Saltwater Fly Fishing - Etiquette on the Xcalak flats

Written by Rob Mukai on Mar. 28, 2020

Tags: Xcalak Saltwater Fly Fishing Pro Tips Etiquette

Casting from a Panga in Xcalak, Mexico

Here is a different point of etiquette when saltwater fly fishing. This time when on a guided boat with a partner. This is a one point post, that hopefully will help you have a great day out on the flats.

So one of the questions I get asked by guests who are going out on a guided panga out on the Xcalak flats, is how to equitably share time on the bow. Because we are having one person up on the casting deck at a time, it is important that you agree what the rotation looks like so that each person feels like the allocation is fair. This is especially true when exclusively fishing for permit. You can go a long time between shots, and when the shots come, they can come fast and furious. Agreeing before hand how you will switch off will make the day more fun for both people. There are three main ways to divide time up on the bow.

  1. Switch on shots – My default method, especially for permit, is if you get a solid shot at some fish (whether you blow the shot or not) you switch. This method is trying to equalize the number of shots each angler gets. There are a couple of issues with this. How you define a shot is a big thing to get agreement on. Usually, it’s pretty obvious if you have an opportunity to get your fly in front of the fish, and not cast at their tails, or at already spooked fish. If it is a close call, you can sometimes have the guide be the final arbiter of whether or not it was a real shot. The other is that you can through random chance, have one guy on the front of the boat 7 of the 8 hours, even if you have the same number of shots.
    • Secondary area you should agree on. If you are chasing the same/school/fish, can you have as many shots as the fish let you? Or do you change on every shot, even if it is the same school? I generally like to allow the person on the deck to keep casting to the same school. Once that school moves off, then you switch. I don’t think it matters which way you choose, although it is important to agree in advance which way you will be going.
  2. Switch by time – Set some amount of time each person stays up on the bow. So for example, do 30 minutes per turn. This methods is trying to equalize the amount of time each angler has on the bow. This method works well for bonefish as you are more likely to come up on lots of those and so you should have relatively equal number of shots based on amount of time. The downside, especially when you are fishing for permit, you could end up with a situation, that through random chance, one person will get a preponderance of shots.
  3. Switch on shots OR time – So this method is each person gets up to say 45 minutes on the bow, OR until they get a shot whichever comes first. So for example, if someone is up on the bow for 45 minutes without a shot, then they will switch out. If someone is up for 5 minutes and gets a shot, then they switch out. This will usually lead to a relatively equal share of time and shots, although not perfect.

Other considerations:

  1. Make sure you talk about this in advance with your boat-mate. This will reduce misunderstandings and give you a better experience all the way around.
  2. If you get a permit first. Be generous with your bow time. If your boat-mate misses a shot, maybe let him have a couple or three more in a row, if not the rest of the day.
  3. Golden rule: Be generous in your “calls” with your boat-mate. If the permit were semi-spooked and your boat-mate was able to get a shot off, but mostly throwing at their tails, maybe don’t call it a “shot” and let her have another go. Don’t be needlessly hardcore. Do as you would like your boat-mate do to you.

The objective of having these “rules”, is so that both people feel like they had an equal-ish opportunity on the fish for the day. If both people feel like the day was equitable, and both parties feel that the agreed upon methods of sharing time are fair, it allows you to enjoy your time on the boat chasing the black tailed devils.