If this picture doesn't convince you to that you should plan to fly fish for tarpon on Isla Holbox then you are not going to be allowed in Mexico anyway so forget it! Holbox means fly fishing for tarpon in shallow water. Holbox means huge tarpon on the end of your fly line because only 35 fly fishing enthusiasts fished these waters last year. In Florida a decent flat gets that in a couple days!! These are tarpon that have not seen a fly until you throw it. Tarpon are peculiar anyway; why did that one eat the fly and another doesn't, why do they race after it one day and not the next, some days I'll throw at 20 and not one will acknowledge the fly while other days my worst cast hooks up with a monster. If you want to increase your chances of jumping 100 lb. tarpon then go the extra 200 miles to the northern Yucatan coast of Mexico instead of Florida.
The tarpon flats are about 20 minutes from the hotel and are anywhere from 5-15 feet deep. Large groups of giant tarpon cruise these flats from May through September. Each morning you will get a breakfast at the hotel at about 6:00 and head out on the boats at about 6:30. The standard day lasts until 2:30 in the afternoon. You and your guide will be studying the water for rolling fish, fish making a wake (some the size of a small boat!), or the actual fish as it cruises beneath the surface. You will aim your cast just ahead of the lead fish ( just a yard or so if the fish are near the surface) Your guide will coach you as to when to strip but once they show some interest make sure you keep it moving as they may follow all the way to the boat before eating! Hooking a 100 pound fish 10 feet from the boat and watching it jump higher than you is a moment to live for. The term "jumping" a tarpon exists because that's about all you get with most tarpon that you hook. Their mouths are rock hard they jump twist and rattle their heads so effectively that most hooks just don't hold. Even though this is the best tarpon fishing in the world you will only jump a few each day if you are a decent caster. A great day would be 1 big fish brought to the boat, or jumping 4-5 fish. If you go for the smaller tarpon then 5-10 jumps is considered a great day. Tarpon fishing is not fast paced there is a lot of time spent looking and looking and then all of a sudden it happens - 10 big fish moving at you and it is all you can do to maintain enough composure to get off a good cast. The nature of tarpon fishing is that it will take you several hours to land an average fish. A truly big one of world record proportion could take 6 hours. If you hook that one at 1 PM on Wednesday your guide will have no qualms staying out as long as it takes to land it (into the dark if necessary). For this reason we limit most days to the 8 hours ( if you haven't hooked a fish by then it is time to head home!!). Extra time on the water can be arranged on an overtime basis. Your guides are native to the island and have been tarpon fishing with a fly rod for over ten years. The boats are 18' pangas that are easy to pole into position for a group of cruising tarpon.
Small tarpon are found in mangrove channels and flats around the island. Most of the fishing is still sight fishing as the water is clear all year. The baby tarpon are also a good warm up for the big boys. Its nice to practice on some less intimidating specimens before you experience tarpon fever in front of a 150 lb. fish! Learning to retrieve in the manner that most attracts a tarpon, the proper hookset, instinctively allowing some slack when the fish jumps, all takes some practice. ( I still need coaching). Snook are pretty common in the same areas as the baby tarpon as well. Keep in mind that baby tarpon are 5-50 pounds!!
Alejandro, our head guide wrote the book on fly fishing in Mexico. He has fly fished for more than a 2 decades here. He was hired by the Mexican government to help train the guides in Ascension Bay for both fly fishing knowledge and fly fishing English. the three other guides are his brothers. It doesn't matter which brother you get, Darwin, Rudolph, Alejandro ... any one of them can throw a line further than me and they know the water and the tendencies of the fish. They all tie flies, they all fish on their days off, they all have enthusiasm for the sport, basically they are some of the finest guides in the world.