By Caroline Wexler
“Everything has been great here, but I don’t know how soon I’ll be back. There are a lot of places I want to fish in this world.”
I couldn’t have been more astonished when Bernard, a fly fisherman from Belgium, said that. When leaving Casa Carolina, most guests talk about coming back. I know that “life intrudes” and many of them will not be back. But when they’re leaving, most of them feel that they want to come back. Since we opened Casa Carolina in 2000, we have had many guests return five, six, and seven times. Even when Bernard said that in 2004, several guests had been here multiple times.
But guess what: Bernard has been back four times. He has now decided which guide is his favorite. Bernard is not interested in a grand slam. He comes just to hunt permit, and does so very successfully.
I have been surprised at the number of people who come here who are not divers or fishers. Many people come here just to escape the congestion and crowds of the northern part of this coast, in order to relax in a beautiful, tranquil setting. But it is the fly fishermen (and women!), perhaps even more than the divers, who come back again and again. Mike Cordesius, a fly fisherman from Charlotte, N.C., has been here five times. He usually comes with his fishing buddy, Dave, from California, but he has come alone when he had time and Dave couldn’t make the trip. On his most recent trip here, Mike said, “We’ve been fishing a lot of places, but this is the place that keeps calling us back.” Mike got a grand slam on his fourth trip here. It’s questionable whether Dave has also gotten a grand slam: if you count hooking a permit by the tail, the answer is yes. Dave thinks that counts, but we don’t, so there aren’t pictures of “Dave’s grand slam” on our web page.
Guy and Maxine Anderson of Camrose, Alberta, are one of our “two sport” couples: Guy is a fly fisherman, and Maxine is a diver. Guy caught his first permit the first time he cast for one, on his first day fishing here. He claims he did not see the permit. He says just as they were heading out in the morning, his guide yelled, “Cast!” He cast, and caught a permit! On his second day of fishing here, Guy got a “grand slam plus”: bonefish, permit, tarpon, barracuda, and horse eye jack in the same day. You may have seen pictures of Guy even if you haven’t seen Casa Carolina’s web page. Somehow, a picture of Guy with one of the several permit he caught on that first trip here has popped up in several places on the web, in addition to Casa Carolina’s web page.
One afternoon when Guy was fishing the flats in front of Casa Carolina, after fishing all day with a guide, he started screaming for Maxine. Thinking there had been an accident, or that there was some sort of problem, we ran to see what was going on. Guy had caught a big permit right in front of Casa Carolina, and he wanted Maxine to get a picture of it. That picture, of course, is on our web page. Nate Bennett, a fly fishing guide from Jackson, Wyoming, had been admiring that picture for months while he planned his first trip here. When he came here, Guy happened to be here at the same time. Nate felt like he was meeting a legend. Maybe some of Guy’s luck rubbed off on Nate, because Nate also caught a permit right in front of Casa Carolina! Nate’s catch was witnessed, but not documented. Nate says he never catches anything when there’s a camera around, so he had forbidden his wife Jamie, who is also a fly fisher, to have the camera out there.
We have lost count of how many times Jim and Lana Olson of Hoquiam, Washington, have been here. They don’t know, either. But we remember when Jim caught his first bonefish in 2003. Two years later, he got a grand slam. Jim is our only guest who has gotten two grand slams, the second in 2007. Lana doesn’t go out fishing with Jim every day, but she was glad she went the day she caught seven bonefish.
In addition to asking about what weight rods to bring and which flies work best here, people coming to fish in Xcalak for the first time often ask, “Who’s the best guide?” There isn’t one answer to that. There are about six men in Xcalak who are full time fly fishing guides. They are the only guides we will reserve for our guests. These are self-employed men, who have lived in Xcalak and fished these waters most of their lives. Each of them is the preferred guide of various people; there isn’t one who is everyone’s favorite. There are exceptions, but most people seem to prefer whichever guide they fished with first. However, if I know enough about a guest’s fishing interests and experience, I have learned which guide might be the best “match” for a particular fisher.
And yes, it is advisable to reserve a guide in advance. During busy times of year, the guides often are booked up months in advance. During the less busy times, these men still have to feed their families, so they do other kinds of work, such as commercial fishing. Guiding fly fishermen is what they all love to do most, but if they don’t know that they will have work, they may not be available if you just show up without a reservation.
The other most frequently asked question is, “When is the best time of year to fish?” If you look at the dates underneath the pictures of the grand slams in the Fly Fishing Photo Gallery on our web page, you’ll see that it’s all year!
Casa Carolina Beach Resort
Xcalak, Q. Roo MX