Baby Tarpon in the Yucatan of Mexico

Charlie S

Confrimed Reprobate
Sorry, no pics yet but..........

This is kind of long but felt that if the Northwest decides to go to Mexico to try for Baby Tarpon it might be of some use and it seems to me that this is what these boards are for, information.

Returned last Friday from Tarpon Cay Lodge at San Felipe, Mexico after five days of fun. To describe the hotel as a lodge is a little grandiose in my opinion but the accommodations were good, the staff was very responsive and nice, and the food was great. They were really responsive to those who didn’t care for fish that much and served up a variety of meat dishes that pleased us. The rooms were air conditioned and also had fans. The beds were comfortable and having a 5am wake up with coffee each morning was a nice touch.

Fishing for baby tarpon was exciting, to say the least. During the trip we jumped 15 to 30 fish each, each day. On the first day I got into a large tarpon of about 100 + pounds on my 9 weight. I misunderstood that we were going to fish for large fish, thinking they meant 30-40 lbs instead of kilos. My fault. It was a LONG fight ending in a final breakoff when the line wrapped around the anchor rope the guide had dropped over. But it didn’t matter, I had fought the fish to the boat three times to the leader in the guides. I had built five rods to take down from 8 to 12 wt, all on Dan Craft’s FT blanks. They performed flawlessly, especially the 9 wt I used and dearly abused in really putting a lot of pressure on the big fish. Also a top performer was the Albright Tempest reels I took down. I only got into backing on two fish but the drags were more than adequate and the reels never skipped a beat. I would highly recommend them to anyone, especially at the prices they can be bought at this time from Ray Hutchinson at Sea Level Flyfishing Adventures.

The fishing was excellent as I said and the arrangements though Keith at Fishing on the Fly were without any problems. I also owe a great thank you to the folks at Kiene's for the help in choosing leader material, flies that I didn't tie, the small orientation that Keith put on with Marcos there to answer questions, etc. The entire experience was A#1 in my opinion and I will be rebooking another trip with Keith soon. I had no problems carrying my reels on the flight. I checked my rods though for my convenience and the bag was searched both ways, probably because of all the gear I had in the bag. Nothing was missing and nothing was damaged. The flights down and back were good. We were met on time by Marcos and all arrangements were exactly as advertised, a nice touch in these days of get the money and run attitudes from so many others.

Things to consider. My partner and I got along well, having no problems in sharing the fishing. Hook a fish and switch off is the method we most often employed. Sometimes one or the other of us wanted to rest a bit longer but that was a mutual agreement. Practice casting in the wind. Most afternoons had a significant wind factor, even back in the mangroves. Be sure you can cast from 50-80 feet with your outfit and the flies you will use. It also rained four of five afternoons that we were out. Wearing a raincoat is optional. Going topless is an option to keep your shirt dry until the rain stops. Be sure to have plenty of sun protection. Also have some insect repellent, although the bugs weren't as bad as I expected, at least for me. If anyone wants more information about the fishing, gear that I found useful, rigging that was different from what I was used to (and remember I’m a beginner at this compared to most on this board), and any other questions you have in particular with Tarpon Cay Lodge, etc, please email me directly at [email protected].
I posted this on another board in California and had several people email me the same type of questsions so I added the following. Hope it helps!!

We used a wide variety of flies, from poppers, sliders, crease flies, bunny flies, deceivers and the ever popular San Felipe Special in Yellow and Natural with Dyed Orange Grizzly for the tail and hackle. Lee Haskin's Light Touch was a killer pattern, in all colors. Unweighted flies only. I think the floating qualities of Lee's flies, sliders, crease flies, etc, were a determining factor. They hit them all with abandon. Anything that imitated small fry or shrimp seemed to work. I even caught two fish on a modified (much larger) Horner Shrimp. I used from #2 to 1/0 hooks when I tied my flies and it didn't seem to make much difference. What did make a difference was having really really sharp hooks, all as barbless as we could make them. Next time I'm going to use a dremel tool to completely remove the barb, being careful not to remove the temper from the hook. Be sure to bring a good hook file. After a few jumps we often tried to LDR the was a blast.

I used mainly 9wt rods. The wind came up in the afternoons and made casting with an 8wt just enough of a pain that I figured what the heck. I used several different lines, all floating. I did use a Dan Craft FT 10 wt for quite a bit of fishing and the older SA Tarpon line in 10 wt matched it perfectly. Casts from 50 to 80 feet were common. You can't get too close to these fish without spooking them. Practice your casting from a front deck of a boat before going down. I also found that fishing in just white stocking feet was best for me. I would have gone bare foot but I just get too sunburned to risk that. Many fewer line tangles that way. A Line Tamer is a good thing to have. The hotel has at least two stripping baskets on hand (medium sized leaf recepticles that collapse down on themselves?). They were handy when we were out in the open in the breeze/wind.

We used Yellow, White, Red and White, Red and Yellow, Orange, and Chartreuse. Color didn't make a heck of a lot of difference but if the water was a little colored from the rains we went to brighter colors in Greens and Oranges. I think the fish were hungry as they readily hit everything we threw at them.

In addition to tarpon we also caught snook, a barracuda, and Keith landed a permit when we fished Isle a Blanca (sp?) the day before we went to San Felipe. I LDR'd a permit way-y-y-y out there.

One thing to remember is bite tippet. Bring plenty. I used 50 lb for the small tarpon and had on 80lb for the one day we fished the bigger ones. We had to retie the flies on the bite tippet after one or two fish with the smaller ones...unbelieveable how they can rough up that leader with no teeth. Leaders were about 9' long. I used both Furled and hand tied. I didn't see any difference in performance between the two, but that could be a result of my abysmal casting.

The water is very shallow, and you'll be fishing in 1-3 feet the majority of the time. No sink tips or sinking lines needed, or desireable, nor do you want any weight on your flies. A large salt water Muddler would be good. You usually won't see a lot of fish in the water, especially if there is a wind/breeze but you will see their wakes, rolling, and plain old smashing slashes at baitfish. When one explodes on a popper or slider, it gets heart pounding. The fish repeatedly jump and for those who have never fished for tarpon, be prepared to muscle them away from snags, they naturally run right into them given the chance. Which is another reason I liked my 9 and 10 wt. A little over gunned for 5-15 lb average fish but it's the jumps we were after anyway.

Hope this provides more info for you folks. I'm so used to feeling like you guys are all knowing, and that's just a statement of admiration, that I didn't include the info above. Sorry for the lapse, there are others out there as inexperienced as myself. If you get a chance to get down there, DON'T hesitate...jump on the plane and get there!!!!