Bass in Paradise

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by Steve Brigman

Lake Huites LodgeSeldom had a setting so surpassed my expectations. The mountains, the lake below and a glorious sunset were breathtaking. But it was the feeling of isolation that consumed me. And it wasn’t just a feeling; I was indeed in the middle of nowhere.

Terry Hollan’s description of his fishing lodge in Mexico ’s SierraMadre Mountains had hardly been adequate, but in fairness, such grandeur is difficult to put into words.

I met Terry on a duck hunt in Arkansas last fall, and I quickly seized upon his invitation to Lake Huites. When I finally stepped out on the patio that overlooked the lake, I thought, “Man, I am definitely out of the Ozarks.”

Lake Huites LodgeHaving seen many others in such a trance, a young lady brought me a margarita to sip on as I stared at the dying day. As darkness descended upon the landscape, my thoughts shifted to fishing. Huites’ legendary status among Mexican bass fishing lakes was something I had known about for some time. It was hard to believe I would be on the water the next morning to check it out for myself.

There was a sense of dimension on the water not felt from the lodge patio perched high above. I had imagined that Huites would be much like our Table Rock Lake -- clear and deep with steep banks – but the size of the mountains and the angles of their slopes into the water indicated water depths of many hundreds of feet. The size of it all was beyond what my personal experiences could have allowed me to anticipate.

My fishing partners this day were Moses Marin, of Amarillo, Texas, and guide, Tachi Salazar Robles. Moses and I had flown in together on the six-seater Beechcraft that Terry had chartered for the trip. Moses and I had spent the prior evening exploring the nearby village of El Fuerte -- established in 1564 – and were becoming good friends.

It was but a few casts into the morning when I felt that familiar thump on the end of my line. As I reeled in my fish, Tachi set the hook on another bass. Mine had taken a worm and his had succumbed to a crankbait. Fishing was clearly going to be excellent.

As much as I enjoy catching bass, it was my surroundings that were dominating my senses. The mountains were as mysterious as they were majestic. It was easy to get lost staring into the brush, wondering what creatures might inhabit this land, or contemplating whether any man had ever walked these isolated slopes. But a bass tugging at my worm would soon bring me back to the water.

After such a day it is reassuring that there are two others ahead to fish and explore. The sounds of Moses’ flamenco-jazz style guitar lent the perfect touch to a fine meal and a gorgeous night on the patio. His music was as inspiring as the mountains that surrounded us.

As I lay in bed struggling to sleep, my thoughts were crowded with all that I had absorbed in but one day at Lake Huites and of what the next day would bring.

Day two began with and unexpected pleasure. As we rode the van down the hill to the boat ramp, we spotted Moses putting the final touches on a six-foot drawing of Christ he had sketched on the side of a retaining wall. He had used the burnt ends of sticks for the charcoal drawing. I was in awe of someone with so much talent. His prayer for the blessing of all of those who traveled that road was appreciated by the locals.

Soon I was witnessing the fishing talent of our second day’s guide. Narlin Tachi’s brother, put us on fish immediately.

After a morning of catching fish, Moses and I talked Narlininto a boat ride through a canyon we had spotted the day before. It was far more magnificent than could have been imagined from the prior day’s distant vantage point. Huge rock walls closed in on us as we buzzed into the narrowing gorge.  I felt so small against the towering peaks that stood above us.

Before we headed back to the lodge, we stopped along a bank guarded by thick flooded timber. It was topwater time, and the fish were eager to participate. They pounded our poppers until darkness forced us from the water.

Days so full pass far too quickly. I had stared into the moonlit night for some time before I came to realize how much I had taken in that day. A pang of guilt came over me that I had not taken more pictures.

We picked up the next morning where we had left off the day before. After catching about a dozen fish on topwaters, I talked Narlin into seeking out photogenic spots on the lake. They were not hard to find. As I climbed the rocks from where I would shoot, new perspectives presented themselves. The clarity of the water was more apparent as I watched my fishing partners bring fish into the boat.  Below my feet in the sand were tracks of turkey, deer and other ghosts who had walked this place.

Again, we took in a good dose of topwater action before the curtain closed on my Lake Huites fishing experience.

The next morning, as we wound down the rocky rode to El Fuerte, I relived my time at Lake Huites Lodge with a mixture of sadness and excitement. I was anxious to share my experience with others but feeling that I was leaving so much behind.

At home, I found a bunch of pesos in my wallet. I pondered what to do with them for only a short time. The answer was obvious: I need to get back to that lovely part of Mexico again to spend them.