5 Saltwater Destinations You Should Fly Fish This Winter

Fall seems to have already gone and winter is here, mornings are cold, evenings are dark and tropical fly fishing destinations sound pretty appetizing right about now. For the trout bum, saltwater fly fishing is a perfect way to keep up with the sport and try something new. There are a variety of different saltwater destinations around the world. It can be hard to choose from the variety of locations, below you will find 5 saltwater destinations that we recommend checking out this winter.

Photo: Jason Paez

The online fly shop and retail store is fully stocked with saltwater fly fishing gear. From larger fly rods, reels, and tropical fly lines. To the variety of different flies we have you covered. Browse our saltwater selection HERE.

Xcalak, Mexico

Photo: Greg Harvey

The Yucatan in Mexico offers some of the greatest saltwater fly fishing on this planet and the fishing village of Xcalak, Mexico is a great place to start. The area is known for its productive permit fishery but there is plenty of tarpon, snook, bonefish, jacks, and other fish to go around. Travel to get to Xcalak, Mexico involves flying into Cancun and taking a shuttle or renting a car for the 4-5 hour drive down south to Xcalak. You can also charter a flight to Mahahual, it is more expensive but can cut down on time spent driving.

Photo: Shaun Twomey

The guides at Vail Valley Anglers have been staying at the XFlats Lodge in Xcalak. Which is owned by a fellow Vail Valley fly fishing guide. The guides have reported productive saltwater fly fishing, with many of them catching their first permit on the fly down there. There are also some options for DIY but this can be challenging if you aren’t familiar with the tides or area.

The village is also a great place to do some diving and snorkeling and there are some day trips that you can take in the area. You can fish here year-round, tides do play a factor in fly fishing the flats, so do some planning ahead of time to make sure you are there during prime tides.

East Cape Baja, Mexico

Photo: Jim Mallos

Another recent favorite destination for the fly fishing guides at Vail Valley Anglers is the East Cape of Baja, Mexico. If you have never been down to Baja, you need to go. The desert peninsula of Baja is a common area for Americans to go to during the colder months. Where the pace of life is slow and there are not too many worries other than chasing fish around the ocean or finding waves to surf.

Baja can be split up into two sides the West Pacific side and then the East Cape side. The West Pacific side of the peninsula is more popular for surfers as the surf can be quite rough and it can make fly fishing challenging. The East Cape side of the Penisula is where a large concentration of fly fishers and fly fishing guides and operations have existed. The magnificent Sea of Cortez boasts rich marine life, providing for a sustainable fishery. You can chase roosters on the beach or head out in a panga to catch roosterfish, mahi mahi, yellowtail, and other pelagic species on the fly.

Travel to Baja is pretty easy from the United States, there are a couple international airports on the peninsula the largest being Cabo San Lucas. You can find affordable flights to Cabo and then either rent a car or take a shuttle to get to the destination where you are going. Some popular destinations include La Paz, Bahia de Los Suenos, La Ventana, Los Barriles, and Loretto.

DIY is possible but it is worth hiring a guide for a day in a boat. The best time of year to go down to the East Cape is generally from April-June when the ocean temperatures have warmed enough for the larger fish to have moved into the shallower water. Baja is a great place for groups, couples, and in-experienced saltwater anglers.

Placencia, Belize

Photo: Jason Paez

Southern Belize is a permit paradise. Just south of the Yucatan of Mexico is the country of Belize. It is no bigger than the state of Massachusetts and offers some of the greatest flats fishing in the world. The country has the largest living barrier reef (second largest reef) that spans the whole country’s coastline. The reef is home to all sorts of marine life including permit, tarpon, and bonefish. Which are all protected under strict catch and release regulations.

There is one international airport in Belize City where you can find somewhat affordable flights from the United States. From there you can hop on a commuter flight down to the sleepy old fishing village of Placencia, Belize. The village has had an uptick in tourism and is now bustling with local restaurants, bars, and small hotels along the beach. There are a variety of places to stay in the village and a car really isn’t necessary.

As for the fishing, you definitely do need to hire a fly fishing guide to get out to the fishing grounds where the reef is. It’s typically a 30-minute boat ride to get out there. And once out there it is a flats fishing paradise, with the most common target species being Permit.

If you did want to DIY or be closer to the fishing grounds, you can stay on an island or caye. One we recommend is the Blue Horizon Lodge. Many tourists will do a couple days in Placencia and then a couple days out on a caye. There are also plenty of non-angling activities like snorkeling, diving, and land tours out of Placencia, Belize.

For more info on fishing in this area be sure to check the previous blog, “Destination Spotlight Salt Water Fly Fishing – Southern Belize”.

Andros Island, Bahamas

Photo: Jake Wood

This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Bahamas. Fly fishing down in the Bahamas is considered a must for anyone getting into saltwater fly fishing. Most notably known for its bonefishing, the Bahamas has expansive flats where bonefish thrive. These bonefish are the perfect target for saltwater anglers alike from the in-experienced to the most experienced. The Bahamas also does have permit, tarpon, and other species to target on a fly rod.

Photo: Jason Paez

Getting down to the Bahamas is generally pretty easy with many different options to fly into the international airport in Nassau. Then just a quick commuter flight over to Andros which is the largest island in the Bahamas. Andros has a variety of different options for accommodations. From high-end lodges like the Mangrove Caye or Abaco Lodge to South Andros Island. You can also DIY pretty easily as there are vacation rentals available and the flats can be scouted on Google Earth prior.

Wessels, Australia

Photo: Chase Krueger

The newest and hottest saltwater destination on this list is definitely Wessels, Australia. And yes, it is the hardest to get to and the most expensive, but might be one of the coolest places to fly fish in the world. Located in the northern territory of Australia, the Wessels has some of the most untouched and pristine flats in the world.

Photo: Chase Krueger

VVA Ambassador Chase Krueger just returned from a trip with Aussie Fly Fisher and reported having some phenomenal fishing including catching many of the “Blue Bastards”. A flats species found only in this specific area of the world. There are also other species to target like Permit, Queenfish, Barramundi, Giant Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Coral Trout, Golden Trevally, Brassy Trevally, and Giant Herring. The area is only fished from a live-a-board vessel that is operated by Aussie Fly Fisher. Trip info can be found here to learn more about fishing this untouched fishery.

To Conclude:

Winter in Colorado can be a great time to plan a saltwater fly fishing trip. Who doesn’t like wandering around a beach with a fly rod in hand? Whether it may be a trip focused solely on fly fishing, or a family trip with non-anglers the five destinations listed above are all worth looking into. Swing by the shop to ask our recommendation on where you should travel and be sure to stock up on saltwater fly fishing gear at the fly shop before embarking on your adventure.

Patrick Perry, Former Guide, and Content Contributor, @patperry