August 22 – 29, 2021
We’ve enjoyed another fun week here at ESB Lodge. We are watching summer slip away in the Yucatan and early signs of fall are making an appearance. This is one of my favorite times of the year at the lodge and the fishing can be fantastic as the two seasons play tug-a-war with one another. Along with good weather we are heading into the height of hurricane season and have watched the remnants of Grace dissipate in our neck of the woods. We carefully observed Hurricane IDA pass east of us on a fast-track heading north into in the gulf before making landfall in Louisiana on Sunday. Our hearts go out to those affected by the storm and the familiarity of fear/anticipation you taste in the back of your throat is all too familiar for those that inhabit waterways of the Caribe.
Despite storm season the flip side is you can have some of the best weather we see all year. Last week guests had incredible conditions. If one could perhaps choose from a weather menu, I would bet it wasn’t far off from what we experienced the last 6 days of fishing. Subtle winds, lots of sun, glass like conditions, and some hearty rain squalls to quench the hot, thirsty stillness were all laid out for guests. This in turn greatly impacts the fishing and we had a fantastic, dreamy week of everything working in our favor.
Brock Anderson from Casper, Wyoming has become a regular here at ESB. He touted along his father Jim for his first real saltwater trip. First day out the father and son duo cruised over to a big flat along the southern shoreline with guide Marcos. We call it “casitas” after a couple rudimentary palapas along the shore that have been long ago abandoned. Tight to the shoreline they found a big school of smaller permit, very fresh to the bay and eager to eat. Jim was able to land his first 4 permit and Brock another 3 to cap off a great day. No one else landed permit Monday. Tuesday turned into one of our best days permit fishing in awhile and the group landed 21 permit. Bruce Rueben and Kim Hostetler headed out with guide Marcos and Kim got her first permit and the two of them landed 8 total. Our dear friend Tom Blailock had a funny description of permit fishing with Victor on Tuesday. “We were faced with a wall of 300 permit, coming right at us”. I admire the heroism the guide/client displayed as they met their foe head on. Tom bravely picked off a couple nice size fish and lost a battle to a permit of gargantuan proportions and honestly north of 30 lbs. He had completed his week with a remarkable 9 permit most of which were nice sized fish. Returning guest Ryan Fields brought along his brother Dan – a veteran in the salt, and Ryan got his first two permit on the fly. The brothers landed 9 collectively.
It came alive in the bay with permit and the southern shoreline towards the mouth running west roughly the first ¼ of the bay held fresh schools of all sizes. Outside the bay as far north as we can run before hitting the reef also held fresh pushes of fish. Based on past seasons and watching patterns of these fish the conclusion of such an impressive number is the calm consistent weather after Hurricane Grace passed through the system. When these fish show up, they’re hungry, they fight over shrimp and crab patterns and sort of defy the normal nature we usually associate with permit. They still require tactical approaches, good casts, and a correct cadence of strips to represent appropriate fleeing Decapods. The longer you cast the more chances you’ll receive and thus translates to more hook ups and landed fish. When our guides place you in front of a school and you get a solid 80-foot cast with a hook up, they peel you away to prevent spooking the school. Usually after landing the 1st fish, we can circle boats back around and have multiple shots to a relatively settled school. I hope we see these pushes of fish stay in our system for the time being and it was a welcoming sight after the previous week where permit seemed nonexistent.
Our group of 7 anglers tallied an impressive 44 permit for the week and this brings our season totals to 436 landed permit with 170 guests.
To round out great permit fishing, tarpon seemed to show up in droves and were plentiful, relatively easy to find, and cooperative for guests. We didn’t really see many bigger tarpon in our normal northern cut. All the mangrove haunts along the southeast shoreline and areas along the northeast portion held great numbers of tarpon, both tucked in root balls and holding outside on flats. We also had some great tarpon fishing outside the bay along the southern shoreline close to the lodge. I was mildly jealous of the schools rolling fish outside of casting range on foot. Fishing on foot and throwing 70 feet while wading up to your armpits is a task. Thankfully clients and guides were able to pick up the slack and catch good numbers comfortably throwing line from our skiffs. There’s an unusual phenomenon that happens early fall here and millions of small sardines show up covering the coastline. We have no idea why or where they come from but everything from birds, fish, to reptiles gorge themselves. I am led to believe a lot of our tarpon and later in the fall, big snook follow this bait. It’s a fresh shot to our fishery and shocks our system with schools of hungry fish.
Snook fishing was mediocre, and we had some decent fish landed. Tom Blailock landed a few, lost a few, and understandably cursed at a few as they lay perfectly inaccessible in their mangrove lairs. Jim rounded out his first week with us also catching his first snook on the fly.
Bonefish were plentiful and readily available to those who devoted time. Bruce and Kim had some impressive afternoons chasing bonefish and we landed some larger ones hovering around 4 lbs. I’ll slide into this report the importance of jumping out of the boat for a few hours of your week and chasing tailing bonefish with a 7 weight. The purity and simple delight gives way to such an iconic scenario that is surrounded by wonderful beauty and pristine wilderness.
For those of you that keep tabs in this part of the newsletter you perhaps notice a consistency of productive flies here for permit. It hasn’t changed, nor will it change anytime soon. We have the meat and potatoes working well for us and this simple list should be as consistent in your fly box as the weekly reports.
#2 Tan Squimps, #2 tan and white crabs (Casa Blanca raghead style) with and without yellow eyes. Spawning shrimp, ESB and EP style #2-#4. 4 – 5 choice patterns and at least 6 of each if you’re heading this way.
Tarpon: Toads and EP baitfish, all colors of the rainbow with an emphasis on black and purple. You’re looking at the same with Snook but sneak a yellow and white EP baitfish in there…… ask guest Tom Blailock. Smaller baitfish patterns such as Merritt’s ESB snook flies. We’ve been discussing Chocklett’s Gamechanger that has indeed been changing and revolutionizing articulated streamers. We love the fly immensely here but the hook gap on all the one’s guests have brought is not suited for saltwater. Someone please find us a reliable source to get these tied on a TIEMCO 600 2/0 and we’ll continue to push the envelope. Those of you that enjoy tying, put every tarpon toad or EP baitfish on a TIEMCO 600 series. Wide hook gap, properly weighted, and just as stout as anything else on the market, these hooks are a staple here.
Bonefish happily ate any small shrimp pattern in sizes #8 – #2.
Chef Carlos and the crew kept everyone comfortable and well fed with delicious meals around the clock. At some point I’m going to need to wean myself from enjoying so much good food. In between bites of huevos rancheros I’ve been pounding out this week’s newsletter. As I’m conclusively wrapping things up, I’ve been informed there’s some coconut shrimp fritters waiting for me in the kitchen. It’s not even 10 AM yet.
We’ve got a fun group this upcoming week with 6 new guests here at ESBL and it was pleasure to see returning guest Mike Matus’ wonderful, smiling face in the mix. Mike aided in car conversation from our jungle airstrip yesterday with reliving previous trips here talking about catching all manner of bucket list fish in such a fashion that even my palms were sweaty with anticipation. We are so lucky and humbled to be ambassadors, even stewards to one of the last incredible places on earth to fish unpressured flats.
Every guest that comes here to ESB is dubbed family, you fall in the bedrock and identity of who we are and your time with us is valued beyond any justifiable definition. Last night after dinner I checked my email and saw a message from Billy Trimble who is gearing up to host another group here next week. Our mutual friend Susan Kern, husband of Eric Kern unfortunately passed away yesterday afternoon. She and Eric were set to come here in a week. It’s unfair, confusing, and terrible. May Susan find herself at peace and we couldn’t be more fortunate to know such a sweet, caring, and gentle being. A lover of people, fish, and had a special soft spot for sea turtles. It’s a tough one to embrace as healing begins to envelope us all. Sharing your love for the natural world with that wonderful smile under our thatched canopy in the palapa will always be cherished.
Thus concludes our weekly newsletter. Please spend time with your loved ones, get outside, practice conservation, and hang onto the last days of summer. We’re headed into a beautiful fall and if you have any questions or are wondering about this special place, call our friends at The Fly Shop. They are patiently standing by ready to adhere to any concern or question you may have.
Take care and let’s meet up next week for another report!
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicana
Dane & Chiara and the entire ESBL crew