This Chula was caught while testing fly patterns for trolling. Chula is excellent table fare.

This Chula was caught while testing fly patterns for trolling. Chula is excellent table fare. Photo by Brian Saunders.

There is a “new frontier” in fly fishing, right here in Zihuatanejo. It has been here all along. I most certainly did not discover it, but have only just begun to discover its potential with fly rod and reel. 

Local pangeros (fishermen) have known of the abundant species of inshore game for many generations. Combining my skills as a fly fisherman with their knowledge of location and timing, I have been very fortunate to accompany them to explore the many bays, coves, islands and river mouths of this beautiful coast line to discover “the inside game”.

While big game, or off shore angling, has been the primary focus of vacationing anglers, seeking the thrill of screaming reels and acrobatic leviathans (Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna and Dorado), it has become evident that the pressure from both the commercial and sport fleet may prove to be too great. Evoking a movement long overdue, sustainable fish management policies in conjunction with a catch and release policy adopted by the sport fleet. Many local captains and guides have already joined this movement recognizing that the future is NOW. My hat is off to you, as you are providing the example for others to follow. I can assure that these policies and practices work, and have seen the results in my own home in Alaska. Only though advocating and education can we expect to see a shift in current trends.

There is however an option to the offshore experience, one full of action, with a mix of talents from our local captains to the adopted fly fishing guides from the United States and Canada, called The Inside Game. Using the same boats, both large and small, same captains and crew, with a ‘fresh’ set of eyes and scaled down versions of trolling and spinning gear, and the introduction of fly rods and casting platforms. The untold possibilities of the inshore fishery, at this point, seem pretty bright.

While not entirely focused on fly fishing, we have proven time and time again the effectiveness of the combination trip. Our day often starts with trolling flies, not plastic squid or hoochies, but the same fly one could easily cast. I have developed a special fly called The Zihua Zardinia that can cover all desired methods of local fishing. (Even the local Commercial fleet buys them for their trolling prowess). Often, before we can even exit the mouth of the bay, we have landed Sierra, Cocinero, Barraletes, and Ojotones. Some of which may become the perfect live bait, which will be used later in the day.

As we leave Zihua bay and turn either north or south our trolling gear dictates our speed, and the “sight fishing” begins. All eyes scan the horizon for nervous water and/or diving birds indicating the presence of either bait or game fish, usually Barraletes, Jack Cravalle, Sierra or Ojones. The captain and guide work together to both ready rods and clients to position and maneuver the boat to a suitable casting distance. From here there are many techniques to employ, from teasing in fish with hookless poppers or flies to simply cutting the motor and drifting quietly into a school and casting at intersections. I can tell you a 10lb or 15lb Jack feels like an electric anvil on a fly rod, sure to bring hoots and smiles and sweat. Once a school has been played out, which often can be after only two or three “good” casts we resume our troll. We frequently mix live bait with our flies to increase possibilities.

Now shifting gear, as we approach rock structures, we set up three to five fly rods with both sinking and floating lines to be ready for either surface action, or to slide flies tied on circle hooks off of rock structures as the waves crash and ebb. Most pangas (small fishing boat) can only accommodate a single fly fisherman stationed at the bow of the boat; however a right and a left handed client fishing simultaneously enjoy casting at opposite ends of the panga. The other option is one person on spinning gear is positioned at the stern working, lures, live bait or flies.

If you are considering bringing your own gear, a 7 wt to 12 wt is appropriate for beach casting to slow trolling. 7 wt for small gear and fish from the beach to trolling weighted flies on 500 grain sinking line with a 12 wt at trolling speed. Extra backing is a must…at least 300-450 yards for larger rods and reels. One should never be afraid to experiment with leaders, simply run a tippet section light enough to break off before compromising your rod strength. Our in shore record for species currently stands at 11+ for one days “work”. These species were: Dorado, Rooster, Sierra, Cocinero, Mira, Jack Cravalle, Aguja, Cabrilla, Barralette, Ojoton, Tigre and one shoulder shrugging, eyebrow scrunching what the heck is that fish? Bring your fly rod, leave your worries behind, and get in on the action!