Fly odyssey UK director Gilly Bate has just returned from…
Mr Andy Lucas has provided a great insight into fly fishing out of the new ESB Lodge in Mexico – “It’s like fishing in an aquarium”……
Trying to walk across the tarmac of Cancun’s private airport calmly & slowly without looking like an overexcited bunch of schoolboys being let home early for summer break wasn’t easy. Firstly, I’d never been on a small plane with only 8 seats before, and on top of that we were travelling in it to Espiritu Santo Bay to fish prime Grand Slam territory during a prime week. We’d already been in Cancun for 24 hours having just checked out of the Courtyard Marriott. A pleasant enough hotel, nicely positioned close to the airport and also having a reasonable restaurant.
The flight down to ESB in the very smart & very new light aircraft was a fantastic start to our tour. The pilot followed the coastline southwards. First over the big holiday resorts, then Punta Allen, Ascension Bay & finally over what was to be our home for a week, Sian Ka’an Village. Approaching the narrow strip of tarmac which we were led to believe was the runway was an interesting experience seeing as it was bordered by trees on three sides & the sea on the other. Fortunately a gentle bump and we were all safe and in one piece. It is infact a military airfield so the line of armed soldiers were in no way there to shoot anyone, it’s their job to be there. They did however choose to search my luggage & video it all too – great entertainment for the family when back home I’m sure.
Our hosts Chiara & Dane were there to great us. You couldn’t ask for a nicer couple to look after you for a week in a fishing paradise. We were all loaded into 2 4wd vehicles and set off into the mangrove jungle. Within an hour we were at our home, a stunning complex of timber and thatch villas. Standing in the middle of the main villa was a man known as Sean offering beers to us all. This doesn’t happen every day I can tell you. The lodge is right on the beach, so Aussie Steve (who wasn’t born in Australia) decided to chuck a popper into the surf for half hour. To say we were surprised when he walked up the steps to the lodge with a 42″ barracuda 20 minutes later was an understatement! This was a good start.
The bumpy road to the village where the boats are kept is only about 20 minutes from the lodge. Some of which is alongside the coast & some through thick mangrove jungle where the previous week a jaguar wandered into the road. It stared at the occupants of the minibus for a few seconds before hopping back into the jungle. A rare treat to see one of those! We never saw the jaguar during our stay but we did see its prints in the sand on 2 mornings outside the kitchen. Sleepwalkers beware! The wildlife in the bay is outstanding. Cayman, frigates, osprey, turtles, sharks, dolphins. There’s something to look at all day, every day.
The skiffs are standard Hells Bay models with a 40 hp outboard. Only one of the four has a lean bar. Something due to be improved upon apparently. The guides are very safety conscious though and never put us in any hairy situations. Onto the fishing…….
I partnered Aussie Steve on day 1. We ventured to the north side of the bay where several tarpon were rolling but we gave up after an hour with 1 follow and no takes. We made our way to a narrow channel between two islands about 60 – 70 foot wide with a deep central section where we saw so many fish it was crazy. We spent the morning here & lost count of the number bonefish, jacks & ladyfish we had (40-50) but managed to work out we’d had 1 permit each & lost a massive barracuda. This was promising. The afternoon was spent chasing tarpon in the hope of 2 grand slams to the boat but neither of us succeeded sadly. Still, the first day had left us all very impressed. EBS was as special as we’d heard.
On day 2 we again had excellent conditions & again found ourselves on the north side. The water was black with fish, this place is truly something else. 4 permit for me, 3 permit for Paul. Again, dozens of jacks & ladyfish. The ladyfish weren’t small either, most of them over 2lbs – great sport! Bonefish were a bit thin on the ground but we had a few. So, we went grand slam chasing in the afternoon but no result sadly. Never mind, 7 permit to the boat is something I doubt I’ll ever be involved in again. JWL summed things up, “it’s like fishing in an aquarium”. It was, & this place was actually getting better. Or so we thought….
Day 3 I had the pleasure of sharing the boat with our host Sean Clarke, an outstanding fisherman & a quite incredible flycaster/teacher. We had 2 good size bonefish up to about 3.5 lbs but due to the weather were unable to reach the north side and had to stay south. It was noticeably harder with fewer fish about but my casting improved greatly thanks to Sean. This one of the great benefits of a hosted trip, these chaps are there to help us lesser mortals.
Day 4 was again on the south side. Steve and I had no luck at all until the last 90 minutes when we had about 20 bonefish between us working our way along the mangroves quite close to home. A good end to a tough day. Brian, one of the more experienced members of the team had a boat to himself and managed 27 bonefish!
Day 5 was very tough with strong winds all day & I blanked. My boat partner Brian had 2 bonefish. Another member of the team also blanked so I was in good company but things appeared to be going downhill. The whole team were struggling. We needed the weather to turn so we could go north again. The evening was enhanced greatly with a fly tying lesson with JWL. Steve and I tied our first flies. Then we a had a beer or two to celebrate.
Day 6. The weather turned, result! Back to the north. Boat partner Ray & I had 3 permit up to 12lb and 25-30 bonefish between us on a beautiful mornings flat fishing. Normal service was resumed. No tarpon….again. A few bones in the afternoon followed an evenings banter and a gin or two. Splendid.
In summary, when the conditions are good ESB is unbelievable. 3 members of our team have over 50 years saltwater experience between them and they’ve never seen so many fish. Furthermore, on one day we saw 4 boats from Playa Blanca. They were the only other boats we saw all week. No tourists, no commercial fishermen, nothing. Very very quiet!
Our group of 7 anglers had 16 permit for the week.
JWL had bonefish over 5lb. He also had 11 barracuda over the week, some nearly 48″ long!
The tarpon didn’t want to play on our week. A few were caught & jumped but not in the numbers they were for the previous week when Ray Sutton had 5. Big ones of well over 60lb were seen but not tempted.
The average bonefish size is bigger than Ascension Bay. There’s a few little bananas but nothing like you see on Ascension. Most days you’ll catch fish of 3lb.
The lodgings were fantastic but these are to be replaced by the new lodge in June. We had a look around the new but unfinished ESB Lodge. When it’s done it’ll be great. The twin bedded rooms are very big & it’s right by the sea, great for any barracuda hunters! The food was adequate. Some nights it was good, others not so. I’m sure it’ll improve when the cook moves to the new lodge and has his own kitchen.
Chiara & Dane are fantastic. They’re really good hosts and a real asset to the business. Dane ties flies and sells them in the lodge & is always on hand with sound advice, very useful indeed. I really hope it all works out for them.
I’ll come back here. It’s an amazing place with lots to offer. The guides are barely scratching the surface at the moment, it’s only going to get better.
A big thank you to Mat, Sean, Katie & Kevin for putting this tour together.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON FLY FISHING OUT OF ESB LODGE ESPIRITU SANTO BAY PLEASE CALL US ON +44 1621743711 OR EMAIL: email@example.com