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Barefoot Flyfishing in February: Ascension Bay, Casa Blanca Lodge

Where the Sky Begins  (Sian Ka’an) is what the ancient Mayans called this Unesco World Heritage site and where our azure adventure also begins.

The pier at Casa Blanca lodge where we called home for 8 days in February.
All of the food is fresh and made from scratch – each evening with cocktails wonderful appetizers are served to each guest. All the fish is caught by locals with special permits allowed only to them.
Renan was our bartender for the week, always at the ready with a hand crafted Margarita or drink of your choice.
The privately owned island was once a coconut plantation and now boasts Casa Blanca and it’s sister lodge Playa Blanca.

We learned about Casa Blanca through our friend and guide Doc Thompson of High Country Anglers based in Ute Park, NM – he helped us with all the arrangements.  Doc is a longtime friend of Rita Adams, who grew up fishing NM with her guide/father and became a guide herself at 17.  She and Johnny Pares manage the two privately owned lodges

Each lodge hosts up to 12 guests per week. Each night dinner is served at 6:30 and for the next few days we met the most interesting, diverse and fun new friends with the common thread of fly fishing. The dinners were always lively.

I had wondered (doubted really) my casting ability for this trip in the uncharted salt flats….I fight the wind, I have not yet learned to double haul, and have not had much practice with anything heavier than a 7 wt rod, and have yet to land a fish over 5 lbs on a fly, but then you don’t get ahead by waiting.

We took a 7, 8 and 10 wt rod and on the first day as we say in the South referring to luck, a blind hog finds an acorn! Or in this case my first bonefish on a gotcha fly tied by my husband.
First one in the boat, we caught several 23″ and over.
Your guide for the week is your lifeline and your coach. You learn to become a team. Rene is an 18 year veteran here and extremely knowledgeable about the fish and how to navigate the area and the endless maze of Mangroves.

To say Rene was patient is an understatement!  I won’t go into all my shenanigans here that I employed and my shock when that first bonefish took off….taking 1/2 the rod!  But  I will say that in 6 days Rene uttered  “Casta More Longer!” more than a few times.

Felt much like Kate & Bogey on the African Queen as we traversed through holes in the Mangroves barely tall enough for the boat to squeeze through and heavily populated by -SPIDERS!
Luckily, Rene and Tim came up with a secret weapon for the non poisonous Aranjas!

My first tarpon ever and on a fly! Skip & I both caught our 1st on the same purple/black Peanut Butter fly given to us by Doc, but it came at a high price! The fly is now retired.
After a wake up call from Manuel delivering French press coffee to our room, we join the rest of the guests for breakfast around 6:00 am.

Now if you wish, to come in a little early from fishing one day you can enjoy a field trip on the island.

Here Jed and all his friends loaded up the truck and moved to Chac Mool. We were guided that day by the very capable Tim Fischer, who made sure Coronitas were in the cooler!
A visit to the ancient Mayan ruins was ours alone – no tourists to this spot discovered around 1919. The ruins of Chac Mool ca 900 AD were named for the powerful Mayan god of rain & thunder.

Then it is back to fishing…..

At times the bonefish came in waves….where we would have two on at a time. In among the bonefish I caught this beautiful Blue Runner. we also caught Baracuda, Mangrove Snapper, Cravelle Jack a Perch but alas not a sighting of the fickle Permit. The week before the groups landed 3.
Girls just love to have fun. You would never guess two of these gals are 85 and all of us fished 6 days for 8 hours a day. One lady fished 2 weeks and only one day off.
Every detail was taken into consideration. Manuel saw to it that the tablescapes each night at dinner were fun and creative. One night we had balloons, whistles and horns to celebrate Audrey’s 85 birthday!
Each day our bed was turned down and fresh towels greeted us in creative forms called that have been taught to the locals.

Conservation and respect for the area, it’s inhabitants and natural resources are evident.  This biosphere contains the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world and is also home to abundant flora and fauna; there were a pair of nesting Osprey not 100′ away from our cocktail area, I spotted Roseate Spoonbills, Brown Crested Flycatchers, Royal Terns as well as the beautiful Mangrove Warbler for my “life list”.  The jaguar, a once iconic symbol of greatness to the Mayas as ‘king of the forest’ is now in  serious danger of extinction.

Even the resurgence of the native jaguar numbers are rebounding.