|in quest of one fish and one fish only|
Pesca Maya, the name alone has romantic overtures, many couples come to fish and maybe frolic too. In my case the romance was all about the search for the elusive "Permit", the guides call them "Palometa" fly fishers name them the "Diablo" of the flats mostly because one has a devil of a time trying to catch a big one anywhere in the worlds ocean. Many fly fishers have invested thousand and thousands of minutes and mucho money only to go away empty handed again and again. This year I thought I would celebrate my 69th year with a personal gift to travel to the famous Pesca Maya lodge in quest of one fish and one fish only. Five nights top class accommodation and four days on the water with only one thought in mind. A big permit on a fly !
Day 1, after an overnight in Dallas TX.......... I arrive in Cancun, wash my throat down with a rum and coke, and endure the three hour taxi trip to the Lodge............good news......... the first two hours are a series of speed bumps, wait for it here is another "Topes" .... the last hour is just a series of bumps in general, don't overestimate the Mexican slowdowns as life is just getting better with each passing mile and the scenery has some amazing highlights..........ocean on one side, bay on the other and a bridge that is working that was destroyed just a few years ago. Boca Paila was once the center of fly fishing here, now we head for Punta Allen and beyond with the amazing guides at Pesca Maya. Lodge in sight, room a dream, dinner with Fly guys from Calgary, Alberta, Germany and Wyoming, wine much better than advertised, looking forward to "Mr. Palometa" I.e. Permit in the morning
Day 2, Wilberth is my guide, Eli his assistant, I am now Carlos, he is Wilbert and Eli is my eyes on the Ocean. Eli has to stand close beside me........ I am a storm of my own creation.....like my first cast at three ninety mile per hour dark shapes that they assure me were Permit. yikes I have to improve right NOW ! We had taken a one hour ride that morning to the south end of a small Island and by the time I got set up Wilbert was on the pole and we were all on lookout. I had advised the crew in the Lodge that I had only one fish in mind, they and all the fly guys said that Bonefish were plentiful and all were having mucho success wading. Some of them had seen a Permit so they thought, but boy were they enjoying the Bones. No bones for me I stated, I am here for a big Permit on the fly.
Wilberth has us look at a tarpon or two and although I am casting better, I am still uncertain of what I am seeing, until it is too late. Then more Permit and this time I am ready, good cast....three follow then two then the last one sees the boat and.....gone !! Talk about great start .... less than two hours in and five casts with one group follow. Then they remind me that this is the calmest day so far this year and this is the most Permit they have seen as they were concentrating on Bones and Barracuda and did I know that April/May is the best time for Permit. I don't care I am seeing fish now.
Two more looks happen too fast for proper cast. Wilbert needs to do some shore duty so Elle and I pole off in search again. This time I do cast perfect about seventy feet I.e. for me that's 15 pulls plus thirty feet of intermediate sink clear tip and leader. Permit follow, last one takes and I pull the fly out of the mouth with my Trout strike. Fly comes back damaged, but nowhere near as much as my EGO. Elle knows better than to advise me at this point and by now all the fish are gone....... so we have Lunch. Wilberth advised that morning fishing is usually the best, but miracles can happen.
Afternoon has us at a new location where I get more shots......brief ones and then Tarpon appear. Lets go for it we all say and after six or seven poor shots, I change flies to one of my own creations (a take off on a Green Toad). Much easier to see for both me and the tarpon. Next two shots tough as the wind is picking up the a straight shot with wind coming over from right to left, two tarpon follow both want the fly and the fastest one takes at about forty feet from the boat. Exiting to see a Tarpon explode into the air as both guides are yelling get your rod tip down to the water line and of course I knew that, only I just forgot at the moment. Fifteen minutes and five massive air attacks and we have landed a twenty three pound Tarpon. Just look at the smile on the faces.
Evening brought a steak dinner, more wine, major stories from all present, bones, barracuda, snook, snapper and me with the Tarpon release story. All were amazed to learn that I took the Tarpon on a Sage eight foot largemouth Bass rod. I started using it because the wind had picked up and that little rod can cast a Jim Beam shot glass a hundred feet accurately
Day 3............second days fishing, new assistant Rosendo........known as Chindo.............same Permit fly slightly damaged, heading for southern islands as we have given up the first location to Davis, from Wyoming, as he too has a quest for Permit and it will be his last days fishing. I also give Davis my only other copy of the fly that the Permit hit on. I call this fly "Permitable" and expect Davis to catch a Permit now he is suitably armoured. Davis's guide Manuel, whom I have fished with before is reluctant to use the fly, preferring known patterns. After a two hour run in a driving wind we start poling, take lunch and are all still scouring the horizon for a glimpse of a black dorsal fin in choppy water at a range of one football field................and see Nothing !!........life is great out here and although difficult to stand on deck hour after hour, I am committed. Weather plays its part in all ocean sagas.........this one included.
02:00 p.m. Chindo sees black tails on the other side of a dark spot and we pole for twenty minutes against wind to set me up for casting range. First cast I am off line by ten feet but in the zone, as I pull back softly so as not to create a popping sound I get a hit and now have to deal with a three pound snapper,,,,,,,,,some justice as the snapper is landed........he has demolished my "Permitable" fly.
Another hour of finding fish and once again Chindo is on target............I, with a new fly, get a few shots and follows, but the wind has picked up and the fish are all moving at this time of day so we head for home and a shower, glass of wine, some treats from the kitchen, share stories about Bonefish, Bara, wind and a Permit catch. Davis and Manuel do catch a small Permit, but on a live crab after numerous efforts with numerous flies....."Permitable" ...........included for one cast only. The fresh shrimp dinner is a perfect ending to a Pesca Maya evening.
Day 4, just Wilbert and I, Lodge is busy and Eli is guiding, Chindo is with Bob and Kelly, a couple from California, who are there for Bones. Wilbert and I travel south again as the closer locations will have more boats today. As we reach our destination I get out 20 pulls now as my casting is back to normal. I am content with yesterday's fly as it had quite a few followers in its limited time. However, I did go to Manuel and advise him that I have "Permitable" back from Davis as he is leaving today and that I would catch a permit this day on "Permitable" so he better be prepared when we get back. Wilbert shouts permit eleven o'clock I cast over them and try to gain ground as they approach...................to slow.........and that is it for Permit until after lunch. Weather is on our side today, wind is acceptable but fish are not in sight. We decide to go back to yesterdays location and after another hour of looking............bingo !! ...........somewhere off in the distance Wilbert sees the black shapes and then so do I.
Concentrate, focus, deep breathing, patience...............two groups of three to seven Permit moving back and forth on a white sand bottom. No point in getting too close as they are moving around and if we spook one we will spook them all. Both Wilbert and I are in tune with the situation. This is afternoon of the third day and I must rise to the challenge. I cast in front of the trailing group and I cannot reach them, so four more pulls and try again..........still short......madness..........I am now at twenty-eight pulls with a Temple Fork 10 weight and this may be my maximum ability as the wind is over my left shoulder and I am casting at nine o'clock...............I reach them........two follow........... the front one takes............ I snug up the line and the line breaks at the fly knot. The Permit is gone with the fly and we are devastated.
I sit in the boat and tie on "Permitable"............get back on deck and.......presto......... the front group are back.............once again I cast at my maximum effort and right away I see the slowly sinking the fly right in front of three permit...............I strip three small slow strips................the line tightens,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and GAME ON.............Permit on the fly and it runs and runs and runs.............I have 350 yards of braided backing..............the run stops with two wraps left............I cannot move the fish from that distance as I am operating with fifteen feet of ten pound leader, so any sharp movement or stress could loose the fish. At this point I realized that I tied on the fly with my own version of a Rapala knot and that concerns me too. We chase the fish and fight it for forty-five minutes,,,,,,....the rest is history................the photos tell the tale.........twenty six pounds of "Diablo" released !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Quite a ride back as the wind is picking up, as is my spirits. The Lodge is excited, Jesus the manager is pouring drinks for all and Manuel just smiles and he is as happy for me as he for Wilbert. I am reminded that while there are Permit in the bay all season, it is more difficult to catch a big one in the cooler seasons. November can be great, so too January, but the best with multiple catches and Grand Slams is slightly warmer times. Wilbert tells a story about a fly fisher who caught twenty bones, two Permit, two Tarpon and a Snook..........a Super Grand Slam.........on a Terrible Windy, Overcast day.......all on blind casting !!
Pesca Maya can reward any angler and is especially favourable for new fly fishers to catch multiple bonefish and many other species. I went for "Diablo" and did it. That evening we learned both Bob and Kelly caught a Permit although both were small and were not targeted. I decide to go for a giant bonefish on Day 4.............why not..........a four day Grand Slam...
Day 5..........giant Bonefish..............gigantic wind..........all the crew are sorting out the sheltered spots... but not us, we again travel south, west, north and stop on the Belize Border, without immigration papers, but then we are officially not there, yet.......it is a long ride in horrendous conditions, but, I do have Chindo back. We leave him with the boat............insurance..........start walking a very soft and windy flat. First cast is only out by 50 feet as the fly line returns safe........next cast is worse.......yet the Bones are of good size but also very fidgety, if that is a word. I always thought Bones were wary in calm wind and sunshine, but today the weather pattern is very different and the feed is totally absent. No real sign of mudding, less of obvious holes in the flat and mucho spooky fish. Wilbert and I are on tenterhooks with every step, large Bones present at 150 feet and then gone. I did see a monster stay in sight at over 200 yards in atrocious conditions. Not for me this day !!
We move on to a calm bay, inside an island, eventually landing a quite normal sized bonefish.........enough I shout !!........ let us be tourists and enjoy the scenery. Chindo wants us to keep catching Bones but we decide to try once more for a giant Permit as I have the four day Grand slam already. I readily give the bass rod to Wilbert and Chindo to experiment with and both catch Bones immediately. Wilbert requests for me to send him this rod as he is certain that at eight foot long and him being able to shoot one hundred feet it is the best for windy conditions and fish under twenty pounds.
The rest of the last day I get a great shot twice at Permit and miss, although the last shot got a good sized snapper, for dinner. Then we made a trip to Punta Allen where Wilbert lives with his wife, two kids, mom and dad. His Grandma and I spoke Mayan together, made no sense to me, but she loved it.......you know.......hello.............nice boy you have........you are beautiful and look so healthy.......I will see you again............nice to meet your family........she says good bye, Canada
That evening a spectacular chicken dish, a glass of wine, desert, comrades tales, all got lots of Bones, all larger than mine..............no surprise here. Wilbert has the day off tomorrow and I am on my way home over the "Topes" and onto more fishing adventures,. The "Diablo Permit" (Pesca Maya), joins the 100 pound plus Tarpon (Sugarloaf Key), the 10 pound plus Bone (Hawaii) the 15 pound Snook ( Nichupte) each entered in my memory as is Sandra ,who showed me the way.
Adios, Pesca Maya,
may the best you've ever seen, be the worse you'll ever see !