Fly Fish Guanaja

Trip Report By: Schuyler Marshall

Photography By: Will Graham

FLY FISH GUANAJA TRIP REPORT

Let me apologize in advance if this post sounds giddy or like I’m gushing about Guanaja, Honduras. To be honest, I am. We had an incredible week down there. The fishing was beyond great, which can make a trip even if the other elements are lacking. But the real reason we cannot add Fly Fish Guanaja to our catalogue fast enough — the awesome vibes at the lodge, on the boat, and on the island in general. We were having the best time even early in the trip, before the fishing really caught fire.

We have gotten a taste of Guanaja while en route to the Faraway Cayes (Fly Fish Guanaja is the parent operation), but this was our first full week fishing there. It was also my first international trip that had not been canceled since the pandemic began. One of my best fishing buddies came with me. And, we hit it off right away with the guides and other anglers at the lodge. Maybe the convergence of those factors blessed the trip from the outset, or maybe it was pure luck. Surely the rested fishery due to the pandemic factored in as well. But whatever the cause, we almost broke the scoreboard.

All eight anglers at the lodge landed permit, and three of us landed multiple permit. Of course we had additional eats and fish come unbuttoned. Most weighed in the teens, and we saw plenty of others over twenty lbs. But the action did not stop with permit. Five different anglers Grand Slammed, and one of those was a Super Slam. The bonefish ranged from 3-8 lbs with the average a healthy 4-5 lbs — on par with the Bahamas and much bigger than almost everywhere else in Central America. In other words, REAL bonefish. The tarpon were a blast as well, with most in the 15-30 lb class and caught on the flats (one of them while wading). We did not have the best tides for snook, but landed a number of them anyway. On top of that, we landed triggerfish, barracuda, and several species of snapper and jacks, including Mutton Snapper and Horse-eye Jack.

I don’t have to tell any saltwater anglers out there that those are staggering numbers. But in saltwater fly fishing, numbers really don’t — and shouldn’t — mean much. I’m happy to report that the story behind the numbers is even better. We had shots at permit tailing on turtle grass, cruising over sand, waking, mudding, riding rays, we even had shots at permit rolling and eating on the surface — in other words, almost every imaginable scenario. We had permit eat a variety of crab and shrimp patterns. I had a shot where the fly hung on some floating sargasso weed and the fish rose up from 4-5 feet down like a big trout eating a dry. My partner landed one that followed the fly all the way to the boat and ate inside the rod tip. He and I each landed two permit and grand slammed on the same day. It still seems surreal, especially because on the way back to the lodge that day, another boat handed us two coconuts topped off with rum! Talk about the fish gods smiling on us.

My only regret on the trip is that our photographers could not make it. So, we do not have any photos of the new lodge. But, that just means we’ll have to return asap to capture it with a lens.

The Fly Fish Guanaja lodge had been moved since my last trip. It used to be on a private cay on the reef around Guanaja, secluded with a wonderful ambience. However, keeping the cay stocked with supplies proved a major logistical challenge, as well as inconvenient for the guides and staff. Now the lodge is located on Guanaja proper, on a waterfront lot in a tiny marina in Mangrove Bight, the settlement where the guides and staff live. It is also closer to most of the fishing, with immediate access to the north side (where the new lodge is located) but also to the canal through the middle of the island that provides access to the south shoreline and reef.

A bonus to the new lodge is that it includes a private ferry to transfer clients from Roatan. Clients used to fly internationally to Roatan, then fly from Roatan to Guanaja in a small plane, and then take a ground transfer to the lodge. Now, after clearing customs, clients are driven a few minutes to the ferry boat after which they cruise directly to the dock in front of the lodge. The ferry does not save time, but it is a far more enjoyable trip from Roatan to the lodge (especially if you dislike small aircraft).

The lodge buildings are brand new, including a main gathering area with a bar and dining tables, plus five separate cabanas just a few steps from the dock. The cabanas are spacious with two queen beds each, kitchenettes, and covered porches. The air conditioning is cold, the showers are hot, and the rooms are cleaned daily. There is complimentary daily laundry service as well. The wifi is good. We were never served the same meal twice, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Overall the food can be described as hearty and delicious home cooking.

We cannot say enough good things about the guides and staff. As the numbers above suggest, the guides absolutely know how to consistently put anglers on fish and in the best position possible to have success. But more importantly, they are tons of fun to fish with. They strike a perfect balance between being hard working, competitive with each other, and passionate about fishing, while at the same time always joking, having fun, and seeming not to take it too seriously. They have a way of putting the angler in a good headspace regardless of the fishing. The guides and staff are brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends — a big family that make anglers feel welcome. After fishing and cleaning the pangas, rods, and gear, they tend to come back to the lodge for beers and fish stories. I am just as excited to go back to hang out with them as I am to fish Guanaja again.

Guanaja as a fishery can obviously be very productive. The main island is about twelve miles long and lined on all sides with flats that hold all the gamefish species at various times. The barrier reef on the south side includes a number of cayes connected by shallow turtle grass, sand, and coral rubble flats, adding a lot of extra fishable terrain. The main island has plenty of topography, including an 1,150 foot peak. That is higher than the highest point on Roatan, an island four times as long with almost twice the surface area. The size and height of Guanaja not only provide dramatic scenery, but play an important role in the fishery as well. The elevation translates into freshwater streams, springs, and seeps all around the island. Over time, the runoff has formed mangrove lagoons and estuaries along the shore, and the streams continue to supply them with fresh water. This means habitat filled with shrimp, crabs, baitfish, lobster, and other fish food. With the surrounding turtle grass flats and coral reef beyond, it is a fishery that has it all, concentrating fish and constantly beckoning them into the shallows.

As mentioned above, we will not have a proper destination page for Fly Fish Guanaja until we gather good imagery of the lodge, but that should not stop you from booking a trip. The lodge is reasonably priced, typically operates with only 6-8 anglers per week, and is a year-round fishery. I cannot wait to go back, again and again.

For more information or to book your trip, please contact Schuyler Marshall at 512-680-8003 or [email protected]