Ascension Bay Lodge Fly Fishing Trip
I hosted my first fly fishing trip to Ascension Bay Lodge back in 2017. It’s the small self proclaimed “permit capital of the world” in the southern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Surrounded with bright turquoise waters, miles of perfect flats, islands of mangroves, and palm trees, it’s as if you jumped into a postcard.
An Annual Trip
2020 was my first time missing the annual trip back and so being excited for the postponed trip this year is an understatement. With the vaccines being available and the testing offered at the lodge, I knew that I would be able to safely host a trip back down.
With only three days of fishing the anxiety of hoping the weather conditions and luck would work out was at an all time high. Perhaps I jinxed myself because the weather was not cooperating, you could say. We had high tides, and cloudy days.
The First day.
The first day out on the water we knew that with the clouds it would be tough. We broke the day up by permit fishing in the morning and then going after tarpon and snook after lunch, which turned out to be the right move. After lunch we had tons of shots at tarpon and snook. KC was at the front of the boat and managed to get a few dances at the end of his line with some big critters but nothing to hand.
I put him in time out and on the second cast I landed a nice snook that cartwheeled on top of the water. Snook are so underrated when going to Ascension Bay Lodge because the permit seed is planted in everyone’s head. But, these waters are filled with some incredible species to go after. Snook are much like a bigger, badder salt water version of smallmouth bass. They are aggressive, they run, they jump, and pound for pound but up a battle against you and your fly rod!
Luckily, even if you have a tough day of fishing, you soon forget it when you get back to the lodge with a fresh margarita waiting for you! And the food! Oh my, don’t even get me started on how amazing the Mayan cuisine is at the lodge!! Each dinner is a new incredibly curated dish of local foods that’s always followed up with desert.
What’s more, the Lodge spent their “quarantine” doing a complete remodel of the entire space. On the night we pulled up, I thought that the shuttle van brought us to the wrong place because I could barely recognize it! There was more space and more rooms, but they still managed to keep that charm that will always be Ascension Bay lodge.
The Second Day.
On the Second day out, the fishing was incredible!! We were on a school of permit at the first spot of the day. Nothing like a spike of adrenaline to wake you up!
The reality of fishing for permit is that you stand on the bow of the panga, fly in hand, for hours at times. You scan, squint, think you see a fish. No, that’s a rock. Nope, “that’s a ray. Damn, that’s a shark. You daydream, sing songs in your head, and try to not get tossed off the bow by a sneaker wave. Finally, all hell breaks loose.
The guides suddenly have forgotten English, how a clock time signifies a direction, and the difference between 30 and 80 feet. You have also forgotten all of those things yourself. Then, you finally see the push of water, the tail, and the dorsal fin. Somehow, you lay out the perfect cast and the crab drops right in front of the school. You strip, striiiiip, then a longer strip. The head fish turns on the fly and the school follows, jetting and searching for the food, you keep stripping, keeping the chase. The head fish comes up noses the fly and they all turn 90 degrees and it’s over. Just like that. Obviously, you turn and make the last ditch effort backcast, but, your real shot is over.
Permit Being Permit
The excitement fades. You tell yourself “well, I did everything I could, correctly. That’s fishing. That’s just permit being permit.” Really, you say anything to make yourself feel ok. In reality, in your head you’re thinking: “faster strip?! Lighter leader?! Did I have sunscreen on the hand that touched the fly!! Maybe they wanted a shrimp not a crab?! Did they see us?”
Who knows which of these are true. Well, the fish know. But, if I could speak permit and knew all these answers I probably wouldn’t like chasing them.
So as amazing as it would have been to land a permit this trip, it just didn’t work out. I am convinced that I used up all of my permit luck for a lifetime with the 30+ lb permit I landed in 2019…
Ending The Trip at Ascension Bay Lodge
We ended the trip with a sunset trip to Paradiso Island. It’s a secluded and protected flats area that all the bonefish and flamingos tuck into in the evening. Sometimes the elusive permit are there, too.
It’s the part of the trip that I always look forward to the most. It’s a chance where everyone gets to fish together, guides included, relax and enjoy a beer to really take in the incredible trip that you just experienced.
While we were all out there, Antoine—a good friend of mine that was one the first trip to ascension bay back in 2017—was having KC show him a few tips on casting. To everyone’s surprise a school of permit showed up just a few feet away from them. So, Antoine, with whatever fly pattern that was on the rod made a roll cast to the permit and one of the fish broke away from the school and ate the fly!!
After a few short minutes of fighting the fish and fly came unbuttoned. But, we all cheered and hollered with excitement while still trying to fully process what had just happened!
As amazing as the flat fishing is in Ascension Bay, it will always be about more than that. It’s about the friendships made, the incredible locals and guides, and the inviting “make you feel part of the family”experience from Danny and his family provide. It is truly the best place in the world, which is why it became an annual tradition trip!