Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Grand Slam in the Yucatan-Tarpon Cay Lodge & Isla Blanca

This past July our group of 6 was treated to great weather, food and, of course fishing. We were back at Tarpon Cay Lodge (3 days) and Isla Blanca (2 days). As in past years the baby tarpon kept us busy as we eased into many estuaries and creeks, choked with dead mangroves from hurricanes past. This deadfall made for challenging conditions even though the baby tarpon were relatively small (6-10 lbs.).
It was the off shore migratory fish that were a change to our TCL program, and although the wind kept fish out of sight for the first 2 days, the 3rd, and final, day brought the promise of "junior size" (30-60 lbs.) tarpon. It didn't take long to spot our first pod of cruising tarpon, moving east, close to shore. We choose larger, traditional saltwater patterns, thinking that visibility would be the key to success. It was!

I was forturnate to connect with this chunky 50 lb. tarpon, followed by another about 40 lb. In anticipation of the larger fish I had packed a 12 wt. outfit, which was probably a bit heavy for fish in this size range, but it sure made quick work of the fight, and both fish were released unharmed.
The beer tasted especially good that evening, as we watched the sunset from the back porch of Tarpon Cay Lodge!

With the memory of big tarpon securely fixed in our minds, we put San Felipe behind us..... and traveled the 3 hours back to Cancun, to fish the Isla Blanca area with guides Enrique, and Edwin.
My first day with Enrique, fishing by myself was magical. Our primary target was the elusive and hard to catch, permit, and after several shots.....

....I was
able to connect
with 2
small permit.

I should mention that earlier in the morning I was able to cast to a small pod of bonefish, rare at Isla Blanca, and as the fish rushed my fly, a small jack cravelle raced forward, stealing the fly. That little jack would play a big role at the end of the day!
After landing the two permit, Enrique insisted we head north to fish for tarpon and snook, and perhaps a grand slam (permit, bonefish, tarpon); or perhaps a super grand slam (permit, bonefish, tarpon, snook).
As we quietly approached the snook area, we immediately spotted several small snook, which took one look at me and headed for parts unknown! Grin! I guess I can't say I blame them!

Anyway, just a few minutes later, Enrique spotted a huge snook resting amoung the small mangrove shoots. I dropped the weedless Slideball Slider near the big snook and stripped the fly several times. Wham! Line pealed off my reel as the big snook headed for cover.
I was glad the 50 lb. bite leader was in place.......
.....and, in a minute or so, a chunky 12 lb. snook was in my hands.

Now it was time to find a tarpon, and it didn't take before we were easing our way through the dense mangrooves, and spotted a pod of rolling baby tarpon. I was fortunate to make a good cast and with only a strip or two, a bright 15 lb. tarpon was airborn.
It is simply incredible how high these fish can jump!
We now had 3 legs of the Super Grand Slam, and about 1 hour left to find the elusive bonefish.......well, it didn't happen, and we were one jack cravelle short of the Super Grand Slam. What a day! A day I will never forget....and what a treat to fish with such a talented guide and to cast to such a variety of wonderful game fish.
My last day at Isla Blanca was with Edwin, and within a few minutes of launching the panga, we were preparing for our first pod of fish-bonefish! As the fish moved close, I made the cast, and although a bit too wide, the bonefish closed the gap, with Edwin encouraging me to leave the fly right where it was. He was right, and a bonefish rushed the fly and screamed off at a blistering pace. Unfortunately, the line when slack-the hook had pulled free. mmmm?

It was still early, and within a few minutes a big sting ray appeared and following close behind were 5 big permit, looking to feed on crabs and shrimp stirred up by the ray. My little tan crab pattern dropped next to the ray and 2 permit raced to grab the fly.

After a long, blazing, 125 yard run, the permit was along side the boat.

Now, I decided to tie on a favorite bonefish fly and target them for the next piece of the Grand Slam puzzle. It really didn't take long before a large school of bonefish worked their way down the shoreline and into range. One, two, three casts and the bonefish, not spooked, had no interest in the fly. "Quick, change flies.....tie on your crab fly again" Edwin whispered. As quickly as possible I tied on the crab fly, and was amazed to look up and see the bonefish still feeding within range. I dropped the fly to the right of the fish, and one bonefish rushed out and sucked up the fly! Although he was stunned and not sure what was happening, he soon figured out that he needed to do what bonefish do best-blast off in a blazing run across the flat.

The new Targus rod and reel performed flawlessly...
....and within a few minutes the second
part of the Grand Slam was in place.

After only few seconds for a picture, Edwin was yanking on the motor and heading north for tarpon and snook.

For me the day was already a huge success, but the day was young and Edwin and I were certainly motivated to "close the deal".

We looked long and hard for tarpon, and it seemed they had vanished, and I mentioned to Edwin that we would probably find all of them in one place.....sure enough, as we poled through a narrow tunnel in the mangroves, and peaked into the adjoining lagoon, we were face to face with 40 or 50 tarpon slowly rolling near the boat. With so many eyes bearing down on us it seemed hopeless, but fortunately one tarpon broke from the pak and exploded on the fly.

Tarpon in the boat!
We had successfully completed the Grand Slam!

With an hour left to secure the snook and the 4th leg of the Super Slam, we simply ran out of time. Edwin, poled feverishly looking and hoping for a shot at a snook-any snook, but it was not to be.
As we cruised back to the marina, we expressed our thanks, "Gracias Dios", for the opportunity to have such a wonderful day on the water!
Several new flies were born in the Yucatan this trip. A slow sinking baitfish pattern proved very effective on the shallow, clear flats, that were home to very spooky tarpon.
Here is a series of flies that worked extremely well for the shallow and clear water tarpon that are typically very spooky. This fly sinks very slowly and actually rises in the water column when stripped. If it is stripped immediately after casting it can be fished in the film with a very nice undulating action! At this time I do not have a name for this exciting new fly. Any ideas?

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the incredible Blue Bay hotel where we stayed, north of Canun. It was "all-inclusive" so we had no reason to leave, except for fishing!

My thanks to fellow anglers Dave, Jim, Guy, Chatt, and George, for making this trip such a success. The fellowship we shared together really added much to the entire experience in the Yucatan!

Adios Mi Amigos!