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A Sad Goodbye to Our Friend in Ascension Bay

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.





Comments

I'm not one for posting things, but Manuel was a stud. RIP my friend, you will be missed by many.
I once watched Manuel stand on his raised platform, strip the fly line off his reel to the backing and then proceed to double haul all of the line tight to a mangrove. Tragic loss.
Great write-up Senor Esteban, thank you so much for the tribute! Manuel changed our lives, I write this in tears. All of us that got to share time in the Panga, time on the soccer field or time in his room receiving a crab pattern and getting the words "Is goin to happen" are truly blessed. I don't know how I'll step onto the property without him there to greet us (no matter what time it is). We will miss his smile, his humor, him teaching us about Mayan culture, about gum, stinging green caterpillars, Palometa, Grande Mama's....the list goes on. RIP Manuel Chac, we are all better humans for getting to know you.
Manuel will be greatly missed by many, myself included. Sitting outside the lodge and chatting with him in the evenings was always a good time, and one of the highlights of going down there. Sure, we talked fishing, but there was so much more to Manuel. He had great stories and his passion for his town, the culture and the people was at the core of who he was. I will forever remember this man for his humor, integrity and generosity. It won't be the same without him, but his memory lives on and I look forward to continuing to visit and support Casa Viejo Chac, Manuel's family and the great people of Punta Allen. RIP, my friend!
I am still in shock. I assumed Manuel would live forever and ever.
Ahhhh----- Manuel, Rest In Peace my friend. I'm going down for my third consecutive trip next week. Although I never got to fish with Manuel I was assured all of the story's were true. There is a wonderful photo album at the lodge that contains many pictures of the man and his talents. I did however get to enjoy his wisdom and humor in the evenings at the outdoor tables in front of the lodge. He was such a proud man and loved to talk about his Mayan heritage. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Last year after a another successful and long day of fishing I was relaxing with the well derseved refreshment upstairs when I heard what sounded like a lot of young children laughing,giggling and carrying on out in the street. Upon looking out to see what was going on, there was Manuel with a fly rod in hand about 90 ft away from this group of children casting away and keeping the line just inches from their grasp. Cast after cast the kids jumping to catch the line. When one of them did manage to make the grab the whole group would erupt with laughter while the fight was on. A memory for me that will always put a smile on my face.
Tragic loss for the world and punta Allen , he will be missed dearly

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