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Turn and Burn Trip To Roatan

By Cole Burnham

Photos by Nick Kelley and Cole Burnham

I arrived back at La Pescadora Lodge after a day of searching for “pinche palametas”, also known as Permit. As I walked in the lodge, I saw a message on my phone from my friend Nick Kelley. He wanted to know how the fishing was and if I was available to help him on a project for Yeti in Roatan Honduras next week? It was February 24th. After a quick glance at my calendar, I replied with “I’m in”. He messaged back with “haha, lots of moving parts. Will let you know tomorrow”. That is how this adventure started.

After another awesome day on the water, I returned to the lodge to find a new message “I’ll need your passport info”. Boom, Roatan was happening. After a couple spotty wifi calls, flights were booked and I was heading to Honduras in 7 days. A ‘turn and burn’ stop at home in Sheridan. I was able to get a negative COVID test (required to enter Honduras). I did some laundry, re-packed and before I knew it I was back in the Denver airport. It was here that I met up with Nick and was able to inquire about the details of our trip. We were to meet Yeti ambassador Jako Lucas upon arrival on the island of Roatan. The three of us were to complete the task at hand, which was for Nick to produce photos of the new Yeti luggage and Jako and I were to help get it done. More importantly, We also had some time set aside for fishing.

Traveling to Roatan is very quick and simple. After flying to Houston, Roatan was just shy of three hours. It was super easy, and empty flights in today’s pandemic world made it even easier. We were met at the airport by one of the few fishing guides on Roatan, Greg Baldwin. A seasonal resident of Roatan, Greg took us to his house to settle in, have a couple cold beers and fish the high tide on the flat at his house. A beautiful volcanic island, Roatan is best known for it’s diving. The beaches lead to flats that extend about 200 yards to a reef, then the depth drops to 14,000ft, hence the diving popularity.

Jako and I rigged up as Nick went to work checking off items on his shot list. About 15 minutes into the turtle grass covered flat, a Permit waved his tail and headed my direction. He saw the fly, followed for about five feet before I felt the hook stab a piece of turtle grass. The fish jetted towards the reef. Pretty awesome introduction to Roatan. I wish it was a weedless fly.

The next day, we were to fish in the morning and take a ferry to the island of Utila for the next two nights. We met Greg at 7am and split ways. Jako and I got in Greg’s boat and Nick went with our other guide Paul. As the sun rose over the mountainous island, Jako was on the bow. He had two separate encounters with Permit which followed a well presented fly, but no takers. I took over the bow, after Jako had a third heart-pumping follow. Greg then spots a ray coming towards us. I located it in the distance and saw a Permit following closely behind. As they came closer, I was able to get a shot. The flexo crab landed at the tail of the ray. As it sinks, the Permit sees it, gets on the fly, gives a sideways wiggle, and the line comes tight. After a cheerful and ample fight, we had the fish to hand. Jako managed several great shots at other fish throughout the morning with no takers. The morning came to an end and with the Yeti luggage in tow, we headed for Utila.

Utila is a small populated island off the west coast of Roatan. We loaded up a couple Tuk Tuks (their most common mode of transportation), and headed out to explore the few bumpy roads on the island. Fishing half days and dragging the Yeti luggage around in the afternoons, our time on the island went fast. Weather moved in on our departure day and we were fortunate to get our plane back to Roatan.

We were all hoping for a break in what was looking to be heavy rain and high winds for the remaining three days. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was correct. Although it worked out for some great photos of the new wheeled luggage, the 30mph winds and heavy downpours locked in and our fishing would be limited to a final few hours on our departure day. An extreme lack of visibility and an occasional cloudburst, the few fish we did see saw us at the same time. Soaking wet, we packed our bags and saddled up for the airport. A very fun and friendly island, Roatan and Utila are locations I will be sure to visit again.


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