Don't go any lower. I am not sure how high the mountains are," said our pilot, Sonny Knowles, to my good friend Paul DePoo. Paul was handling the final approach into Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras in his King Air, and Sonny was offering helpful hints as we descended through the heavy cloud cover.
Fortunately, he was joking.
We landed, cleared customs and then took a short car ride to a dock where a launch waited to take us to our final destination, Mango Creek Lodge.
I was there to explore flats fishing opportunities with outfitter Jason Balogh of Honduras on the Fly. Paul and his wife, Marsha, were there to explore the underwater world off Roatan - arguably some of the world's best diving.
We settled into our bungalows at Mango Creek just in time for a cold beer and a quick trip out to the local flat (literally two minutes from the lodge) for a spot of bonefishing before the sun went down.
Over the next several days we caught plenty of bonefish in the 2- to 4-pound range, as well as tarpon to 15 pounds, and we had multiple shots at permit. It's a great, out-of-the-way location where you can kick back and enjoy an unspoiled corner of the Caribbean.
Located on the quiet, southern side of the island in Port Royal Bay, Mango Creek Lodge sits on 22 acres overlooking the water. Originally built as a luxury retreat and then expanded to accommodate 12 people, the resort makes the most of solar and wind-generated power and offers self-composting toilets, helping anglers leave as small an environmental footprint as possible.
While there, I stayed in one of the four colorful, over-water cabanas. They don't have air conditioning, but due to the unique cross-ventilating design, you don't really need it. With a ceiling fan I actually got chilly at night. Up the hill from the water, guests also may stay in one of three rooms that are part of the hillside lodge. Each building on the property is constructed of native hardwoods and is adorned with carvings and artwork by local artists.
Each night we enjoyed tropical seafood meals cooked by the resort staff headed by Miss Winnie. If you go, make sure you try the lobster tails or coconut shrimp, and top it off with a piece of her passion-fruit pie.
This was the first time that I've ever fished barrier-reef scenarios for bonefish and permit. The wading was fantastic for bones, but the permit were a little more finicky than usual. Having grown up fishing the larger fish on deeper flats and channels of the Florida Keys, these little guys in calf-deep water are maddening.
One word of advice: If you think you've got small enough bonefish and permit flies, think again. A good general rule when visiting locations like Roatan or other Caribbean flats destinations is this: "If you think your flies are small enough, drop down two more sizes."
Although bonefish and permit in the Florida Keys prefer larger flies, in the extreme shallows of these barrier-reef situations, stealth presentations are needed. If you can cast the smaller fly with pinpoint accuracy, you'll hook up without spooking fish.
Although we flew private, getting to Roatan is now an easy matter with commercial flights. Continental flies directly into Roatan, while Delta, American and TACA offer flights into San Pedro Sula on the mainland with connections to Roatan through La Ceiba.