The 1st Day of Fishing - Without Fishing
So, I had to spend Saturday at the hotel resort without fishing – and that has a silver lining too: I meet a Berliner couple here for tarpon fishing, and I befriend Petra and Volker Ney. The two of them are very likable, and we spend the time before and after fishing in a fun group.
The Fishing Week
In total, there are six anglers in Cayo Santa Maria this week: Petra, Volker, myself, and three Russian anglers. We depart for the marina every day at 7 AM, about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. There, we meet the guides who have the boat ready to go. My guide's name is Manuel; he's a bit older and doesn't speak a word of English. I unleash my knowledge of Italian and Spanish, mix them up, and somehow, it works!
According to our guides, it doesn't make much sense to fish in the flats because there are hardly any fish there at the moment. The fish are out in the deeper waters in the channels. This means we're not sight fishing; we're fishing on a hunch in waters that are 3-10 meters deep.
The preferred gear for this is a Helios 2 in a line class 12 with a Lamson Vanquish with a sinking line. Casting long with a 12-weight all day is a real challenge for the wrist and shoulder! At times, when we're fishing in three to four meters of water and the fish are jumping and rolling, I switch to a 10-weight with an intermediate line. Then, it feels like I have nothing in my hand for a brief moment; the 10-weight suddenly feels so light.
As we head out on the first morning, we already see tarpons jumping. That gives me a motivational boost! Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of wind and waves. But luck is on my side: after 20 minutes, I get the first bite and successfully hook my first tarpon, weighing 50-60 pounds! Now I know what it means to fight a tarpon.
The first 10-15 minutes are crucial. The tarpon sometimes leaps up to two meters out of the water – and often multiple times in a row! My fight lasts for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, there's no photo because the guide releases the fish during the hand landing, and the hook comes loose. Doesn't matter, I think to myself; the fish counts; I may not have a photo, but I have the memory, and I'll catch more...
In the first two days, I catch two more tarpons, up to 35 pounds, and lose three more fish. I can be totally satisfied with the results. Volker and Petra don't have such luck initially. They get three bites on the second day but can't land any fish. Vadill and his two acquaintances, our Russian angler colleagues, don't get any bites.