10 Things to bring for fly fishing in Xcalak, Mexico
You are finally making that salt water fly fishing “Trip of a lifetime” to Xcalak, Mexico. You have your flights and your hotel accommodations set. The last thing you want to do is forget something important while you are packing. (Although, click here to see how you can make that trip of a lifetime, every year.) In any event, here is the list of 10 things you should bring on your fly fishing trip to Xcalak.
- If you were to bring only one rod, I would bring an 8 wt. It’s heavy enough to throw some of the heavier flies and overcome the wind, but not so heavy that your arm is falling off after a day of casting to bones. Otherwise, I usually bring a 7 wt for bonefish, an 8-9 wt for permit and an 8-9 wt for baby tarpon and a 9-10 wt for barracuda/jacks.
- Quick aside, I will usually have at least 3 rods rigged up in the boat, one for bones, one for permit and one for tarpon. I have been in a situation here where I had a rod rigged for tarpon, and a big school of permit came up and I had nothing to throw at them. So ever since, I make sure I have at least those three rods, and sometimes a fourth for barracudas/jacks.
- For flats fishing, your reel is as important as your rod. A good smooth, strong sealed drag is crucial for landing these fish. Because they are in shallow water, they run horizontally and require your reel to slow them down, not your rod. I personally like Lamson reels, but there are many great manufacturers out there that make salt water reels. Sealed drags are important because your reels will get wet, and the salt water will rust just about anything.
- Get a good weight forward tropical line. The tropical bit is really important as a cold weather line will turn limp in the heat and cause huge fuster clucks in your line. Weight forward is important as most of your casts are going to be within 50 feet or so. That is basically the shooting head of a weight forward line (30-35 ft), your leader (10-12’) and your arm/rod (9-10’). So having all the weight of the line up front will definitely make casting much easier.
- Get at least 250-300 yards of backing. You are rarely going to use all of that backing (although it’s not outside the realm of possibility if you hook into a big permit). But it does give your reel a larger diameter for your line to wind on making it more efficient to get back on the reel. Make sure that whoever puts on your backing puts it on nice and firm and smooth, so it doesn’t bite into itself in the middle of a fight.
- As a general rule, I like 10-12 lbs for bones, 16-20 lbs for permit and for baby tarpon I go with a 30-40 lbs leader, a 20 lbs class tippet (use slim beauty knots on both ends) and a 40 lbs bite tippet. I usually use fluorocarbon for the leader and tippet, as it is less visible in the water. On the tarpon rig, I use flouro for the leader and class tippet and hard mono for the bite tippet. Bring along some toothy critter or similar tie-able wire leader for barracuda.
- For bones: charlies, crazy ladies (get it at Fxcalak Outfitters) and gotchas in chartreuse, pink, and tan in sizes 4. 6. 8. Snapping shrimp, Ververka’s Mantis shrimp.
- For Permit: Merkins, Beck’s Fleeing Crab, Kung Fu Crab, EP Mantis shrimp, Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp. Acocote Drum Majorette (get it at Fxcalak Outfitters) Size 1 – 1/0, Denbow’s Super Slam Shrimp and/or the Acocote Spawning Variant, Red Striped K#ken, Jane’s Squimp, Sargasso Floating Crab
- Tarpon: EP Tarpon streamers in black and red, and black and purple, 1/0-2/0. Tarpon toads, cockroaches, 1 – 1/0.
- For Jacks/Barracuda: Raffa’s Cuda Slaya (get it at Fxcalak Outfitters), Poppers, Chartreuse streamers e.g. clousers, ep baitfish patterns, etc.
- Sun gear:
- Sun screen
- Long sleeve shirts (breathable, quick dry)
- Long pants (breathable, quick dry)
- Big hat. Buff.
- Sun gloves if you need them.
- This is not technically sun gear, but technical underwear is a great thing. When cotton gets wet it takes forever to dry here. Good underwear that is breathable and quick dry is a great thing to have.
- Miscellaneous fishing gear
- Polarized sun glasses. This should actually be first. You will have a difficult time if you don’t have good sun glasses.
- Wading boots. You can use dive boots or get flats boots from major fly fishing gear manufacturers. There are many opportunities to wade fish here in Xcalak, whether you are DIY or being guided in the bay.
- Stainless steel hemostats or pliers/nippers. Just assume everything metal will rust down here.
- A lanyard with a small fly box (I would keep a handful of bonefish flies, permit flies and maybe a tarpon streamer and a barracuda fly in there. That way you can throw it around your neck and jump in to chase that permit on foot very quickly.
- I like to use a water proof backpack to throw all my gear, cameras, etc. in for the ride in the boat in case it rains or the wind blows some water into the boat, you are covered.
- Bug repellent. Although the easterly breezes keep the mosquitos off the beach, if you go back into the lagoons or walk around on the back side of the beach, there are mosquitoes to deal with. I like Ultrathon because it lasts all day.
- Camera, video camera, and/or go-pro to document your grand slam.
- Park Pass
- If you are staying in Xcalak, everyone is required to have a National Park Pass. You can purchase these online here It is in Spanish, but if you right click and “Translate to English”, it is pretty straight forward.
- Fishing License – Everyone who will fish from a “vessel” (read panga with a guide, kayak, stand up paddle board, etc.) is required to get a fishing license. If you plan on only fishing on foot, you don’t need one. EDIT: You can now buy fishing licenses online and print them at home. Website is here:
EDIT: Conapesca is no longer fulfilling fishing licenses, however, you can still contact them with questions.
2389 Fifth Avenue
San Diego Ca
Tel: (619)233 4324
Fax: (619)233 0344
Alternatively you can get a fishing license through [Discover Baja](http://www.discoverbaja.com/go/fishing-licenses/). They will take a credit card and email you your license back. EDIT: Now that you can get licenses online, no need to use the Discover Baja service.
That’s about it. Now if you do happen to forget something swing by Acocote Eco Inn, Fxcalak Outfitters is located in the palapa and we carry most of the essentials you need, including fly line, leader, tippet, flies, buffs, even rods and reels.
Update 27-Feb-2016 Added bit about needing a license when fishing from a vessel in number 10.
Update 13-Dec-2018 Added bit about http://www.discoverbaja.com/go/fishing-licenses/
Update 14-Jan-2020 Settings for on-line license application at https://www.sportfishingbcs.gob.mx/. See Image below:
Update Mar 17, 2022 sportfishingbcs.gob.mx changed their payment processor and it is rejecting foreign credit cards. They are in the process of changing the the payment processor but in the mean time, you will have to call the number on the website (+52 (612) 123-3807), and do it manually, they will take paypal and send you a pdf of the license. Ask for Cesar. He speaks English.