DIY Saltwater Fly Fishing - Etiquette on the Xcalak flats
Written by Rob Mukai on Mar. 04, 2020
Here in Xcalak, Mexico, we have some of the most beautiful saltwater flats for fly fishing in the world. It also happens to be one of the best places to DIY saltwater fly fish. We have miles and miles of wade-able flats with large numbers of bonefish and permit, and if you want to get on a kayak or SUP, you can access lagoons with lots of baby tarpon. We are still a small village that is relatively unknown as opposed to our more famous neighbors in San Pedro, Belize or Ascencion Bay, however, we are starting to get more people showing up to do some DIY saltwater flats fishing. On the whole, our flats are still pretty wide open. However, when you do come across another fisherman, there is some basic etiquette that needs to be practiced. Below, are a few rules to follow.
DO share the flats. When you pull up to a flat and you see a fisherman wading in your direction, don’t jump in ahead of them. That is the flats equivalent of high holing someone on a stream. As a general rule, if you are closer than 3-500 yards from someone wading in your direction, let them have the flat and find another place. We have miles and miles of wade-able flats with tons of fish on them. Try someplace else.
a. A corollary to this, if there is an obvious ending point to the direction someone is wading, for example a rocky point, or other feature, let them have it and find another place to fish.
b. I’ve had DIY fishermen see me coming and 100 yards ahead run through the flat to get to the spot they wanted, blowing up the area I was going to fish. Not cool.
Also related, DO go find another place to fish if you pull into a parking area on the beach and there is another car parked there. We have something like 50+ Miles of DIY wade-able beach front here that is all very productive. If someone is parked at a spot, they have started wading out in front of you and will probably return and you don’t need to be wading through their water.
DO be considerate of your fellow anglers. If you see a guided boat poling down a flat towards you, when they get 2-300 yards from you, quietly wade to the shore, get out of the water, let them pole by and then resume wading away from them. This is a common courtesy. Remember, the independent guides in Xcalak depend on this to feed their families. We are just trying to catch a fish. I have also caught permit right behind a boat that has poled through an area. So wading an area a boat has poled through is not necessarily a bad thing.
a. I have actually seen a poling boat pull up to tailing permit and a DIY fisherman, wading out to cast to the same school. This is not the Kiddie Hole on the San Juan River. Be gracious, be courteous, be generous, be considerate.
DON’T yell at someone wading a flat. Permit in particular don’t like the human voice. A really loud human voice is worse.
DO get some guided days even on a “DIY” trip. I get that going totally DIY is “cheaper”. But you should hire a guide for at least a day or two. Do it early in your trip. For one thing, you will be helping the local economy. Secondly, @$300 USD/day it is like half of what a guided day on a blue-ribbon stream in the US would cost, Finally, you will get a head start on seeing fish, get your casting dialed in, and take advantage of the guide’s expertise and eagle eyes.
If a guide shows you some DIY water, DO ask them if it is cool to go fish it DIY. For example, if you go out with a guide and they point out a flat to DIY fish and you want to go fish it the next day, ask them if they are planning on fishing it. The guide is being very generous helping you find DIY water, be considerate of the guide when fishing it. Imagine if you told someone about a place to go fishing, and when you go the next day, they are sitting in your hole without telling you. If you talk to them about it, you may find that the guide wasn’t planning on coming back to that place or he may point you to other productive flats he wasn’t planning on hitting. No sense being secretive about it and potentially making people regret helping you.
DO follow the Golden Rule – Just behave like you would like others to behave with you. If you think it would be uncool to get “high holed” on a flat you were walking, don’t do that to other people. If you were stalking a school of permit, if you think it wouldn’t be cool for someone else to cut them off and start casting to them, don’t do that. You get the idea.
It really comes to down to rule number 7. Just follow the golden rule. Yes, we have all come a long way to fish these flats, and yes, you might have seen fish on a particular flat the day before. But if someone else is on that flat, let them have it, and go scout out another of the miles of wade-able flats in Xcalak. You may find more, bigger, better fish somewhere else.