Mountain Murmur Online | by Jeff Wogoman
Xcalak Hurricane Fishing
As a rocky mountain trout guy, born and bred, my first foray into fly fishing in salt waters came through Cloudveil’s Angling product manager Ned Hutchinson. He’d set up a trip through Brian Hodges, local friend and destination fishing maestro. There are a lot of cliques in fishing, probably worse than the snowboarder/skier/telemarker rift that I think has finally been resolved, one love. But in fishing, that rift is still solid, it’s a war of latitude.
In fly fishing, if you’re a trout only angler, the saltwater crowd looks at you like, well, like you’re still riding with the training wheels on. In salt water it’s all about throwing big lines big distances, battling big fish who will take you into your backing big time. Us trout guys horse 16” cuts into the boat all day and if it starts to get breezy, we chill out for awhile and drink a beer in the drift boat and watch the scenery. In salt water, if you don’t look like a flats gangster and think wind isn’t wind until it’s tropical storm strength, you’re in the wrong latitude.
So, it was with this in mind that I headed down to Ixcalak Mexico with Ned, Dirk Collins, and Jed Mixter, all from Jackson. I’d been standing in my lawn for a couple of weeks practicing the 70’ cast and was ready to show it off. We arrived in Cancun and spent an evening walking to anyplace that served beer, and trying to take advantage of the free drinks at the all inclusive resorts, claiming we’d left our bracelet up in our room. No takers, we figured any gringo walking into a beachside resort would be welcomed, guess again.
That night it started to rain, no problem we said, just normal showers for this time of year. The next morning, our driver showed up and we climbed in the van for the six hour car ride to the tip of the Yucatan. It was really raining now. After a brief stop in Playa Del Carmen to pick up Dirk, another short stop to eat, another to find matchsticks to use as currency for our dice games, another to find computer speakers to plug our iPod into, another to buy some roadside shrimp, another to buy beer, countless piss stops, and the military check point, we finally made it to our destination, Costa de Cocos. By this time, the rain was coming down in sheets. It’s bound to let up in the morning.
We started rigging 8 weights, 10 weights, and 12 weights with their respective leaders and flies, excited for the 6 days of fishing that awaited us. It wasn’t until we walked across the compound, bracing ourselves against the wind and now torrents of rain, met our hosts, Ilana and Dave, and they showed us the satellite imagery on their laptop that we realized we might be in for a storm. It was June 1st, hurricane season starts…June 1st. What are the odds that old man weather is watching his calendar that closely we thought. Turns out, old man weather is a Dayologist. We were right in the eye of the first tropical storm of the season. El Tormenta came in strong with gusts to 70mph and unrelenting rain. Now we were starting to think that the owners might have to rethink their alcoholic beverages included in our trip cost policy.
We got shut down for two days, played dice, drank, looked at our rods, visited some Mayan ruins, tried to play horseshoes, moved Palapas when the storm blew a hole in the roof, played more dice, drank more, and generally amused the local residents. On the third day the storm abated a bit, and we went out with our guides, Alberto and Ignacio (Nacho Libre). The normally crystal clear water had turned a murky brown, and the wind was still tight, but we were able to throw some lines and see some fish.
The next three days treated us to some nice fishing considering the conditions, with many opportunities for bones and permit, and Ned grabbing the fish of the trip, a 25lb permit that played him for all he was worth. As for my first trip to the flats, 4 bones, a tiny Jack caught while trolling for Barracuda, and a large dose of humble pie. That 70’ cast looked a lot better standing on my lawn than it did in the boat. Until the day I die, I’ll never forget the words Ignacio kept repeating over and over – “oh amigo, you slapped the water, they’re gone”.
Mountain Murmur Online