Playa Blanca Fly Fishing Lodge Hosted Trip Report – 2022 Trips:
Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to step foot on Isla Punta Pajaros, home to Casa Blanca and Playa Blanca Fly Fishing Lodges in the southern Yucatan, knows very well just how special this little island, community and environment really is. It is hard to spend more than a few days in such a unique place without thinking “is this real?” or “I can’t believe this place exists and I can visit it”. Last year, WorldCast Anglers hosted seven trips to Playa Blanca and coordinated a total of 80 plus client visits to the lodge, hosted or non hosted. It is no secret how much we love this place and we think the current version of Playa Blanca is in fact the best version we have ever seen.
Isla Punta Pajaros is a privately owned island in the middle of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere – a large, undeveloped and protected National Park that has the distinct honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lying directly between Ascension Bay and Espiritu Santo Bay, Casa and Playa Blanca have unparalleled access to some of the best inshore fly fishing water that exists in the Caribbean, and maybe even the world. The lodge’s privately owned airstrip enables the fly in, fly out logistics of the operation, making the travel to this pristine, remote destination relatively simple and painless. Once arrived, you are in the hands of a staff both on and off the water that has remained relatively unchanged in the last 15 years of operations and it is reflected in the consistency and quality of service provided. This winter, WCA will recap our 2022 hosted trips to this wonderful island paradise with separate visual and written narratives through the eyes and words of our trips hosts explaining why we keep visiting these two lodges so frequently and consistently. I spent some time chatting with WCA Guides Vance Freed and Brian Johnson who hosted trips to Playa Blanca last year, discussing what really makes this place so unique and special.
How many times have you been to Playa Blanca?
Vance Freed: 33 times I’ve been there, Holy shit.
Brian Johnson: I have been to Playa Blanca six times and Casa Blanca once.
Playa Blanca is seemingly one of the hardest fishing lodges to secure a reservation in the world these days. The popularity and repeat guest loyalty is tremendous. They are clearly doing something or a number of things right. What do you most attribute to that?
Vance Freed: Playa is a sought after destination because it offers the most exclusive flats fishing within a day’s travel of the US. You can travel much further for comparable fishing.
The airstrip removes a significant chafe factor. You can target one or all of the four main target-species (Permit, Tarpon, Snook and Bonefish) with a high percentage of success. I also attribute their success to the employees and their apparent desire to be working there. From the guides to the maids and gardeners, everyone seems to appreciate their jobs. All the variables that can be handled through service and hospitality at Playa (food, clean room, friendly service) are done well and consistently.
Brian Johnson: Playa Blanca uniquely has all the components which make it such an incredible destination. The travel to get there is relatively easy from the U.S., especially for how remote the lodge actually is. The accommodations are great and the service is top notch. The guides are very experienced, good people and all around great fishing guides. Espiritú Santo Bay is an incredible lesson in what conservation can do to preserve an ecosystem and fishery. The expanse of wild land is awe inspiring.
How has the lodge, location and operator changed since your first visit?
Vance Freed: I’ve only noticed change in terms of them being open year round now. I think they closed for a couple months when I first started going there. I sense that both Casa and Playa are aware of their status among the many fishing lodges nearby. Because of the airstrip, they are way more accessible than many other lodges and have less fishing traffic.
Brian Johnson: I am happy to say not much has changed since my first visit. The hosts at the lodge have changed over the years, and all of them have been great. The few small changes have consisted of making things run just a little bit smoother and better amenities such as faster, more reliable internet.
If you could pick one item, what makes Playa Blanca so special for you specifically?
Vance Freed: The fishing and the food.
Brian Johnson: It is all about the bay, the fishery it is and the amazing things you see on a daily basis.
The fishing at Playa Blanca is world renowned but there is so much more to a week at Playa than that. What is your favorite non fishing quality to the experience at Playa?
Vance Freed: I really appreciate how the island operates. You can tell many of the employees are family members by how they interact with each other. It takes a lot of logistical coordination to keep the island running and stocked week after week and Playa operates like a community they all feel lucky to be a part of.
Brian Johnson: It is the time with the fellow guests and all of the staff. Nothing as special as spending time with great people in a location like that.
In terms of the fishing, can you share a favorite memory from time on the water at Playa Blanca?
Vance Freed: Mike Dawes and I once landed 9 Permit before lunch, which was noteworthy. I also spent a day fishing in the rain with “Oso” who didn’t have a raincoat and we jacked tarpon and snook while everyone else was back at the lodge playing Uno.
Brian Johnson: The simple answer would be every time I have watched a Permit eat. Kidding aside, I love watching anglers learn and improve. It is truly gratifying to then watch it all come together. One day my fishing partner and I looked for Snook all day with limited success. The few that we saw had no interest in eating and ignored the fly presented six inches from their faces. Late in the afternoon my partner took the bow as we entered a new area. The fish started to show up but they were deep in the mangroves. One snook showed itself in a cut but it was a very hard cast into a tight spot. My partner knew it was at or beyond his skill level, but what did he have to lose? He made a great cast, hooked the snook and then proceeded to yank it out of the mangroves. That was a joy to watch!
I have been fortunate enough to visit Playa Blanca almost once a year since I joined the management team at WCA. I have a hard time adding anything novel to the observant words of my colleagues Vance and Brian, but I do find myself routinely reflecting on the wonderful theme of balance that a trip to Playa invokes. It is remote and wild but somehow the travel is so logistically simple that I easily forget just how far away from the power grid and cell service I truly am. I would never describe the lodge and service as fancy but it exemplifies a rustic elegance that I have yet to experience at another saltwater fishing lodge and I have been hard pressed to find better bartending and more attentive service in Mexico City or even New York City. Ask anyone who’s been to Playa Blanca about Antonio and Pedro (bartenders and waiters) and you will notice their eyes light up with enthusiasm and endearment. The food program is tremendous in terms of both quality and quantity but it does not lack authenticity or sophistication and nuance. Find me a better rendition of pan fried fresh snapper with an almond butter sauce – I promise you can’t. Even the fishing has an inherent balance to it. There is always something to fish to regardless of conditions. Naturally, sometimes the weather does not cooperate but if you remain flexible and easy going, Jorge and his guides will find you something to feed a fly and bend the rod.
As fishermen, we will travel to experience something flashy and extreme to see what it’s all about and knock it off the bucket list. The list is long and these trips are important in quenching the curiosity that naturally percolates in our angling imaginations. On the flip side, we also have our fishing holes, runs, backcountry streams or international destinations that we cannot help but revisit every year or even multiple times a year. They are reliable, rewarding and most of all comforting like a favorite blanket or a slice of pizza from the go to neighborhood spot. Playa Blanca has found this place in the hearts and minds of the WCA community, guests and staff alike, and I am confident that is the case for the hundreds of other repeat guests who make their annual pilgrimage to this fantastic lodge each and every year.
For those interested in Playa Blanca Fly Fishing Lodge, please contact WorldCast Anglers. Be sure to stay updated on the WorldCast Anglers Hosted Destination Travel Offerings!
Chris Littauer, Vance Freed & Brian Johnson
March 3rd, 2023
Playa Blanca Fly Fishing Lodge – Punta Pajaros, Mexico