By Pat Ford

There are few fish easier to catch on a fly than a Pacific Sailfish!  Sounds like a brash statement but all you relay have to do is call 800-882-4665 and book 3 days at Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala anytime from November thru April.  Next you have to throw 2 pairs of shorts, a few shirts and a lot of sunscreen in a carry-on bag and hop a flight to Guatemala City and the hard part is over.

Casa Vieja meets all their anglers at the airport and transports them to the Coast….about a 90 minute ride during which you will pass several active volcanoes.  The Lodge is completely self contained.  Once you enter the gate, you find air conditioned rooms, a beautiful dining/rec area, a pool and exceptional cuisine.   Nothing is lacking in creature comforts!  No one sleeps well their first night but around 6:30am there will be a polite knock on your door and a staff member will deliver your coffee selection.  Breakfast is anytime you’re ready and you have to try their French toast …it’s amazing, but I digress.

The Van leaves for the boats around 7:30am an you’re probably under way by 8am.  Casa Vieja’s boats are tournament quality sport fishing rigs that are listed in their website along with their outstanding captains. Lodge owner David Salazar actually captains the Finest Kind had has collected nothing but experts like Chris and Mike Sheeder, Jason Brice and more to run his fleet .  The mates are the best in the business for  teasing billfish to a fly which is an art unto itself and the key to the angler’s success.  All boats are equipped with 15 weight first class fly rods, but if you like to fish with your own tackle, you’ll need at least a 14 weight rod and a reel that is designed for billfish such as the Nautilus Monster.  I recommend at least 50 lb backing and lots of it.  Most of us a 30’ 600 grain shooting head followed by 150’ of 50 lb chartreuse monofilament, but “billfish lines” work just fine.  The mates will rig your leader and flies – all boats use 20 lb IGFA regulation tippets.  They have a special way of splicing loops onto the leaders and no matter your level of expertise, let the mate do it.   You can use any fly you like as long as it’s a pink and white Cam Sigler sailfish tube fly.  Seriously 95% of the sailfish and marlin are caught on Cam’s fly!  In truth if this is your first attempt at a billfish on fly, use the boat’s rod – they work just fine!

The fishing grounds can be anywhere fro 8 to 40 miles offshore and on the way the Captain will explain the process as follows:  they will troll several baits without hooks; one mate will tease the fish while the other clears the other lines; the angler will stand on the port corner of the stern (assuming he’s a right handed caster), the captain will take the boat out of gear and yell “CAST”;  angler casts (actually flops) the fly directly behind the boat; fish eats it and GAME ON!

Sounds pretty simple and actually it is.  There is no need for a cast of more than 30 feet because the sailfish will be right behind the boat.  It’s actually best if you cast away from and behind the fish because you want him to turn when the teaser disappears and hit the fly going away.  Pacific sails average between 80 and 100 lbs but even larger fish are fairly common.  There is also the chance of hooking a 300 lb blue marlin every day, which is why 14 weight rods are the minimum.  A typical fight on a sail will be under 20 minutes….they jump themselves out rather quickly and the captains know just how to keep you in the best fighting position.  In addition it’s usually very calm in Guatemala which is always a blessing….the key word there is ‘usually’.

Casa Vieja’s 2016 season was spectacular with fly anglers releasing over a dozen sails most every day.  On more than a few days boats released over 30 – all on fly.  The numbers on the bait guys were insane.  Harold Brewer resident of the Bonefish Tarpon Trust) and his wife Mona joined me for Jake Jordan’s Annual Fly Tournament last year.  Neither had ever caught a sail on fly before but in 3 days they released 27 …and didn’t even place in the Tournament.  It’s an amazing adventure – everyone should catch at least one sailfish on fly in their lifetime and there’s no better place to do it than Casa Vieja Lodge.   Check out Casaviejalodge.com