May on the Yucatan Peninsula... yes! What a sweet time of the year! May brings with it blue skies, light winds and warm waters. You can expect the kind of days that stick a sweat-soaked shirt to your back and have you constantly reaching for something chilled from the cooler. It can be hot, tiring work to chase tarpon in May on the Yucatan. On some days, you would gladly trade a shot at a fish for just a breath of a breeze.
"I don't know what you did to piss off the gods." Lamented Eric Berger as the near gale force winds destroyed another of his back casts and piled his tarpon fly only a few feet downwind of the panga's casting deck. We were on day four of a four-day tarpon trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. Days one and two had been windy and overcast, day three had been clear, but even windier and today was the worst yet, as dawn broke to a near gale. Long lines of wind-churned foam stretched across the bay and made spotting rolling tarpon almost impossible. When fish were spotted, delivering the fly was a difficult task. Stacked fly lines blew off panga decks, stripped lines jetted out horizontally to tangle around guides, rods never loaded on the backcast and if you were lucky enough to mount a good cast, flies often drifted maddeningly off course.
In spite of all this, we still managed to have quite a bit of success each day. We each probably jumped an average 10 - 12 fish per day and boated 4 - 5 each day. The tarpon ran 6 ˝ 20 lbs., although we jumped a few bigger ones. At times, we were into rolling tarpon for hours at a time, but due to the unusually high winds, it was hard to consistently either track the fish or quickly deliver the fly. Frustrating yes, but we knew the fish were there in all that spew and froth and somehow this made it easier to suffer the winds. I'm not sure there exists another tarpon spot where we could have been as successful as we were given the strong winds we experienced. I think we all knew that if we had had normal May conditions, we would have had outstanding fishing. (Of course, it was a beautiful, calm May-like day on the day we drove back to Cancun, but I won't whine anymore here.)
Back at the lodge, wind burned faces sought solace in the friendly atmosphere generated by our hosts, the Mena family. Our food was excellent, our rooms comfortable, very clean and air-conditioned (not that we needed it) and the service was excellent.
Our guides, Pedro and Carlos were skilled, fun to be with and worked very hard under conditions that can exhaust even the strongest of guides. Our connections from Cancun to San Felipe and back again were seamless. Each day began promptly at 6:00 a.m. with boats ready just a short stroll from the breakfast room. These boats were always equipped with lunches, lots to drink and a cheery, optimistic guide. Flawless amigos... thanks for the great job done by all!
On our last evening, we left the lodge at 6:00 p.m. to popper fish at dark for tarpon. As the sun set and just as Venus appeared in the moonless sky, we cast our poppers into the teeth of the wind. On the first cast and on the ten casts that followed, we jumped 5 ˝ 12 lb tarpon that savagely attacked the surface flies. We landed three or four and by the time it was totally dark, it was all over. We reeled in frayed leaders and poled out of the bay with phosphorescing shrimp eyes mirroring the many stars on this caf╚ negra night. Fireflies added their own eerie chartreuse glow as we felt our way to deeper water. Pedro fired up the outboard and we motored home towards the navigational beacons blinking just over the horizon in San Felipe. Suspended between the Milky Way and the windswept chop of the ocean, we clipped off flies and inhaled the rich aroma of the sea at night. Tough weather, but a great trip and now suddenly, it was over. Guess we'll have to give May and the Yucatan a try again next year!
Written by: Scott Heywood
Photos by: Eric Berger