Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

Learners Permit

 

In late February of this year I had the opportunity, before the Covid19 virus shut everything down, to travel to Xcalak, pronounced Ish-Ka-lock, Mexico to fly fish for Bonefish and Permit. There was also a chance at a grand slam as there would be a few Tarpon around. I had planned on going somewhere warm to fish and pass away some of the Alberta winter, so when I got the invite to join 5 other "industry" anglers on a 6 day salt water excursion to Tierra Maya in Xcalak, Mexico I jumped at the chance. Little did I know that this would be my last fishing trip for awhile before travel got shut down, very glad I went when I did.

Happy anglers and guides at Tierra Maya.

Happy anglers and guides at Tierra Maya.

Tierra Maya lodge is located in the small, 385 inhabitants, town of Xcalak which is about 5 - 6 hours south, by road, from Cancun at the southern end of the Yucatan peninsula. We were met at the airport by a shuttle van arranged by the lodge and travelled down Hwy.307 along the Mexican Riviera. We stopped in Tulum, the last "tourist" town along our route for a lunch of tacos and beer and then headed farther south into less "touristy" Mexico. Arriving at the lodge we were greeted by the owner, Jesse Colten. Jesse lives and guides in Colorado in the summer months and in the winter hosts salt water anglers at Tierra Maya, also known as the XFlats. The lodge sits on the ocean side of the Caribbean Sea, with the world's second largest barrier reef just offshore . While the ocean side was preferred by the guides a short boat ride to the south and through a canal that is the border between Belize and Mexico brings you into Chetumal Bay. Having the bay so close assures that you can almost always get out of the wind if need be. The main focus of the lodge is permit, and they are plentiful in this area, but there are plenty of bonefish, tarpon depending on the time of year, Jack Crevale, Snapper and numerous other species to keep the angler entertained between shots at permit. With the permit being so numerous here you will get plenty of chances to cast to them, with a lot of luck and reasonable skill you have a good chance of hooking one.

Xcalak sits behind the second largest barrier reef in the world.

Xcalak sits behind the second largest barrier reef in the world.

Permit
and Bonefish aren't the only species available to the angler, such as this Reef Jack.

Permit and Bonefish aren't the only species available to the angler, such as this Reef Jack.

On this trip I took an 8 weight rod for bonefish, a 9 weight for permit and a 10 weight on the chance we might see a Tarpon. Reels with matching lines and plenty of backing, 250yds. minimum, that had good drags. Your equipment doesn't have to be salt water safe, except for your fly line, but it helps. I took a hip pack for the times we got out of the boat and a boat bag that had spare leaders, tippet, flies, sunscreen etc. in it. The lodge has a rinse station for cleaning your equipment at the end of the day to remove any salt residue and other stuff that may wreak havoc on your gear. The guides would meet us at the dock every morning at 8:00 with their boats, Pangas, which were all set-up to hold multiple set-up rods so it is just easier to rigs your rods in advance instead trying to constantly change leaders and flies for different situations as they arise. I had the usual flies tied on, a shrimp pattern on the 8# for bonefish, a Black Death on the 10# for Tarpon and a Crab pattern on the 8# for the permit. One trick I learned on this trip is to have a 12"-18" wire leader rigged with a Barracuda fly on one end and a slip loop on the other, if you encounter a Barracuda and you want to fish for it you simply hook the rig onto the fly you are using and pull the slip loop tight around the bend of your existing fly. You can now cast to the Cuda and know if he takes you won't get bitten' off with its razor sharp teeth.

The boats, known as Pangas, come set up to hold rigged rods.

The boats, known as Pangas, come set up to hold rigged rods.

If tarpon are the silver kings then permit are the queens of the flats. Permit like a little deeper water than bonefish they still can be found on the same flats. Bonefish are usually found in knee deep water while permit usually like water that is hip deep. Permit are one of the toughest salt water fish to hook and land, not because of their fighting ability, which is substantial, but because they have great eye sight, a great sense of smell, great hearing and are very wary. They can be very moody and uncooperative at times, which can be very depressing after you spend all that time looking for them. Permit can weigh up to 50# but with a fly rod a 40# pound fish would be a fish of a lifetime, fish in the 5-25# range are more realistic. They can be found in schools of 100 fish, groups of 6 or singles, and anywhere in between. While calm conditions make for easier spotting and casting to permit ideally a little wind generated chop on the water will help disguise the boat, the angler and the cast. Permit will frequent both inside and ocean side flats so you must "hunt" them. Once spotted all you have to do is make a perfect cast, perfect retrieve, perfect hook set and then you get to fight one. All easier said than done. Your cast should be in front of the permit and close enough for him to see it. Some people say to hit them on the head with the fly, others say to lead them, I just listened to my guide and tried to cast where he was directing me. If the fish doesn't see it then let it drop and then start a retrieve with long slow strips. There is a lot of patience required when permit fishing, with a second angler in the boat you spend a lot of time helping look for fish while patiently waiting your turn.

In the ocean you never know what's going to eat your fly!

In the ocean you never know what's going to eat your fly!

Like most saltwater fly fishing the guide is the most the important piece of the puzzle, without them far fewer fish would be spotted, less casts made, and less fish fooling retrieves made. Poling the boat from the back the guide scours the water looking for the tell tale sign of permit, either the stiletto like fin poking above the surface or the "push" of water being moved by several fish or the "nervous water" that signifies the feeding of a large group of fish. At times you'll have Permit following stingrays, picking up whatever crabs and shrimp the ray disturbs up off the bottom. Sometimes when they spot the fly they will rush it and take it, other times they will rush it, stop short and just eyeball it. Many times they will just totally ignore it. If the Permit takes the fly you must set the hook with a strip-set, the natural reaction, and hardest to overcome, especially for the trout fisherman, is to NOT raise the rod tip. You want a direct connect between you and the fish with no "shock absorber" in between. The strip-set is just that, a continuation of retrieve just quicker and harder with your rod pointed at the fish.

Success, first Permit on the fly.

Success, first Permit on the fly.

We spent the first morning warming up on bonefish and then it was serious permit hunting time. I had a few chances in the first couple of days, a few that the fish weren't interested, a couple where a snapper beat the permit to the fly and a couple of fish spooked by bad casts. Finally everything came together, cast 10 o'clock, 40 feet, good let it sink, strip, strip slow, set, set, fish on! After a ten minute nerve racking battle my first ever permit was tailed by my guide. A couple of quick photos and back into the ocean he went. There were high fives all around, the addiction of catching permit had firmly taken hold as all I could think of was the next one.

Sunset on Xcalak, I will return for Permit number 2.

Sunset on Xcalak, I will return for Permit number 2.

Permit are definitely a cult fish, people get obsessed with chasing them, one of the group I was with said it took him six trips before he caught his first one. Our trip saw six anglers fish for six days and landed six permit, a couple of guys got two, a couple zero. I realize now how fortunate I was to hook and land a permit on my first trip, I learned a lot on that trip and hopefully when the world gets back to normal I will return to Xcalak and try for permit number two.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) A day on our foothill streams
(2) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(3) Fly Leaders
(4) In the Zone
(5) Learners Permit
(6) Flies of Summer
(7) Selecting the Right Boat
(8) The Italian Job
(9) Making a difference
(10) Pass the Salt
(11) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(12) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(13) Fall brings the big walleye out
(14) Hoppertunity Time
(15) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(16) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(17) Early Season Fly Fishing
(18) Walleye Logic
(19) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(20) Grammy’s Fish
(21) Top 10 Trout Lures
(22) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(23) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(24) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(25) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(26) There’s No Place Like Home
(27) A Golden Opportunity
(28) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(29) Un-matching the Hatch
(30) Alberta Super Bugs
(31) Glass is Back
(32) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(33) Speed Kills
(34) Entering the Twilight Zone
(35) Old Man River
(36) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(37) Small stream BT fishing
(38) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(39) In The Walleye Zone
(40) Zoo Trout
(41) Fly Selection for Beginners
(42) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(43) New Waters
(44) Big Bad Burbot
(45) Looking Back
(46) Out of Africa
(47) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(48) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(49) The Browns of Autumn
(50) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(51) Walleye Town
(52) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(53) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(54) Going With The Flow
(55) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(56) Swinging The Fences
(57) A View From The Aerie
(58) Dixieland Delight
(59) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(60) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(61) Montana's Cool Missouri
(62) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(63) Toothy Critters
(64) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(65) Top Ten Flies
(66) Northern Exposure
(67) Home Water Lessons
(68) Chicken Of The Sea
(69) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(70) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(71) Keep It Up!
(72) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(73) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(74) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(75) Hawg Holes
(76) Saltwater Salmon
(77) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(78) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(79) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(80) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(81) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(82) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(83) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(84) Fall Walleye
(85) Wet Flies
(86) Versatility the Key to Success
(87) Grayling of the Boreal
(88) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(89) Size Matters
(90) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(91) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(92) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(93) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(94) The Point Of It All
(95) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(96) Fall Fly Fishing
(97) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(98) Big River, Big Fish
(99) Bottom Bonanza
(100) Fishing Small Flies
(101) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(102) Four Seasons of the Bow
(103) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(104) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(105) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(106) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(107) Edge Walleye
(108) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(109) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(110) Four Corners – Four Waters
(111) Chasing Pothole Trout
(112) Springtime Stoneflies
(113) The Torrents of Spring
(114) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(115) Bust Them With Bait
(116) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(117) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(118) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(119) Terrestrials
(120) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(121) Rocky Mountain High
(122) Reading the clues
(123) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(124) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(125) Fly Fishing 101
(126) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(127) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(128) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(129) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(130) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(131) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(132) Trust Your Electronics
(133) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(134) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(135) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(136) Walleye can be Humbling
(137) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(138) Winter Flyfishing
(139) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(140) Hot Fall Pike Action
(141) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(142) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(143) Frequently Asked Questions
(144) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(145) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(146) Deep Water Perch
(147) Post Spawn Brookies
(148) A Fisher's Life
(149) The River's Last Stand
(150) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(151) Coho on the Coast
(152) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(153) Summer in the Mountains
(154) Peak Walleye Season
(155) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(156) Last Ice Rainbows
(157) The Burbot Event
(158) Tackle Matching
(159) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(160) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(161) The Lure of Brook Trout
(162) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(163) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(164) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(165) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(166) The Vesatile Plug
(167) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(168) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(169) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(170) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(171) Daily Fish Migrations
(172) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(173) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(174) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(175) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(176) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(177) The Fun in Ultra Light
(178) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(179) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(180) Never Stop Learning
(181) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(182) Jigging through the Ice
(183) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(184) Rainbows on Ice
(185) The Season of Ice Begins
(186) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(187) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(188) Facts On Cats
(189) West Coast Adventure
(190) June Walleye Frenzy
(191) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(192) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(193) Northern Exposure
(194) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(195) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(196) Man Overboard