Fishing Around

When my husband was young he learned fly-fishing from his grandfather. By: By Judith Fein


Before or after visiting Isla Holbox Flyfishing Lodge, clients can get pampered and learn about Maya culture on the nearby Riviera Maya. The luxurious The Royal in Playa del Carmen offers an 80-minute Delicia de Chocolate treatment ($110). Clients are exfoliated with salt and cocoa seed, wrapped in Mexican cream of chocolate and, if requested, receive a head-to-toe massage with soothing and healing sounds sung by the therapists.

The Hacienda Vista Real Villas & Spa, offers an 80-minute holistic massage. It incorporates deep tissue, reflexology, lomilomi and Swedish massage techniques ($140). Guests can linger afterward to use the sauna, steam bath, frigedarium, Thalasso pool (sea water is pumped in), hammam and outdoor roof pool.

For cultural immersion, the ruins at Muyil, which date from 300 B.C. to the early 16th century, are almost devoid of tourists, although EcoColors provides a tour there. The site includes a 54-foot-high temple with the remains of a ritual bath, a plaza with l0 pyramid bases and an ancient sacbe, or foot path that leads through the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve to a lagoon. There, visitors board small boats that navigate through ancient canals to a small island, where they can float in their life jackets.

An authentic temascal (indigenous sweat bath) experience with a bilingual Huichol shaman is now available at Xcaret Eco Theme Park ($45). Participants blow shells to honor the fire, the air and the four directions and, doused in native honey, they enter the rounded temascal to confront their innermost selves. Afterward, they dip in a cool pool to wash off and return to life rejuvenated.

Hacienda Vista Real Villas & Spa
Isla Holbox Flyfishing Lodge
The Royal in Playa del Carmen
Xcaret Eco Theme Park

A local tour company advertises some of Holbox Island's main attractions // (c) Paul RossWhen my husband was young, innocent and knee-high in lakes and streams, he learned fly-fishing from his grandfather. I, on the other hand, do not know a tarpon from a tarp. So, when my husband said he wanted to go fly-fishing, I tried, if you will, to wriggle off the hook, at least until I found out about the upscale Isla Holbox Flyfishing Lodge.

We came to discover that the beachfront lodge caters to both fly-fishing fanatics and landlubbers like me. They have cultural and island exploration programs for non-fishers, and they even offer a package for two couples: the anglers can hook, play and reel in snook, permit and tarpon that weigh up to 100 pounds, while the non-fishers relax on a seemingly endless expanse of white beach, kayak in limpid aquamarine waters, zip around in golf carts (the island has no cars), explore the mangroves and bird habitats, go horseback riding, windsurf, get massages or visit Maya ruins. In the summer months, they can snorkel with the gentle giants of the sea, whale sharks.

Luciano, the charming, cosmopolitan lodge manager, customizes each visit to suit your needs and the guestbook is overflowing with raves from past guests.

Almost no one knows about Holbox, the palm tree-studded island which the lodge calls home. This undiscovered, laid-back paradise on the north coast of Quintana Roo is on the cusp of becoming widely known. To get there, clients fly to Cancun, take a two-hour van ride to Chiquila and ride a ferry for about a half-hour. A golf cart “cab” meets them at the dock and, within minutes, they are tying flies, sipping margaritas and watching pelicans dive-bomb into the ocean.

Breakfast is served at the lodge as early as 5 a.m. for sport-fishermen anxious to get in a full eight hours, and a bit later for non-fishers. Of course, guests are free to eat other meals in any of the island’s restaurants. The food is authentic and fresh — ceviche, crab, lobster pizzas (a local specialty) and calamari. The Mexican and continental fare is offered at very affordable prices, but only one restaurant, Viva Zapata, takes credit cards.On our third day, I finally decided to go fishing, this time in a motorboat with a guide named Darwin. In addition to a guide, the lodge provides guests with a rod, reel and flies. Our patient guide showed me how to cast, and within one minute I had something on the line. “Follow the fish!” Darwin called to me.

I pulled, the fish yanked back, and pretty soon I had landed a jack. I posed for a quick photo and released the fish back into its natural habitat. Pretty soon, my fly-fishing husband brought in a corvina (sea trout) and a grouper. Because it was low season, the fish were on the small side. Nevertheless, Luciano arranged to have them grilled with butter and garlic for our well-deserved lunch.