Species
Tarpon
Destination Type
Lodge
Fishing Style
Flats, Sightfishing
Season
May - September
Fishing Days
6
Rate
$$
Why We Go
  • Experience prolific baby tarpon fly fishing on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula
  • Fly fish from stable pangas in a region exclusively accessed by Tarpon Cay Lodge
  • Enjoy a quiet, simple, and comfortable hotel setting limited to six anglers
  • Feast on fresh and hearty Mexican cuisine
  • Take advantage of a split-day schedule and affordable flights to and from Cancun
Overview

Not far from the bustling madness of Cancun, on the northern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula lies the quaint village of Rio Lagartos and Tarpon Cay Lodge. Tarpon Cay Lodge offers saltwater fly anglers unparalleled opportunities to target juvenile tarpon in the 6- to 25-pound class in shallow water with floating lines. This small operation caters to a maximum of six anglers at a time, keeping angling pressure low and offering exclusive access to guests. Two massive preserves protect these waters from commercial fishing and provide an expansive refuge for juvenile tarpon.

Here, roving schools of fish vary greatly in size from just a few tarpon to several hundred fish. Similar to their larger brothers and sisters, these juveniles can be sensitive to environmental conditions and may challenge even the most skilled fly anglers. The Tarpon Cay guides are highly-experienced and extremely skilled at scanning for rolling fish and spotting schools moving under the surface.

Fishing Program

Tarpon Cay Lodge is the gold standard for world-class fly fishing for "baby" tarpon. Ranging in size from 5- to 25-pounds, these fish reside in open-water turtle-grass flats and mangrove lined lagoons, creeks, and bays. These fishing grounds are very close to the lodge and require only a 15- to 25-minute boat ride. Anglers at Tarpon Cay Lodge fish two per guide from spacious 18-foot pangas with level casting decks. All fly fishing is conducted out of these stealthy, stable, and comfortable fishing platforms. The guides at Tarpon Cay Lodge speak very limited English, but are competent in giving simple casting and fishing instructions.

A wonderful part of fly fishing at Tarpon Cay Lodge is that most of the fishing is done with floating fly lines, as the tarpon hold or cruise in areas as shallow as one foot deep. This shallow water pursuit demands lightweight (slow sinking) tarpon flies or top-water offerings such as floating Puglisi patterns, sliders, or crease flies. When conditions are prime, this makes for an exciting visual display - tarpon waking behind the fly and a top-water "blow-up" finale. The hallmark of the fishery at Tarpon Cay Lodge is the sheer numbers of baby tarpon that inhabit the region. On calm days, it is common to see pods of tarpon rolling and slashing bait on the flats. Another highlight is that from June to August, migratory tarpon up to 100 pounds are present, and when the wind is low anglers can target these “Silver Kings.” Also home to snook and barracuda, this incredible fishery has been designated a marine preserve, thus protecting this tarpon nursery from commercial netting and fishing. The daily fishing schedule is based on tides and weather conditions. Some weeks, guests fish from morning through the afternoon but on others, anglers have a split shift consisting of an early morning session, followed by a mid-day break (lunch, siesta, rigging, fly tying, etc.), and then an evening session lasting through sunset. Each week, guides determine the program based on the optimum timing of tides and weather. The guides have limited English skills but can communicate basic instructions.

Accommodations

Guests stay at the Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel, located at the ocean’s edge in Rio Lagartos. Here, sea breezes and beautiful scenery refresh the spirit after a long day of tarpon fishing. Accommodations are comfortable, bright, and enriched with traditional Mexican decor. A spacious lounge provides dining areas, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating and an outdoor, private pool. Upstairs are spacious guest rooms equipped with air-conditioning, fans, and full, private baths with showers. Rooms are cleaned, and linens and towels are replaced daily. Another great feature of the hotel is the full bar, where anglers can enjoy any number of cocktails after a day on the water.

Meals are another highlight at Tarpon Cay Lodge. They feature hearty portions and are a unique and delicious mix of local flavors. Breakfasts are served promptly in the morning to assure an on-time start of daily fishing adventures. Lunches consist of fresh seafood and traditional Mexican sides. Dinner ingredients include fresh fish, chicken, pork, shrimp, and lobster, when in-season. The lodge can accommodate most dietary restrictions by letting the staff know ahead of time.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Cancun, Mexico, and transfer to lodge

Days 2 - 7: Six full days of guided fishing

Day 8: Depart lodge

Rates & Details

2024 Rate: Per person based on double occupancy

  • 7 night/6 day package: $4,895

Included: Accommodations and meals at the lodge, guided fishing, non-alcoholic beverages, guest taxes, fishing licenses, Internet access, ground transfers to/from the Cancun airport

Not Included: Airfare, meals in Cancun, alcoholic beverages, staff & guide gratuities, phone service, laundry service, fly fishing gear and tackle

Species: Juvenile tarpon

Season: May to September

Capacity: 6 anglers

Fly Water Q&A

Who is best suited to this destination? Intermediate to advanced saltwater anglers with good casting skills are best suited to Tarpon Cay. Just because the fish are juvenile tarpon does not mean they are push-overs and good casting skills will reward anglers with good catch rates!

Where is the lodge? The lodge is in the quaint village of Rio Lagartos, Mexico on the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.

How do I get there? Guests fly into Cancun International Airport where the outfitter will meet you and transfer you approximately three and a half hours to the lodge by air-conditioned van.

When should I go? Tarpon are happiest when the conditions are hot, humid and calm. The best time of year for Tarpon Cay Lodge is May – September. When temperatures rise, oxygen content in the water goes down and the tarpon start to roll to breath air. That makes them easier to find. April and October are also good months as well during the “shoulder season.”

How will I fish? Anglers fish two per boat. The 18-foot pangas are clean, fly line friendly, and have level casting decks with lean bars that are specifically designed for fly fishing. All fishing is done from the boat. The guides cruise open water flats looking for fish or explore a multitude of small estuaries, creeks, and mangrove coastlines.

Is there wade fishing? No.

Where will I fish? The guides at Tarpon Cay Lodge fish the expansive turtle grass flats and mangrove-lined creeks and estuaries of the Parque Natural San Felipe and the Rio Lagartos preserve, which extend for miles on either side of the town of San Felipe.

How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds? In general, runs to the fishing grounds are typically anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. In some cases, you may find fish 10 minutes from the lodge. Tarpon Cay Lodge is not known for long runs to the fishing grounds.

What type(s) of fish will I catch? Juvenile tarpon that average 5-to 25-pounds are the name of the game at Tarpon Cay. There are some chances for snook and barracuda but think of this as a 100% tarpon destination. In the later portion of the summer (mid-August through November) larger migratory tarpon (40-to 150-pound range) may be available with a long run from the lodge when weather permits. This is rare and difficult to predict. We recommend planning your trip with juvenile tarpon in mind, and if the opportunity to chase migratory fish comes up, you will be happy that you packed your 12-wieght.

How many fish will I catch? This fishery rewards good casters. Fly anglers that have no trouble reaching distances of 70+ feet in the wind will excel at Tarpon Cay. Good casters on a good day can hook double digit numbers of tarpon and may land about half of them. Baby tarpon have extremely hard mouths and more often it is not about how many fish you land, but how many you send jumping into the air. Setting the hook on these fish and keeping them hooked is a specific skill that can take some time to learn.

Will I see other anglers? The only other fly anglers you will see are those from Tarpon Cay Lodge. At times you may see Mexican commercial fishermen, but they are not targeting tarpon.

What are the guides like? The guides are locals from San Felipe and Rio Lagartos. They are very knowledgeable about their waters and the needs of fly anglers regarding boat positioning and spotting fish. The have a lot of experience working with fly fisherman but may not always offer help with things like knot tying or removing fish unless you ask them for help. The guides speak very limited English, but they can provide good fishing direction in English. In general, they can give you help that may sound like this: “Fish coming at about 60 feet. Cast 2 O’clock now…. Re-cast 40 feet!” The better your Spanish, the better you will be able to communicate with your guides. However, non-Spanish speakers who can follow basic fishing instructions will still do well and enjoy their time with the guides. It is important to note that the guides are very passionate about these fish and the success of their clients. Sometimes, when a cast is not delivered properly or a fish is missed, they may appear to be frustrated. It is important to not take this personally and understand that they just want you to catch as many fish as possible on your trip.

What are the physical demands? There are no special physical demands for this trip. Anglers with good balance and good casting technique will do the best.

Are there any special skills required? Sometimes lengthy casts will help you reach fish when the boat is still, and fish are cruising. If you can quickly reach distances of 70-plus feet you will simply have more access to cruising tarpon.

Does the lodge provide equipment? Anglers need to be able to provide all their own equipment. In a pinch, the lodge can provide gear with advanced notice.

What is your favorite setup for the trip? 9 foot, 8- to 9-weight fast action rods are ideal. Weight forward saltwater floating lines are perfect for this venue. Reels need to have strong and “saltwater-safe,” sealed drag systems.

What are the top flies? Megalopsicle (in orange, olive, purple/black), Puglisi Tarpon Streamer, TCL Special, Morrish Tequila Popper. All flies should be on sturdy #1/0 or #2/0 hooks.

What are the options if weather conditions become challenging? If high winds or storms create unsafe or unfishable conditions, guests will return or wait at the lodge until the foul weather passes.

What is a typical day like? Your fishing program will be based on tides and weather conditions. Many weeks, the fishing program is based on a split shift consisting of early morning fishing through the AM hours, a 3-hour break mid-day (lunch, ”siesta”, rigging, fly tying, etc.), and then an evening session of fishing lasting through sunset. On some weeks, you will fish from sunrise through the afternoon if the that is the best time to be on the water given the tides. On these days, you will have lunch out on the boat as opposed to eating at the lodge during your mid-day break. In both cases, coffee and breakfasts are available first thing in the morning, and dinner will be served upon your arrival back at the lodge in the evening, or just after sunset. Your guides will determine the program based on the optimum timing of tides and weather.

What is the general vibe, atmosphere, and style of the lodge? The lodge is very casual, comfortable, and clean. It functions as a small boutique hotel and restaurant as well, so there may be another couple dining across the room from you at dinner at times. You will feel right at home having dinner in flip flops and a t-shirt. There is plenty of seating in the main lodge area both inside and outside and space to work on rigging your rods and tackle.

Is there an on-site owner, manager, or other point-person at the lodge? The owner is Marco Ruz. He is often on site looking after the operation. Marco is a skilled tarpon angler and is an invaluable resource for anglers that have questions about targeting these fish. Marco also manages other operations so he may or may not be there during your trip. Cresp, who is one of the senior guides, also functions as an onsite manager and any questions about the fishing or schedule can be directed toward him. Additionally, Jo and Raoul are the hotel owners, and they are almost always on-site. They are very kind and hospitable and can help with anything that comes up.

Where do we eat, and what are the meals like? Meals are plentiful and delicious with copious amounts of fresh seafood, beans, rice, and traditional Mexican cuisine. Breakfast can consist of eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, pancakes, etc.

What is the alcohol policy? There is a full bar available at the lodge, so cocktails and beer are available for purchase. You pay your bar tab on the last night of the trip.

Where do we stay, and what are the accommodations like? Guests stay at the Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel in Rio Lagartos. The hotel is very clean and comfortable. While they only take six anglers per week, the hotel may also accommodate locals and travelers vacationing in Rio Lagartos for other reasons. Rooms are kept clean with both hot and cold running water, private bathrooms, and air conditioning. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a private pool. The hotel is located on the water, and the boats are a short walk across the road each day.

Is there internet and/or cell service? Yes, the lodge does have internet that you may use in the main dining area, but the Wi-Fi and connection speeds can be intermittent and slow. You will need to check with your carrier for cell service on the Yucatan.

Are there other activities? Additional activities are few and far between. This is a trip best suited for hardcore fly anglers that want to fish hard every day. That said there are a few excursions to experience huge flocks of migrating Flamingoes and other wildlife, a nice beach area, and a salt making operation.

Are there any other expenses? Accommodations and meals in Cancun, alcoholic beverages at the lodge, staff, and guide gratuities. Custom transfer fees if not arriving on a Saturday or Wednesday.

Do I need a visa? No.

Are there any health concerns, dangers, or annoyances? The summer months on the Yucatan can yield some mosquitoes and biting black flies. Bringing along a good bug repellent and long pants/sleeves is a good idea.

We recommend that guests always consult with the U.S. Department of State and the Center for Disease Control websites for general travel information and guideline

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