September 12 – 19, 2021
We’ve had another great week here at ESB Lodge. It was a fun 6 days of fishing, and the lodge had the pleasure of hosting returning guests Jon Wheat, Don Morris, and Sebastian Jance. Three other newcomers were able to navigate our waitlist and take advantage of some openings that appeared months ago for this time. I love seeing new faces as we continue to grow our list of friends who get a chance to enjoy this incredible fishery. Perhaps an extra highlight for me was me joining Sebastian Jance for three of the six fishing days. I can’t remember the last time I got three days on the bow. It’s awesome spending time on the boats and seeing firsthand the bay. I grow tiresome living through guests, guides, and find it healthy to be a part of the action. The first couple days of the week were probably the best for everyone, and we worked hard given the conditions.
It seemed a little off in my opinion, different than a typical mid-September week here in the bay. From about this time of year through the end of the season is really my favorite because of variety and numbers of fish around. It felt more like a blown-out spring week with hard winds pounding from the east and making conditions difficult and forcing us to enjoy those off shoulder casts that bring a crab a little too close for comfort.
We started out the beginning of the week tight to the south bank, hunkered on a couple schools of permit on our “casitas” flat. There were three good sized schools with mixed sizes ripping around nervous with all the attention they were getting. Monday proved to be the permit day with most fish landed off that flat. Sebastian had a banner day with 11 hooked fish and 9 landed along with guide Fernando. I expected them all to be cookie cutter smaller fish, but he managed to get a few nicer ones as well. Reese Hunt, new to our lodge and new to permit fishing, was able to land his first permit from the schools with Marcos. Boat mate Homer Hayden tagged another 2. Jon Wheat was nice enough to bring along a guest who grew up fishing the Bahamas and is a true gentleman along with just a pleasure to talk with at the dinner table. Jim Lyons caught his first permit Monday and then rallied to get another one Tuesday.
I joined the group on the water Tuesday. I started laughing at the approach as the four boats ascended on the three schools like a bombing squadron. It was like we took the previous night’s dinner table (guests included) and plopped it right in the middle of the permit who were pinging off our bows back and forth. It was a buffet with crab, shrimp, squid, and all manner of flies being thrown into the permit melee. Alas Jim Lyons had the best-looking shrimp and a nice fish was plucked from the school and landed. I threw into the middle of a school at least 20 times, chewed through 3 feet of tippet with numerous fly changes, and came up empty handed. On a side note I tried out the newer Rio Flats pro line. I hate it with a vengeance, but to each is their own. I will say that I missed three fish…… sshhhh! An old staple permit fly for me that is used only in the direst of situations/desperation is a #2 Supreme Hair shrimp. This fly resembles a windsock when thrown but I love it for the realistic aspect. I used to throw this fly constantly with great success but grew tired of the tail material fouling on every third cast. My guides have moved on with newer flies and have informed me the shrimp looks better in my hat. I was slow on the set and my opinion was these fish were very quick to spit flies and really didn’t want to eat, we seemed to be force feeding them.
I grew tired of the proximity of my fellow anglers and felt enough time was spent in the evening with everyone, so I told Alex to go and scour the bay for more fish. He calmy told me it’s been tough finding fish. I said no worries at all and told him working on my fence was tough enough so being out on the water was a treat and a great alternative. We worked the entire shoreline heading west and didn’t see a single fish. This is a big expanse of flats that are usually holding decent numbers of fish. One lone cuda was what we saw. I mentioned the tarpon cut at the northern entrance of the bay for permit. We had a nice outgoing tide which results in fish swimming into the current to meet food drifting out. It’s a similar scenario to trout facing upstream. We got to the protected side of the cut and the motor was quickly killed as we greeted our first school of permit on top of the water column. They were harassing small shrimp and crabs that were hanging on little rafts of sargasso. Couple minutes later a solid permit ate my White ESB shrimp and we were off to the races. I hopped out on the sandy spit to land my fish so Sebastian could take a shot at another school we saw appear. I tried not to remind myself of the hammerhead sharks we saw in the same spot last year. Sebastian tagged a smaller fish, and we were doubled up. We landed our fish, got the obligatory photos, and decided on lunch as we watched a couple more fish move through the channel.
There’s not many permit in the bay. I am not sure why and someone mentioned they’re spawning in deeper water. Who knows, and I’m sure the onslaught of hard east winds didn’t help. I don’t expect this to last long and luckily for us this isn’t an ongoing trend with so few permit in the bay. Sebastian gently reminded me that we are a little spoiled in our neck of the woods with such incredible numbers of fish. He has landed close to 200 permit alone so I value his insight and felt slightly consoled. We jumped on Victor’s boat Wednesday morning and was greeted with the same mantra of tough permit fishing. I said so be it, let’s keep checking. We worked a favorite flat of Victor’s almost parallel with river 4, but perfectly situated in the middle between the north and south side. This was as technical as permit fishing can be. There are small groups of dark rocks scattered around the sandy flat with permit digging around almost invisible to the eye. A honking wind coming over your right shoulder adds to the difficulty. Sebastian squared up on a small permit and coaxed the fish into following his crab almost 30 feet before the take. This is serious skill and excellent work done by both guide and angler. Understanding the behavior of the permit and maintaining composure as you execute guide commands is tough. Sebastian, being Argentinian is obviously fluent in Spanish. Want to catch more permit? Here’s a tip, learn Spanish! You’ll be amazed at the banter you hear from guides as they settle into their native tongue. I was able to find a pair that exposed themselves over some white sand and two casts later went tight to a chunky fish a little over 10 lbs. One thing we see in these tech situations is really understanding how to fish a crab. You MUST let the crab sink to the bottom FIRST before you start a very slow strip. That’s how those two fish ate for us anyways. I watched Sebastian barely even strip, almost just maintaining line tension to get permit to let down their guard and devour the fly. It’s counter intuitive to slowly strip a crab when your heart is a couple beats away from exploding. We generally see happy go lucky anglers rip crabs through permit as though there were turbos attached to their claws. Permit quickly realize this is indeed the fastest swimming crab they’ve ever seen and best not to bother trying to eat it. It seems a little negative with the permit report here, but our ending numbers proved otherwise.
The group landed 22 permit, with 6 guests and a lodge owner. We have collectively landed an impressive 529 permit for the season with 190 guests
We’ve got some serious freshwater emptying out of river systems 2 through 5 which leaves a red stain at each boca and makes for an unattractive idea to explore for tarpon and snook. We found them in river system 1 and a small secretive patch located far in the Red Lagoon system. Reese and Homer ended up with 7 nice snook between them and Sebastian braved the rolling waves outside the bay to land 4 nice tarpon. I’m telling guests this upcoming week to rig for cuda. Don Morris had a cuda stick for the week and harassed 6 nice fish and some others that showed interest. You know my thoughts and opinion with chasing these apex predators. You’re crazy not too, and it’s an excellent opportunity to test the drag on your reel as these fish just make backing disappear. It’s the only fish we have here that will ruin a 20$ fly in one shot and leave you with a mangled mess of tandem hooks and green flash.
Bonefish were around and in solid numbers, our true keepers of the flats and the heart of the bay. They’re everywhere and munch all shrimp offerings with gusto. Every single week someone is mentioning about some surprisingly larger bonefish that were landed. It’s not a surprise anymore and you need to devote time to chasing the largest bonefish in Mexico. They’re in our system and plentiful. It’s nothing short of sheer delight on a 7 weight or even an uber fast 6 weight if you want the extra play.
First part of the week we had a strong outgoing tide in the AM and a complete flip to a high in the AM starting Thursday. Strong winds out of the east with speeds averaging 15 or higher was the norm for the 6 days. We had every cloud formation you could dream up with some days lending more coverage than others. 10-minute intervals gave way to spotlight scenarios with sun.
White and Tan ragheads with yellow eyes, spawning shrimp, Supreme Hair shrimp, and ESB Shrimp all tagged permit for the week.
EP Baitfish in color schemes black/red, and tarpon toads in chartreuse/white and black/purple all worked for snook and tarpon. We also got some snook on tan and white EP style baitfish.
The kitchen crew worked hard and have consistently drummed up delicious food all week. I’m starting a diet this week I swear……. It takes serious restraint to turn down the homemade lava cake with fresh coconut ice cream we serve Saturday nights. The house staff has been pushing hard and making sure everything is up and running to our standard for guest comfort.
We’ve got a great week of 8 guests this week. Don Morris hit the jackpot and is staying with us for a second week and brought along a newcomer to share the boat with. We have a hodgepodge of guests that are returning friends from different weeks of the calendar year. We are working hard to facilitate old rollovers from Covid as well as make room for more guests. Speaking of room, we have a couple slots that’s unfortunately came up in October due to late cancellations. I highly recommend calling our friends at The Fly Shop® to jump on these. It’s a fun time of year to fish and as I reminisce on previous October’s perhaps, I’ll take the slots personally and go fish! Normal wear and tear around the lodge can be put aside for some fishing, all the excuses are accepted. I’ve even grown fond of the unusual angle a front tire on the van has developed. Who needs an axle with the addition of chicken wire and a hammer?
September is a beautiful month to get outside as the dying summer succumbs to early fall. I love the freshness of a new season with the occasional reminder of another summer day. Call our friends at The Fly Shop® and grab some dates to come fish with us or inquire about the latest happenings around here. Word on the street is Argentina will be finally opening its doors to foreigners. It’s never too early or late to plan a Patagonia trip. I’m heading south as soon as we wrap the 2021 season.
Get out enjoy your local area, squeeze the last summer days for what their worth and of course stay tuned for the next report!
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicana
Dane & Chiara and the entire ESB crew