Beaumont Enterprise - Guatemala Sailfish On Fly
Guatemala Sailfish on Fly
By Robert Sloan
The calm, deep blue surface of the Pacific and the rumble from the diesel engines of the "Maverick," a 32-foot Blackfin, had lulled us into an offshore slumber when the deck hand yelled and came off his perch along the gunwale like somebody had hit him with a bolt of lighting.
"Vela! Vela! Vela!" he yelled. "Two of them in the baits!"
Curtis Thorpe, Cody Bell and I scrambled around the cockpit.
Thorpe was the angler on the hot seat for this sail. He pitched an 8-inch long pink and white squid imitation fly into the Pacific, about 20 miles off the coast of Guatemala. He watched as the fly line spiraled off the deck and came tight against the 8½-foot long, 14-weight fly rod.
Herbert and Alex, working the deck, tauntingly worked a pair of teasers toward the boat. Right behind them was a long and sleek, bronzed-colored sailfish with its signature fanned dorsal fin and sickle shaped tail slicing through the water. She was hungry and looking for an easy meal in the prop wash of the sportfishing boat.
The drill for catching Guatemalan sailfish on the fly is to be patient, listen to the sharp commands of the deck hands and remember when to make a cast, strip the fly and set the hook. It sounds easy and is once you've caught a couple. But the first opportunity to cast to a sail, 10 feet in front of your face, can be a knee-wobbling experience.
This was Thorpe's third run to this sailfish mecca, one that is billed as the sailfish capital of the world. This is where anglers can expect to get upwards of 15 to 20 shots a day at sailfish weighing in the 70- to 110-pound class.
The captain slips the boat out of gear.
"Cast the fly," he said, calmly. "Left side. Just behind the teaser. Here she comes!"
It's the classic bait and switch. Once a sail comes up on the hookless teasers, the mates work them to the boat, on the surface, in a stop-and-go technique that keeps the fish slashing the surface trying to eat. When it all comes together the sail is no more than 10 to 15 feet in front of the angler. It's gliding back and forth under the surface of the cobalt blue water. If you're lucky you see the sail swimming from one side to the other. But in most situations you'll be popping the fly, then all of a sudden there's a big open mouth with a bill ripping a gash in the Pacific, and looking to eat your fly.
Once the sail is up and anxious, the mates yank the teasers out of the water, the boat is out of gear, the angler makes a cast and everything is quiet and calm. Suddenly it's a fisherman, a plum of feathers on a hook, a fly rod and a very "hot" sailfish going one-on-one with you.
Right about then is when the excitement meter will catapult you into a zone of angling euphoria like you have never experienced.
"She's coming from left to right!" yells the captain. "Get ready!"
All of a sudden there she is. The fly is gone.
Thorpe slashes the rod hard left and down on the water. It's a classic hook up.
The big sail feels the sting of the hooks, makes a short run and does what these hard fighting gamers are known for - getting some air.
This past Monday the three of us caught and released five sails on the fly, and had shots at 12 from noon until 3 p.m. It was three hours of incredible fly-fishing. Believe of not that's considered a slow day of fishing out of Sailfish Bay Lodge, located south of Guatemala City on an island out of Puerto Iztapa.
"It's the best sail fishing in the world," said Robert Fallon, one of the owners and managers of Sailfish Bay Lodge. "You can catch sails out of Costa Rica, but when it comes to being consistent you won't beat the daily average of shots that you'll have at sails along this area of the Pacific Coast."
Fallon, a transplant from Malibu, Calf., said that based on close to a decade of sail fishing experience out of Puerto Iztapa.
He runs two 32-foot Blackfins named "Maverick" and "Gypsy."
Both boats leave the marina each morning at about 7:30. The best fishing usually is about 15 to 20 miles offshore. More often than not, they are working water well within sight of the many volcanoes that reach upwards of 11,000 feet along the Guatemalan coast. You'll fish about eight hours a day, returning to the dock around by 5 each afternoon.
You have the option of using either conventional or flyfishing gear. With conventional gear as many as five rigged baits are trolled. Most are softhead chuggers rigged with fresh ballyhoo.
"We have a lot of fishermen that come here with no flyfishing experience," said Fallon. "However, I can spend a few minutes with them and they are ready to go. We provide all the tackle for either type of fishing."
This is an all-inclusive deal, with the exception of a round-trip flight costing around $500. Cost for three full days of fishing is just over $2,000 per person. That includes everything except Cuban cigars while you're sipping 23-year-old Ron Facapa Centenario rum, and watching a spectacular sun set after a day of angling wildness on the Pacific.
Guatemala is known internationally as the go-to location for sails. Here in Southeast Texas it's been the place to be for quite a few adventure minded anglers. Last year was my first trip. I went along with 27 other Southeast Texas fishermen that have been making the run for more than seven years.
If you're looking for a quick hit escape, out of winter and into a tropical Pacific setting, I don't know if you can beat this one. It's located about two hours out of Houston by jet. Once you're on the ground, Fallon and crew meet you at the Guatemala International Airport, and take you to the lodge. From there your only responsibility is conserving fish-fighting energy from one day to the next.
What: 15-20 Pacific Ocean sailfish a day, weighing from 70-110 pounds on both fly rod and conventional tackle.
When: Year round. The peak for sailfish is November-May. The rainy season is from June-September, but these months still can produce good numbers of sails. Throughout the year, you also can catch the occasional blue and black marlin, dorado and yellowfin tuna. Roosterfish are also an option in the surf.
Where: Guatemala's Pacific coast, out of Puerto Iztapa, about a two hour flight from Houston.Contact: Sailfish Bay Lodge, located on a barrier island five minutes out of Puerto Iztapa, Guatemala. This is the only game in town. It's a full-service 10,000-square foot lodge surrounded by coconut trees, parrots and a bar and pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean.