This area is said to hold one of the highest concentrations of sailfish anywhere, and it is easily accessible. With numbers like 57 releases with a fly rod from one boat in ONE DAY, one can see why chances are greater of hooking billfish here on a fly than any other place on earth.
It wasn’t too many years ago that the thought of hooking, playing and releasing a sailfish on a fly was only in the minds of a few adventurous anglers out to test their skills and equipment. Now, it is not only possible for the average angler to entertain thoughts of fly fishing for sails, but catching and releasing these marvelous gamefish is a realistic expectation at the right destination. And the right destination is at Casa Vieja Lodge in the coastal city of Puerto San Jose, Guatemala.
The first step to successful sailfishing is having incredibly high populations of fish in the water (year ’round!), but to be as consistently successful as the Casa Vieja team is takes more than just a lot of fish: it takes skilled boat captains and talented two to three-man crews to find the fish, tease them to within casting distance, and help an angler bring it boatside for healthy release. These guys are fantastic, and really a part of what makes a trip to Casa Vieja so memorable! Casa Vieja uses the best sailfish captains and crews in Guatemala. They understand how to work with fly fishers, and appreciate the added challenge it takes to catch and release sailfish on a fly rod.
The adrenaline rush of sailfishing on a fly is indescribable, and addicting. One moment you’re relaxing with your friends and the crew, and the next instant a sailfish is spotted and the game is on! The crew hauls in all of the teasers and quickly throws out a hookless bait on a spinning rod, which they use to tease the fish in very close to the boat. You see the fish’s bill cutting through the water’s surface as it slashes behind the teaser. The moment the fish is within casting range, you have time to make one quick cast, aiming to accurately land the giant topwater fly as close to the teaser as possible. Once the fly is in the water, the teaser is pulled away from the fish and the hope is that the fish then turns and takes the fly (which they usually do). When they eat the fly, you set the hook, then hold on! The first-time billfish fly fisher is never prepared for the heart stopping jumps and rocket speed (sailfish have been clocked at over 50 mph) as it dissolves line and backing off your reel.
All of the flies, rods, and tackle are included with fly fishing packages at Casa Vieja Lodge.
For more than a decade, billfish conservation has been central to Casa Vieja’s philosophy. Casa Vieja Lodge is right at home in a country whose national policy make it illegal to possess a sailfish. Guatemala’s fishing laws are exemplary of a strong national marine conservation ethic and of a country which is the region’s leader in billfish protection. Although always under test by commercial interests, the future of billfishing in Guatemalan waters appears quite secure.
Reservations & Rates
Rates (based on 4 Nights/3 Days):
• 35' ST Contender (El Cadejo and Pez Raton) (1-4 anglers) - $2,625 - $6,300 per person
• 37' to 39' Gameboats (Makaira, Release, Spindrift, A-Fin-Ity) (1-5 anglers) - $2,885 - $8,470 per person
• 40' Gameboats (Finest Kind, Rum Line) (1-5 anglers) - $3,170 - $9,680 per person
• 44' Gameboats (Poco Loco) (1-5 anglers) - $3,420 - $10,940 per person
Additional days are available, at an additional cost, for those that want to fish or stay longer than 4 nights.
Your angling package at Casa Vieja includes VIP airport reception, round trip chauffeured ground transfers, deluxe double occupancy accommodations, all gourmet meals, domestic alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, three full days of fishing, tournament tackle and flies, lunch and beverages on board, laundry service.
Not included in your Casa Vieja package are international airfare to Guatemala City, Guatemala room tax of $28/room/night (must be collected in Guatemala), gratuities to lodge staff, captain & boat crews, and drivers, and any tours and meals outside of the Lodge.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses.
• Travel Insurance Information
Seasons at Casa Vieja Lodge
Sailfish are abundant year 'round, since 1994, the fleet has averaged raising more than 20 billfish per day per boat – YEAR 'ROUND!
The rainy season of mid-July through September coincide with the slower travel period of our typical guests, with October through June being prime booking (and fishing) months. The larger sailfish up to 150 pounds are
usually taken during the Fall, but for pure volume of 80 – 100 pound fish, December through June tends to be the rule. During this time you'll be tantalized with 20 – 40 bites per day and, on some of those exceptional days, more than 100! Our statistics show 40 plus sailfish release days have been experienced in every month of the year. Fly fisherman take note: feather tossing anglers aboard the RELEASE let go 57 sailfish in one day in 2006 and they did it while conforming to all IGFA rules and regulations. Days with finicky or non-aggressive feeders are few and far between!
Marlin add to the excitement and they generally show up in concentrations for a week or more several times a year. At any time, a run to the far offshore drop can normally put you on yellowfin tuna as well as the average 400 pound blue marlin. As an average, while targeting sailfish every Casa Vieja boat will encounter a marlin every third day during the year. This number can be seriously upped by requesting a strictly marlin venture!
Throughout the year there are lots of football size tuna and dolphin in the 20 – 40 pound range to be caught, should that be your choice. Along the coastline, and within minutes of the docks, roosterfish are plentiful and of impressive size. This type of fishing is also done the comfortable way by all vessels in our fleet. Scheduling a day of inshore fishing is an excellent way to round off your trip.
Getting to Casa Vieja Lodge
Travel to Guatemala from the US is easy, with regularly scheduled flights into Guatemala City from Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles. It is recommended that you try to schedule an arriving flight into Guatemala City prior to 3:30 pm, though the lodge can accommodate just about any flight schedule.
Upon arrival in Guatemala City and after going through customs, you will be met by a Casa Vieja representative and taken to the air-conditioned van (stocked with beer, sodas, and bottled water) for your transfer to Casa Vieja Lodge.
The first part of the drive to Puerto San Jose takes you through the heart of Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America at over 4 million people. It's a big, busy, very densely populated city. The streets are nice and newly paved and there are plenty of nice new cars amidst many newer, modern high-rise buildings; at the same time, there are people everywhere in true third world fashion, walking in the middle of the streets, riding 3 (or sometimes 4) deep on the backs of motorcycles, and piled by the dozen into the beds of rusty pickup trucks. The traffic can be bumper to bumper just about any time of day. It is normally a 90 minute drive from the airport to the lodge, though traffic congestion in the city can add extended travel time. Once out of Guatemala City, the rest of the drive is scenic and smooth, speeding down the curvy highway that descends from the mountains to the coast. Soon you are rolling through the gate at Casa Vieja Lodge.
The lodge manager and staff will be waiting to welcome you with an iced cocktail, and your luggage will be taken to your room while you are given a brief orientation discussion to let you what to expect during your stay. If you arrive early enough in the day, you'll be able to enjoy the swimming pool before appetizers and your first of many savory meals.
Lodging at Casa Vieja Lodge
Casa Vieja is a large 5-star hotel in Puerto San Jose, Guatemala where your lodging and gourmet meals are served in an air conditioned dining room.
Not to be outdone by the fishing, the Casa Vieja Lodge is every bit of a 4-star luxury hotel just a five minute drive from the marina. The main
entrance to the lodge opens onto a courtyard beautifully landscaped by palm trees, flowers, bougainvillea and other vines, and a small sailfish-shaped fountain that doubles as a home for a pair of small turtles. To the right of the fountain is the restaurant area where breakfast is served, along with the small gift shop containing Casa Vieja shirts, hats, and other souvenirs from the lodge. To the left of the main courtyard is one wing of guest rooms. Directly ahead and opposite the main gate is the "churatta", the large open air room roofed in thatch and home to the evening dining area, bar, and a pool table. Behind the churatta is a small pool for more turtles, and several large bird cages that are home to a parrot, a toucan, and several beautiful scarlet macaws. Perpendicular to the churatta is the pool area, flanked on one side by the other wing of guest rooms. The pool feels great at the end of a fishing day and is the center of the after-fishing social hour each evening.
In all, there are 20 rooms for a maximum occupancy of 38 guests. There are a total of 18 double rooms featuring two queen beds and en suite bathrooms, plus two single rooms with a king bed. Every room has air conditioning, 110 volt electricity (North American standard plugs so no adapters needed), and free WiFi.
The food at Casa Vieja is outstanding, starting from fresh Guatemalan coffee delivered to your room each morning and finishing with tasty dessert each evening. The day begins each morning at 5:45 am with breakfast served to your room. Breakfasts are served in the indoor dining area, which resembles a small café with several tables. Lunches are served on the boat each day. The crew will prepare something while trolling the teasers, taking breaks periodically to tease in a sailfish or two. They'll typically offer a selection of grilled chicken or hamburgers, cooked fresh in the ship's galley. It's not uncommon to catch a tuna or dorado in the morning and have that grilled up for a super-fresh fish lunch. After fishing, guests congregate in and around the pool, and the staff brings cocktails and appetizers poolside for everyone. Dinners are served in the churatta, where they serve a three course meal, plus dessert, each evening, starting with a homemade soup, fresh salad, then a main course (often seafood, shrimp or fish, etc), followed by dessert. Often people bring back tuna or dorado which the lodge will serve up either grilled or as fresh sashimi.
While the fishing is certainly the focus at Casa Vieja, the lodge also specializes in coordinating some wonderful non-angling side trips. These excursions are perfect add-ons to a sailfishing holiday, and a rare opportunity to experience some of the incredible culture and history of Guatemala. Non-angling activities include:
One-day tour – Antigua:
Upon arrival in Antigua you will be taken to the Indian village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, surrounded by an impressive volcanic landscape and famous for its textiles and handcrafts. Afterwards you will continue on to visit the Cultural Centre "La Azotea", where you will enjoy a guided visit to an organic coffee plantation and also the Traditional Maya Museum "K'ojom". After tasting the best cup of Antigua coffee, you will visit the Historic Center of Antigua. You will begin in the Main Plaza and visit the city's many monuments.
One-day tour - Pacaya Volcano Hiking Tour:
Located only 52Km from Guatemala City, the Pacaya Volcano is an impressive active volcano, Strombolian type. You start climbing from the San Vicente de Pacaya village, and can be ascended in approximately 2 hours. This Unique experience should not be missed!
One-day tour – Helicopter Sight seeing Tour of the Volcanoes:
Few countries in the world have as many volcanoes as Guatemala does. Their volcanic mountain range runs from west to east parallel to the Pacific Coast. From the 37 Volcanoes that forms the mountain range, 3 are of them are active. Admire the impressive views from the air and take the most breathtaking and unique pictures of Guatemala City, Antigua, volcanoes like the Pacaya, Acatenango, Fuego or Agua, lake Amatitlan and the Pacific Coast.
One-day tour – Tikal:
Early morning transfer from Guatemala City to the airport to board your flight to Flores, Peten. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to Tikal National Park. Declared "Cultural Heritage of Humankind" by UNESCO. This majestic Mayan city is considered the largest and most monumental of all of the sites discovered in the Mayan World. Enjoy guided walking to the most important plazas, complexes and temples, enjoying as well the tropical forest, nesting place and hundreds of exotic birds and habitats of a wide variety of wildlife. After lunch, visit the museums. On your way out of the park if you choose, you may take a canopy tour where you will glide through the trees with the moneys before transferring back to the airport for you flight to Guatemala City.
Fishing at Casa Vieja Lodge
It wasn't too many years ago that the thought of hooking, playing and releasing a sailfish on a fly was only in the minds of a few adventurous anglers out to test their skills and equipment.
Coffee is delivered to your room at 5:45 am, with breakfast served beginning at 6:00 am. Afterwards, you gather gear that you need on the
boat and the van transfers you a short 5 – 10 minutes away to the marina. The boat and crew will be waiting for you to get under way. The first shuttle van departs to the marina at 6:30 am, and by 7:00 am the boats are pulling out of the marina. The run to the fishing grounds varies from 10 minutes to 50 minutes, while most days will find fish in between these run times. The seas are seldom very rough. The English speaking captain will explain to you how to work with the crew for the casting and teasing. Lunches will be provided on the boat with water and soft drinks. They usually pull in the teasers at around 3:30 pm, and are back at the marina by 5:00. Appetizers are served poolside, with dinner starting around 7:00 pm.
It is unforgettable to see the fish's bill cut through the water's surface slashing behind a hook-less teaser and seeing the sailfish "light up" as it tries to eat it while crew member reels it to your casting distance behind the boat before yanking it out of the water away from the fish. Anyone who has experienced the thrill of sailfishing on a fly is sure to want to return to Guatemala to chase these magnificent, acrobatic gamefish again and again.
The Fleet at Casa Vieja -
A 40-ft Whiticar, and Guatemala's premier charter boat. This legendary sport fishing machine offers a fast comfortable ride with its dual Cummins Diamond series 450hp engines.
This 40-ft Gamefisherman was built in 1989. Originally called the Jolly Roger and most recently Jungle Rules while operating in Costa Rica. The boat has a top speed of 24kts with twin CAT 3408's can easily fish five anglers in comfort. While in Stuart, Florida it recently had a quarter million dollar re-fit before being shipped to Guatemala.
A 37-ft Merritt built in 1961 by Buddy Merritt himself. He called the 37 "The Perfect Fishing Boat" and built her with one purpose in mind…to raise and catch fish. This classic boat is a real beauty, and a pleasure to fish from.
Launched in 1993 and immaculately maintained, the 37-ft Gamefisherman has 900hp of diesel power and the capability of real speed to maximize your fishing time! Up to five anglers will enjoy an unforgettable day aboard Central Amercia's most famous game boat. A longtime member of the old Fins n' Feathers fleet, she's an incredible fish raiser.
A truly exceptional example of the Rybovich day boat, the company that invented the modern day sportfisherman. This classic has been fully restored including new Cat diesels in 2005. This 1961, 37-ft offers the same day boat style that the traditionalist demands.
This 38-ft Stolper 380 Tournament Express was custom built in 1998 out of Stuart, Florida. She is the essence of a no-compromise fishing machine! Powered by twin Cummins diesels, Spindrift has been engineered to have a low frequency hull signature said to attract fish. She cruises at 25 knots with comfortable bench seating for up to six anglers.
This 39 ft Billy Knowles is the latest addition to our fleet. Billy Knowles custom boats have long been known in the industry as one of the premier gameboat builders from Stuart, FL, for serious hardcore tournament billfishing winning boats! With a cruising speed of 27 knots, built-in communication system with the skipper and a 12 ft beam.
El Cadejo & Pez Raton:
These two 35' ST Contenders will offer anglers the best in quality, reliability, fishability, performance, and comfort. Perfect for small groups (2-3 anglers) and ideal for single anglers, the 35' ST Contender will give the hands-on feeling of being on an offshore pro team. The walk-around feature also gives anglers the edge over conventional sportfishers for those multiple fish hookups on fly or conventional tackle. Anglers will also have the performance ability to pick up and go to the fish at any time.