September 25 October 02, 2022
We’ve had another great week here at ESB Lodge. The lodge was full of returning guests and some newcomers that came along with our friends to check out the fishery. I appreciate James Orford’s willingness to make a long trek from Johannesburg to join returning guest Charlie Ruffel. Unk Smith and his son Chip joined us for their annual trip. Both guys are accomplished tarpon guides that call the panhandle of Florida their home. Unk and fellow angler Ron Caspers are fun to have the lodge and they date themselves coming here for almost 20 years exploring and fishing around Chetumal, ESB, and inland tarpon/snook lagoons. Don Morris concluded his second week in a row with us and it was sad to see him return stateside. Hopefully he has readjusted to the fast-paced life he runs from his home in Sacramento. We had a close call with hurricane Ian, with the radar showing the monster storm only 100 miles east of us exactly a week ago. Spaghetti models and forecasted tracks were accurate for the most part and we saw it head directly north where Cuba and parts of Florida got smashed and left with devastation. It’s a wakeup call for us here at the lodge as we enter the last 7 weeks of our season, we now face our toughest time frame for hurricanes in this part of Mexico. We’re on it, prepared, and very cautious and the usual bag of tricks in ways of superstitions mount tenfold. We are currently watching another development southeast of us that seems to be building similar characteristics as Ian.
On the flip side I am grateful we remain intact here on the beach with minimal impact from hurricane Ian. We had a very impressive storm surge that brought an incredible amount of water into the system. I’ll take that any day over the alternative. With some higher than usual water levels and decent weather the group held out for a well-rounded and fun week of fishing.
As mentioned with a surplus of water in the system, the fish seemed a little thrown. The high tide for us was a couple feet higher than normal and while we did have a fall it dropped to what our normal high tide would be. The local fishing village filled with the noxious Sargasso weed and I had to drive perilously close to a soft water’s edge. Last Thursday I got the van stuck with guests driving through town. It was my fault, not taking the proper high route and I blame my excitement of getting out to fish for a day with Don.
Forget tarpon and snook in the mangroves with high water. They must be miles back in the jungle, splashing around with a new floodplain to play in. With water so high you almost find it impossible to consistently see them cruising mangrove edges. It’s a tough tease for anglers as they ply the shoreline and can hear the tarpon crashing off in the mangroves. We had some very calm mornings where the bay glassed out and this gave us some impressive open water fishing for rolling fish. Both cuts in the bay held fish and seemed our southern cut had more fish. Everyone was able to rally around fish and I was jealous of boats getting into acres of tarpon. Everyone jumped and landed a few fish. There are pockets of muddy water with sargasso discharge around the mouth of the bay. A couple boats were in a frenzy of sardines that worked like bait balls. An interesting scenario played out. Birds working the sardines, tarpon working the sardines, and the anglers working the tarpon. Don and Victor were in a spot where it seemed like millions of eels were writhing on the surface around the muddy water. I have not seen many eels in our fishery and find it fascinating that there were loaded schools of this easy meal. Where they came from, I have no idea. My guess is they got blown off their safety blankets of huge Sargasso mats? Maybe the surge brought them in? The ocean is a wonderous place and the mysteries that lie along the never-ending horizon haunts me. When we think we have a closed a chapter of clarification and reason, another door opens that exposes us to a new realm of possibilities. I hope the eels stick around as I’m sure it’s an ample food source and cool to see.
Permit are definitely around with days where they seem loaded on flats along the north side. When it was sunny guides focused hard on permit. They were finicky at times with decent casts made but refusal after refusal. I blame it on storm pressure. This could be completely wrong, but it seems logical with my experience. On the flip side we had some permit forgive a cast off more than 10 feet from the intended mark and swim over to inhale the fly. With a long trip from South Africa, I was hoping James would be rewarded with a nice fish. He had one on earlier in the week with a break off and headed out with Fernando the last day. After more fly changes, Fernando requested a Squimp. Next fish promptly ate the Squimp without hesitation. I love the Squimp and it seemed to have lost its reputation and became overshadowed by other yellow eyed crabs and shrimp. The week before Fernando also landed a big permit with a Squimp… It’s not a trend and this ridiculous looking fly does wonders in our bay. It hasn’t been successful merely because we’ve let it collect dust in our boxes. Don Morris had a dreamy day with Victor where he landed permit, tarpon, and bones. Victor was airing out some line while Don took a break and landed a nice permit as well. It was definitely a good week to be on Victor’s boat and Miller Anderson and Ron Caspers completed double slams, and Ron catching two smaller fish in a big school. We are seeing a transition with the northside starting to pick up with schools of fish found in Ensenada, outside river 1 and 2, and a long flat outside river 3. I suspect as the fall weeks wear on we’ll see more and more fish show up.
Our group 7 anglers landed 10 permit and this brings seasons totals to 439 landed permit with 207 guests.
Bonefish are around and plenty of numbers of good-sized fish are found. Unk And Ron enjoyed chasing impressive 3 pound fish in skinny water each day. I heard it again with claims that our bonefishing is getting better with larger fish being caught. Bad light for permit? Head out to fish flooded mangrove shoots and see countless backs out of the water.
Our white ESB crab on a #2 hook, Squimps, and smaller spawning shrimp worked well. A permit was also landed on a Casa Blanca Raghead in white with no yellow eyes.
Tarpon ate toads, EP’s, and mostly lighter colored sardine style flies.
Bonefish ate any shrimp fly thrown that was appropriately weighted for current fishing depth.
Weather was mostly pleasant, mixed clouds, calm seas, and lighter breezes from the northwest. Our tide was very high due to storm surge from hurricane Ian.
Chef Luis and kitchen help Angel worked out a wonderful spread every evening for us and guests were appreciative and enthusiastic about the cuisine. Emmanuel and the ground crew kept us comfortable with a well-run operation and everything functioning flawlessly. These guys behind the scenes continue to impress me with their unwavering work ethic and I truly can’t thank them enough for the hard work.
We’ve got sunny skies, dead calm seas and a pile of 8 excited anglers for this upcoming week here at ESB. Names like Foti, Gerrity, Gold, and Unsworth have become consistent names on our yearly lodge calendars. I’ve lost track of their trips, it all runs together, and the group’s excitement is infectious. We built an operation like ESB for guys like this and it’s so humbling to see someone have so much fun with us.
If you want some up to date info regarding this place, make sure you check in with our friends over at The Fly Shop. They’re standing by ready to answer questions or concerns you may have. They’re also great guys just to call up and talk fishing with! I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful color change in your neck of the woods as we dive into fall. Please remember to get outside, conserve, enjoy, and relish the season.
I hope everyone enjoys themselves and please check back in for next week’s report.
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara