Trying to escape the last bit of winter sometimes calls for drastic measures - like running off to the tropics. Adventurous anglers who bypass more mainstream destinations and make a beeline for the tip of the Yucatán peninsula will be rewarded with the tranquil setting, relatively unfished waters and the variety of species found there.
Isla Holbox (pronounced HOE-bosh) is a sleepy fishing village off the north coast of the Yucatán. Its mangroves and flats house a year-round fishery for snook, as well as baby tarpon that range from 5 to 50 pounds. In the mangroves, 8- or 10-weights with tropical floating lines are ideal for these fish, and standard patterns such as Deceivers, Clousers and poppers work well. In late spring and summer, vast schools of big tarpon move into the area and offer anglers of all abilities good shots at landing one of these monster fish. You'll want a 12-weight and intermediate lines that can get the fly down in the strike zone. Good patterns include standard picks like Cockroaches, Black Deaths and any number of darkly colored Keys-style tarpon flies.
Early spring also rates as prime time for Atlantic sailfish; the fish school up on large bait pods, and days when 70 fish are raised are not unheard of. Offshore charters are available in nearby Cozumel and Cancún, but for a slower pace you can make Isla Mujeres your base and fish the same waters. You'll find that 12-weight gear is plenty for these smaller sails, which average 50 pounds. Be sure to use big-game leaders and bring brightly colored poppers, especially in pink and white, and large baitfish patterns like FPFs.
You can plan a do-it-yourself trip to Mexico or go with an outfitter such as Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures (888-777-5060; www.YellowDogFlyFishing.com ) or Rivers to Reefs excursions (866-963-7870; www.riverstoreefs.com). One of the area's top blue-water guides, Capt. Anthony Mendillo (www.islamujeressportfishing.com), is also very experienced with fly-fishermen. For general information on Isla Holbox, visit www.holboxisland.com.