Catching up, last Friday and Saturday with John O’Hearn

Catching up, last Friday and Saturday with John O’Hearn

Last week, in the middle of a move, I fished with John O’Hearn for two days.
We started at 7:30, and our target was permit. It didn’t take John long to get us to our first stop, and it didn’t take us much time to figure out that the fish were there. In fact, there may have been too many fish–many times I’d see one and blow out some others that I didn’t see in the early morning glare. The action continued, and within two hours we had taken more shots than either of us felt comfortable assigning a number to. Suffice to say it was many, and while we were getting the fly to the fish they seemed disinterested. Soon we left for our second spot, where again we were treated to an hour of great permit fishing (though admittedly a step down from the permit carpet at the first). Again we had some good shots, and again we were left without a bite. The hardest part of permit fishing for me is often this–the maintenance of my peace of mind while my best efforts are met with a resounding sigh.
We left the spot for another, and we only found a single permit to throw at before we cashed in our chips and headed to a sandbar far in the Gulf to drown our sorrows with a few tarpon. I jumped one that broke off when the line became wrapped around the butt, and then gave John a few shots on the bow–it didn’t take long before he was tight to a small fish that came unbuttoned on its third jump.
When the tarpon stopped swimming, we left to look for a permit. I managed to hook and release a decent barracuda on the merkin, and after this we left for the ramp. It’s worth mentioning that, while bycatch and therefore decidedly uninteresting to John, I quite enjoyed catching that little barracuda and wish him well, since last we saw him he was being pursued by a lemon shark.

John and I began at the same place we had found permit the day before. While there were less fish around the lower population density was perhaps a good thing, as the first two casts we made at fish were very well received. While they didn’t result in bites, there was an increased urgency to the fish when the fly landed, and we both began to feel hopeful that we might redeem ourselves.
It took until our third spot, the same one that held but one fish the day prior, for our first capture: a bonefish, culled from a pair that were following two permit that had already spooked. John snapped this photo:

Within 20 minutes a single permit appeared, and my cast landed a little left of where I wanted it to. No matter, the second fish that we hadn’t seen spun around, did the deed, and we landed the second part of what we were now hoping would be a slam–a perfect little permit, released into the wild to swim again:

At this point, it’s worth noting that we had decided that it was up to us to take the worst fish photos we could possibly take, just for the fun of it.
Our final task was to catch a tarpon, and while we fed two with relative ease the day before we were up against the wall that is fly fishing: the more you want something, the harder it is to get. We fished for a few hours at the spot, which consisted mostly of fish taking a wide berth as soon as the fly landed. I took a flying squirrel leap at a pair of fish as they passed–even that didn’t help.
On the way home, John stopped at a place he’d mentioned earlier, and while I’d love to say it was dramatic it really wasn’t: the bait was around, and the fish curling through it, and our second cast got us the tarpon we needed for a slam. In honor of all the terrible iPhone fish photos ever, John snapped this shot of the moment of completion:

We hung around, watching the fish roll through the teeming baitfish, until we left them alone and headed to the dock.

As always, I’d like to thank John O’Hearn for an incredible day on the water, and a fancy slam also.

Friday and Saturday with Justin, Monday Tuesday with Joe to make up for the week past.

More to come,


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Nathaniel Linville

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