Xcalak on the Fly trip April 2024 by Joe Frisch-Wild on the Fly

Fly Fishing Australia Reading Xcalak on the Fly trip April 2024 by Joe Frisch-Wild on the Fly 4 minutes Next Christmas Island Trip, Dec 2023 Wild on the Fly by Joe Frisch
“On the fly” is perhaps an all too easy catchphrase in our industry. We’re certainly guilty
of it here at Wild on the Fly as are our friends at Xcalak on the Fly, but after spending a
week on the southern Yucatan peninsula, I think XOTF outfitter Chase Looney and his
guides have more legitimate license to the phrase than we ever will.
On our most recent trip to Xcalak, high winds dictated that we fish where the winds were
lighter, regardless of whether they held the permit we were targeting or not. So “on the
fly” took on a far more literal meaning as the local guides adjusted their routines to favor
the more protected flats in Chetumal Bay and the mangrove lagoons. In these waters
we found just as much excitement casting to easily sighted tarpon and then switching to
bonefish, all the while on the lookout for permit.
Naturally, when planning a trip to Xcalak, your primary focus is on permit. So much so,
it’s not uncommon to forego fishing for tarpon and bonefish once you’ve caught a few
and permit fever starts to take hold.
Even when we found permit, we had to deal with the wind as best we could, especially
on the ocean facing side of Xcalak, usually on our return to the lodge. Excitement
escalates to a fevered pitch once a guide sights permit. The guides’ very animated
enthusiasm, let’s say, makes it hard to concentrate on the trying task of casting
accurately. My one guide Jose branded me Johnny Bravo and always employed the
sobriquet in exhorting me. “More far, Johhny Bravo! ‘Cast again, and to the left, Johnny
Bravo! Drop it!”
Sometimes, even when we were able to lay our lines down accurately, a jack, a
bonefish or even a barracuda would take the fly, giving us a false moment of euphoria
before realizing our situation. At those moments, a fire-drill ensues as the angler moves
the bycatch out of the permit and to the back of the boat, while his fishing partner grabs
his permit rod and makes a mad dash to the bow of the skiff to fish the school of permit.
Our week ended with only three permit being caught, but at least one fell to an 80+ year
old client who had yet to catch a permit in his long fishing career.
Undoubtedly, for a place like Xcalak, the best preparation one can make is practicing
one’s cast in the wind and double hauling. It is a little surprising that people (myself
included) will bring back-up rods, buy travel insurance, and upgrade to the latest
equipment and apparel, but few will give their casting additional thought.
Permit are, on any normal day, elusive, wary, and finicky. So your shots at these
bragging-rights fish are going to be fewer than expected, frequently difficult and, more
often than not, maddening for the permits’ tendency to follow, but then ultimately reject
your sure-thing crab pattern. Therefore, do all you can to enhance your odds by

improving your casting in tough winds to properly lead the permit. You’ll need every shot
you get. Additionally, bury your hubris and take a line that is one line size heavier to
make loading the rod easier.
Thankfully, we were able to soak our bruised egos and soothe our strained nerves in
endless margaritas during Happy Hour in the beachside palapa at XOTF’s lodge
partner, Casa Paraiso. The owners and staff at Casa Paraiso are every bit a part of the
experience as the fishing itself. Very invested in your enjoyment, Chase and his dad/co-
owner Jim are there to see you off in the morning and the first to welcome you back with
a beer when you pull up at their private dock at the end of the day. They’re there to
rinse off your rod and reels and continue the discussion through a dinner of traditional
Mexican seafood and share best practices until you’re ready to turn in.
Permit season runs all year round, but you’ll find temperatures peak May through
August while the winds are lightest in late fall.
Xcalak is located on the northern border of Belize and a few hours south of Ascension
Bay and Playa Blanca. Xcalak, however, is considerably less expensive; the town is
very small and too remote to support a large luxurious lodge.