For more than a year, every time I bumped into him, Capt. Jake Jordan had been singing the praises of Guatemalan billfishing and had been extending an open invitation for me to join him on his next trip. Finally, last week, I managed to slip away for a few days and found myself at the famed Casa Vieja Lodge.
The captains and mates here are among the very best in the world, and the fleet comprises classic, wooden sport-fishers that purr on the troll and simply raise fish. The lodge itself is beyond comfortable, with excellent staff and world-class food.
And the fishing? It’s common knowledge by now that raising 40 to 50 sailfish per day in this part of the Pacific is well within the bounds of normalcy.
But things were somewhat slow during our visit. El Nino winds and hot water temps had cooled the action somewhat. Still, we managed upwards of 10 shots per day, enough so that everyone onboard generally caught a fish each day. Plus, we tossed a fly to a 300-pound blue marlin, and saw several others. That’s the great thing about Guatemala – you never know what’s going to rise in the spread. There are infinite numbers of hungry sailfish around, but enough fly-sized marlin swim the waters here to keep you on your toes.
And there’s more than just great fishing. My colleague Gary Jennings and I took a couple days away from the Pacific to explore some of the country’s inland offerings.
First, any visitor should consider visiting Antigua, located in the country’s central highlands. Not far from Guatemala City, Antigua dates back to the early-1500s, and it was one of the earliest establishments in central America. It reminds you nothing of this region and is more reminiscent of something out of Rome or Italy – both in terms of architecture and its many Roman-Catholic cathedrals.
What’s more, if you’re feeling up to a challenge, you might consider hiking a volcano. No joke! We set afoot on the famed Pacaya volcano, not far from Antigua. It was a intense challenge, and we were rewarded with an experience not often seen – standing mere feet from hot magma pouring out of a hillside. We even toasted some marshmallows over the emerging heat.
I was blown away by the experience, not to mention all the other wonders of this country. I always knew the fishing was unparalleled, but I had no idea how much more Guatemala offered.
As we left the coast, headed for the airport, another cool sight – virtually the entire country was traveling the opposite direction, south, towards the beaches of Puerto San Jose. Why? It was Easter weekend, of course, an occasion that is celebrated with fervor in Guatemala.
It was a parting memory that warmed my heart. I look forward to my next visit.