Sounds like a great place to go, right? I’m sure Sudan is on your bucket list.
The Drake had a great podcast on fly fishing in Sudan. It sounds, really, pretty damn awesome.
Also, there is this…
Sounds like a great place to go, right? I’m sure Sudan is on your bucket list.
The Drake had a great podcast on fly fishing in Sudan. It sounds, really, pretty damn awesome.
Also, there is this…
I try to get camping at least once a year. Twice is ideal, once is sometimes all I can pull off. This year my wife and son came along (staying at my dad’s) to accompany my daughter, my brother, me and a few friends.
This was my first chance to catch a trout with my son (beyond him being in a backpack). It was pretty damn awesome.
As soon as he had a taste, he told me he wanted to do it himself. We aren’t there yet.
The girl got in on the action as well. She stuck a few trout, most without my direct involvement, which makes me prouder than is reasonable.
What a great weekend.
My last trip is in the books for 2017. It is done for the year. I won’t have another chance to wade, mid-calf deep, across a broad flat, of sand or turtle grass or broken coral, looking for bonefish silhouettes slipping silently through wind and tide disturbed water.
That’s a little bleak.
It got me thinking about what I like about it, about bonefishing. I got to thinking about what stirs my soul about these fish.
I love being there.
I love the gear. The flies I’ve tied. The leaders I’ve put together. The knots I’ve tied.
I love the act of searching, not as much as the instant of recognition, but I love the looking.
I love that moment when you realize it is all going to come together. You are going to get a shot. You can’t think about it. You have to act. You have to make it happen.
You get to see the eat. You get to see the fish light up. You can tell, from 50′ that the fish is going to eat you fly.
That little capsule of preparation and skill and luck and action… that is why I love bonefishing.
I’ll see you again, bonefish. Here’s to fishing trips to come.
Nick Denbow is a really interesting guy. He’s a Brit, supports Chealski Football Club and guides for permit, tarpon, bonefish and trigger fish in Mahahual Mexico. It all seems terribly implausible, but Nick is perfecting suited to Mahahual (minus his skin tone’s lack of innate cancer fighting properties). I got to fish with Nick for a couple of interesting days down around Mahahual. He showed himself to be extremely knowledgable, personable and thoughtful. We even stopped to help a stranded family from England with a flat tire. When you live in a place as remote as Mahahual, everyone has to look out for everyone.
Nick contributed to the book Fly Fishing the Yucatan and if you are headed that way, you should pick it up.
Nick answered a few questions about himself and his fishery. Enjoy.
Nick, how did an Englishmen end up in Mahahual, Mexico?
My first taste of Salt Water fly fishing was when I was sent (by my fishing store Sportfish Farlows of London) to Jardines de la Reina, Cuba in 1999. I think I knew from that trip on that i HAD to spend more time with a fly rod in the salt if I was to further my fly fishing career and quench a new personal thirst. The chance came after a spell as manager of Boss and Co Shotguns in 2001. The company was sold, I had some money in my pocket and was faced with going back to the fly shop. It was Feb 1st 2002 when I sold all i had, left my favorite Trout rod and a few clothes with my folks and jumped on a flight to Cancun. I didn’t go home for the next 5 years. I now call Mexico home.
You have a great quote about permit. Share with the group.
I get laughed at when I say it but to me it makes sense. People always say how hard Permit are to catch. I disagree. The ones you catch are some of the easiest fish you will ever catch. Its all the ones you didn’t catch that were hard. My point is simply that it is a numbers game. You need to get shots, lots of shots. The more fish you cast at you will eventually pull your fly across in front of a fish who will just swim up and eat it… theres nothing hard about that fish at all. I would also like to add some small print. The better at casting and presenting your fly you are, the more “easy” Permit you will find.
One thing I managed when I was down there was my first trigger fish. I wasn’t expecting that. What is it about triggers that you enjoy?
Trigger fish are rarely seen on the flats. Most people fishing here fish the flats. For these reasons they are largely unfished for. I am the only guide fishing 78 miles of coast here and Triggers are from top to bottom. They tail happily, are easy to see in the shallow clear water, they are fly friendly and can fight really well. Thats a great combination for fly fishermen. In the Pacific they are highly prized and targeted by fly fishermen, it seems strange to me that these fish are not getting more attention but they have helped me grow my business so I am actually glad nobody else is chasing them. Oops… how many people read this?
What do you think the biggest misconception about your fishery?
“Is it always this windy?”… thats my favorite misconception. Many people have come here once and go back with the understanding that its always really windy here! We have all weathers. An average wind speed here compared to that on a Trout pond or stream can be humbling and frustrating to an average caster. Firstly I encourage practicing casting into the wind before you get here. Once you are here and the wind picks up I advise anglers to look for areas where they can wade out on to one of the many shallow reefs, turn your back on the wind and cast across it. There are so many different habitat types here that if the waves are too big or the water to deep in one spot then you need to move to a different area instead of making it hard on yourself. It is not supposed to be an ordeal. Everyone seems to be here hoping for super flat and calm conditions however when this does happen (September and October between the storms) there is little flow and current on the reef and the water is often too warm and oxygen poor for the fish to come in and feed. In short, no waves generally equals no fish. Learn to deal with the cards you have been handed on that day and don’t waste time in an area where you cant cast or present a fly.
We caught one sabalito that had a line through it as some fisherman had figured he’d take the tarpon home to eat. Is consumption of gamefish impacting the fishery?
Currently Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit and Snook have no size limit, closed season or protection from the Mexican government. People here are allowed to harvest them. Its how they feed themselves and for some its how they make a living. This has been going on since there were people on this coastline. Hopefully soon this will be changed under the fisheries more protected under the new act that is passing through right now called “The Mexican Caribbean Reef Park”. This act will protect valuable sport fish species and restrict fishing activities for the whole coast from Isla Hotbox to Xcalak. Locally I have a problem with people leaving out gill nets unattended and spear gunning in the lagoons. Both of these activities are illegal. Its not so much for the fish but more as this is the last stronghold for Morelets Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) but the fish benefit from being in the same waters. This said I have not been checked in 15 years fishing the lagoons here by any authority. President Pena Nieto banned gill nets from the sea of Cortez 3 years ago. He desperately needs to do the same on this coast in my mind.
You have tarpon filled lakes connected to the sea by cenotes. What is the oddest thing you’ve seen in one of those lakes?
The oddest thing i ever saw i cant identify so Im going to have to assume it was an alien. At the risk of losing readers at this point I will move on to the oddest thing Ive seen that I could identify was a Bigmouth Sleeper (Gobiomorus dormitor) caught on a Gurgler. I had never seen one before and as it looked vaguely Catfish like I made the mistake of lipping it… I wont do that again as they have a zillion needle like teeth.
You are a guide working in a place without many other guides. How have you seen the fishery develop over your time in Mahahual?
Last two years we have had a drought (until TS Franklin arrived last night) and the lakes were the lowest and clearest I have ever seen them. This negatively affected catch results on Tarpon. This is a natural phenomenon and nothing I can do about it except harass the fish less, try to fight them harder and get them unhooked as quickly as possible. In general I think that I am finding more Permit on the beaches now than I was years ago but this I attribute to knowing them better not necessarily as there are more fish out there. Each year I see more and more fishermen on the coast. Most I know and are probably fishing with me a day or two during their stay. I always try to stay in touch with them almost daily to see where they have been and plan to go so that we can avoid fishing the same area or for fish that have already seen an angler that day. This way we get better catch results.
Is there a type of angler who should NOT come to Mahahual?
You know, I have had anglers with zero balance, anglers who are hard of hearing or vision impaired. I even fished with a gentleman who was born with no legs. If I am prepared I will try to make anything happen. I encourage guests to let me know so its not a surprise when I find out game time that they cant wade on anything but flat sand. One negative aspect of being a guide here is that Ive had people follow my car down the beach road and then run out in front of me and my guests and cut me off on the flat. Those guys should stay at home!
Best place to eat in town?
Nohoch Kay for Seafood is hard to beat. Try the whole Hogfish.
Thanks Nick. Hope to fish with you again at some point!
I JUST left there and Tropical Storm Franklin comes barging on through. By the time this gets posted we’ll know how things are looking, but a named storm is right on top of Mahahual and Punta Allen as I write this. It looks like the brunt of the storm is likely passing north of San Pedro, but the eye is going to go right over Espiritu Santo Bay.
The area has needed rain, so this storm might be a good thing for them, assuming it doesn’t do too much damage. It isn’t expected to be a full hurricane until it passes through Yucatan and emerges into the Gulf to strengthen.
Wishing everyone well down there.
It is hard to keep up with BTT these days. They are just DOING so much. Good problem to have. I’m a member and I hope you are a member too.
Dr. Adams recently penned an article about bonefish tides. He’s someone you should really listen to.
Tides are one of those things most trout anglers aren’t going to be familiar with. What tides do you want to fish and how do you find those tides? This article is for you.
I tried for many years to catch a bonefish in Hawaii and for many years I failed. I failed for many reasons and I learned many lessons, but it was my trip in the summer of 2017 with Kenny Karas from Hawaii on the Fly (Kenny and Mike Hennesy are the guides there) that finally broke my oi’o (Hawaiian for bonefish) curse. Here’s an interview with the man himself.
Hawaii, as a bonefish destination, didn’t really exist a decade ago. Since then, a lot has been written about chasing bonefish in the Islands. What do you think people have the most wrong about bonefishing in Hawaii?
I think the biggest misconception is people think there are not a lot of bonefish here. Ya they are big, but I get a lot of people saying there isn’t a good population. As you saw that is completely wrong. A lot of dyi guys say that because they don’t know the tides or even where to find them!!!
Yes, I definitely think that fish is here. I know of an 18lber caught many years ago on an outer Island on spinning gear!!! I have caught bones up to 14lbs and have seen bigger!!!
Wind and rain play a huge roll!! And I think the angler is the other. You don’t need 70′ cast here. You just have to be accurate and play the fish correctly.
Two things I’ve seen that I thought were pretty nuts. One was a small Cessna crash land in the water about 150 yds away from the flat!! The other was I caught a mahi mahi in 3″ of water on the flats one day with my bare hands.
Nicos!! Epic fish eats and local kind foods!!!
The most encouraging thing I still see big numbers and big fish on a regular basis. These fish get pounded hence why they are so psycho!! The most discouraging thing is the lack of conservation. Gill netting is still practiced here and our local game and fish department is pretty much non existent!!! I really worry about it a lot. But I also think about what these fish have gone through in the last 50years and they are still here. These fish are survivors and find ways to flourish!!!!
Not everything went awesomely in Mexico. Here are the things that didn’t end up in the plus column.
Donde estan los bonefish?
I fished on the flats for two days without Nick and on those two days I saw one group of 3 bonefish (I saw other fish, but just not many bones). I was on flats that certainly LOOKED like they were going to hold bonefish. The habitat looked right. The depth was right. There were other fish around… saw a lemon shark and a nurse shark and several cudas… a jack… and just almost no bonefish. I know they are there. People see them. People catch them. I am not a novice. I can spot fish. So… what the hell was I doing wrong? To be honest, this was the single biggest disappointment of the trip. I has thought it would be kind of like Belize, which isn’t too far away, and the bones would be, ya know… kind of everywhere. It wasn’t that way, at least not for me in late July.
Dear god it was hot. I needed to hydrate like it was my means of providing roof and sustenance. It was hot. It was center-of-the-sun kind of hot. The heat was a bit of an issue for my dad. The last day he had to stop fishing before most of the fishing was really even started. Keeping my dad from having heat exhaustion was a priority and we certainly came close, or crossed over, that line… fast.
There was a lot of the stuff. It clogged a few flats that should have produced. It seems when there is 30 or 40 feet of the stuff at the shoreline, it heats up and discolors the water near it. I think that might have discouraged fish to hang around. Sargassum is a hit or miss thing. Some flats were free of the stuff. Some were full of it. One flat I went to was so full of sargassum there was a cliff of the stuff, three feet high.
The future is plastics
My god. There is a lot of plastic on the beaches. Washed up from who knows where, it has ended up in Mexico. Tons of it. Roughly a bazillion, gazillion tons of it. A bit depressing. So, when do we start using this stuff to 3-D print houses and stuff?
There it is… the getting there, the good and the less good. Mahahual 2017 is in the books and I’m facing a long lay-off until I end up somewhere salty with a fly rod in my hand. It was a good trip. It was a tough trip. It was a memorable trip.
As with life, on any fishing trip there are things that go well and things that don’t. This part of the report is going to focus on the stuff that went right.
Sabalito for Dad
Key requirement of the trip was a tarpon, of any size, for my dad. This, guide Nick Denbow accomplished within an hour. He knew of a ditch, formerly a river and potentially a river again after a lot of rain, that had some penned up sabalito (baby tarpon). Dad got his baby tarpon on the first day. Success.
Tarpon in the Lake
Now… the first day my go-pro ran out of battery and my back-up didn’t have a SIM card… nice… so, I have no pics. I got some baby tarpon in one of the lakes with Nick. I was making some pretty good casts and we were getting some responses. I botched a few. I converted others. Nothing big, although bigger fish were around. It was a little unsteady standing up in the jon boat, something that proved much harder for my 75 year old dad.
Nacional Beach Club
Nacional Beach Club is a fine place to stay. AC in the room. Right on the beach. Good food. Evan, the care-taker, made ribs one night that were simply outstanding. Breakfast included. Cheaper than it seems like it should have been.
Nick, a Brit, is a fine guy to share a day fishing with. He’s really knowledgeable about… well… everything. Birds, wildlife, fish… Nick seems perfectly placed in Mahahual. This is just where he should be. He knew where the fish were going to be, even if they wouldn’t eat. I mean… he knew pretty much exactly where we’d find permit. Who can dial up a permit?
Speaking of triggers
I got a trigger. That wasn’t on my radar, but I got a trigger. Fun fish to stalk. Kind of easy to find, if you get the habitat right. Harder to hook, but still… a cool fish. I hooked one more and had two other confirmed eats. Super interesting fish.
Food and Drink
Mahahual was a fine place for food and drink. Montezuma didn’t get his revenge on us (which makes sense, we’re Scandinavian by genetics). I had ice in my drink. I drank water provided by the hotel. I even ate a salad. All those things you might be warned away from. I did them all and I didn’t get sick. The food was tasty and cheap. I had no complaints.
Nick found permit. I found permit. Finding permit is hard. Getting them to eat is harder. Nick had a great saying about permit, “The permit you catch is easy.” That rings true. I didn’t find any easy permit. I did have one circle my fly and then give it a pass. On the day we looked for permit on the flat, in the jon boat no less, we saw at least 5, maybe 8. I got one cast in. On my last day of fishing I saw 4 and had three shots. I didn’t get a follow, but I found them. So, that’s something.
I’m back from Mahahual. It was a good trip, although it was certainly different than I had anticipated. There were highs and lows and a lot of sweat.
The Getting There
AeroMexico is not my favorite. The point of flying a redeye on Sunday night was to get into Cancun in the morning and have a nice leisurely drive down to Mahahual, a four hour drive south from Cancun. That is not how in panned out. The flight leaving SFO was late and the connection out of Guadalajara wasn’t waiting for anyone. Missed that flight. In Guadalajara they also told me I couldn’t bring my fishing rod case as a carry-on. It might have been the cuda poppers in the box (the big ones for a spinning reel), although they seemed to say I couldn’t bring any hooks on, period. Can’t find anything on-line with Mexico-specific regulations. Missing the connection to Cancun they told us we had to fly to Mexico City to make it to Cancun. This we did, although it became clear at some point on the flight that they had actually booked both of us under my dad’s name. So, landing in Mexico City, I was going nowhere fast. My dad was going to Cancun. About two hours later I was on my way to Cancun. I would land about 4 PM, not at 9:30 AM, as we had hoped. I’ll also add the seats are tiny and I am 6’3″. Not a great combo. I’m going to avoid flying AeroMexico in the future.
The whole point of getting there early was to NOT drive at night. I now know from experience that I don’t like driving the less-traveled highways of Mexico at night. Some sections had no reflectors or lines indicating where the side of the road was. It was often white-knuckled stuff. We survived and there was only one tope (crazy Mexican speed bumps) that I had to brake hard for, and that was just out of Mahahual.
I had never driven in Mexico before and was a little apprehensive about it, but it really wasn’t too difficult. You needed to understand that you were expected to use the shoulder lane when folks wanted to pass you and you needed to watch the speed limit, which could go from 100 km/h to 40 to 80 to 100 to 50 to 90, all in the span of about 5 minutes. Whatever the posted speed limit was, it seemed most Mexicans drove about 110 km/h, fairly consistently, unless driving through an actual town (where the dreaded topes) would be found.
Making it into Mahahual it occurred to me I should have maybe mapped out exactly where the National Beach Club was. I had read on Verizon that my voice, text and data plan would port over to Mexico. 2/3. No data. No data = no mapping or access to the internet. Lucky for us… Mahahual isn’t that big and if you just keep driving straight, you’ll find it. We found it, getting in about 10:00 PM.
We were never pulled over, so got to avoid the whole “bribe” thing and we didn’t hit any wandering cows or run into any 2 foot deep potholes.