I just got back from a few days fishing with the good folks at Tarpon Cay Lodge in San Felipe, Mexico. Mexico has fallen on hard times tourism wise due to the swine flu scare and now the drug cartels. Fortunately the Yucatan Peninsula is a very safe place to visit, and as a result of the lack of tourism, offers some awesome fishing.
San Felipe is a small fishing village about 3 hours from Cancun via car. It’s a quaint and clean little town and the residents couldn’t be friendlier. The Hotel de San Felipe serves as the base of operations, and includes your meals. The fishing boats are literally right off the back step making logistics very simple.
The fishing at Tarpon Cay varies between baby tarpon from 5-25lb and ‘Grandes’ which are migratory fish that show up in the summer time. Thus you can have the backcountry mangrove fishing experience, flats, or offshore experience if the winds cooperate. We fish 8 and 9 weights for baby tarpon and 10 + for the big boys. My stick of choice for the baby’s which were larger and more plentiful than normal this trip was a 990 Sage ONE. It’s an amazing rod that is light enough to cast all day but with the backbone to punch into the wind with authority and subdue big fish. I’m a big fan of the ONE and the 990 gave me a lot of confidence that I could put the fly exactly where I wanted at any time. My big fish rod was a Redington Predator 1090. It’s an amazing value at $250 and is a stout stick that casts well in the wind and can really lay into a big fish. With it’s carbon fiber reinforced butt and ferrules you can yank on a big tarpon about as hard as you want without having to worry. A good saltwater worthy reel is nice to match so you don’t have to worry about going overboard with maintenance. I fished Sage 6000 and 4200 series as well as Ross F1′s and they all performed flawlessly.
Casting is crucial, to have success one needs to be able to double haul quickly and throw at least 50-60 feet into the wind. We did get plenty of closer shots but the better you can cast the more shots you’ll have. Usually the only complaints we hear about this destination is from people who can’t cast or don’t realize tarpon are difficult to land (they go crazyyyyyyyyy!)
We used a wide variety of flies from the San Felipe Special, to gurglers, seaducers, and various Puglisi flies. For backcountry and flats fishing a floating line is perfect, with a clear floating line giving some extra stealth, and for the deeper flats and offshore an intermediate tip line like the RIO Outbound Short Tropical is a nice asset.
Big props to Sage, who outfitted me for the trip, for making some really nice tropical clothing. When you think Sage, clothing doesn’t exactly come to mind, but I practically lived in there Quest Seychelles pants and Quest Keys crews. Normally I’m not a big fan of pants and long sleeves when it’s hot but these did a nice job of keeping the sun off, wicking moisture, and not overheating. I only abandoned them for other apparel once they got to covered in Tarpon slime.
Overall I was completely impressed by the operation, I’ve heard nothing but great things and it was reinforced. The food is good local fare. A hearty breakfast each morning with sandwiches in the boat followed by a tasty dinner or lunch depending on when you get back. Ample supplies of beer and margaritas are available…as well as bottled water. The rooms are air conditioned and comfortable and the lodge is filled with classy artwork making it a very comfortable place to stay. Besides fisherman you’ll see quite a few Euro’s on holiday there as well. Another perk is that ATT has perfect cell service from the lodge. The staff is friendly and really goes above and beyond to make you feel like you’re right at home. The feeling I got at the trips end that I could go there a week every summer for the rest of my life. I’ll let the pics say the rest.