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Guatemala's Spirited Silver Demons
Think you've caught some spirited fish before? Think again. Consider the Pacific sailfish. On a fly. Not a real fly, of course-or more precisely, a whimsy of fluff on a hook posing as a natural insect-but rather a 10-inch-long gob of chicken feathers dyed hot pink and lashed to a miniature harpoon. Behind the eye of the hook and in front of the fluttering hackles is a chunk of foam stuck with a pair of comical-looking cartoon rattle eyes.
Thrown with a stout 14-weight fly rod from the transom of a 32-foot fiberglass Blackfin Flybridge into the clear-blue Pacific Ocean some 30 miles off the Central American coast of Guatemala, the concoction pops and gurgles and looks like a squid. Sort of.
In the distance, I see the 12,333-foot Agua, an inactive volcano, standing sentinel over the exquisite Spanish colonial city of Antigua, whose cobblestone streets date from 1543. Off to the side, a wisp of ever-present smoke trails from the just-as-tall Fuego, Agua's active neighbor. I am trying to stand steady as the sport-fishing yacht rolls with the three-foot waves, doing my best to pretend that my olfactory senses are oblivious to the attendant perfumery of diesel nectar spewing from the rumbling twin-engine exhausts. I'm also trying valiantly not to turn green or purple and embarrass myself over the side.
"El pez-el pez!" yell the two skinny teenage mates in unison, leaping barefooted off the bridge, and grabbing the conventional rods from their holders. They reel frantically. Fifty yards away, their "teaser" baits-plastic-shirted lures trailing sewn dead mullet sans hooks-are skipping over the waves. In hot pursuit is something big. And fast. The boat is doing eight knots. The kids are reeling like crazy. The fish is keeping up.
Suddenly, in what appears a seamless slow-motion play, they jerk the flamboyant lures cleanly out of the churning wash, and the captain throttles down. Somehow, despite my fluster, I manage to cast. A stunning chrome, brass, blue and green billfish with a demonic speckled gold eye the size of a tennis ball instantly becomes welded to my violently straining rod. A hundred yards of line melt off my whirring reel and a berserk, headshaking 90-pound predator launches itself again and again toward the moon.
Guatemala City La Aurora International (GUA)
Longest runway: 9,799 ft, jet-A fuel available.
When To Go:
Prime time for sailfish is Guatemala's dry season, November to May.
Sailfish Bay Lodge, Puerto Iztapa, Guatemala,
www.sailfishbaylodge.com, phone: 502-2-426-3909. In the U.S., contact the lodge at 955 Pavillion St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 or call (800) 638-7405.