Espirito Santo Bay – The Best ‘Flat’s’ Fishing Around?
Ben Bangham flies to Mexico to experience the amazing fishing to be had on the flats of Espirito Santo Bay where double-figure snook and a host of other species can be taken on the fly…
I used to venture across to the startling beautiful salt-water flats on the other side of the world fairly regularly as a youngster. In recent times however my guiding, work commitments and a young family has meant that this part of my life has been a thing of the past.
Fishing the salt-water flats is something that I missed and thought about regularly; I dreamt of getting back there at some point. So I jumped at the chance, when the opportunity of setting off again on an adventure with my father to fish the crystal clear waters of Mexico hunting permit, bones, snook and many other things that swim in these beautiful waters arose. It was attractive on two levels, firstly I had never fished in Mexico and secondly it was another opportunity to have a weeks fishing with my dad!
Ben and his father Paddy, with two decent barracuda
It was attractive on two levels, firstly I had never fished in Mexico and secondly it was another opportunity to have a weeks fishing with my dad!
The ESB Lodge, Yucatan Peninsula
The lodge that we picked was ESB Lodge (Espirito Santo Bay), which is situated on the southernmost part of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is in a unique, 1.3 million acre Biosphere Reserve that was established by the Mexican government in 1986. It is very remote and totally surrounded by water and jungle. It opened in 2017 and has access to some amazing waters that by todays standards are as close to pristine as you are going to get.
I wasn’t prepared to go under-gunned so I took all the rods I had that would suit such an expedition. I had a 7-wt, two 8-wt’s, a 9-wt and a 10-wt. This sounds excessive but I was taking kit for the two of us whilst bearing in mind this place is rather off the beaten track. I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. I also took plenty of leaders and flies to cover all eventualities.
Watch those fingers when removing the fly!
Bubba shrimp to hand waiting to cast.
It’s a long old way to Mexico that’s for sure. We landed in the evening and stayed in a hotel on the airport complex. This meant we could get the private plane first thing the next morning down to the lodge. However the next morning we discovered that a tropical storm meant that we wouldn’t be flying anywhere that day. Instead we met up with our fellow guests for the week and hopped into the first of three cars that seven hours later would drop us off at the lodge. This may sound tedious but to be honest I very much enjoyed the drive down as we got to see areas of Mexico that not many tourists get to see at all.
We arrived at the lodge that was indeed in the middle of the jungle. Here we met the owners, a couple called Dane and Chiara. Over a much-needed beer we were given a briefing by Dane as to what to expect from the week. This is where things differed slightly from other lodges I’d used. Dane had previously worked as a guide and therefore knows what the client wants. This was certainly evident in the briefing as the whole week here is geared around fishing.
The snook’s certainly tested Ben’s 9-wt outfit.
This was far and away the best flats fishing I have ever had. Not only the numbers of fish but also the variety.
The Best Flats Fishing Ever
The days are long with plenty of fishing, the boats are a 15-minute drive away and every one who has anything to do with the operation seemed to have a passion for it. In my experience this is pretty rare and was greatly received.
We were warned that the storm would have pushed a lot of fresh water into the system and we would experience a bit of a backlash in that it would probably push the permit and some of the other fish out of the bay. This seemed pretty bad news, however it turned out to what can only be described as an epic week.
I could wax lyrical here, give you a huge list of the fish we caught and experiences we had but I have Mr Editors voice ringing my ears ‘don’t make it too long and exceed your word limit!’ and I haven’t left much room to cover the fishing.
So how do I put this in a way that will keep everyone happy? Well It was simply amazing. As I have said already I have fished the salt a fair bit and this was far and away the best flats fishing I have ever had. Not only the numbers of fish but also the variety.
I am going to focus in on two small stories from what was an epic week. Firstly we were poling up the bank towards a river mouth in search of a few bones. As we neared there appeared to be a silver shimmer in the water and I was trying to work out what it was. Lets just say that I now know what a school of bones 700-1000 strong looks like!
My second particularly memorable point came when we were drifting a sand bank in a big wind looking for double-digit snook (I have never in my life seen so many snook in a trip than here) only for my father who was sat in the boat looking around to spot one almost nudging the boat with its nose as we drifted. I had to give it a go, so with two inches of leader hanging from the rod tip I lowered in my fly and moved in in front of the snook, BANG it took my fly and I was fighting a 12lb fish!
The recent storm had coloured the water however the fishing was good with plenty of schoolie bonefish and trigger fish to be caught.
Dane was right in one sense; the permit were pretty scarce all week. One was caught and a few more were seen and pestered with a fly. That said, the fishing was incredible and the distinct lack of permit just means that I am going to have to go back again. So thank you very much Dane and Chiara of ESB Lodge I shall see you again very soon.
Ben with a good sized snook, note the 80lb b/s leader.
Ben Bangham has fly fished for over 25 years and first started guiding nearly 20 years ago. He has fished all over the world and has worked in the fishing trade in some fairly far-flung places. Ben is now a full time guide making his living from guiding and fly tying. He is a current England international, an ambassador for Fulling Mill and Guide Fly Fishing and is the UK Sales Manager for Costa.