Campeche, Mexico Tarpon

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Campeche, Mexico Tarpon
Campeche, The City
Aqua Design
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Campeche, Mexico Tarpon

Mark Bachmann with a typical Campeche tarpon...

Our guide, Juan poled the panga toward the mouth of the tiny black-water creek. Several tarpon rolled with their dark backs and sharp dorsal fins showing above the surface of the dark water.  The pungent-sulfur smell of the mangrove swamp filled my nostrils.  The eight rod was loaded for the cast.  The red and white fly sailed through the air and landed with a quiet splat.  One strip, two strips...the water exploded as the tarpon felt the bite of steel.  It vaulted high into the air with it's gill-plates rattling.  The 30-pound leader broke and the fish was gone...that fast.  "Ten or eleven kilos", said Juan about the lost fish.  Then we examined the frayed leader.  I reached for my tackle bag and tied on a-foot of 40-pound fluorocarbon for a bite tippet. My second fish came only a few minutes later, but threw the

hook on the third jump. Five minutes later a small pod of tarpon showed themselves forty feet off the bow, and a third fish was hooked, and this time landed.  It probably weighed about ten pounds, which seems to be the average for the waters around Campeche, Mexico. 

During our five days of fishing around Campeche, we never hooked a tarpon smaller than 5-pounds, although several were close.  We each hooked one fish that was larger than twenty-pounds.  Both were lost to leader breakage.  Eight weight gear was suggested by our host, Raul Castaneda, of Tarpon Town Anglers.   We found that eight-weight rods overpowered the smaller fish, but weren't quite heavy enough for the largest ones.  Raul had it figured out.  Eight-weights are the best choice.  In addition to tarpon, we encountered fair

Patty with a snapper from the mangroves...

numbers of snappers and snook, but no large specimens of either.  These fish, did however, fill in the spaces between tarpon.  There is more than a hundred miles of shallow turtle grass flats accessible from Campeche.  The average water depth is one to four feet deep during high tide.  In addition there is more than a hundred miles of pristine mangrove shoreline east of the city.  The first day we jumped several tarpon after a five minute boat ride from the harbor.  As expected, every day was different.  Some were easy fishing and others were tougher.  The fishing water is very diversified. Tarpon were encountered a fair distance from shore over featureless flats where back-cast room is never-ending. Most days were calm, but fishing usually got tough out on these same flats when the afternoon wind came up.  Then we would go back into the creeks in the mangroves. Here there was very little wind, and the tarpon were there during periods of high tide.  When fishing some of these creeks, casting was really tight.  Some of these creeks are so narrow, in fact, that it is hard to turn the boat end for end when you want to leave. The canopy of mangroves was so thick in places, that even in the middle of the day, it was twilight, and nearly no second-story plants grew from the bare ground.  Exotic bird calls gave these places a real other-world flavor, and added to the adventure.  Here tarpon and snook could only be spotted when they disturbed the surface of the shiny black water.  However a well planned presentation followed by an accurate cast, was often rewarded by a vicious strike.  When tarpon fishing, you will lose more than half the fish you hook, most days.  On our trip, our landing to hooking ratio improved as we became more experienced.  Our average was about eight fish jumped for every one landed, but the last day I went 5 for 8.  Most snook and snappers that were hooked were landed.  We used a variety of flies to catch tarpon.  Old favorites like the Cockroach, Orange Grizzly and Boom Creek Special were consistent producers as well as new patterns like the Tarpon Screamer.  White flies with pearl flash and a little bit of red or hot pink seemed to be most productive overall.

Tarpon this size are like a cross between steelhead and large mouth bass...

A white Deep-Eyed Minnow with red eyes, in size-2 was the most productive pattern because we had lots of them. A couple of other patterns were deadly, but we only had them in small numbers.  New patterns designed specifically for Campeche will appear in our saltwater fly selection sometime this winter.  We tried the new Scientific Mastery floating and clear tip Saltwater Taper lines as well as the Streamer Express.  No doubt Scientific Anglers has the saltwater line thing figured out.  They've been building saltwater specific fly lines longer than anyone else. Look for several new Mastery Saltwater lines to appear in our on-line fly line selection soon. We took two nine-weight outfits and four eight-weight outfits.  The combination of a Winston B2X890 rod, Royal Wulff Bermuda Triangle Taper SWTB8F, and Nautilus-8 reel became the most popular outfit.  For deeper water we liked the combination of an ECHO2-890sw-4x with the new clear tip Rio 300-grain Tropical Outbound line. The line was spooled on a Ross 3.5 Evolution which proved to be a very serviceable reel in the saltwater, and more than a match for these tarpon. Any sturdy saltwater resistant reel with a moderate drag will work for this fishery.  Not one fish we encountered got into the backing. Baby Tarpon pull about as hard as steelhead, with fish in the 5-15 pound class taking about a minute per pound to land. Accurate casts to sixty feet were sometimes required for the flats.  On the flats, wind can sometimes be a problem, but usually for short periods. Even when it is moderately windy, the boat rides are comparatively smooth.  Tarpon Town guides fish with 20-foot pangas, powered by sixty horse-power outboard engines.  These boats are carpeted and have a very nice casting platform in the front which places you slightly higher above the water than the average American flats boat.  These boats are perfectly maintained and very clean.  They're also very shallow draft, and are the perfect fishing craft

for both flats and creeks. The novel seating arrangement is in movable chairs which can be placed anywhere in the boat.  They are very comfortable.  Getting to Campeche is fairly easy.  We flew from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia, then to Merida, Mexico.  Merida has the cleanest, most efficient airport we have encountered anywhere.  Raul Castinada had a driver pick us up at the Merida airport and drive us the one-hundred miles to Campeche.  Our lodging was provided by Ocean View Hotel which is conveniently situated not far from the dock and is clean and comfortable.  We plan on setting up a hosted trip to Campeche in 2007 and will keep you posted.

Snook this size add to the adventure...

Campeche, The City
Down town Campeche, Mexico...

Campeche is located on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Originally called San Francisco de Campeche, in later years was referred to simply as Campeche.  Francisco Montejo founded Campeche in 1540 on the site of a Mayan trading village. Over the next century the city was terrorized by French, Dutch and English pirates, such as Sir Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Henry Morgan, thus provoking a major fortification of the city by the Spaniards in 1668. Eighteen years later, Campeche became the Yucatán's principal colonial port, thanks to its formidable defense system - one of the Western Hemisphere's best. As a center of wealth, Campeche became a guarded colonial outpost richly appointed with fine mansions and civic buildings.
As was done in Cartagena, Colombia, a thick stone wall shaped like a hexagon stretched some 2.5 km surrounding the city. Eight strategically placed fortresses made the city impregnable.

Although much of the wall is gone today (replaced by a highway surrounding the city), seven of the eight original bulwarks are still in place. They remain as part of the cultural heritage and personality of Campeche.  Today much of the old city is a World Heritage site and is getting a face lift with new lighting and paint.  All of the electrical  supply is under ground which gives Campeche a very clean, yet nostalgic look.  Today Campeche is a city of 275,000 people and sports a unique atmosphere with many perfectly preserved

The city abounds with art work...

You could go to Campeche for the food alone...

 historical buildings and monuments along side of modern sculptures, wide streets and all of the modern amenities such as ATM's and even a brand new set of golden arches over a crowded McDonalds fast-food restaurant.  If you are into more traditional Mexican cuisine, you will love dining out in Campeche. Campeche offers all the shopping and cultural amenities that a non-fishing spouse could want, with big stores, small shops, libraries and museums.  Campeche is possibly the safest city in Mexico to wander around in, with nearly no crime.

One of the interesting side trips, while fishing in the Campeche region is the many Maya ruins you can visit in the surrounding area.  We were fortunate to visit this very interesting one.
The Maya city of Etzna is close to the city of Campeche...

Etzna (Edzna) was the most important Maya city in western Campeche Province. It was founded around 600 B.C. and occupied until the 15th Century. Many thousands of people must have lived there during its apogee 300-600A.D.  The size of the ancient city has been calculated to have covered about 25 square kilometers. It had a complete system for capturing, storing, and distributing water.  Etzna was discovered in 1907, with explorations beginning in 1928, and excavation starting in 1958.  Excavation and restoration continues today.  The central building complex is called the "Gran Acropolis".  The Maya concentrated on the construction and remodeling of various large buildings in this complex for several centuries.  The final result is an enormous base that supports several very large structures. The rectangular base measures about 160-meters on each side, and is about 8-meters above the surrounding central plaza.  The largest pyramid appears to reach an elevation of around 100-feet above this base.  The magnitude of this giant stone and mortar construction becomes even more impressive when you consider it was built without metal tools or use of the wheel. During our visits to Mexico and Central America, we have visited several ancient Maya cities, including Tikal.  Etzna is as impressive as any we have visited.

Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt
Sand Sky Blue Willow Green
Loaded with features...

In nature, any time there is prey and predator, camouflage is typically involved.
Consider men and gamefish.

Man - typically stands upright and dresses to be seen by other humans; to stand out from the crowd.  This is one of reasons why high profilers often have poor luck with wild game fish.  The most successful anglers work hard at not being seen by fish or other anglers. 
Game Fish - take a close look at the game fish in the photos. Notice how disguised the fish looks with its surroundings? The darker back, lighter sides, spots and stripes blend with the water colors.

Even the shape of game fish have few distinguishing features. Most game fish are very hard to see.

That's the story of camouflage. If you have fished for steelhead, salmon, trout, bass, tarpon or bonefish, you know how spooky they can be. After all, with birds of prey, fish of prey, and anglers praying for fish, it can be a war zone in the water. And that's why Aqua Design technical shirts can improve your odds. Developed from underwater photography - from the fish's perspective - Aqua Design will minimize detection by blending with the immediate environment for concealment.
We have field tested these shirts for five full seasons.  They are incredibly durable and easy to maintain and we think they add to our angling success.

Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sand

For open, sandy areas if you are flats fishing.  Also blends very well with fall colors found along many desert rivers.  Excellent color for anglers fishing steelhead rivers east of the Cascade Mountains during the fall season. My favorite Deschutes fall season fly fishing shirts.  They also have the advantage of not showing dirt that accumulates when you are camping out on the river for several days at a time.  I own two of these fishflage (camouflaged from fish) sand-colored shirts, and most of the newer pictures of me on the Deschutes will find me clad in these shirts.

Sand Camo on the Deschutes River, Oregon USA...
Item Description Size Price To Top
AD-107-SA-M Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sand Medium $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-SA-L Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sand Large $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-SA-XL Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sand X-Large $59.00 SALE ENDED
Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sky Blue

Sky Blue is the color of the rippled surface of open water, whether the weather is clear or with dappled clouds. This is the color for sunny and partly sunny skies especially while fishing bonefish and permit.  Excellent color while casting for deeper water species such as dorado and rooster fish. Don't think dorado or rooster fish can see you?  Try wearing bright red or yellow and learn how to cast an extra 50-feet.

Sky Blue Camo on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto, Mexico...
Item Description Size Price To Top
AD-107-SB-M Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sky Blue Medium $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-SB-L Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sky Blue Large $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-SB-XL Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Sky Blue X-Large $59.00 SALE ENDED
Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Willow Green

The perfect color for grassy, brushy, or forested areas.  A great pattern for spring and summer months along most North American streams and ponds.  An excellent temperate or tropical rain forest color.  These shirts will give you an added advantage when stalking tarpon or snook in the mangrove lined creeks. You will like the big, roomy breast pockets on all Aqua Design shirts for storing extra gear.  These shirts are easily worn outside or tucked under the waist band of your pants.  Wearing the bottom of your shirt out side your pants is a way of adding to the excellent ventilation of these shirts for really hot days

Willow Green Camo in the mangroves, Campeche, Mexico...
Item Description Size Price To Top
AD-107-WG-M Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Willow Green Medium $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-WG-L Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Willow Green Large $59.00 SALE ENDED
AD-107-WG-XL Aqua Design Expedition Technical Shirt, Willow Green X-Large $59.00 SALE ENDED

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Fish long & prosper,
Mark Bachmann, Patty Barnes



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