For most of us, waking up with the world’s second largest barrier reef for a backyard only happens on vacation but for Wil Flack, it’s everyday life. Crystal clear water, white sand beaches and warm tropical weather would make just about anyone consider trading a fast pace suburban existence for a laid back island lifestyle. Flack is one of few who actually did. Since 2011, he has called the Belizean island of Ambergris Cay home, a place where the biggest stress of the day is deciding to whether to target bonefish, permit or tarpon.
Born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Wil Flack grew up only blocks away from the union of rivers and ocean where salmon, steelhead and trout caught his attention. During his younger years, he was also into surfing and sailing but fishing always ranked as his humber one passion. Just like all fishing addicts, the deeper he got into it, the more he wanted to explore new water and chase unfamiliar, hard pulling fish.
On day two of a bonefish trip to Belize, he made a conscious decision that one day he would live there. When the opportunity to take ownership of Tres Pescados Fly Shop came his way, he jumped all over it and hasn’t looked back. Minus a two month stint guiding for steelhead in Northern BC during the fall, you can bet Flack will be on the flats poling or wading for what has become an obsession — permit. “In my mind, nothing compares to the challenge of caching the hardest fish to fool with a fly. Not to mention, Ambergris is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.” says Flack.
There are plenty of places in the world where anglers can chase permit but in terms of culture, nightlife and grand slam opportunities, Flack’s island home is tough to beat. As pretty as the flats of Ambergris are, they don’t differ from any other tropical environment. The sun, salt and heat chew up the ill-prepared and spit them out with a sunburn for a souvenir. Because Flack spends nearly every waking hour on these pristine flats for months at a time, he can’t afford to take sun protection lightly. “The sun and heat definitely wear you down but what makes it even harder is the water clarity. It’s like fishing on top of a mirror which means your skin gets roasted from all directions.” says Flack.
Finding permit in Belize is only a small piece of the puzzle, stalking one on foot is where the real patience and persistence come into play. Notoriously stealthy, when a permit noses down and exposes its unmistakable black, forked tail, they’re hard to miss, even from a great distance. “My personal best permit was a 34 pounder. We spotted it from about 200 yards out. It took forever to get into casting range which made it even more exciting when the fish ate. I fought it for just under two hours and when I finally landed it, I was up to my armpits with waves crashing into my face, it was awesome! No question, this was the fight of my life an is why I do what I do.” says Flack.
Logging at least 200 days a year in the tropics, Flack has become very familiar with a wide variety of sun protective clothing, check out some of his favorites here.