On Friday, May 27th five keen anglers started the journey for Fish Tales’ final 2022 spring season flats trip with a much-appreciated direct flight from Calgary to Cancun. This was the first of five trips since December that going via Toronto was NOT required! This direct flight made for an easy trip - the way travel should be. We had already been informed via email several weeks before departure that our return direct flight had been cancelled and we would be required to head home via Toronto (bad omen about that – more later!!) We would meet the rest of our group in Tulum on Saturday on the way to the lodge.
We arrived in Cancun and headed for the comfortable Courtyard Inn which is very convenient to the airport. Many anglers were there headed to various destinations, primarily Punta Allen the following day. The Courtyard is a very comfortable place to sit and enjoy the grounds, have a drink, a good meal and appreciate the variety of the bird life on the well cared for grounds. A few margaritas later (but not too many based on previous experience 😊 ) we headed to bed in preparation for the five-hour drive to Xcalak and The X-Flats lodge.
Arrangements were made to meet up with Terry and the other group of anglers, who had spent the previous week in Ascension Bay at Kay Fly Fishing Lodge, in Tulum. It took a couple of hours to get to Tulum with some typical Mexican traffic where they seem to make up their own lanes. Despite some chaos we arrived in Tulum within minutes of each other. Terry's crew were heading north from Punta Allen and we were headed south so it worked out very well.
We briefly got to see the whole crew (and heard about significant weather problems!) in Tulum before adding the two extra anglers and their luggage into the transfer van and continuing south. We stopped for lunch which broke up the trip very nicely.
We Arrived into Xcalak by chance on the town’s 122nd anniversary! Xcalak was having a large celebration and a soccer game was on against a team from Belize right across the border! It looked like it was going to be a good one. We were all travel-tired and didn’t come back to town to participate in the festival.
We were greeted at X-Flats Lodge by Jesse and staff and were impressed with the rooms, drinks, dinner, and ever-present amazing permit pictures to get the “hope factor” up. We were not impressed with the ever-present Sargassum weed that has been inundating the Caribbean coast for a few years now. Due to the stronger winds, there was a significant amount and it's not environmentally friendly at all. The decaying algae plays havoc on your nose and even some electronics! Unfortunately, nothing can be done about this but luckily it brings in fresh baby crabs and shrimp to feed the flats fish. Sargassum is just something that Caribbean countries are going to have to learn to live with.
Satuday evening we also met the other two anglers who were booked in at the lodge for the week. They were a couple of very nice emergency room doctors from the Seattle area. Great guys to add to the mix.
Fishing Day 1-3 Crap Weather Continues!
For the two anglers who had a week of very difficult conditions in Ascension Bay the first couple days they likely felt like Linus from Peanuts with the ever-present storm cloud! The value of a good rain jacket proved itself in spades. It’s always a good clue that it’s time to put your rain jacket on when the guides pull out theirs! So, you know when they show up at the dock wearing “the jacket” what type of day you are in for! The amazing thing we discovered about Xcalak is that regardless of the less-than-ideal conditions we were still able to fish AND be successful. Rookie flats anglers managed to catch bonefish on the first day, and permit anglers had more than their fair shots at the black-tailed devils.
I fished with Nancy on the first day and we saw some legit-sized bonefish when we were on the “lee” side of the mangroves when we wanted a break from the whitecaps. However, it was very difficult to continue to fish for bones when those pesky black tails kept showing up nearby in the slightly deeper water!!
We had an odd number in the group which meant every day someone was fishing as a single, which can be a huge benefit when getting shots at permit. It does mean a lot of “deck time” and you need to pace yourself.
I was up on day 2 as a single and I know that I was never more than a 20-minute boat ride from the lodge! When you can’t see more than 10 feet in front of the boat due to cloud and wind you have to look for other clues of fish presence. The primary one being “nervous water” or pushes of water. As permit, jacks, or bonefish move through the water they disturb the surface, and you can cast in front of it. Not an ideal sight fishing situation but when you get those conditions you take what you are given. If you’re lucky you will see tails if the fish are feeding and sticking those “cola’s” (tail in Spanish) out of the water.
I was fishing with Pio & Ruben a fun pair of brothers who take the fishing seriously but during down time and lunch were a blast to be in the boat with. There were more than enough pushes of water as the fish moved around feeding on my single day to make for excellent opportunities.
I got incredibly lucky and managed two permit and several bonefish. You never know exactly what you’re going to hook but the guides have a very good idea based on location, their experience, and the size of the pushes. Not having to worry about “the boat ride” home was an absolute pleasure and very comfortable regardless of the conditions we had.
Others had multiple chances at both bones and permit. Permit act like permit and are complete asses most of the time however, some anglers hooked up a couple of cooperative ones but the fly either pulled out, broke off or an ever-present small bone darted in and got the fly before the permit. All in all tough conditions but there was hope on the horizon. By midweek the forecast was much kinder and we were going to get a real look at what Xcalak had to offer. The afternoon of the third day the sky was opening and the wind was laying down.