By Will Schmidt
Imagine slowly stripping a shrimp fly, with prey in pursuit, when your guide says, “Quick… pick it up before the bonefish gets it.” It seems nonsensical, but it happens more than you think while casting at permit in Ascension Bay, Mexico.
Known to many fly fishermen as one of the most permit populated places on earth, the waters of the southern Yucatan hold much more than world class permit.
The journey starts with an easy flight to Cancun. From there, a two-hour van ride to Tulum might still have you wondering how to get away from all the tourists. However, once you board your panga and start the hour ride through the pristine waters of the lagoon system of Ascension Bay, you will realize you are truly on the path less traveled.
Once back on land at the Grand Slam Lodge just north of Punta Allen, you’ll be greeted with margaritas and shown to first class accommodations in your beachfront villa. You will also notice there is nothing else around, and you are actually at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere.
This fishery is nothing short of amazing. Home to a lobstering community, there is no other commercial fishing. All the recreational fishing is catch and release. These waters hold more permit than anywhere else I know, but be forewarned they are still permit and not easily fooled. Additionally, the number of bonefish here is staggering, and although not typically as large as the fish you’ll encounter in the Bahamas, they average a respectable 3 to 4 pounds in quantities that are astounding. There are also large numbers of tarpon, snook (which the guides seem to get particularly giddy about), jacks and barracudas to keep you busy all day.
One of the other unique aspects of fishing here is each boat has two guides, the head guide and a junior guide. The second guide is extremely helpful to the angler as an extra set of eyes as well as for quickly changing outfits for the variety of species encountered and to help manage tangle-prone fly line. If you want to be spoiled, two guides does it.
Ascension Bay is one of the greatest fisheries I have experienced. This is a renowned destination for fly fishermen seeking permit and a wonderful intro for anglers new to saltwater fly fishing. To see the quantity and quality of fish here, you would expect to travel much farther and stay in far more rustic accommodations. I recently returned from a trip in the “off season,” which is in reference to the number of tourists not fish. In three days of fishing, I never saw another angler while fishing. It provided us with abundant, pressure-free, happy fish to target.
Will Schmidt is an experienced tournament angler who has been writing about fishing for more than two decades. For more information, check out grandslamfishinglodge.com.