The "Real" Mexico - Casa Viejo Chac (Punta Allen) - Ascension Bay June 2017

Twelve months had passed in a heart beat and we were boarding the plane at Manchester destined for Cancun. The throng of passengers I'm sure wouldn't venture too far from the isolation of the all inclusive hotels around the resort.  The six fly fishing junkies packed with rods, reels and the necessary UV clothing most defiantly would be.

Bad Boys of the Chac - Picture Courtesy of Smokin Drag Productions

The transfer from Cancun to Punta Allen was the start of the journey, we had booked into Casa Viejo Chac courtesy of Fly Odyssey who organised the trip.  Having introduced ourselves in arrivals to Tomo & Duff who had flown from Heathrow, both myself, Bernie, Alex and Craig were ready for the drive south. The mini bus for the four hour drive was reminiscent of a school outing, excited anglers raring to go and the banter soon started after an early pit stop to pick up some liquid refreshments. Cans of iced Sol with a twist of lime hit the spot in the sapping humidity surrounding Cancun.   Sol not the most authentic beer in Mexico but hay ho needs must, plenty of time to sample the local tipple when we arrive at the Chac.

The transfer takes you through the Mayan city of Tulum which is about 130 km south of Cancun and you enter this city through one of the arches, as you travel through the city the main road is lined with bars and restaurants  but you sense a completely different vibe.  This place is worth a visit although our drive south had really just begun and it was several hours before we were expected in Punta Allen.

The meandering "jungle" road albeit at night was truly an adventure, offering several open views out to the moonlit Caribbean sea along the way.

We arrived at the Chac welcomed as always by Manuel, it was good to catch up and we sank one or two beers before we all turned in for a few hours sleep.

The morning arrived and others were already putting the rods together, fresh coffee is served and a good kick start to any day.  The first morning of any trip is always full of anticipation, but this one was special.  Having been before I knew what was ahead and couldn't wait to get started, we had been joined on this trip by Jonathan Tomlinson (Tomo) whose wealth of knowledge of these flats is second to none, as he's been visiting the Chac for many years, I was like a sponge taking on board any information I could.  Tomo was filming for most of the week producing a fly fishing film which will be available in the near future. It should be awesome as he has taken in Iceland,New Zealand,Christmas Island and Mexico,  to be finished off on the southern chalk streams.   Here's a link to his Vimeo site for Smokin Drag Productions' where you can watch more of his work.

Tomo with an awesome Tarpon caught whilst taking a break from filming!.

 The Chac is located in the sian ka'an biosphere reserve in the municipality of Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It was established in 1986 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.  The place is one of true tranquility and full of wildlife and of coarse awesome fishing. The first day we headed out through the mangroves and then the hour across open water to the flats. We wanted to really scratch the twelve month itch so we headed for the bonefish, hitting into a few which is always good to sharpen up the strip striking technique.  You never tire of hooking into the ghost of the flats and they certainly put a bend in the eight weight.

Its a really relaxed day and each and every morning you can let the guides know what your target species is going to be for the day, Snook, Permit, bonefish, Jack ,Tarpon and Barracuda are all on the menu and they will take you to the best spots to ensure you the best chance of success.

Lunch is always a good time, as the guides will find a secluded spot on one of the many islands, iguana island being one of my favourite! they will present you with a proper Mexican lunch, the obligatory jalapenos accompany all the lunches and make for a tasty treat.  Time to plan for the second part of the day and a change of species if required.
Lunch on Iguana Island

There's nothing better than wading in warm Caribbean water in search of tailing bonefish and always a chance of a Permit on the cards. The first days went according to plan but it was apparent that all the skiffs were finding the conditions tough going, cloudy skies and a rip roaring wind didn't make it easy for the ever eagle eyed guides to spot the quarry.

After each day and the return to the Chac to ponder over missed opportunities is always a great craic, supplemented with a fishermans' snack and a few beers.  The lads had some good early success with the odd tarpon and snook being caught.  Its always a pleasure to see other anglers connecting with fish which rejuvenates the optimism for the following day.

The week was full of highs and in particular some lows, a lost tarpon in the mangroves a moment which ill never forget as the silver flank went airborne and hit the water with an almighty crash, simultaneously ejecting my fly.  Many hours under the sapping heat on the bow of a skiff searching in what was milky water, less than ideal in search of "the silver king". Id not set the hook into the almost iron plated mouth of this fish, believe you me id give it some stick but obviously not enough.

Permit were high on the agenda for both myself and Bernie, having seen the odd fish and catching bonefish in between we thought our luck had petered out, up until the last day when the conditions had improved and the clouds had almost dispersed.  Pablo and Orlando poled up to a small island and the atmosphere changed in a heart beat.  Get out Get out we were ordered, Palometa Palometa !!! was the cry.  Pablo had spotted several Permit surrounding tailing bonefish, this was our chance.  I was shaking like a leaf and Bernie was out of the skiff in a jiffy.  We crept up on the large school of tailing bonefish and indeed the permit were with them. Armed with the  ten weight and a spawning shrimp pattern on the business end we quietly waded into position.  Orlando and Pablo were communicating with hand gestures and we were given the all clear to make a cast.  Neither of us wanted to line them so the first cast was just a tad too short.  I made another cast and no matter how much experience you think you have nothing can prepare you for a moment like this.  The shrimp hit the water, "wait,wait....strip" and bang fish on!. The line ripped off the reel with somewhat ease and racing backwards whilst keeping tension on, doing my best to prevent the fish running back through the shoal, we soon realised  it wasn't the permit I was after  but a decent bonefish none the less.  This continued for some time as the shoal stuck around, landing time and time again the somewhat now nuisance bonefish.  A change of fly and still no permit, it was so frustrating that they were  within touching distance and over a year of waiting they were so near but yet so far away.

It wasn't to be this time as the shoal moved on and my goal of a large permit will have to wait for yet another year.

Manuel on the other hand, now known as "The Permit whisperer" earlier in the week latched into a decent permit amid the added pressure of the rolling camera, this is experience for you and being brought up on the flats and countless permit to his and his clients name, we were in awe of his achievement under such conditions.  If you could bottle just an ounce of his expertise.......

Manuel "The Permit Whisperer" - Picture Courtesy of Smokin Drag Productions

What a great week we had in what I would class as the "real" Mexico, the experience as always will stay with me and others for a lifetime.  Its not just the fishing that makes these trips so special, the hospitality, food and guides are second to none.  But most of all the guys that you spend the week with really do make all the difference.  The generation gap, experience and indeed the variety of backgrounds we are all from didn't matter a jot. the banter for the week was top draw and the common goal of fishing brought us all together.  We all shared our own daily experiences and know how which is the way it should be.

Many thanks must go to  Bernie, Duff, Tomo, Alex, Craig,Brian and Geoff for making this a very memorable week at the Chac in Ascension Bay.

Alex with a decent Snook
Alex on a roll - Tarpon time
Craig with a Snook
Geoff with a nice Bonefish
Duff on the Bones !

Looking forward to the return next year.

All the best


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