About the time I cinched my knot, I heard Dion’s voice say, “Look! You see the gold one?” Even though the idea of a golden bonefish specific to Turneffe added to its allure, when I’d heard about it, I’d never believed it. But when I looked up and allowed my eyes to follow Dion’s finger, I couldn’t help but say in disbelief, “I’ll be damned!” Just as it was described to me, a single bonefish that looked as though its maker had colored it with a yellow highlighter was leading the school. As with the group of bones we saw the first day, we didn’t get an eat out of this one, but once again, that goldish-color fish will be tattooed in my brain forever.
After a little more wading, we all went our separate ways, and out of nowhere, I spotted several small fish with black tails nervously darting across the flat. Sure enough, they were permit. They were so frisky it was impossible to get a beat on them. So basically, I had to roll the dice and choose one direction to walk in order to flank them. All I could do at that point was hope their internal compass would cooperate with my position. I took a leap of faith that tipped the scale in my favor. The three permit simultaneously made a hairpin turn to the right, which gave me a perfect 11 o’clock shot at the lead fish. When the fly dropped, all three fish charged with a vengeance. It was at that moment I knew one of them was going to eat. I stripped long and slow and kept the fly only inches out of reach. As soon as I stopped and let the fly drop, I saw the black tail of the leader of the pack break the surface and felt weight behind my next strip. I think I caught the world’s smallest permit. But, nonetheless, it was a permit and could very well be the most memorable one I’ll ever catch.
Just like I felt deep down that my decision to head right on that small group of tiny permit was right, and just like Hayes’ faith in his business instincts paid off, I firmly believe that, as the Turneffe Atoll Trust plan continues to develop, the resource will remain and will likely become even more pristine than it already is. I trust that, with this plan in place, my children’s children can enjoy the same beauty, uniqueness and outstanding fishing that I have.
Man with a Vision
In 1977 Craig Hayes traveled to Belize on a whim. After many return trips over the period of a few years, he decided that it would be fun to run some kind of business there. While he never set out to create a bonefish lodge, an article he read in Sports Illustrated about bonefishing on Turneffe sparked the idea. Turneffe Flats may have had a very meager, very rough start, but over the years it has developed into a rather posh lodge, an accomplishment Hayes credits to making every mistake at least twice.
When he’s not overseeing the day-to-day operations of the lodge, he’s working on his other passion, which, wouldn’t you know, is based on Belize: the Turneffe Atoll Trust.
As the lodge developed, Hayes began thinking about doing more to preserve the atoll. While Hayes was making his plans, Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, and Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, started 1% for the Planet. Liking the idea of taking a percentage of sales and putting it toward the environment, Hayes felt the concept was perfect. To facilitate this, he founded the Turneffe Atoll Trust, so now his donation through 1% primarily goes toward conservation measures right in his Belizian backyard. The trust’s biggest effort in years past has been instituting a law that completely protects bonefish, permit and tarpon in Belize. This is an effort that has been extremely successful and is even being emulated by other countries. More recently the trust’s main objective has been to establish the Turneffe Atoll as Belize’s largest marine reserve. The five-year management plan that the Turneffe Atoll Trust funded and helped to develop included a declaration that would officially make this so, and it was passed on Nov. 22, 2012.
Booking Your Trip
If you would like to find out even more information about how you can arrange your own trip to one of the Caribbean’s most diverse resources, contact the booking agencies listed below:
Frontiers Travel: www.frontierstravel.com