by Mike Patron
When you mention the Yucatan peninsula most people associate it with Cancun and the other tourist towns that lie along the Carribean. In May I had the pleasure of going to the southern part of Yucatan for a fishing trip with my good friend Chris.
Our destination, Boca Paila, is located about 2 ½ hours south of Cancun in the Kan Bio Reserve. Chris and I flew into Cancun, where we then rented a car. Although the lodge arranges pickups at the airport, we were planning on staying in the area for a bit of sightseeing . The lodge has a tremendous number of fish species available to anglers, but permit, bonefish and tarpon are the most abundant. Snook, jack crevalle, and cubera snappers can also be found on the flats surrounding the lodge.
I cannot begin to describe my excitement one we set foot in Mexico. We made our way to the lodge, and were immediately greeted by Chico, the manager, who took us to our cabana. It was perched right on the beach just a stone throw from water. The view of the Caribbean was spectacular.
That evening we met the other guests for an incredible dinner. All of the guests of the lodge eat dinner together every day. The food was outstanding. It was like eating at a five star restaurant everyday - except that you could walk in barefoot and it didn’t matter. The staff makes you feel right at home.
Chris and I were quite restless our first night. I had never been on a guided saltwater fishing trip, and I had never taken bonefish, permit or tarpon before. We had arranged for our guide, Mario, to meet us at our cabana early the next morning to look over our tackle and fly selection. I had been busy all winter tying flies and rigging leaders in anticipation of this moment! After about ½ hour we headed towards dock bursting with excitement.
We loaded our gear into Mario’s boat and pushed off from the dock. When fishing for bonefish, permit, or tarpon from a boat, only one person fishes at a time and you trade off about every hour. Chris stepped up onto the deck to fish first. Within minutes after Mario shut off the outboard he spotted a bonefish cruising across the flat. Chris landed his first bonefish just ½ hour into the day . Finally it was my turn! I had my 7 weight strung up with a Crazy Charlie I had tied weeks earlier. As Mario poled around the lagoon it didn’t take long to find another school of bonefish. I made a 50 foot cast in front of the school and waited for them to swim up to the Charlie. I began stripping the fly towards me hoping to attract the attention of one of the bonefish. The lead fish spotted my fly and charged. The bonefish struck my Charlie quick and hard, and as soon as I set the hook he exploded toward deeper water. I was instantly into my backing - which rarely happens in trout fishing! After a few long powerful runs I brought my first bonefish to the boat. I could not believe my luck. Little did I know that there were many great things yet to come.
I stepped onto the deck for my second round of the morning just as Mario spotted a school of permit. He quickly poled the boat into position to intercept the school. Permit are considered one the toughest fish to take on a fly rod. They are very wary by nature and have excellent vision. As a result many people strive their entire lives to hook into one of these elusive fish. All of these thoughts raced through my head as the school approached. In fact, I was so nervous that my knees buckled as I began casting. The school moved across the flat very erratically. One minute they headed to the right only to suddenly turn and go left. In addition to keeping track of their constantly changing direction I was forced to cast 60 -70 feet to avoid spooking them.
The school finally turned and headed towards us about 100 ft away. I made a cast of about 60 feet and hoped the school would continue swimming in the direction on my fly. As they approached, Mario began to rattle off instructions. I began to quickly strip the fly in front of the school. One of the closest fish began to follow. Suddenly the fish pounced on the fly. As soon as I set the hook the rest of the school spooked and raced off. The permit tore line from my reel as he tried to stay with the school. I could not believe I had a permit on the end of my line. I can’t explain the feeling I had as Mario netted the permit and handed it over to me for a photo. The permit was about 6 pounds, a small one, but a permit nonetheless. This all occurred before 10:00 in the morning! I was one species away form a Grand Slam! Mario told us of another place where he had found tarpon a few days before..
He took us over to another area of the vast lagoon. We spotted tarpon almost immediately. Chris and I had several shots at tarpon of all sizes, but they refused show any interest in our flies. We landed a few more bonefish apiece before heading back to the lodge around 3:30 that afternoon. I couldn’t have asked for a better day! I had been very confident that I would take a few bonefish on this trip, but landing the permit was completely unexpected . That evening, Chris and I sat on the beach and had a couple of beers to celebrate our first day.
The next morning Mario took us to a different spot. I started off fishing to bonefish, but shortly found myself working a school of nice permit. This school was much tougher than the ones we encountered the day before. Mario had to work really hard to stay with this school. These permit were on the move and searching for food. These fish were extraordinarily spooky.. After half an hour I finally got in a cast in front of them and was rewarded with another hookup. This one took longer to land, but I was finally able to bring him to the boat. For some reason the fishing gods were very kind to me, and I was thankful.
Towards the end of the day I found myself casting once again to a school of permit. This group had some fish that were much bigger than any we had seen so far. My first cast spooked them, but they didn’t go to far. I saw them circle around counter-clockwise and made a cast at just the right angle so that they would swim over the fly. When I thought they were over my fly I began stripping and saw a large wake following my line. The glare on the water was terrible, and i was unable to see my fly of the fish following it. My line tightened suddenly and the fish proceeded to race to the other side of the lagoon. I turned him with only 25 yards of backing remaining on my reel. The permit was by far the largest of the trip. As I released him to fight another day, I grinned knowing that I would be back again next year to teach him another lesson!
My trip to the Boca Paila Lodge was wonderful. Travel arrangements were made through Frontiers International; they were extremely helpful in not only travel plans, but fly and tackle preparation as well. The lodge itself has such a pristine setting ,and the places we fished were never crowded with other anglers. I can honestly say this trip changed me forever. Saltwater fly fishing is extremely contagious. Book your first saltwater trip and you will know exactly what I mean.