November 05 – 12, 2023 #36
We’ve had another nice week here at ESB lodge with 7 returning guests. It was a peaceful November week and we’re staying busy running a normal lodge with slight adjustments catering to our approaching seasonal close. Hard to imagine the end of the ESB season is only a week away and both Chiara and I feel like it was yesterday when we kicked off the 2023 season. We’ve had a wonderful year with returning guests. ESB enjoys a very high level of returning friends who have in turn become an extended family of sorts. Along with enjoying a beautiful place it’s also fulfilling to witness the culture that has developed around this operation. Dynamics change weekly with guests, but our mission stays the same. Experience great fishing, enjoy good food, and company.
I felt a little bad about the negativity of last week’s report. It seemed catered to reporting a dismal forecast with only a slight emphasis on fishing. That’s how it goes sometimes, and a report written by a fisherman will display one’s frustration to almost the point of whining. We hold a tough face, stay strong, but an undeniable selfishness starts to break the angler down. After a few days of hard weather, I find myself scrapping for excuses and begin to the think I seem to be the only victim who gets stuck with all the bad weather. Alas, we’ve all been there and if you deny it, you’re lying, and if you’re lying you must be a fisherman.
The initial forecast for last week wasn’t great. We all know a predictable forecast throws shades of an oxymoron. The cards were in our favor for decent weather and a very much needed break from the rain. I couldn’t believe it stopped raining, seemed like eons ago when we had sun. It was so welcoming, comforting, and it puffed us up with optimism and a rejuvenated sense of hope.
There’s a lot of fresh water in the bay right now. The whole system has been flooded and we see tannic streaks leaching from the mangroves as the Reserve tries to purge and clean itself. One thing people don’t realize about this place is that our small area is the drain field for fresh water, and we get everything that trickles from Ascension Bay to the north and inland from Carrillo. The main highway cutting through the northwest part of the Reserve acts as a dam and prohibits water appropriately draining through the marshes and wetlands. It hits the highway, stacks, and seeps back from where it came. A tortured soul searching for a place to rest. Sound familiar Florida?
Permit have taken a hiatus, but we found small pockets in the northeast part of the bay tucked in around 4th river and a few zipping through Ensenada. They were around and we saw some big singles cruising and nervous schools of smaller fish. When there’s light, we’ll find a few but I wouldn’t under any circumstance call it very productive. Those that want to torture themselves on the bow with hours of staring into the abyss waiting for permit to materialize is the game now. If that’s your cup of tea, be my guest. Austin and John had a fun day in the sun along with guide Victor and they landed one nice permit and a smaller fish from a school. That was it for the week for landed permit. Again, we had shots and even waded up to a couple that were tailing but it just wasn’t meant to be. Some solid light and a north wind cleanse for the freshwater will put this place right back on top of being one of the best permit destinations in the world.
Despite a lot of freshwater, we did see decent numbers of bonefish and anglers happily chased “tailers” in shallow water and bigger singles patrolling outside the mangrove lined shore. We’re focusing on the northside for much of our fishing days with a needed protection from north winds. Ensenada, 1st river back into the transitional stretch of 2nd river hold plenty of fish. Rio locos and third river have impressive pushes of bonefish. Fred and Dave had a great day with Fernando with nonstop bonefish action and we’re trading off and doubling up on fish. I’ll save you my bonefish spiel and how impressive they are in this corner of the world. Never to be underestimated or looked down upon we easily have the best spot to chase bonefish in the Yucatan.
The true saving grace for the week was a low tide in the morning. It was a proper low with mangroves exposed and tarpon and snook cruising around the edges and giving us plenty of opportunities to cast a fly. Everyone experienced some great tarpon and snook fishing during the week. Some anglers had more than 20 shots at snook with pushes of fresh fish coming in. The big snook arrived and I couldn’t be happier to see them. The amount of resident tarpon is impressive for this time of year, and I think with such a low tide and huge amount of freshwater in the backcountry have brought them out of the woodwork. Normal haunts in river systems on the northside, tarpon hotel, the banks off the northern fishing village hold small schools cruising through chasing the seasonal sardine run. I have no idea why so much bait shows up this time of year, but we get a migration of sardines in two sizes. The smaller size is around 2 inches, and the second class is larger around 5 inches. Match the hatch and run realistic sardine patterns with natural colors or you can just run an obnoxious chartreuse toad and call it good. I used to overthink colors with both snook and tarpon to the point it would dizzy me with speculation. A particular color works one day and then scares the hell out of them later. Black and purple today and red and white tomorrow. Don’t overthink it, just have a rainbow number of different colors and rifle through them until you see what cracks the code for the time being.
Close friend Joe Checchio and boatmate Bill Ingram had a funny scenario play out while chasing snook with guide Fernando. I thought it was funny and too unique to not share. We all know throwing darts in tight corners of mangrove pockets is tough and it’s hard to be precise. Your guide calmly explains you need to cast into the mangrove pocket (like it’s the only one in front of you). You see the snook finally and to your horror it’s in a pocket less than a foot wide, behind a mangrove stump, under some matted sargasso, and around a million other obstacles that grab your fly.
Joe was trying to split the uprights and his fly had a mind of its own and became lodged on a branch (this never happens to me). Of course, the fish was relaxing only a few inches below. Before Fernando could push the boat forward and dislodge the fly an Iguana came into the picture. We’re not entirely sure the motive for the Iguana but he/she scampered over and attacked Joe’s fly. Maybe it was hungry, territorial, insulted, mildly turned on? It’s hard to read and understand facial gestures of Iguanas. Nonetheless Joe’s fly was attacked, came dislodged and plopped to where we wanted it to land initially. A miscalculated cast went full circle, and we got the end result of hitting our target. Ep fibers remained in the corner of the Iguana’s mouth as it triumphally reclaimed personal glory for its mangrove lair. Fly now in the right spot minus a couple fibers was twitched and a 30 pound snook engulfed the fly. Joe now has a tattoo in the works with the image of an Iguana donning a cowboy hat while riding a snook off into the sunset. The appropriate EP fibers sticking out of the Iguana’s mouth like Eastwood’s cigar. This is all true minus the 30-pound snook and tattoo….
Weather for the week was a mixture of rain, sun, clouds, with moderate winds from the north. Tide was low in the morning but coming in and high by the afternoon.
Permit were landed on casa Blanca white ragheads with no yellow eyes.
Bonefish ate any small shrimp fly sizes #2-#8
Tarpon and Snook ate normal EP Baitfish, toads, Sardines, Merritt specials, and Bill’s flashy “Mardi gras” streamer.
Chef Luis delighted us with another week of wonderful cuisine and the house staff worked hard to keep us comfortable. Emmanuel is busy now with projects that coincide with the season winding down and also kept everything up and running in typical fashion.
Hopefully you had a good mid-November week and we’re able to get outside and enjoy yourself. We’ve got full lodge for our last week with more returning guests. It’ll be a fun one and a little bittersweet closing down. I am hoping, fingers crossed, I can sneak out on the boat next Saturday. If you’re interested in this special place, shoot our friends over at The Fly Shop a call. Enjoy your week and look for us for another report.
From a very special place in the Yucatan,
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara