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X Flats Trip Report

I recently spent several days at X Flats in Xcalak, Mexico, scouting a potential new hosted destination spot for Spring 2025. X Flats is a relatively new lodge, having gained quite a reputation for providing visiting anglers ample shots at permit in a remote, tropical location. If fly fishing in the shadows of the Maya for some of the world's finest saltwater gamefish sounds appealing, you will not want to miss this trip report!

Getting There

Xcalak is located nearly five hours south of the world-famous tourist destination, Cancun, and a couple of hours from the fly fishing mecca, Punta Allen. While X Flats might seem at the Earth's end, it's relatively straightforward to get to. Cancun International Airport offers direct and affordable flights from most major US airports. There are no expensive connecting flights- X Flats arranges a shuttle pickup directly outside the terminal. 

After being greeted by a friendly driver with a cooler filled with Modelo, we made the trek south. The plane and car ride makes for a long travel day, but cracking cervezas, making pitstops at taquerias, getting to know the other anglers, and taking in the sights of a foreign country are part of the experience. The shuttle transfer couldn't be any easier, simpler, and safer!

Daily Routine


The main lodge is essentially an oversized cabana that feels right at home with X Flats' "toes in the sand" vibe. Laissez-faire ethos extends to breakfast, and guests are free to eat at their discretionary time as long as it's before the guides arrive at the dock. 

Don't expect a menu option for breakfast; do expect a traditional Mexican breakfast with fresh fruit and juice, eggs, beans, salsa, and tortillas. I was quite fond of the spread the kitchen served each morning, and it was on par, if not better, than what I found elsewhere in the Yucatan. 


Like most lodges, guides and anglers rotate daily, and a large chalkboard with each guide's name matching the corresponding angler keeps the routine in order. After figuring out the guide for the day, the anglers meet them at the dock, located on-site, to board the pangas.

Not having to drive to a separate marina to launch grants the angler and guide greater flexibility for a return time. The average fishing day runs from 8 am - 4 pm, but bonus time is possible if the opportunity for a grand slam lingers slightly past the buzzer. The run to the fishing arena is quick, giving fly fishers more time on the water!

The traditional pangas might lack the sex appeal of the high-end skiffs commonly fished out of in the Bahamas but are a part of the region's fishing heritage. Pangas offer several advantages like stability and space, cut through open water, and draft in relatively shallow water. Each guide has an assistant who helps with line management and spotting fish.

After fishing, anglers have several hours to relax before dinner. Delicious appetizers like shrimp quesadillas are on tap, and the well-stocked bar offers a welcome reprieve from the hair-pulling experience permit fishing often provokes. Dinner is more structured than breakfast, with guests eating together at 7:30. While X Flats might not offer Michelin-rated cuisine, meals are authentic, fresh, and better than most Mexican food in the States.

Rooms are modest but cozy, with a few nice perks like air conditioning after 8 pm and a filtered water cooler. The beds are comfortable, and the maid service does a great job of tidying up while you’re fishing. The spacious patios overlooking the water are perfect for sipping margaritas and relaxing in the evening! 

The Fish

The flats, bays, and lagoons around Xcalak hold healthy numbers of juvenile tarpon, jack, snook, bonefish, snapper, and other fly-worthy species. However, permit are the main draw, and they exist in ridiculous numbers. The guides at X Flats live, breathe, and sleep permit. You can expect them to work their tails off to give anglers as many shots as possible. X Flats is the right choice for anglers looking for their first permit!

Permit might be the main focus at X Flats, but the bonefishing is nothing to scoff at. The average size is smaller than the Bahamas but they exist in great numbers and are perfect for novice flats anglers looking to dip their Gotchas in the water for the first time. While larger bones might not exist in great numbers, they are out there!

X Flats owner Jesse Colten recently fell one centimeter short of the Atlantic record with an absolute torpedo of a fish. The mangrove-chalked lagoons hold untold numbers of fish that have yet to see a fly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more jaw-dropping bones the more time is spent exploring the untapped backcountry. 

My Experience

After the long travel day, I was apprehensive about spending a hung-over morning testing my wits, patience, and skills against permit, a fish I'll admit to being intimidated by. The overcast and snotty weather was certainly not in my favor, either. I explained to my guide, Julio, that I wanted to settle in by getting a few bones on the board before shifting to the more formidable permit. 

The morning was a bit slow-going, but we found bones in the afternoon, and the action was consistent. The cloud cover and lack of sun made spotting fish difficult, but Julio's fish-spotting skills kept my blind-as-a-bat self in the game. 

On the second day, it was time to face the main attraction- the permit. My guides immediately spotted happy, tailing fish. I had several opportunities to land my first-ever permit before 9 am! Despite getting a refusal and then overshooting another fish, I was in the game, and it was clear my guides meant serious business.

My first day of permit fishing was a humbling experience, to put it lightly. Fly fishermen and fisherwomen love to chastise permit for being snobby eaters, but it's on the angler as much as the fish’s affinity for the right fly. I’d overshoot one permit, then undershoot the next; I’d make casts too far to the left, then too far to the right. Sometimes by painfully small margins, other shots not so much. 

After jumping out of the panga for what seemed like the tenth fold time in pursuit of tailing permit, I made the right cast, the correct retrieve, and then POP! I finally got a permit to eat. Unfortunately, I made another rookie move; I strip set with too much force and broke the fish off. Mike Tyson eloquently stated, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” This certainly rang true of my first-day permit fishing. 

When permit fishing, mental toughness, and a short memory are just as important as casting ability. I had to put the previous day behind me; I had come too far to go home without reaching my goal. The third day didn’t provide as many opportunities as the prior, but with time expiring, I made the perfect shot to a single about 65 feet out and stuck it! Without experiencing failure and having X Flats' excellent guides walk me through my mistakes, I wouldn’t have tasted success. 


Thankfully, I didn’t leave it to my final day to bag a permit. I could now relax and play with a looser hand! After talking with the guide, Didier, we decided to have fun and spend my last day wading for bonefish- my favorite fishing! Didier is a younger guide filled with optimism and positive energy. We found a beautiful open flat filled with tailing bones and spent most of the day stalking eager-to-eat fish. What a wrap!


My main setup for this trip was the Sage R8 Salt 8wt paired with the new Cheeky Spray 400 reel and Scientific Anglers Bonefish Plus fly line. I used this outfit at Soul Fly in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, a few weeks prior, and it’s safe to say I’ve put it through the wringer! With the R8 Salt, I can generate high-line speed for wind-piercing shots yet still feel the rod load when needing to delicately and accurately present flies to spooky fish at close range. 

The R8 Salt is sleek and slight and needs a lightweight reel to balance it. The Cheeky Spray 400, rated for lines seven through nine, certainly fits this bill! It looks sick and features a powerful, sealed, smooth drag perfect for stopping bones and permit in their tracks. The Bonefish Plus fly line has a longer head, great for presentation and picking up to make second shots, but the added mass in its front taper aids in punching out flies. 

The 8wt is perfect as a daily driver for its ability to perform double duty on bones and permit.  However, X Flats is a destination where your entire fly rod arsenal will see situational use, so come prepared! A high-performance six or seven-weight rod is preferred when wading for bonefish. They load better and offer better accuracy at short distances, and the lighter grains hitting the water can make the difference in not spooking bones in super skinny water. 

Don’t make the trip without a nine and ten weight! While the 10wt has traditionally been the permit rod of choice, more anglers are reaching for the lighter option for Mexico and Belize. Modern nine-weights bring the heat, are easy to cast, and your arm will be thanking you grabbed it over the heavier ten after casting to permit all day. Still, when the wind is howling, the crab patterns are heavy, and the shots gnarly, it’s nice to have a ten-weight on deck. Plus, it's a great rod to have rigged for tarpon, jacks, snook, and even cudas. 

Check out X Flats' helpful page for guidance on terminal tackle and flies. Before your trip, read our complete breakdown on rods, reels, and fly lines HERE and our blog on packs and apparel HERE.

If you want to experience X Flats in all its rad glory we're going back April 5th-12th, 2025! Email and for more details.