Skip to content
Xavier hold a permit fish

Tails from the Road: Mexican Permit

Written by: Xavier Puls



Time to read 14 min

We are back with another Tails from the Road! This time around, as the title clearly states, we’ll be talking about an amazing trip I recently had in Mexico. Much like any flats trip, the targeted species can be just about anything that we run into. But, my sole goal for this trip was to chase permit. In case you don’t know, permit are arguably the most coveted species in the fly fishing world. They’re incredibly stubborn, spooky, and outright unfair. You can do absolutely everything right and yet they still won’t eat your fly. Something about that certainly intrigued me through the years of my fly fishing journey. I’d rather be catching one fish that is worth the struggle and humbling scenarios, than a bunch of fish that I didn’t feel like I had to do a lot of work getting. Normally when I’m out on the water, I’m stalking carp on our local flats, grinding it out for maybe one fish on our big stillwaters, or hiking deep into the backcountry in the search for some solitude and trophy trout. Don’t get me wrong, I have fun tacking on numbers, but I prefer the challenging adventures and species alike. So, to say the least I felt some sort of calling towards permit.

Before I get too in depth with the fishing down in Mexico I’d just like to say that I only fished two days. I was actually in the country celebrating my honeymoon and was lucky enough to have an amazing wife to let me fish for two days! 

The general area of where we were fishing was Isla Blanca, which is a greater flats system that stems directly from the deep waters of the Atlantic just north of Cancun. It’s close and easy enough from the area's many resorts and hotels that day trips aren’t a tall feat like other areas in Mexico. In fact, there aren’t any lodges for the Isla Blanca flats system because of its ease of access. Surprisingly enough though, there aren’t that many people that utilize this amazing resource. The flats are peppered with permit in varying sizes, as well as the sporadic bonefish, the backwater mangrove systems are thick with juvenile tarpon and snook, and there are chances at migratory tarpon rolling in deeper water on calm days in the summer. It’s one of the few places where achieving a Grand Slam (permit, bonefish, and tarpon) or Super Slam (slam species plus snook) is possible on the same day as having a relaxing dinner at your resort with your family. 

Satellite image of Isla Blanca Flat System

When deciding who to book with, I had a hard time finding an outfitter with a reliable website or social media presence. After a little back and forth, I spoke with one of our customers about my trip and he also regularly fishes Isla Blanca. He recommended that I book a trip with Fin Chasers after having many enjoyable trips where he personally likes to target the tarpon and snook in the mangroves. I reached out to the operation and had a wonderful conversation with the owner, Miguel Enclada, and was more than confident and happy with my choice of booking with them! I told the guys I wanted to target permit while I was down there and they got me setup with the right guide.

Day One

The first day of fishing my wife, Josie, decided to come out with me. Josie isn’t the most advanced with her casting skills, and with some practice sessions before our trip, it was safe to say that a conventional setup will be much more enjoyable for her experience in the salt. Luckily, the guys at Fin Chasers were awesome enough to provide her rod so I wouldn’t have to travel with one. 

clear calm day on the flats

The beginning of the day was spent chasing permit while Josie came in and out of sleep as the wind rocked the boat like a baby crib (haha). All jokes aside, the wind was absolutely brutal as there were huge storm systems rolling through the entire Gulf of Mexico. Most of the time on the flats, you can find calm to slightly calm conditions around sunrise and sunset, but during our time we were seeing 20 knots right at the get-go. At first this seemed like an absolute bust because spotting fish was extremely difficult, but in hindsight I think this helped us out. The first flat we spent our time on was completely dead as we saw zero fish feeding or cruising at all. That goes for bonefish and permit alike, the only thing we were seeing were catfish and stingrays. That being said, the anticipation of seeing a fish at any moment certainly made the slow fishing exciting because you truly never know when things are going to happen. 

After thoroughly surveying the first flat, we reeled up and jetted over to another area with much more extensive flats. This is where I had my first interactions with permit. After about 15-20 minutes of poling through the area, my guide told me there was nervous water off in the distance and told me what to look for. Not going to lie, it’s initially very difficult to distinguish nervous or pushing water created by permit in windy conditions. But as the school moved on away from me I was finally able to get an understanding of what to look at. Another school moved by us, but all I was offered was a poor shot that likely wouldn’t result in anything for most anglers due to the behavior these fish were exhibiting. That’s ok, even though it wasn’t a promising shot, I got to actually cast at a permit. Another 10-15 minutes later we had a solo permit pushing hard directly towards us. Since this fish wasn’t actively eating, I opted to lead this at a considerable distance to cut it off in its cruising path. Once the fish was within a couple feet of my fly I gave it a couple slow stips and the fish was hot on my fly. This fish aggressively pushed on my fly, tailed on it, and pushed on it even more before eventually pulling off. After this interaction and the fish spooked off, I looked back at my guide and he was wondering if I ever felt the fish. I did not. Normally if a fish starts tailing your fly it’s a good indication that the fish ate my fly. The fish may have, but I was more than positive that I had firm contact with my fly throughout the presentation. A swing and a miss. That’s ok because I was more than excited to have this fish respond positively to a hand-tied fly and it honestly felt like a major win already.

A few moments later my guide and I spotted a very large wake of pushing water that was being made by a fish in the 20lb plus range. It was exhilarating to see this fish moving straight to us and I was gearing up to make my cast once it came within 70 feet. I made my initial cast but the fish was moving so fast I don’t know if it ever even saw my fly. I was able to get a second shot at it with a backhand cast just right of the boat at 40 feet. Bad cast that landed too close to him and on the outside of him and he was gone. I blew the shot. That’s ok, it would’ve been incredibly difficult to get this fish to eat. Judging from my carp fishing experience and their behavior, it was safe to say this fish was ready to get back to deeper water and was not in a feeding mood. Maybe that’s an excuse, but this is merely an attempt of me trying to understand why the fish was moving in the manner it was. After this shot, we spent another 20-30 minutes on the flat with no shots available. With Josie on the boat, I was more concerned with her catching a fish at this point than myself. So I told the guide that I’d like to move to some tarpon/snook water to get Josie on some fish. Upon moving, Josie was quickly rewarded with a barracuda that happily ate her lure.

We spent the next few hours chasing rolling tarpon in the mangroves with very limited success. Josie got a few more bites but nothing too promising for her. I was blind casting some tarpon toads and baitfish patterns and ended up catching a small snook and jumped three tarpon, with the biggest being in the 15lb range. Although the tarpon fight extremely well, I wasn’t a big fan of blind casting into dirtier water without ever knowing the fish were even seeing my fly the majority of the time. Maybe next time I target tarpon I’ll go to a clearer water situation where I’m sight fishing or the fish can at least see my fly, but I don’t see myself fishing tarpon in water like that again. 

The last hour or so of the day was spent cruising around a beautiful flat for permit again. But, we didn’t really have any shots. I believe we saw two or three fish but nothing came of it. Even though it was a slow day, I absolutely called the day a success and still do!

Day Two

I was fishing solo, so I had all the capacity to focus solely on permit. The start of the day was another slow one, doing a full run through the first flat without any sign of activity. Again, I didn’t let this affect me negatively, I remained focused so that if a shot was presented that I was ready to make a good cast. After passing through this flat, we ended up looping back around the flat to hit the far side closer to some deeper water in hopes that more fish are moving through. Sure enough that was the case. Right off the bat we ran into a couple dinner plate sized fish that made their presence well known after we spooked a six foot long nurse shark right under the boat. We didn’t have any type of shot, but honestly I wasn’t too hurt about it. 

We slid down the flat a couple hundred yards further down and bumped into a decent sized school of fish. Although it initially seemed like the fish were moving in my direction, they quickly turned their attention back to where they came from. It didn’t seem like they were spooked by any means, rather just behaving as spastic as they normally do. After that encounter, my guide made the decision to bury his push pole into the sand and be on standby. Initially I was hoping to chase the fish down the flat and get another shot, but I went with his intuition and kept my mouth shut. Quickly all my doubt went away when another school quickly came up on us. I made a quick shot about ten feet in front of the group in order to present my fly as a crab fleeing from the school, but they changed their direction before they got to my fly. Seems like a general trend. That’s okay by me because only two minutes later the same group (I’m assuming at least) snuck in on us and were sixty feet away. I kept myself in order and made a quick, backhand shot right in front of two fish that were in the middle of the pack. Three slow strips later I felt my line go tight. A quick strip set and I was on. I’ve never fought a fish built like a permit before, so I was unaware of what too much pressure was on a fish like this. Quickly my guide took notice of what was happening and yelled, “Too much pressure!” I backed off the fish and let it rip line, not that I was a brick wall on this fish, but for a frame of reference I was initially fighting it like I do with carp. Although the fight wasn’t a vein buster by any means, the fish had no quit. I would get the fish within fifty or so feet and then suddenly make another explosive run. The biggest thing I remember about the fight though is how hard it is to turn a permit. The entirety of their mass is built straight up and down, rather than out like most other fish. So when you try to turn the fish, it’s extremely difficult to do so. They can use all their weight against you and then some since their entire body is practically a giant paddle. After five or so minutes of playing tug of war, my guide was able to grab the fish’s tail and the celebration was on! High fives, hooting and hollering, and of course a couple photos were taken. It was so amazing to land such an incredibly difficult fish, especially going after them for the first time. I told my guide that if I were in the states I would’ve bought a lottery ticket. The best part of the whole thing was the fish came on a fly that I came up with months prior to the trip. I dedicate a lot of time to fly tying and coming up with new patterns, but none have been as satisfying or rewarding as this one!

Xavier hold his permit fish
Xavier holds his custom tied crab fly

After releasing the fish, I had to crack an obligatory celebratory cerveza! In the midst of recalling the encounter and BS’ing with my guide, another school of permit rolled in on us. Two sips into my beer, I quickly had to set it down, strip as much fly line I could get off, and make a quick shot. There was so much going on so fast, I made a horrible cast on the two lead fish and slapped the fly practically on their faces. Well, turns out that worked as well because I was barely a strip and half in when things went tight. Another fish ate and I was hooked up! Things didn’t really work out this time around though, I was still revved up from releasing my first fish that I horsed this fish even harder than the first one. I gave it a hard strip set, which was good, but this leaned into the fish like it were a tarpon. Two head shakes later, the fish broke my 16lb fluorocarbon tippet like it was nothing. With all the madness going on, I just laughed my butt off with the whole scenario. I wasn’t even upset at the time, but I now think about the scenario honestly more than I do with the fish I landed. Everything can go right for you, but you’ll still think about the things you did wrong. I don’t beat myself up over it though, this situation will certainly have me more prepared for my next trip.


I wrapped up the day on a bonefish that I caught blind casting. It was pretty cool that my guide immediately knew that the mud clouds that he saw on the flat were coming from a school of bonefish. He told me to cast into it and sure enough I was on a bone! Even at its small size, it was a total piss rocket! I wasn’t expecting a fish of its caliber to tug on a 9wt the way it did. That being said, I was able to rope it in fairly quickly. With the proper gear I’m sure it would’ve been an amazing fight. 


Speaking of gear, I wanted to break down the equipment I was using on this trip! At all times I had an 8wt and 9wt rigged up and ready to go for different scenarios. My 8wt was a Hardy Ultralite paired up with a Hardy Fortuna Regent 8000 and Scientific Anglers Magnitude Textured Infinity Clear Tip. I had this rigged up with straight 40lb fluorocarbon for tarpon. My 9wt was a Hardy Marksman Z paired up with the 10000 size Fortuna Regent and the same fly line choice that I had on my 8wt. First off, I’d like to say that both of the rods and reels performed absolutely flawlessly. The rods can handle any condition thrown at them and did a great job of fighting fish. The reels have a saltwater specific handle that makes it easier to gain traction on the reel and apply ample torque during the fight. The drag is smooth and they offer the biggest arbor on the market which allows for fast line retrieval. Now that I’ve said that, I’d like to talk about my fly line choices. For the type of tarpon fishing I was doing (casting into mangrove areas), I would say the Infinity taper was not the tool for the job. For casting repeatedly to rolling fish, this fly line struggled to keep up with the occasion. In the future, opting for something like a Grand Slam taper for SA or Flats Pro from Rio would be a better choice. In my defense with the line choice, I intentionally bought this line taper in the event that my 9wt broke and I would have to use my 8wt for permit. My permit stick I’m rather conflicted on how I felt about the line. On one hand, the Infinity taper did an amazing job of delicately presenting my fly to the fish. But, I did feel the line lost its ability to load the rod appropriately in the gail force winds that were constant for two days. Obviously I still got the job done, but a Grand Slam taper or the Permit taper from Rio would’ve been a much better choice in the wind. In calmer conditions, or just normal oceanside windy conditions, I’d most definitely stick with the Infinity. Speaking of the fly line, the new Magnitude series from SA is an absolute gamechanger. I’ve casted both floating and intermediate clear fly lines in the past and no matter what the companies did with them, they were always sticky. With the help of natural copolymers, SA was able to get over this hump and make a slick-casting clear line. The biggest advantage of the clear line on the flats is it allows you to use a shorter leader and helps prevent spooking fish. Even though I was only fishing a nine foot leader, with the clear tip I was technically fishing a twenty one foot leader. This is a huge advantage as it helps present the fly as naturally as possible. 

A selection of 3 recommended fly lines for saltwater flats fishing

All in all, it was an amazing experience being on the flats for two days and I cannot wait for my next go around! I hope you enjoyed our third edition of Tails from the Road and if anyone has questions or comments please reach out to me via email at , or feel free to call the shop at 303-330-1292. Also, if you’re gearing up to go to salt yourself, stop into the shop and we’d be happy to help you out with our top flies, rods, reels, and terminal tackle. Take care!


You’ve got one angel of a bride! NufSaid! ;-$

Mark Shin

Nice job, Xavier! Great that you had fun with your wife and nice work getting things tight with the permit.

Dave Cunningham

Leave a comment

Liquid error (layout/theme line 610): Could not find asset snippets/smile-initializer.liquid