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May 8, 2012

Fly Fishing Mexico’s Yucatan: Finding Fly Fishing Paradise (Part 1)

My wife and I boarded a flight for Cancun on the morning of April 21st, leaving the grey skies of Portland Maine for a destination we had never explored. Our goals for the first two days were simple, Emilia hoped to catch her first Bonefish on a fly rod, and I had fingers crossed for one solid shot at a Permit. Two flights and a two and a half hour renta-car ride later we arrived at Boca Paila Fishing Lodge in the Sian Kaan Reserve in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.


Boca Paila Fishing Lodge


After a warm welcome from the staff and a quick check into our room, we joined some spirited conversation in the lodge at the bar. The Margarita’s hit the spot and we sighed away the long travel day watching the sunset shed a tangerine glow over the warm waters of the Caribbean at our doorstep. The commraderie and grande Margarita’s flowed along with ease as we got to know a fun loving group of anglers from Montana who were nearing the end of a week long stay. The “Montana Crew” spoke of heavy rains and challenging conditions over the past week and said that the fishing and weather had just taken a turn for the better that morning… It would’ve been very easy with present company to take the party “into the backing” that night, but I was more interested in seeing my backing disapear into the morning sunlight.

I felt like a kid on Christmas eve that night trying to sleep with random bits of the evening’s bar conversation swimming around in my head…”18lb Snook, John landed a Permit today!, 35 lb Tarpon off the beach, more bonefish than you can count”…

6:15 am: The postcard perfect view from our room at sunrise.


After a few rounds of coffee we enjoyed an amazing breakfast of omelettes and tons of local fresh fruit.

Rods Rigged and Ready

7:45am: Off to meet Mario, our guide for the next two days.

The Boca Paila Flats Boat Fleet

The walking “commute” to meet the guides on the Lagoon took 1 minute

Mario ready to fish

Motoring across the clear Caribbean waters of Paradise…


Like a gentleman Emilia got first shots on the bow.

Lady's first

After missing some eats Emilia switched seats and I pick this lil’ guy up by 8:45

First Bonefish of the trip

Think she got the hang of that strip-set, Bonefish On!

Screaming Reel...

Mission accomplished!!!

Emilia's First Bonefish!

Mario discusses the proper stripping technique for Bonefish.

Listen to your Guide!

Does this permit count Mario?………No

Baby Permit

Lost count of Bonefish in this spot, time for new water

Little Ghost


And another

and again

Mario gives the nod

Is 9:45 to early for a beer?

Morning beer

Emilia with Shrimp Fly in the ready position on a new flat.

Ready with the Shrimp fly

“Cast 11 o’clock!!! strip strip set!”

Emilia and Mario getting it done

The Bonefish late morning did not want to pose with me…


Getting Hot! Lunch in the shade it is…

Boca Paila Lodge Landing

The view at Boca Paila Lodge:

Fly Fishing Paradise

Snapped this shot during a quick bathroom break at the Lodge…and thought yes it is!

Yes it is!

High noon sun beat down on the bow of our skiff as we scanned the water ahead, a 7 weight rod hung at my side like a holstered gun ready to fire my shrimp fly at the subtle sight of cruising bonefish. The atmosphere was silent except for the rythmic and quiet swish of Mario’s push pole inching us along parallel to the mangroves…I could hear my own breathing.
“Permit!” Mario shouts breaking the midday post lunchtime hypnosis! “Switch Rods!” says Mario, as Emilia hands me the crab fly rigged 8wt with and intense look as she whispers “stay calm”. I carefully peel line off the reel in loose coils on the deck. Mario says “a pod of cruising permit at 70ft.” “Where? I don’t see them?” He says “you only get one cast!…10 o’clock!” in a loud whisper. I let go of the fly, and haul out 50 feet of line and drop the crab. “Too short…more line!” Mario exclaims, “cast again 9 o’clock now!” I pick up reload and fire 65 feet of fly line…”wait wait wait…let it sink” My knees start knocking. “Strip it now!” I strip the fly “slower!… long and slow” I strip again. “Keep Stripping!” I strip again and see the fish accelerate on my fly and turn, I feel the line come tight! The fish does an about face with the flick of his tail and speeds off for the deeper waters of the lagoon. I clear the line and smile as the drag begins to sing. “Hell Yeah!” were the only words spoken for the next 20 minutes as the fish and I play tug-of-war game with flyline and backing. Fly line to reel then gone again, repeat…

Permit On!

Sweat poured down forehead burning my eyes as they strained to glimpse the shiny round shape of a broadside permit coming into view. Just as the dark dorsal fin began to appear into our world my mind drifted off, recalling past encounters with this fish’s kin that ended in defeat…a blown first shot at a tailing fish on a little ocean side flat near Duck Key In Florida with friend Jeremy Cameron coaching at my side in 2007. Casting repeatedly to a lock-jawed laid up permit bobbing in the swollen tide of Biscayne Bay in 2008 with the same buddy from a tiny canoe with no reaction whatsoever. A fish so close to the skiff in the backcountry of the Florida Keys I could’ve probably lassoed it, while friend Capt Eric Wallace and my wife ribbed away, I stood on the bow like an idiot gridlocked with the flyline tangle cluster-fuck of a lifetime…These fish all had all brought me here, taught me lessons, tormented my memories, and inspired the journey. None of the fish from past close encounters would shine as brightly as the one I now held… “Thanks for the ride!”

“Hell Yeah!”

First Permit on a fly!

Stay Tuned for Part 2…

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