlight the entire day and consistent easterly (prevailing) winds gave us an exciting day of feeling like one of us was always on a fish. At times, doubling up on big bonefish really made for a solid kickstart to our trip. Cayo Largo has expansive white sand flats and we ran into large sized bonefish that were happy, not spooky, and willing to take one of our spawning shrimp imitations on a long run well into our backing many times. Permit following stingrays waiting for easy meals gave us some good shots that first day as well, but none were landed. 

As the week continued, we moved our way west towards Isla de la Juventud and catch rates on tarpon seemed to intrinsically increase throughout the group. Those targeting tarpon in the channels and back mangroves reported daily catches on fish in the 10-40lb range. Bonefish continued to be the mainstay however with nice sized fish landed every day. This was true throughout the rest of the trip and was really the biggest take-a-way that I had from the trip in terms of fishing. At times, when the conditions presented themselves, it was some of the most fun bonefishing that I had ever done.Fly Fishing Cuba Bonefish Permit TarponFly Fishing Cuba Bonefish Permit TarponLike most winter weather in the Caribbean, we dealt with days of variable conditions. But conditions were never awful and at times were great. Rain only came one day for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and it was mostly managing the erratic local winds. So all in all, par for the course!

We found that larger shrimp imitations (in the #4-#2 size range) were really the only thing we needed for the bonefish. If it was generally the right size and was some sort of "spawning shrimp" pattern, it would likely be well received. I found that orange (yes its my favorite bonefish and permit color), was also key.Bonefish in CubaAt the end of each day, we would meet up with the mothership to where it had made anchor. During the days while we were fishing the boat would make its trip to the next spot for the night. This provided a stationary home base for us to relax, sleep, etc. at the end of the day. Late afternoon/evenings gave us time to tinker with riggings for the next day. A lot of times our guide would tell us to switch out a floating line for an intermediate or sinking, vice-a-versa, or something similar to help us dial-in the specifics for the following day. The flats boats were simply stashed along the shoreline nearby and retrieved in the morning which made for easy and seamless mornings. Further, our morning commutes were never long as the live-a-board was always very close to our spots.Fly Fishing Cuba Bonefish Tarpon PermitAs we worked our way back east towards Cayo Largo during the second half of the week, it was interesting to see and fish some of the waters we had done so previously. On a related note, on a sustainability and conservation side of things, it was encouraging to also see the consistent regulation of laws and standards. For instance most of their fishing water is divided into sections such as Zone 1, Zone 2, etc. On one occasion as we were passing by a flat on our way to another, I spotted a school of tailing bonefish. "Nice school of bonefish over there" I said..."Indeed, but we can't fish there today, that's Zone 6 and we are letting that one rest for a while. Keep the fish happy..." said Frankie our guide. 

Fly Fishing for bonefish in Cuba
The Canarreos proved to be a fascinating area. I was impressed with the amount of different types of water that we were fishing. Various types of flats and geography made our days always challenging. What made this trip as unique as it is was certainly has a lot to do with the quality of the water and environment. We commented regularly at how healthy the system looked...various fish life along the colorful coral and ample amount of other marine life from stingrays to flamingos were reflections of the surrounding area.
The "National Geographic Channel" moment of the trip happened at the very end of one of the days. A deeply swung tarpon fly in a deep blue channel within sight of the mothership came tight. I saw a nice tarpon jump out of the water shaking its head. No sooner had I looked down to make sure my line was clearing my feet, that I hear our guide say: "shit, shark!" - I then look up to see a large 6-7ft spinner shark on the surface making havoc with the tarpon. The shark's flexed abdomen being highlighted by the setting sun on the glimmering surface of the water while it took stabs at the tarpon was comically wild. After the top three sections of my fishing partner's rod came flying off (he had the rod with the sinking line), retrieved, and then eventually after a brief fight with the shark and (about 75% of) a tarpon the leader broke from shark teeth. Although Frankie, our guide, was kindly disappointed initially because of the lost tarpon. We ensured him it was quite the visual scene and was well worth the price of admittance, plus, we had a good moment to talk about over a drink later.
The last days of our week consisted of traveling back to our original destination for about 1.5 days of fishing the Cayo Largo area. Although my fishing partner and I were mostly targeting bonefish and permit, and everyone has different goals and expectations, our guides did a great of job keeping our group on fishable water and specifically geared towards what we wanted to fish for.

We are hosting another trip to Cuba! Join us!

- See the trip details HERE! - 

Check out our Instagram video of this trip HERE!

Fly Fishing in Cuba for Bonefish Permit Tarpon
Fly Fishing in Cuba

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Video: Fly Tying - BULKhead Deceiver

Video: Fly Tying - BULKhead Deceiver

A cousin of the Bucktail Deceiver, this is another pattern from the hands of Bob Popovics. With a unique use of the bucktail fibers in the tying, denser heads/ties can be created to achieve various effects. These techniques equal into an incredible movement to the fly and realistic profile. Here we take you step-by-step through the process on how to tie a BULKhead Deceiver.

Check out the video and material list below!

Tying: Joe Webster / Video+Music: Josh Thelin

Material List:

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