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fly fishing guatemala marlin fly sailfish fly
Old 02-06-2011, 08:40 AM
pschwart00 pschwart00 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Cincy, OH
Posts: 213
Thumbs up Iztapa Guatemala Fishg Report - Jan 28-30

My wife & I went to Iztapa, Guatemala at the end of January on a shared trip that included another fisherman from the Boston area. We planned to fish with Capt. Chris Starrs through his Blue Bayou operation. To provide a quick little background on Chris:
he is an American from Michigan whose wife is Guatemalan. He is living full-time in Guatemala and Blue Bayou is his business. This to me is a huge plus. He was the one that picked us up from the airport (BTW- one of the nicest airports in Central America), he drove us to the marina in the morning, and he was the Captain. Chris’s hospitality was spectacular. He had thought of everything – beers in the van from the airport, yummy meals, comfortable accommodations. He even set-up a day trip to Antigua for my wife with an English-speaking guide. In short, the little extra service you get from an owner was apparent.

After arriving Thursday afternoon and fighting through the slog of traffic in Guatemala City we descended to the coast. And when I say descended, I mean it. Guatemala City is a mile high city (elevation is 5,250 ft). The weather in the city was perfect; 70 & low humidity. By the time we got to the coast we were in the upper 80s to 90 and the humidity was up. (The road from the city to the coast is very good, four lanes pretty much the entire route due to the sugar producers.) Coming from the mid-west sunny and warm never felt so good!

Chris had rented out a super-sized house for us to stay at in a gated community. The house was open air style in the common areas with a/c in the bedrooms. Extra large pool, veranda and thatch roof made this the perfect place to unwind (i.e. eat & drink) after a day on the water.

So Iztapa is known for numbers….lots and lots of sails. I think it is important to realize that sometimes the numbers that you see on websites aren’t really what they seem. First off, most of the big boats posting the 25+ numbers are trolling a lot of lines and often are having the mates drop back and hook the fish for their clients. They then hand over the rods to the clients to reel in the fish. To me that is not fishing; that’s winding. Second, once they hook a fish they back down on these sailfish as if Ricky Wallace was driving the boat…again I want to enjoy the fight, not just put the reel in high speed mode and crank like Lance Armstrong to keep the line tight.

We fished out of 26’ Pro Sports walk-around with twin 150 ‘Zukes. For those of you that have not fished the Pacific, it is a true pleasure. The seas are usually a large swell, but the period of the waves is so long that you just kinda’ slowly go up & slowly come down. After a short ride out on our first day, the captain puts out his squid daisy chain. I don’t think it was 30 seconds when a sail was up under it. We weren’t ready. Urgh! No fear though - multiple chances to come throughout the day. The next few fish we screwed up as well. Whether it was on conventional tackle (not dropping back fast enough, not dropping back long enough, backlashes, etc.) or not getting the fly out there quick enough when pulling the teasers out of the water, we showed our rookie stripes. (If you are wondering how one screws up dropping back to a sail…think about the first time you went tarpon fishing, and you know that you are supposed to strip set, but the first time a silver king takes your fly you raise the rod like a trout fisherman and then feel like an idiot when the guide yells at you. Trust me, if you haven’t done it in about 10 years there is a learning curve.)

The fishing the first day was great. I think we raised closed to 20 fish. Hooked 8 total (1 on fly) landed 5. My wife, who is still in the early phases of the fishing learning curve, put me to shame on the hook-up ratio. She had some bad luck with one fish breaking the leader and another finding a loop in the spool and breaking off. All in all a great first day.

We headed back to the casa where a quick dip in the pool was essential for an immediate cool off before cracking open some beers and enjoying dinner. Unlike a “traditional” fishing lodge, we had a more family style experience (which I enjoyed). While we were in Guatemala Chris’ dad had come down for a visit. He came to the coast with us and performed the duties of head chef. The menus were great (ceviche, fresh dorado, shrimp, burgers, pasta, etc.) – and during dinner we all ate together, no waiters, no wait staff, no hurry. A very different feel than other trips I’ve been on, but very enjoyable. (Don’t worry we didn’t have to do dishes…that’s what the maid was for while we were out fishing).

The next two days saw slightly slower fishing, but we were still raising fish and catching them. Luckily our ability to come tight improved exponentially as the trip wore on. One cool thing we encountered on our second day was the invasion of the jacks. I’ve caught numerous jack crevalle, but I’ve never come across them while high speed trolling in the open ocean. But that day it happened. These aggressive fish would crash the teasers and the natural baits with fierce abandon. The fish range from small (5lbs) to pushing close to 20lbs. It added some fun variety to the trip; we ended up landing about 8 or 9 and could have caught a lot more if we had wanted to.

The weather was perfect, with clear skies everyday, highs around 90 and lows around 70 at night. Each afternoon the wind picked up and put a chop on the water, but it never got very rough. Iztapa has been on my checklist for years (I think ever since I saw show from the old Fins n’ Feathers lodge). But up until now the only way that I was aware of fishing there was through one of the ritzy lodges like Casa Vieja. Don’t get me wrong - staying at place like that has got to be nice, but dropping the kind of coin to go fishing for a few days makes it tough. I’m more about the trip, the fishing, the hands-on experience, and the reward when you get it right. If you are worried about taking your spouse (who may or may not enjoy the fishing) on a trip that doesn’t include a fancy lodge, you needn’t worry. The accommodations included a large pool and comfortable chairs – the only thing missing would have been a cabana boy. Chris and his wife are also planning to open a bed-and-breakfast in Antigua, so if you want to go fishing for a few days while she checks out one of the most-historic Spanish colonial towns in Central America, this is an excellent way to do it.

What Chris Starrs has set-up down there, I think, fills the niche that has been missing. A quality fishing experience, with good accommodations, excellent logistics, but without the umbrella drinks, so to speak.

Some notes on trip / fishing:
-I’m pretty you are not missing a thing if you leave Guatemala City as soon as you land (in fact I think you want to leave as soon as possible)
- The sailfish down there must all be girls. Why? Pink is their favorite color.
- If you are fly fishing using a shooting head, then cut the head down to about 10-12’. The only reason you are using a sink tip line is to quickly shoot it, not get it down. Cutting it down greatly enhances one’s ability to make the cast quickly.
-If you want to bring an extra pair of sunglasses as part of your tip for your mate they may appreciate it more than the cash.
-The town area is pretty poor. This is not like Placencia or San Pedro in Belize where there are restaurants, beach front bars etc. to hit at night. So if you are looking for a night life on the coast you will be disappointed. Then again after a long day on the water I don’t know how you would find the energy to go out anyway.
-My wife spent a day in Antigua and really enjoyed the city. When we go back we will go for a longer stay as I have put it on my “to do” list.
-I’m not a golfer…but they have a golf course between the coast and Antigua ( that almost makes me want to golfing.
-Leaving the country – security: Guatemala security is infamous for not allowing you to carry-on fishing reels with line on them. We didn’t bring any rods/reels with us (Chris’ stuff was very good, TLD with 20#). If you bring your own stuff be sure to put your spools in your checked luggage on the way home. Security is tight. They hand checked all of our carry-on luggage just before we boarded the plane.

Here some links to some short videos on YouTube:
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Old 02-09-2011, 12:37 PM
pschwart00 pschwart00 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Cincy, OH
Posts: 213
Pacific Jack Crevalle Pic...

to add a little variety
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Old 02-09-2011, 06:20 PM
BN2FSH BN2FSH is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Posts: 84
thanks for the excellent report
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Old 02-10-2011, 05:38 PM
DonW DonW is offline
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Join Date: Before Nov. 1999
Location: Tralfalmadore
Posts: 325
Captain Starrs is great

Greetings- i shared the Charter with Pete and Karen- had a great time with Blue Bayou. I fished Quepos CR last year and there at least 5 times as many sails in Guatemala as in Quepos. FWIW i am fromn RI not Boston!

Here is a link to a video of me catching a nice sail on the fly- best parts are first and last two minutes.

Don Williams
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