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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