September 19 – 26, 2021
We’re having way too much fun here at ESBL as another week flew by. I don’t think you could dream up a better 6 days of fishing as we enjoyed 7 returning guests and a newcomer who left seasoned and a close friend. I enjoyed myself every night with guests with fun conversation, plenty of wine, and many good-natured jokes around the table. I feel a lot can be said about the bond we share every night as we conclude the day with good company and food. All things aside and fun off the water, our guests managed to catch a fish or two.
It’s been “going off” as they say in the angling community. We’ve had some great past weeks in the bay, and it has continued to get better to the point I’m standing as I write this. It’s too exciting to sit still and stay in front of any computer screen. I’m a little worried because I don’t really know how much better it can get. Chiara jokingly told me to enjoy the fantastic conditions and to embrace what’s in front of me. So, I spent a couple mornings fishing, continuing to worry as I caught tarpon, permit, and bones off the beach.
Picturesque weather quickly translates to incredible fishing. We had 6 days of awesome conditions punctuated by the occasional downpour that quickly fizzled out. It’s also been buggy here at the lodge. All forms of bloodsucking insects are making themselves apparent in our palapa every night. Biting flies are a normal/natural occurrence in the jungle, please remember that. If you have an upcoming trip challenge yourself to find the strongest repellent out there and please share it with us. When it becomes buggy that means light winds and tarpon. We ended the week with two days where the wind gusts were called at a whopping 6 mph from the south and later to the west. You can’t make the bay and water in front of the lodge any calmer with a solid glasslike appearance that reflected beautiful sunrises each day. We also had some northern breezes that helped clean most of the shoreline of Sargasso mounds. This made the northern shoreline of the bay fishable with plenty of tarpon and bonefish. We targeted poons heavily in our tarpon cut alongside the island that spans the entrance of the bay, as well as south along the shoreline towards the lodge. I enjoyed some great tarpon fishing at my usual flat, a 15-minute walk from the lodge. Wednesday morning after dropping guests off I drove to an overlook along the road and sat on the beach watching guests chase rolling fish. Don Morris and Bill Bergam landed a couple huge fish that left Bill asking to please chase some smaller specimens. Close friend Carl Sparks has had a bucket list mission to finally land a tarpon and get a nice photo. I won’t share how many he’s jumped to get complete the mission, but he nailed a solid fish with his boat mate Ivar Bolander and they did it in style completing double grand slams with guide Alex. Our guide Alex has one hell of a week, landing 6 grand slams, 5 of those a first for guests. It’s a good time to be on Alex’s boat. Our river systems seem to be cleaning up nicely and we chased more tarpon in rivers 1 and 2. Carl ventured into river 3 the last day to find a big snook with Fernando and landed a very nice fish. Snook fishing has picked up considerably and the group landed some great fish. I also noticed two small schools of snook that were very big cruising the shoreline as I fished oceanside. Of course, they ignored me completely and I had to become content as they patrolled the shore less than a rod length from the bank.
You can’t always have great tarpon fishing here, especially if it’s rough in the open water. I will say confidently if you can stick another rod/reel combo in your arsenal make it a sink tip of sorts to throw on a 10 or 11 weight rod. Even having an extra spool for your 10 loaded with sinking line will do. It’s one of those things you wish you brought as soon as you arrive and are greeted the next morning by your guide inquiring about flies getting deep to fish. Floating lines will obviously work in shallow conditions and heavy flies can work a bit; you really need something that will stay in the deeper water column rather than traveling towards the surface after every strip. Invest in a set up and don’t spend to money for your big tarpon. Focus on a decent reel loaded with good line and a mid-price rod. You’re not casting a mile and you need something you lift, torque, and combat larger fish with. TFO, ECHO, Thomas & Thomas, and Sage all make very nice mid-price sticks.
Our permit fishing was remarkable and has gotten better each day. We ended the previous week with a handful schools, and we saw somewhat of the same trend kickoff beginning of last week. It seemed each day more fish have piled into the system, and I was very happy to note that we are seeing permit all over our southern/western shoreline, all the way to the southern cut that opens to the ocean. Schools have been located in our northern cut where we chase big tarpon as well as deep in the northwest part of the bay which had previously been void of fish due to freshwater draining from the rivers. The strength of our schools seemed to be at the southern entrance and there are a lot of fish piled up here. They’re fresh, eager to eat, and fun to chase. You can sit on moving schools for the better of the day, exhausting yourself with countless shots. It’s deeper water fishing which creates a different vibe for the fish. Shallow water permit are indeed the ultimatum for a crab throwing purist, but one must recognize the resource at hand and take advantage of these fish when they’re in deeper water. They become less spooked with safety in numbers, deep water to hide, and tons of food throughout the water column. This is where we shine as a fishery and show our true colors as perhaps one the best strongholds for permit in the entire Caribbean.
It was difficult to keep track of everyone’s catches and I felt like a scorekeeper at the end of the week tallying landed fish. I’m trying to get this report out as fast as I can as I try and decipher my hieroglyphic style notes I jotted down to properly relay to the reader.
Bill Hayes and Bob Sytz had an incredible week, their best yet here. I begged them to realize we can’t keep the bar at the level of success they had. They understood completely and it’s one of the fishing vacations we all dream about. These guys had 3 “personal best” days out of the 6 days of fishing. They kicked off the beginning of the week with guide Marcos and landed 12 to the boat, 5 for Bill and 7 for Bob. Later in the week they had a double permit hook up per request (a tall order) to guide Pepe. Pepe jumped on it immediately and got it done. They finished their week with guide Alex and had double grand slams, a first for each. They tore into permit for the week with Bob landing 13 and Bill landing 12. Ivar Bolander is one of the most experienced permit anglers we’ve had the pleasure of hosting and he landed a massive permit with Alex that easily topped 25 pounds, an incredible catch by a fantastic angler. I will also note Ivar recently won the March Merkin tournament, which is a highly competitive permit showdown and easily brings the top permit anglers from around the globe to compete. Ivar and Carl were also with Alex, and they doubled on grand slams with permit properly assessed for fly choice. Ivar noticed permit close to the surface turning that massive orb of an eye skyward as they picked off food in the top part of the water column. Floating crabs were called for and both of the permit were landed in such a way. I’m mildly jealous and later that night I looked at my own permit box with a couple of floating crabs stuffed in a remote corner. Someday I’ll get a chance to use these, rather than just decoratively rounding out my box. Carl completed his week with 3 permit and I will also note I was impressed him and Ivar’s success for permit only targeting them about 25% of their time on the boat. The supercharged duo are quite the pair, feeding of each other, and it’s a fishing relationship that all fishing friends should be jealous of. I can’t wait for these guys to come back each year and I seem to have an upcoming trip to the keys to hang out with the gang. Don Morris landed 7 permit for his week and his boatmate Bill Bergman got 5. Bill was off to quite a start Monday morning with guide Victor. First cast, first fish for the week resulted in a beautiful permit. I can’t say we’ve done that before.
Jeff and Sabrina Sellmeyer held their own for the week chasing permit and Jeff tallied 9 and more importantly Sabrina got herself 3. Jeff and I were joking later when he relayed to me Sabrina hopped up on the bow and picked her own permit off while Jeff and Pepe played around with equipment. Funny how that works with high moments of success dominated by a lack of male counterparts screaming instruction and “encouragement”. We love you Sabrina and thank you for showing us how it’s done. My appreciation for this couple grows increasingly every trip and I just adore the two with their compatibility and enthusiasm to learn, grow, and morph into fantastic saltwater anglers. By the time I’m done with Jeff he may have sponsored a small fly shop with gear suggestions for here. In all reality it’s an expense that we can all agree is well deserved and very much needed.
The group of 8 anglers landed an impressive 57 permit for the week, one of our better weeks and this sends our totals skyward to 586 landed permit with 198 guests. Find me another place with these numbers…….
We had mixed tides for the week with a medium low in the morning but coming in. End of the week we saw a longer slack tide midday with an impressive amount of water returning in the afternoon. We had mostly sunny skies with rain squalls that ripped through in a matter of hours. I woke up last Thursday night to an impressive downpour that lasted an hour. We need the rain and welcome it, brings our water table up and keeps things fresh and green.
Lots of permit flies worked for us throughout the week. When we thought we had a go to, it changed to something else. Perhaps the permit were just hungry.
White and Tan ESB crabs with yellow eyes worked well. Later in the week we were ripping off some yellow eyes trying crabs without yellow eyes. Spawning shrimp tied EP style in tan on a number 4 landed fish. Floating crabs were thrown in the mix. A permit chased a tarpon toad…
Sardine patterns are working well for larger tarpon, as well as Blk and Purple combos. Ask Don Morris about his thoughts on the 600SP hook I love. He’s a believer and it’s the only TIEMCO hook I care to use. EP baitfish color combos all worked and had their moment of glory. You got to arm yourself with an impressive amount of flies this time of year with so much going on. The list of fly selections I pass to The Fly Shop was not put together for a generic sales incentive, they work and make sure you are adequately stocked. I demand probably more flies than most places. The reasoning behind this is easy, we have an impressive number of fish to chase here, and you should be loaded accordingly. If you want to focus on one species with small selections, there are plenty of other destinations that fit that description.
We’re tallying all kinds of records currently and weekly weight gain is hovering around 7 per guest. I asked a couple guests from weeks past to let me know the number and I thought it was comical. Chef Carlos and the kitchen are slaving away in an unbearably hot cocina to whip up excellent food for guests. Last Saturday night’s homemade coconut ice cream continues to haunt and test my will power.
Emmanuel and the grounds crew are working hard to finish putting up our new fence and keep everything ship shape that lends to relaxing and comfortable quarters for everyone. You can never ignore the importance of these guys despite being behind the scenes. Efficiency and a functioning lodge doesn’t ride on the coattails of magic, it’s very hard work performed by our crew.
We’ve got quite the week ahead of us with 8 guests picked up yesterday at the jungle airstrip. I’m pumped seeing Unk Smith return every year and he’s brought his son Chip for this trip. Chip also guides in Florida and I’m excited for him to be on the bow for a week instead of guiding. I noticed this morning as he pushed off with Pepe, he will be taller than Pepe and the poling platform put together. Our weather continues to hold and I’m monitoring some nasty looking developments in the Atlantic currently east of hurricane Sam but heading our direction on a westerly route.
I’ve been talking to our dear friends in Patagonia, and they are ecstatic to receive guests for the 2021/2022 season. It’s going to be great with so much water that has had little or no angling pressure in such a long time. I’m catching rolling tarpon off our beach and dreaming of Patagonian brown trout eating dry flies the size of a small dog. I am so very humbled and completely spoiled in this angling life.
Enjoy your fall weather wherever you may find yourself. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to get outside, immerse yourself in your local flora and fauna, and find solace along a body of water somewhere. Don’t hesitate to call our friends at The Fly Shop if you have some questions about our operation or need to stock up on some new flies for a trip here.
Take care and stay tuned for the next report.
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicana
Dane & Chiara and the entire ESBL crew