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2014 Expedition Yucatan – Part 1
by Dylan Rose

It was another epic trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, my 3rd such adventure to the area in the last 3 years.  The trip encompassed 14 days on some of the regions most outstanding fisheries, great times with friends new and old, many of our favorite lodges and one heck of a beautiful permit!

The trip started out in Cancun where I met up with a small group of intrepid anglers and friends at the Courtyard Marriott hotel for our first night. The hotel is very close to the airport, offers free ground transfers and avoids the hustle and bustle of the hotel zone in Cancun. The Courtyard served as the perfect jumping off point for my first stops to the incomparable Casa Blanca and Playa Blanca Fly Fishing Lodges.

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The next morning we awoke early and headed out to the regional airport for our charter flight down to the Casa Blanca runway. It was a smooth 45 minute flight down to the lodge where we met Johnny Pares and his wife Rita. Together they do a masterful job of coordinating all of the moving pieces for both Casa Blanca  and Playa Blanca.

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Each day we fished with veteran guide David and every day we experienced multitudes of quality shots at schools, doubles, singles and small roving packs of permit. David was more than ready to work hard for permit and a true professional through and through. We even managed to land a couple!

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On the second day our guide David again sniffed out a roving school of 10lbers and skillfully put us in position to put a fly in front of them.  Luckily, lighting stuck twice! Two beautiful permit landed in two days. The only negative about that is that more than a little pressured was applied by this crew of rowdy anglers also staying at the lodge for me to eat a scorpion that evening! Yes, you read that correctly. Part of a decades old tradition for lucky permit anglers landing fish at Casa and Playa is that they have to eat a pickled scorpion. I was happy to oblige as the chance to meet these gorgeous permit made it well worth the horror of eating this scorpion (Yes! The tequila helped greatly to wash it down!).

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After several fantastic days fishing Espiritu Santo with Playa Blanca, Rob and I packed up and headed to Casa Blanca located just down the road. The venerable and beautiful Casa Blanca lodge focuses on fishing Ascension Bay. The beauty of the program at Casa is that anglers can walk out of their room, jump in the boat, and be fishing some of the most remote portions of Ascension Bay in 15 minutes or less. Casa Blanca’s superb location gives anglers unparalleled access to the southern most reaches of the bay, and even on good weather days, guides from the north must run an hour or longer to reach the same water quickly accessible by the Casa guides.

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One evening after fishing we had post fishing day cervezas, appetizers and a knot tying session in Playa Blanca’s beach side palapa. Later that night Johnny broke out his spinning rods and we proceeded to have a blast casting out in to the surf for anything that might be lurking in the dark Yucatan night. We managed to land a bonefish and this epic jack caught by our good friend Brett T.

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The outfitters at Casa Blanca and Playa Blanca offer anglers well appointed, ultra comfortable luxury accommodations, an eclectic mix of mouth watering Mexican cuisine, an outstanding staff of veteran and skilled guides and a highly experienced and friendly management team headed up by Johnny and Rita. These two operations set a very high bar for all saltwater based fly fishing lodges. Your only problem will be deciding which one to go to!

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After our time at Casa and Playa it was time to head North. Rob and I loaded in to a boat and set out across the mouth of Ascension Bay headed for Punta Allen. We arrived at Pesca Maya about an hour later and checked in to our room. Gazing out at the ocean as it lapped up on a perfect white sand beach in front of the lodge, the scene made getting rigged up for the next day’s fishing quite difficult. The gently swaying hammocks proved hard to deny even though much re-rigging and organization was called for.  Especially after 4 excellent days of quality permit fishing to the south.

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Unfortunately, our packed itinerary meant we would only have 1 day to fish with our friends at Pesca Maya. We spent a fantastic day with two of my favorite young guides on Ascension Bay. We had three quality shots at permit within the first 10 minutes of the day and hooked a monster jack that slipped the hook after a blistering 80 yard run. Rob also managed to trick a bruiser barracuda that was slowly cruising around the mouth of a little channel. The popper landed in front of the beast’s face about 3 feet. A couple of brisk strips later and the four footer was in full attack mode. It pinned itself securely on the chartreuse popper and went airborne within mere seconds!

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Nestor and Rosendo are part of the highly skilled and in-house guide team at Pesca Maya. Extremely comfortable 23 foot pangas allows Pesca Maya to offer two guides for every boat. It’s a distinct advantage to have 2 more skilled eyes in the boat looking for fish. Both guides work extremely well together (largely speaking in Spanish) to spot fish and get the boat in position. Many times when fish are spotted anglers will jump out of the boat with the junior guide to track them down on foot. The senior guide can then manage the boat and direct traffic from the elevated view of the poling platform. This arrangement works extremely well and is especially ideal for novice saltwater anglers that need extra help spotting fish or assistance keeping loose fly line organized.

Click HERE for Part 2 of my Expedition Yucatan trip report