It’s funny how a fish, or for that matter just about anything else, can really get under your skin. Coming back to fishing though, permit are probably near the top of most saltwater fly fishers list of “most desirable” species to catch. They are probably right up there for those of us who get to fish the flats every now and again too.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few throws at them over the last few years and I am amongst the ranks of anglers who have watched the perfect cast (at least what I hoped was perfect!) land right on the head of the fish and to see it completely ignored. Having just read that, as a river trout fisherman it takes a bit to convince yourself that the fly needs to land right on the head rather than into the path of a tailing fish but I’ve done OK with that so far.
I’m just back from a week in Belize. I was lucky enough to be working down there last February where I faced the ultimate test of watching permit tail and not being the person holding the rod. I don’t mind saying that I coped really well and loved every minute of it but this time I was down with a group of friends and permit were top of the list.
The weather played a part, and on the first day we had some rain which is something the permit don’t like on their backs. The moment the rain stopped the fish started to tail again and were up to their normal tricks. Plenty of shots were reported by the group, but no eaters. Still, there were bones, tarpon and snook to keep us amused!
We mixed who we fished with and I spent three really enjoyable days with a good pal who had the permit thing in a bad way too. It was gut wrenching to see over the 3 days him land his fly right on the money only to see it rejected, ignored or half-heartedly followed. After each shot we’d analyse it and come to the conclusion that it was no failing on our part. We did though, decide to carry 3 rods rigged with a selection of flies just in case.
The last day came and no one had landed one; there had been loads of other fish caught but the permit were still not playing ball. A couple of the guys had shots at over 80 but nothing eating.
Even the guides were feeling it and myself and my boat buddy were up for an early start after our guide said he’d pick us up a 5am. The early start didn’t help as there were no fish about due to a northerly wind keeping water off the flats so we went looking for other fish.
The next stage of the tide meant we were in position and my buddy had a crack at a couple of fish. I was holding the boat but the cast made it look like a done deal and as Lloyd shouted “SET” I thought this was it. Yet again we walked away shaking our heads!
Next flat and my buddy offered me the front. The drill we’d followed was that someone would be up in the bow of the boat and if we spotted a fish we’d stop the boat and go on foot to have a throw at the fish.
We saw a few tailers and I hopped out. My first cast was on the money but the fish veered away, although not off the flat. We stalked them for a bit and they started to feed again. I fired off my cast and to be honest I’d made better casts but it was in the neighbourhood. We saw the fish follow as I slowly stripped. Lloyd shouted “SET” and although I wasn’t sure that the fish had taken I trusted his eagle eyes. The fish hadn’t taken but the set had moved the crab a little bit faster and the permit chased the fly down and hit.
There was no doubt he was on and I kept the rod high as the fish headed off the flats. We jumped into the boat and followed and although there were a few heart stopping moments my buddy netted my first permit!
I think I went into a sort of shock as it all sunk in. My next thought was for my buddy and a hope that we’d be able to get another shot and he’d be in with a shout. Despite covering some more flats it wasn’t to be……..perhaps another time!
I am by no means an expert, with one permit under my belt, but it seemed to us that this fish had my name on and was a biter. What I mean is that it seemed the fish that came on to the flats had a look round but weren’t always preoccupied with feeding. There is little doubt they are extremely nervous in shallow water but the fish I had was different and was going to take no matter what. It made us think that perhaps permit fishing is about finding that fish with your name on which can sometimes take a while to find but as long as you can do your bit there is little else to do but wait for that moment.
Belize is a great destination for permit along with bones, tarpon and snook. I love the place and the people and we all travelled out on a trip put together by my good pal Mat Mchugh of Fly Odyssey.
Jan and Keith if you are reading I hope you catch a load of bones!
This will probably be the last blog of the year so we look forward to seeing you all in 2011.
Have a cool yule and all the very best from all of us at The Devon School of Fly Fishing.