Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Baby Tarpon fishing, Campeche and Edzna

Tarpon do love to jump!

Standing on the casting platform, fly in the left hand, rod ready to cast.  Sam, our guide, suddenly calls " ten o'clock, mangroves,....more right....closer...strip, strip, strip." That's just the beginning of fishing for juvenile tarpon in Campeche, Mexico. Its an exciting, tiring adventure.

When I was in the army, one of the acronyms that was often used and appropriate was FUBAR. I usually don't use the words that is used for, but, unfortunately, it would be a very accurate description of my casting on this trip. I had practiced with my 8 weight rod and was casting 40 to over 50 feet with it and feeling quite good. But when I used the stiffer, saltwater rod with 30 and 40 pound leader and tippet, I lost all of my timing.  Was it the excitement, the feeling that I had to hurry, nervousness from the situation? Whatever it was , my casting was absolutely terrible. It reminded me of going to dances with Connie.  I could sit and listen to the music, keeping perfect timing all evening long, but get up to dance and all of my timing and coordination  to leave. Steve, Sam and Alex all gave me pointers, and occasionally, I get a good cast, but I sure need to work on something.

Each day we were picked up by Alex who drove us to the boat. We then took off in the dark with Sam holding a flashlight for our running light. Most other boats were using the same system. The first day I was first to fish and we saw fish, but my casts either spooked fish or were too short. Steve fished second and had two tarpon strikes.  The first one was missed due to a "trout" set.  With tarpon, one needs a strip set to the hook properly. The second miss was just that, a miss.  It looked like he had done everything correctly. Later in the afternoon, Steve caught a nice snook. We were met back at the dock by Alex who offered cold beers to both of us. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but that one sure tasted good.

The second day we went much farther then the previous one. A small flock of flamingos flew over us on the way. It was still too dark to see much color but their shape gave them away. Later in the day a larger flock flew overhead and they were very colorful. Steve was up first and when we got to a "river" the tarpon were rolling everywhere. The tarpon seemed to enjoy toying with our flies. They were hitting and moving them with their head, playing with the flies and teasing us. After a few misses, Steve hooked and landed a tarpon.  It wore me out just watching the fight. With Steve's help I managed to entice a couple of strikes, but tried the old "trout" set. I finally got a decent cast to one, set the hook properly and played the fish for a few jumps.  I thought I had him whipped, but one more leap and my hook was loose. The fish was unhooked and I was hooked, to this kind of fishing. Not too bad of a day: Steve had four jumpers and boated two, I had two jumpers. After going back to the hotel we walked to the central market and then to supper. 
Jumping Tarpon

Steve's Tarpon

The third day was a side trip to Edzna, a visit to one of the forts, and supper with Alex and Eduardo. More on that later.

The third fishing day was another good one, but no tarpon were boated. I went back to my "trout" sets and, of course, missed them.  Steve had two jumpers, but mishaps loss both of them. The first one Steve had next to the boat, grabbed the leader making it a "caught" fish when it tried another run.  Unfortunately, Steve was kneeling on his line and when it went tight the leader broke. The other fish was a real fighter and just about took Steve into his backing. After several jumps, probably at least seven or eight, the fish made another long run, jumped and threw the fly. When the line was retrieved and the tippet and fly inspected, Steve found that the hook had been bent by the fish.
The point has been bent downward.
Fishing day four was by far the slowest.  I managed one cast to a rolling tarpon that Steve and I spotted. It was probably one of my best casts of the four days.  Problem...what neither of us saw was that this tarpon was on the far side of a large school of tarpon.  As my line sailed over  the school to my target, the water boiled from the school scattering and of course my anticipated tarpon with them.
Steve caught a small snook.

The trip to Mexico was my first and I really had a good time. I would go back after I practice casting with a saltwater 8 weight.  Just hooking the tarpon and having them make their jumps is so exciting.  It was a good trip and everyone was pleasant to be with and fish with.

The crew at Marganzo's: Steve, Alex, me and Eduardo.

 Steve was my traveling companion, Alex is the owner of Campeche Tarpon and Eduardo is an excellent fly tier and tarpon enthusiast. We met at Marganzos where they ordered a Mexican style supper for us.  Vet entertaining evening discussing tarpon and flies.

That's all the fishing talk, but for my non fishing fans I want to include a few pictures of the Mayan ruins at Edzna and a few pictures of Campeche. We fished Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday we were met by Alfredo who works for the Bureau of Tourism.  I believe I heard that he helps to train other tour guides. Steve had requested him as our guide Wednesday and as our driver to and from Cancun. Alfredo has wonderful English, and knows his Mayan culture very well. We practically had both Edzna and the fort to ourselves.  Here are a couple pictures of Edzna.

There are two forts like the one we visited.  One at the north end and one at the south end of town.  They were built to defend the city from pirates.  Alfredo started naming pirates who attacked the city and about the only two that I know and he did not name are Captains Hook and Jack Sparrow.

Draw bridge over the moat. Beyond the moat is a high curved wall that led to the bridge.

Empty moat and entrance to the fort.

A few pictures of the cathedral, town and waterfront.

This and the picture above are in the garden courtyard of the cathedral.

Part of the old wall around the city.

There is artwork everywhere.