Guanaja Honduras Trip Report
A few months back Matt Heron and I were thinking of places to host a trip. We had three main objectives when selecting a destination: grand slams, permit, and tailing fish. There are several places that we considered but one place stuck out in my mind more than any other. Part of the draw was a trip to a place a little less traveled and a little more off the grid. We rolled the dice, booked the trip and prayed to the fishing gods that our gamble would pay off.
One red eye flight, a few airplane shots, one layover in Houston, and we finally made it to Roatan, Honduras. Maybe we were being a little greedy by trying to fly in a day early to fish in Roatan because those same fishing gods we asked for a good trip sent us some high winds and rain when we arrived. Our plan to find a permit on Roatan was spoiled. What do two fly fishermen do when they can’t fish in the middle of Central America? Find a bar of course. The nice thing about being caught in a rare storm on Roatan is that the island is heavily traveled by dive tourists. Everyone we met on the West End of Roatan was very friendly and welcoming. It was a blessing in disguise getting hit by that storm because we got to see more of Roatan then had expected.
The rest of our group had met up with us along with the lodge manager and back to the airport we went. We hoped on the puddle jumping Cessna and away we went to Guanaja. Guanaja is an incredible island about the size of Lake Tahoe with a population of 8000 islanders. The island has a grand total of 8 cars on it with very few roads. The preferred method of travel is by water taxi or ponga. Most of the natives have never seen the entirety of their own island. These are some very friendly people who mainly survive on the money they make from fishing boats and diving for lobster.
When we landed in Guanaja we were greeted by our guides from the lodge. We got rigged up right there at the airport and away we finally got to go fishing on our fishing trip. Our guide took us to some flats on the north side of the island. The weather was great, clear blue skies, light wind, and great visibility. As we were motoring over to go check out a flat our guide Darrin stopped the boat suddenly and told us to grab the permit rod. Matt jumped on the deck and started stripping out line. It was a single renegade fish that was happily feeding around us. Matt patiently waited for him to get within casting distance and made that fish eat his Kung Fu Crab on his second cast of the trip.
Matt went on to battle his fish for a little over an hour. The reason it took this long was because this was the biggest permit that anyone on the island had ever hooked and it happened to be on a 8wt. That fish put Matt into his backing at least a dozen times if not more. We finally landed the fish, screamed out a battle cry, took a million pictures and released it. The smiles on our faces were priceless, the stars had aligned and now it was time to find Matt a bone fish. We had worked up an appetite after that fish so we paused for a bit and ate some lunch. Matt was so exhausted and still shaking from the fish that he could barely hold his fork.
The bone fishing here is a lot like spring creek fishing back in the states. This fish are willing but not fools. Delicate, accurate and quick are your three best friends with these fish. It was not too much longer after a few groups that Matt hooked and landed a 4lb bone. At this point Matt had completed two parts of the grand slam so the rest of the day was his to find a tarpon. We checked out some back creeks and lagoons for rolling fish without any luck. Finally in a back lagoon we started to see some fish rolling. They were baby tarpon but in the rules of a slam, it is still a slam no matter the size. The fish may have been a baby but the cast to get a fly to him was not for beginners. Imagine a 70’ cast through tight mangroves that needs to kick about 10’ to the right 55’ into the cast. Yeah, you will probably need to read that again and then you will realize the difficulty in getting these tarpon. After a few attempts at this cast Matt had a fish agree to eat his fly and he landed his tarpon. It is not every day that you complete your first grand slam but in Guanaja Matt sure didn’t waste any time.
The next few days we continued to get fed like kings and fish our butts off. We had a few clouds which made it tough to see the fish tailing. The entire group were telling similar stories about getting middle fingers from permit, catching some bonefish and jacks. Every boat was getting decent shots and had a few eats from permit but nothing was sticking. After many attempts I finally got a trigger fish to eat a fly. This was one of the most bull dog fights I have ever had with a fish. It went on several slow runs and then would just turn sideways and refuse to move. By the time I landed him the hook was nearly straight.
After dinner and incredible lobster dinner on Wednesday night we all sat on the deck with cocktails and a bucket full of chum. After about a half hour of chumming some remains of a tuna we had a few reef sharks circling the lodge. It was not long after that we had a shark on the gear rod taking line off the reel like it was nothing. We snapped a few pictures and released them back into the salt.
The lodge is everything a fisherman could ask for, surrounded 360 degrees of flats with resident bone fish and cruising permit. Every morning we all woke up at 5:30am to watch the sun come up and have some extra shots at nervous water and tailing fish.
Matt and I fished together on with Edwin as our guide. He is the lodges longest employed guide who can spot fish in any light and wind. Personality wise Edwin is night and day from Darrin. While Darrin is very quiet Edwin is the polar opposite. Edwin is very animated and keeps you on your toes. His excitement when fish are with in casting range will make your heart pump even harder.
Matt and I took turns on the deck for the first part of the morning. About an hour and half into the morning Edwin spotted a small group of permit cruising by some docks. Matt made a few casts at the group and finally one turned and tracked the Kung Fu crab. We saw the fish put his head down and take the fly. Matt gave the fish a good strip set and they were connected. The fish took off in a flash and he was into his backing in a matter of seconds. After a pretty quick fight the second permit of the trip had been landed.
A little while later I had a battle with an incredible battle with a refusing permit. This one was in the 20lb range and after a few casts I got him to eat once. The odd thing about this fish was it refused to eat another fly and refused to spook away. In the course of an hour I threw the kitchen sink at this fish. We went through 18 different flies and a countless amount of casts. When you here someone say a permit gave them a middle finger, this fish gave me the middle finger and stole my lunch money.
We ate lunch with one of the other groups and told our stories from the morning. Apparently the other boat had some odd luck with a group of permit. They had some fish working and chasing their fly when out of no wear an airplane flew in low casted a shadow on the fish and they vanished.
After lunch we chased some bonefish. Matt and I both landed a few, so again Matt was on pace for another slam. We motored over to another lagoon that held baby tarpon and after a few casts Matt had completed his second slam of the week. I think must be good luck for him when it comes to grand slams. If anyone is looking to get a grand slam, I suggest they pay for me to go on their trips and just have me sit in their boat for the day.
This was the final fishing day of the trip. We chased some permit in the morning a few small shots. The highlight of the day was going to lunch at a German restaurant on the island that is only accessible by boat. They prepared a feast for us with brats, mashed potatoes, and authentic German beer. I suggest anyone fishing in Guanaja make at least one trip to this place. The name of the restaurant is The Manatee and the owners will take great care of you in so many ways.
We left the island headed back to airport on Guanaja. It was a odd feeling leaving, I was not ready to go home. This is the type of place that as soon as you get there you start day dreaming on how you could make a move and liver here permanently. What made things reassuring is that we were able to secure another week in March of 2014. Matt and I will return we already have a few spots filled but there are a few still open.
When we got to the airport in Roatan we met up with some fisherman who had been on Guanaja on a do-it-yourself trip. They had run into some passport issues and their fishing was what they described as average. I respect the idea of a do-it-yourself trip but when it comes to salt water fishing having a guide spotting fish with you is priceless. The great thing about the FF Guanaja lodge is that they are the only place out there that has full time guides.
We could not have asked for a better trip, well I guess I could have caught a permit to ice the cake. I think the word epic is thrown around way too much, truly you can only have a handful of epic things happen in your life. Witnessing Matt get two slams that same week can only be described as epic.
March 15, 2014
We have rebooked for another week of tailing fish next year. We currently have 4 open spots but those won’t last long. Give us a call if you want to book your spot. 916.722.1055