Fishing Report #1
January 28 – February 04, 2024
We’ve cracked the lid on another season here at ESB. Our first week kicked off and we’re underway for another great year here in the Jungle. The opener is such a big deal for us and expectations laced with anticipation keeps me giddy right up to showtime. Our friends that usually join us for the opener graced us once again for another year. Names like Forrester, Hostetler, Mangum, and O’Leary ring in the first seven days for ESB. I’m always a little anxious with the first week especially being here the previous week with the lodge in complete pieces. We’re covered up with paint, last minute projects, and always handling some mishap that seems to surface last minute.
After we picked up guests from the airstrip last Sunday, we sat for our routine fried fish sandwich followed by my boring orientation of how the week works (simple, eat, sleep, fish). It’s in this moment muscle/mind memory takes over and I slip into the familiar patterns that have become engrained into my identity. I love what I do so much, and you can’t take something like this for granted. Whether it’s 2017 or 2024 the fire and passion are there. We’re here and ready to host all the wonderful guests on the books for the next 37 weeks.
Like any upcoming fishing week, one looks tirelessly at the weather forecasts. It’s like getting a sneak peek at the presents you might receive during the Holidays – you hope it’s good! We were lucky with our Sunday arrival through the first 3 days of fishing translated to beautiful. For the most part the weather for the week was excellent with a 80% visibility window for an average.
With north winds we hugged the northern shoreline and hit the rivers systems hard. We had normal tide fluctuations in the sense of highs and lows. One thing to keep in mind is north winds don’t stack as much water into the system as perhaps an east wind. When you reached our “high tide” during the day it was really at 50% of the normal high. What does the mean for permit fishing? Deeper water and less fish running shallow. We didn’t see much in skinny water and the classic tailing scenarios. While they like shallow water it can be to much at times and they become absent or extremely spooky and flighty. It’s not a bad thing, just requires an adjustment. Outside of river one working along the north shore, off the bank 100 meters in water 10-15 feet is where we saw most of our permit. I had great day chasing schools with guide David He and Charles. We saw four to five schools, maybe totaling 300 permit. I got 2 and Charles grabbed one. 200 meters away Alex was working Conner and David on different schools and they managed a couple. We rendezvoused for lunch and were ecstatic with the morning and numbers of fish seen. Most everyone in the group had shots throughout the week off the northside and the boca of river one. The Forrester’s had a wonderful day with David He with an unfortunate breakoff and another beautiful permit that quickly translated into a slam. Michael cracked into the school at river one the first day and kicked off the group tally getting two. A slight wind change brought more water in for the incoming and we started working southwest and touching tabascanoes to red buoy. A little bumpy with wind but some permit showing up. On the last day Charles headed out with Alex and focused southwest with a lot more fishing showing up. He completed his first super slam. I expect with wind changing and more water piling in we’ll see much more fish showing up and we’ll be redirecting our focus south and southwest.
When you get weak incoming with a considerably less amount of water it opens the doors to good tarpon and snook fishing. I felt it was excellent and most of the group worked north shore, sunken boat, Maria Alena, inside river one and two for the first 4 days. A couple of small channels and location X spots closer to Punta Herrero gave up some fish that were moving through. Outside the bay going south of the town we had some great shots at snook. Conner caught a beautiful snook oceanside even on the “high”. We try to really capitalize on these lower tides and take full advantage of their presence. As more water fills, we see the fish slide further back into their mangrove lairs driving us bonkers as we try to throw dart casts around the foliage. The outside of sunken boat was impressive with at least 100 tarpon milling around but became increasingly difficult to catch with pressure.
Bonefish were there for us to enjoy and everyone took time during the day to work shallow water bones that were tailing hard. Nando, Charles and I had a wonderful time working inside river one and moving south towards river two. The lights went out but the water was so shallow you could pick up bones pushing and feeding 200 yards away. The bonefish here are our staple and I was extremely pleased that the group worked these little missiles hard. Want to have some fun? Get a seven weight and hit skinny water bones for a morning or afternoon. If this doesn’t fit your idea of worldclass fishing, we need to have a talk…
As I mentioned it was a very well-rounded week with our four focal targets available every day. Our guides worked very hard and are hungry with the new season underway. We’ve got a new line up of guides this year with me bringing 3 new (new to ESB Lodge) faces. These guys are good, and I feel this is probably the strongest crew of guides we’ve had in seven years. I’m also excited to offer Nando an opportunity to have his son with him for the season training as an apprentice guide. A dangerous father-son duo that sure as hell is going to put a smile on many angler’s faces.
The weather was mostly pleasant with north winds, high sun and cooler temps. Clouds rolled in on Thursday, but we still had intermittent sun poke through.
Tides were going out and returning in the PM. It was a little strange that we saw a complete reversal Thursday and Friday and then a return to our Mon-Wed tides.
Permit ate all manner of shrimp and crabs which is very encouraging, and it doesn’t reduce us to one hot fly.
All of the following landed permit: #2, #4 Squimps, ESB shrimp tan, EP white spawning shrimp #4, #2 supreme hair shrimp (my favorite) ESB yellow eyed crab, Casa Blanca tan crab, MFC Crab Rangoon.
I ask guests to look up the new Montana Fly Company (MFC) Rangoon crab fly. This newer yellow eyed crab is going to become a staple here at the lodge and I HIGHLY suggest adding this to your arsenal.
Tapon and snook were landed on EP baitfish (full color spectrum) laid up tarpon #2, gurglers, and toads in Chartreuse/white, and Black/purple. Gold/olive/white sardines are also a great color combo that pulled a few fish.
Bonefish ate all manner of smaller shrimp flies #4-#8 and also swiped some snook flies that crossed their snout.
Chef Luis is back in the kitchen armed with a few new dishes and is supported by sous chef Angel. They’re cooking up a storm and I’ve been “suffering” through trials of taste tasting. It’s the most pleasurable sense of torture I must endure!
Emmanuel, Fredy, and Pancho are working from the ground up keeping everything tidy, clean, and operating. Once again, the 2024 crew is looking to be charging hard and I couldn’t be more pleased with house staff for the coming months.
We’re looking forward to this upcoming week, all repeat guests that hail from my neck of the woods in Northern Michigan. Good fishermen that enjoy a brotherly comradery having margaritas, nightly card games, and of course fishing. The weather looks promising with days in the forecast calling for sun and a crisp breeze.
On another exciting note Chiara and I have decided to take on a big project in Patagonia. Last December she and I decided to take over the famous fishing program/concession at El Saltamontes – Chile Patagonia. This famous lodge with 34 years of operating is one of the first lodges that became available to North American traveling, fishing enthusiasts. We’re so excited about this and it’s been a dream for years to have something else in addition to ESB. So many new things are coming to the fishing program at EL Saltamontes, it’s dizzying and a little daunting. Daunting because we are adding so much more to the previously existing program with the amount of water we’ll be fishing. Set up in one of the prettiest places in all of Patagonia, surrounded by a vast variety of water. This is truly something any fishing enthusiast doesn’t want to miss. It’s going to be incredible, and we have started to put together groups for the 2025 season. Already the new program has been well received with guests showing a lot of interest. I highly encourage all of you that might be interested to quickly get your name on a slot for the short 12-week program. Our friends over at The Fly Shop® are standing by to give you more details about EL Saltamontes as well as our dear ESB. We’ll keep you posted as additional things unfold. In the meantime, please get outside while you can, book your next fishing adventure, and touch base with us next week for the next report!
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane, Chiara, Negri, Canela, Lucia