BY Jen Ripple
Last November I had the opportunity to head to Punta Gorda, Belize for an Orvis photoshoot. It took me all of a millisecond to say yes; for two reasons. One, what Orvis is doing for women in fly fishing is so far above and beyond that I was happy to put my stamp of approval on association with them and two, it’s Belize. Punta Gorda, Belize is known for its permit flats and ever since I can remember it’s been on my must-do list.
We headed to Belize on election day. It seemed like an appropriate time to be getting the hell out of dodge. The group met up in Belize City, with the exception of a few who had gone on before. The layover there was full of local beer and laughter. All of us were excited about the possibility of catching permit on the fly.
A couple puddle jump stops later and we arrived in Punta Gorda. This teeny tiny little airport is exactly what you’d expect. English speaking locals who are kind-hearted and friendly. We would be staying at Bellcampo Lodge, an Orvis-endorsed lodge, for the next five days, and they were there waiting to meet us in their sweet green Cruisers. (I now have one of these on my bucket list!)
From that moment on, everything about Punta Gorda was first class. The town is quaint and welcoming. The staff knew my name from the moment I walked into the lodge. They welcomed us warmly with handwritten notes, water bottles and fresh made drinks. Our cabins were huge and inviting, comfortable accommodations is an understatement. On top of all of that, the Lodge boasts farm-to-table fresh food made by a world-class chef and they aren’t kidding. The food at the Lodge was to die for. Curried conch, spicy snapper ceviche, garden lasagna and farm pork were just a few of the items on the menu. And … this was all before ever setting foot on the boat. The adventure had begun.
We would be fishing with the famous Garbutt Brothers. Well-known for their knowledge of the Punta Gorda flats, their guide service has been the topic of many a fly fishing film. I had the privilege of being in Oliver’s boat. Oliver’s sense of humor was one that I warmed up to quickly and it wasn’t long before I was calling him the best pole dancer I had ever met.
We fished a couple days before the super moon and fishing was tough to say the least. The tide was not moving like normal and permit in the mangroves and on the reefs were elusive at best. While we saw very few permit, and no one in the group had the privilege of bringing one to hand, we still managed to put trigger fish and a lot of bonefish in the boat.
We fished three days and on the fourth took time to explore the area. We jumped off rock cliffs into cold clear water. We went to a festival in town. We laughed a lot and smelled the warm salt air. We drank farm fresh cocktails every night and put on a lot of sunscreen. We got stuck in a torrential downpour and searched hours for fish. We walked coral reefs and swam on the beaches of a private island; the only other inhabitants at the time were a flock of chickens.
And all too soon the time came to an end. New friendships that would extend past the Punta Gorda borders were made, pictures and video were taken and as I headed to the plane that last morning, I looked back and knew this would not be the last time I would see PG. Until next time …