Fly Fishing in Central America
When it comes to fly fishing in Central America, there is no typical target species or standard package we organize, every single trip is different because the species, venues, and tactics are so incredibly diverse. Our fly fishing vacations can range from wading miles of pristine salt water flats in Belize for bonefish and permit, fly fishing for sailfish in Guatemala, tarpon and marlin in Costa Rica, yellow-fin tuna in Panama, and even freshwater float trips down jungle rivers or on the Panama Canal itself. Read below to learn more about where to enjoy Central America’s best fly fishing, then trust our decades of local expertise to plan your customized fly fishing vacation and see why nearly 40% of our anglers are repeat & referral guests!
Where is the Best Fly Fishing in Central America?
Asking where is the best fly fishing in Central America can be like trying to come to a consensus on which country in the world produces the best wine – it completely depends on your personal preference! This tiny corner of the world is blessed with an incredible amount of biodiversity and marine life thanks to two oceans, pristine jungle rivers, the world’s second longest barrier reef, and three of the four atolls found in the Western Hemisphere. Essentially anything we fish for here we can fly fish for as well, so that means some of the world’s most prized game fish are found in Central America. From big game offshore fishing to the saltwater flats to light tackle freshwater species, fly fishing in Central America truly has something to offer from the novice to the battle-tested expert.
Central America’s smallest country is also the most popular among saltwater fly anglers. Home to miles of pristine saltwater flats, Belize is one of the best countries in the world to target the holy trinity of flats fishing – bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Protected since 2008, all three species are strictly catch and release so the populations are robust and the habitat is dreamlike. For us fly anglers, few things can top the experience of spotting tailing fish on the flats, slowly polling or stealthily stalking them until you are within casting distance, making the perfect cast and then waiting for the tug on the other end of the line. Protected by the world’s second longest barrier reef, the waters along Belize’s coast are warm, crystal clear, and stocked with marine life. Whether you are trying to pull off the elusive Inshore Grand Slam or simply want to land your first bonefish, permit, or tarpon on the fly, few places can top the combination of friendly people, experienced English-speaking guides, and a well preserved fishery like Belize.
Belize’s Mesoamerican Reef stretches over 600 miles and is home to over 500 species of fish, so there is certainly more to target than just bonefish, permit and tarpon. It would be odd to spend all day fly fishing the flats and not see a large barracuda patiently idling nearby waiting to strike an unexpecting fish. Due to their incredible bursts of speed these can be terrific fun, just be sure to have a wire leader so you don’t lose your favorite fly on their razor-sharp teeth. Another fish that is growing in popularity among fly anglers are trigger fish, which are aggressive by nature and make for colorful photos on a sunny day. You’ll often find schools of small jacks patrolling the flats, and these notorious fighters are fun practice for novices or another species to add to your list. Last but not least, Belize’s tropical coast is lined with mangroves and lagoons that can offer great action on snapper and snook.
Fly Fish Permit Alley
Fly Fishing at El Pescador
Fly Fish at T-Flats
Fly Fish at Tarpon Caye
Best of Belize
Grand Slam Placencia
Ruins to Reefs
Few countries on Earth can offer the variety of fly fishing venues and species like Costa Rica. With a Pacific Coastline over 600 miles long, a Caribbean Coastline over 125 miles long, the 33 sq mile Lake Arenal, and jungle rivers we have options to fish 15 wts on saltwater or 5 wts on freshwater. Not only do we have the option to target big game like billfish and tarpon as well as local exotic freshwater species, we have the ability and expertise to combine the different options and venues into a unique package so you can do it all. Since sport fishing has been attracting international anglers for 40 years, the best fly fishing captains and boats have separated themselves from the field and are always in high demand.
The wide open billfishing along the Pacific Coast is what put Costa Rica on the map back in the 80s. Double digit sailfish bites are common during the peak billfish season and Costa Rica always has great numbers of blue, black, and striped marlin. Costa Rica has long been one of the best places on Earth to try to catch your first billfish on the fly thanks to it’s calm waters and healthy billfish populations. With the emergence of overnight trips to the FADs (distant offshore seamounts), Costa Rica can almost offer a guarantee that you’ll have a shot at a marlin on the fly. Once you are offshore there will opportunities to fly fish for other pelagic species like dorado (mahi) and yellow-fin tuna if they are feeding at the surface. The inshore fly fishing in Costa Rica offers a variety of species, but it tends to be much more challenging than offshore fishing and involves a lot of blind casting. For those with patience and the ability to cast 60-100 ft over ad over again, you can be rewrarded with up to twenty different species, including the ever popular roosterfish.
It seems that no matter where you are from or what previous fly fishing experience you’ve had, one species that is on every fly anglers list is the mighty tarpon. Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast offers world class tarpon fishing because the population here is not highly migratory like other Caribbean destinations so they are always here. Be careful what you wish for because you won’t find a lot of juvenile tarpon hanging out in protected mangroves, you need to be mentally and physically prepared to do battle with 80-120 lb adult tarpon in the open ocean. Due to the size of the tarpon we recommend 12-14 wt rods with 100 lb shock tippet. Costa Rica boasts historic tarpon fishing lodges and English-speaking guides that have been jumping tarpon for over 30 years.
Last but not least, Costa Rica offers some truly pristine freshwater fly fishing venues. Set at the base of the towering Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal spans 33 sq miles and offers incredible habitat and structure for tilapia, machaca, and the prized rainbow bass. On the Caribbean Coast the tarpon and snook attract most anglers, but the fly fishing in the freshwater lagoons and canals offers beautiful scenery and a variety of exotic species like rainbow bass, machaca, mojarra, and tropical gar. Our favorite venue for freshwater fly fishing in Costa Rica are our float trips down jungle rivers. Here the main target is the machaca, which has been nicknamed ‘mini tarpon’ due to it’s silver scales and it’s propensity to take off into the air after being hooked. Costa Rica is so diverse, there are even rainbow trout in the cold streams up in the mountains. These fish were stocked a long time ago and/or escaped from nearby trout farms, but the wild ones don’t typically get bigger than six inches and are generally not worth going out of your way to target with all the other options we have to enjoy.
Fly Fish Quepos
Fly Fish Costa Rica
Fly Fishing In The Jungle
Los Suenos Fishing
Coast 2 Coast
Fly Fishing for Tarpon
Guatemala is known as the “sailfish capital of the world” so it should come as no surprise that it is one of the top places in the world to fly fish for billfish. Our top fishing lodges in Guatemala see an average of 15 sailfish per day throughout the entire year, so no matter if you are trying for your 1st or 100th sailfish on the fly you’ll get plenty of chances. When fly fishing for sailfish in Guatemala, a 12 wt – 14 wt is ideal because billfish rods are used more for fighting the fish rather than long casts. Most casts are no more than 20-30 ft as the mate will tease the fish right to the back of the boat for you then rip the teaser away when you are ready to cast. Your fly should be presented to the side and slightly behind the fish so eats it swimming away from you which makes setting the hook easier. While sailfish is the main attraction in Guatemala, there will be chances for blue and black marlin as well. A standard billfish fly leader is built with 80-100 lb shock tippet and a 20 lb tippet. The most popular sailfish flies are pink squid patterns with a foam popper head. Our fishing lodges will provide all fly rods, reels, leader, tippet, and flies for you so you do not need to bring any of your own gear to fly fish in Guatemala.
Sailfish on the Fly
Best of Guatemala
Guatemala Fishing Weekend
Guatemala Fly Fishing
Highlights of Guatemala
Belize & Guatemala Combo
Available Species Fly Fishing in Central America
With two oceans, the world’s second longest barrier reef, pristine saltwater flats, three atolls, and over 2,500 miles of tropical coastline the fly fishing in Central America is as diverse and productive as you’ll find anywhere in the world. From Offshore Grand Slams to Inshore Grand Slams to freshwater fishing for exotic fish you’ve never seen before, Central America is a fly anglers dream come true. Below is a list of some, but not all, of the most popular species that we target when fly fishing.