October 15 – 22, 2023 #33
ESB Lodge enjoyed another great week here in the Jungle. Reunited with old friends that hail from Houston and Austin, we had a blast catching up, eating great food, and enjoyed cold beer and cocktails. We’ve been hosting this group since 2018 led by frontman Ralph Smith. It’s become a highlighted fall week, a staple of familiar faces all of whom enjoy wild places with minimum pressure. Developments and the ever-present growth much of the Caribbean is experiencing makes it clearer every day to enjoy these last glimpses of wilderness. It’s a real treat for Chiara and I to watch the lodge, guests, managers, guides, even our dogs run the show and function as a well-oiled machine. Highs and lows counter fishing emotions. We ride a roller coaster of self-induced torture as we poke our way into the natural world with meager hooks wrapped with materials laced with hope.
Better late than never ESB tasted a true “fall” week with conditions that were cooler and a very welcoming north wind. After the previous week with stifling temps that made me feel I was attacked by one hundred hair dryers this came as a relief. I chuckled to myself as I read an update of a serious cold front warning in Playa del Carmen last Tuesday. The greater Riveria was advised to take caution and dress appropriately for the plummeting temperatures. Some insulated themselves in layers and I happily enjoyed wearing one shirt for the whole day without saturating it with a gallon of sweat. 70 degrees doesn’t warrant any alarming threat to me, and any suggestions of chill were greeted with an extra dollop of habanero just in case.
North winds brought a fresh look to the bay. We’re still weaning off extremely high tides which is good for us chasing all the species. Flipping winds from southeast to north takes time for adjusting. The middle of the bay was stirred up with the drastic change but started to settle as the week wore on. We also had a little east wind thrown into the mix for good measure. You need consistency with weather for productive fishing.
Chasing permit wore the top hat of priorities for guests for much of the week. I’d grade the permit fishing overall as a B- right now which perhaps in other locations around the Caribbean could be graded higher. We’re not seeing big schools of permit push through or they’re hunkering in deeper water. Schools that are found are smaller fish that charge around in the shallows mixed with bonefish and jacks. Day one kicked off with Kevin getting a nice one with Victor and later in the week he fed another one. Ensenada held the schools of smaller fish in the far corner and single angler Gaberiel had a fun afternoon wading around the smaller schools and buttoned up a smaller permit then lost a couple others that mangled the fly. He transitioned that into a grand slam. Andre along with guide Pepe picked up a nice fish outside of the river two system. He also tagged another his last day with boatmate Jim who also picked up a schoolie. Henry also tagged a medium fish with guide Alex midweek.
We covered serious ground chasing permit. North winds usually translate to staying tighter to the north shore, but we didn’t see many fish. My opinion Ensenada held the best numbers, but they weren’t always easy to find with varying conditions. We worked back to the familiar Tabascaones in the southwest corner and started picking up better visuals. Fernando was stalking the west end of Flamingo and they saw a lot of fish. They were tough to target being in shallow water and north winds creating off shoulder delights with the flyrod. It sure sounded cool to see regardless of hook ups or not. I love a good permit day with plenty of shots even if you aren’t lucky enough to tail one. We got an impressive number of refusals, and I heard this almost daily from guests. 5-6 fly changes still didn’t warrant an eat and the group had plenty of fish follow all the way to the boat. The guides described the permit as nervous to me and I translated that to impossible. Who knows why they were “nervous”? I think varying conditions, shallow water, and perhaps noise made them stay out of reach. More permit ate shrimp this past week than prior weeks. Is it a trend to abide by for this upcoming week? Later fall and towards the end of our season isn’t known for high permit numbers but we still have plenty of shots.
A major highlight in my opinion was Kevin and Ralph fishing with Fernando last Friday. They crossed to the northside and worked sunken-boat-hotel for tarpon and snook. They locked into some huge snook that were laid up in the timber. These are pushes that come with north winds and we suppose that these fish come off the reef and deeper water on migratory routes. This is probably my favorite fish and one the coolest things to witness when they flair their gills and absolutely destroy sardine patterns. They saw plenty of fish laid up. It’s a one tough to hit unless they cross a small opening wide enough for someone to throw a fly. I was really hoping we’d start seeing these fish show up and it seems they’re here. Some more north winds will continue to drive this fish from the depths and ESB will settle into one of the best snook fisheries in the Caribbean. Funny enough while you’re looking for these fish you spot other shapes that you think could be snook but turn into big bonefish. These fish are also fresh in the system and they’re incredible to catch. Getting them to eat is one thing but yanking them from the timber is another and more times than not we tangle and break off.
When the snook fishing picked up the tarpon were around, and we saw good numbers of fish off the north shore into sunken boat and back on the southside closer to the boat launch in “house lagoon”. We didn’t see big tarpon but good numbers that average 15 lbs. Perfect welterweights that are thrill for anyone.
Weather for the week was partly sunny with moderate winds from the north and finishing out of the east. We had higher tides in the am that dropped to a medium low by the afternoon.
Permit were landed on Supreme Hairs, EP spawning shrimp, ESB spawning shrimp, White Casa Blanca Crabs #2, and a tan raghead with no yellow eyes.
Tarpon and Snook ate EP baitfish, laid up tarpons 2/0, purple toads and chartreuse gamechangers tied on 600 series 2/0.
Bonefish readily ate most shrimp offerings sizes #2 – #8
The dream team we have for kitchen staff once again knocked it out of the park with excellent dishes. Chef Luis was with us for the first half of the week and the sous chef (Angel) took the reins to finish off the last few days. Last night we were given an unbelievably well-cooked lobster dinner with a decadent molten lava cake to close. Emmanuel stays busy running around with a list of to-dos. We have never ending projects especially as the season closer creeps in. When the lodge shuts down with guests Emmanuel brings workers from his hometown and they spend a few weeks working through repairs and touch ups. Freddy and Pancho worked the grounds and kept the lodge tidy and comfortable. Our entire house staff works together like a F1 pit crew.
The sun is shining once again as I conclude the report for the week, and I hear one of the planes flying overhead taking clients back to Cancun where they’ll head home. I’ll be turning on the generator here in an hour in anticipation of Martin and Emmanuel bringing in the new guests. Rinse and repeat with returning familiar faces that look forward to their annual ESB trip. Varied weather conditions are in the forecast with some scattered rain which we desperately need. I’m confident if we accept mother nature and what she gives us we will be graced with a fun filled week.
Hopefully you’re enjoying your fall so far and able to get outdoors. I talked to a close friend of mine who sent me a picture of his son with his first small buck in Michigan. Funny how those moments stay frozen and stick with you forever. I remember my friend being that young boy as well taking his first buck with his father 25 years ago. It’s important to protect our resources, show them the respect they deserve and defend them at all costs.
Make sure you drop a quick line to our friends over at The Fly Shop to get the latest on ESB or any other destination you may have in mind. They’re way ahead in next year’s calendars for various global destinations and it’s best to stay ahead of the curve and grab an opening. You know the drill here at ESB, have a great week, stay safe, and we’ll rendezvous again in due time for the next report.
From a very special place in the Yucatan,
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara