In our travels, we’ve found that most fly anglers are perpetual bucket-listers. Even without a solid plan for realizing their dream, fishermen have visions of exotic destinations dancing in their heads. Sadly, when the chance to travel for that first-and-only rooster fish, permit or wild steelhead happens, many anglers come away goose-egged. Perhaps it’s that the fish weren’t in, there were limited opportunities for shots, the weather was crap, or the angler choked at a clutch time and the dream fish ghosted out before hooking up.
There are certain locations, however, where heartbreak can be minimized simply by offering anglers increased odds. Tabasco, Mexico is one of those places.
Tabasco is outwardly a surprising destination for eager fly fishermen, as it’s in the heart of Mexico’s oil industry. Refineries and oil fields loom as prominent markers of global business and take economic precedent over tourism, despite the area’s colorful offering of cultural attractions and outdoor adventures. Recently, however, a father-son duo developed a successful tarpon guiding operation and helped the state of Tabasco market the area as a prime fly fishing destination.
“Not only did we want to share this great place with people from all over the world, we also saw a chance to bring diversity to the local economy by supporting the fly fishing industry,” says Fly Fishing Tabasco co-owner Paco Maroquin, Jr.
The landscape is lush with wetlands and tropical greenery, and strikes visitors in stark contrast to the dark refineries. Several large rivers drain from the mountains and jungles into the Gulf of Mexico. Tabasco is home to more than 2,200 different plant species, eco parks and one of the country’s most untamed biosphere reserves.
“It’s remarkable to have such natural beauty in an area known for oil,” says Paco Maroquin, Jr. “We love that we are able to show visitors that oil isn’t the only way we can make a living here. It’s not all we need to be known for in the future. There are reasons to come here...to connect with a unique place and have a great time adventuring.”
With baby and juvenile tarpon rolling in the deep lagoons, wide rivers and estuaries just outside Tabasco’s capital city of Villahermosa, access to a multi-day fly fishing adventure is easy. And, it’s flanked by off-water attractions like cocoa plantations, colonial village tours and fascinating archaeological sites. While there is virtually no resort development, a number of quaint coastal villages offer comfortable lodging, authentic cuisine and friendly service.
When we arrived in Villahermosa, we were quickly shuttled by a clean and air-conditioned van to our hotel, where we enjoyed cocktails before getting a good night’s sleep. We woke up early the next morning and joined our hosts for breakfast before shuttling to the Pentanos de Centla where we made a short run to a wide section of river marked by oxbows and thick trees overhanging the banks.
A universal rule of thumb in fly fishing is that you don’t leave fish to find fish. This is not the case in Tabasco, as we caught tarpon after tarpon in each spot we fished, and continued to move on simply to explore other zones. Juvenile tarpon look yellowish when they flash like lightning on a subsurface fly in the tannic water. But when exhibit their impressive acrobatics, their silver bodies shoot light in all directions. With so many hookups, the fishery is excellent for first-timers or fly fishermen looking to gain more tarpon experience. Perfecting the cast, set, bow, fight and endurance are all elements of a day on the water in Tabasco.
In addition to baby and juvenile tarpon, our group caught a couple of adult tarpon, including one noted as the largest Paco and his father had ever seen on that stretch, numberable catfish, snook and gar. “This would be an excellent place to cut your tarpon teeth before going anywhere that might get more attention but is less productive,” says Fly Fishing Tabasco client Jimmy Kloot. “It’s a great place to immerse in local culture that hasn’t been ruined by resorts or tourist traps. And to see how the local economy could get a boost from an industry other than oil is refreshing,” says Kloot.
Another old adage of fly fishing is, “it’s just nice to be out here.” But when getting out there requires an investment of time and money, few fishermen will argue that catching a fair amount of fish is nice, too. When anglers venture to taste Tabasco, they’ll be rewarded with spicy fights from silver show-offs without the high risk of skunkdom.
To book your Tabasco adventure, visit: http://www.flyfishingtabasco.com/