A Sad Goodbye to Our Friend in Ascension Bay
January 20, 2018
We leave on our first annual trip to Ascension Bay next week, and it is truly bitter sweet. We recently learned that Manuel Chac, the lodge owner at Casa Viejo Chac, was the victim of a tragic act and passed away. We started fishing Ascension Bay shortly after Manuel opened the lodge nearly a decade ago. He worked hard over the years to improve and expand the lodge and develop one of the finest fishing programs in all o
Punta Allen. Which is a no small task, its one of the world's best and most popular Grand Slam destinations. For years, Manuel was the lead guide as well as lodge manager. He was a proud Mayan in heritage and in stature. By stature, I mean he was only about 5'6" tall but thick boned and strong. He had a raised platform on the front of his boat so he could see over the head of an angler standing on the deck. So many of us have such fond memories of sitting next to Manuel on that platform, while the boat moved from one flat to another, as he told story after story of his childhood adventures and life in Punta Allen. It was never just "fishing" with Manuel.
Manuel probably never realized what a significant impact he made in the fly fishing industry. Ascension Bay is one of the most popular flats fly fishing destinations in the world. Hundreds of first time flats anglers travel there each year because it is relatively affordable and offers a huge variety of species to experience. As guides and anglers, we appreciate the importance of having a positive outcome for time time anglers on any trip. That can be difficult to achieve on single day local trout trips, let alone on week long trips where travel, food, weather, and language can all create issues... Manuel had the formula dialed in, and most first time anglers there, our staff members included, became life long converts. I personally learned so much from Manuel about keeping a positive attitude. He often had a simple yet shockingly profound responds of "its OK" to bad conditions. Because it was going to be OK. No matter what the conditions were, or how tough the fishing was, Manuel kept you alert and CERTAIN that there was going to be a tailing permit just around the next point, and more often then not, there was... It was almost like he willed things to happen. He had an uncanny knack for sensing when the clients confidence or focus started to wane, and rather than yelling or forcing the issue, he would pick up and move and change the program to get everyone back on track.
In recent years as his business grew and his long range open water vision gave him some problems, he became the full time lodge manager. Aside from being a great fly fishing personality and business leader, he was also such a positive influence in the Punta Allen community. He was proud of his business, his family, his staff, and the town of Punta Allen, and it showed in the passionate dialogue we all looked forward to each night after we returned from the lodge.
This first group of anglers travelling down have been together since the beginning. While bitter sweet is such a cliche, it is appropriate here. This trip is one that we look forward to on so many levels. The fishing, food, and travel part are all fun, but the camaraderie between our group and the staff and guides is equally enjoyable. We look forward to seeing them and hearing about their kids, girlfriends or wives, and how the lobster fishing is going. This year they will get our emotional support, and we'll grab a good bottle of tequila on the way down to remember Manuel and celebrate the great memories he has enabled us to take with us each time we've gone to see him.
To Rubi, Jordy, Katy, and Jalil - We're truly sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
To Manuel - Adios and vaya con dios, amigo. Suenas con angelitas (Dream with the Angels)
We also wanted to include this nearly famous poem written about Manuel, and the Mayan heritage he cared so deeply about. This pretty much says it all.