Espiritu Santo Bay is Grand Slam country. The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve strictly limits the number of sport fishermen allowed on the bay, and its thirty-plus miles of shoreline are fringed with creeks and bays that fade into the jungle horizon. Snook and tarpon use this backcountry estuary as juvenile rearing habitat and wintering grounds. Permit feed throughout the complex flats system, feasting on crabs and shrimp. Bonefish take flies aggressively all year long. The six-mile wide mouth of Espiritu Santo Bay opens to the Caribbean Sea, inviting ocean-sized tarpon, snook and permit into the bay to feed. To land all four species in one day is the holy grail of saltwater flats fishing, the coveted Super Grand Slam (permit, tarpon, bonefish & snook), and is absolutely attainable here at ESB.

Photo by Brian O'Keefe

Bonefish

Bonefish are one of the most sought after gamefish in salt water, and for good reason. These silver torpedoes will rip you into your backing on a regular basis, at very high rates of speed. On a quiet morning you can hear their tails slashing the water's surface as they blast crabs and shrimp out of their hiding places. The skinny water behavior of a bonefish includes stealth, speed, and tenacity, whether hunting prey or exploding across a flat with your fly line in tow.

Palm fronds are swaying in a tropical breeze, and the first of the incoming tide is pushing warm turquoise water over white sand flats. Wading shin-deep water like a heron, a seven weight in your right hand and a "Gotcha" fly in your left, you suddenly realize this is the moment you've dreamt of for months. A hundred feet in front of you a pack of ravenous bonefish is devouring every flats critter in their path, and they're heading your way. The mental calculations begin. Water depth, wind, swimming speed and direction…and now they are at eighty feet and coming strong. This is flats fishing in its purest form, in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Pat Pendergast holding Permit

Permit

Permit are the perfect target for anglers obsessed with making the perfect cast, perfect presentation, perfect hook set - implementing perfect skills in bringing the fish to hand. Add to this a little (sometimes a lot) of luck and you have the perfect formula for permit on the fly.

Fishing Permit with a fly rod certainly isn't for everyone, but for those who enjoy the challenge few feats in fly fishing compare to holding one of these amazing sickle-tailed sport fish in hand. It's a fish for sickos that don't know when to quit trying.

Eric Ersch with a beautiful Snook

Snook

Snook are back-street brawlers. They know the precise location of every barnacle-encrusted, leader-cutting mangrove root in their domain. Snook eat flies and shred fly lines. If you give them the moment it takes to crank your slack line onto your reel, they will beat you…all you'll see is your new tropical fly line ripping through a seeming impenetrable maze of mangrove roots and disappearing into the darkness. It's their home turf and you are a visitor. To beat a big snook on its terms is a huge win, 'cause it'll whip you most of the time. Snook spawn during the summer months on the new and full moons when tidal flow is at its peak. Their young grow up in the protection of mangrove estuaries. Espiritu Santo Bay has miles and miles of perfect juvenile snook habitat. Surrounded by the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, this snook wonderland has minimal human impact. While wading the shorelines in search of snook, you're more likely to see jungle cat tracks in the sand than a human footprint. This is wilderness snook fishing at its finest.

Photo by Brian O'Keefe

Tarpon

They're called the "Silver King" for all the reasons that make them one of the finest gamefish on the flats. You'll never forget the first one that ate your fly, ran fifty yards, and launched itself six feet into the air. Espiritu Santo Bay has all the necessary attributes to qualify as prime tarpon habitat. Born at sea and drifting in the tides and currents, juvenile tarpon live in estuarine habitats until they reach sexual maturity and become ocean dwellers. Baby tarpon - fish to thirty pounds - are a blast on an 8-weight rod. They eat surface flies and streamers in shallow water, often cruising in small schools along mangrove shorelines, attacking unsuspecting baitfish. And they all explode into the air on feeling the hook.

The first challenge is to fool them into eating your fly, and the second is to get a solid hookset. The third is to stay connected through the upcoming series of scalding runs and twisting jumps. Because so many tarpon manage to free themselves, anglers count "jumped" fish as well as those landed. These are fish of legends.

Photo by Brian O'Keefe

Barracuda

Just when you thought your bonefish was safe, a twenty-five pound silver missile blasts out of the channel at Mach speed, cuts it in two, then glides slowly back into the emerald green depths. This is the barracuda, predator of the flats. Targeting these fish with a fly rod is a commitment. Wire leaders are a must. Their food is often the size of your wading boot, so a fly of size and substance is best to get their attention. You'll find them suspended in the shadows of a mangrove, or lurking off the edge of the flat, waiting for their opportunity to kill. A big needlefish fly or a flashy green popper will draw the attack. Show it to them and strip as fast as you can. Anticipate the attack, hang onto your rod, and watch out for their teeth.

Making Reservations to Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge

To make a reservation, please give us a call at 800-669-3474 during business hours any day of the week, or email us at travel@theflyshop.com anytime. We can give you the answers you need, detailed explanations to questions you might have, or check on availability and confirm your reservation in minutes.