Chad drove down late last Sunday evening, and we tucked back directly in to our pursuit of the 2 lb tippet permit record. The last time I’d fished with 2# was with John O’Hearn a few weeks back, when a torrent of bad luck afflicted us on the four bites we were able to squeak out. None of these had stayed connected, which caused us to dress some new hooks in the same crab clothing we’d been using and fill them also with hopeful expectation of a battle that might last longer than a few seconds. Add to this the fact that days on the water with Chad and John are a special blend of focused fishing when required and perspicacious harassment throughout the interim and I was excited to get out there and make something happen. I’d like to point out to the readership the fact that Chad caught his first permit on fly ever in August and only one more since then, and that therefore his eagerness to move the difficulty dials to 11 on number 3 is impressive to say the least.
Day one began relatively early, with a near dark start and some looking for tails before the sun crept higher. We found the tails with ease, and Chad and I traded off shots at large tailing permit as John kept us moving to where he thought our best chances were. We had about six shots before relocating nearby, where a Chad had a great wading shot at a single that he capitalized on. John and I watched from afar, ready to run over and pick him up, and when we saw the fish weave hard to the fly and Chad lift the line from the water we started the motor and headed pver. The fish ran first toward and then away from Chad, who kept things tight while still protecting the light tippet. The fish leaned on to its side and skittered silver through the shallow bowl in front of Chad, wrapping on the inside of a turtle grass hump before bending back toward deeper water. The fly line lay in a bend as the fish tightened it up, and when the tension reached a pair of pounds we were done. Chad reeled up the line and we put on a ready made leader and kept on, ready to get connected.
I was up for the next spot, where a number of very high quality shots happened without a solid hook up. Twice we were stripping the fly in the middle of a weaving wad of permit, every fish indicating that we should be tight, and twice we left the moment with nothing to show for it. Chad graciously let me stay on the bow as I worked through a growing frustration, and when I passed the rod to him for the next shots the fish had moved on. We moved as well, and in the next hour fished a place that held some high water and no visible permit to throw at. As the tide began to move we relocated, and I got lucky again with bow time in a place that there were fish to throw at. We had four shots that were imperfect in different ways: fish too far away, fish too close, fish that tailed once and disappeared. I had some passing interest from two of these, and by this point I was committing more of my resources to un-frustrating myself. Just when I was considering a more vocal display of dissatisfaction a school of fish pushed onto the flat with the current. A cast in their direction landed right and the fly received some interest, and before I could do anything else we were tight-but-not-too with a fish that appeared to be about 10 pounds. I cleared the line and John started the motor, and after a minute or so I was convinced that the new hooks were doing their job and set out to do mine.
The fish left the bank on which we’d hooked it, continuing to a deep cut before doubling back and hugging a deeper contour of the same. We kept pace with the fish, talking about whether or not it was big enough as we readied ourselves with the net should we get a chance to end the fight. The fish kept us in deeper water, never going shallow for long enough for us to exploit it, and soon we were on the far side of the basin approaching another shallow flat. Chad stood on the bow, me peering from behind, as the fish started over a shallow lip that would put things in range. This shallow opportunity was lost when the water went cloudy from a nearby school of mullet, and while we had a few glimpses of the fish’s back in the water we never had enough to base a net drag on. Chad and I on the bow caused a near tragedy when John tried to close the gap and buried the front of the boat into a few standing waves, but we avoided this by moving at least half of the 500 pounds back to the center. Things continued on, and near the 40-minute mark the fish started rising up higher in the water. The fight took on a slightly more urgent feel each time we neared, as the opportunity looked to be fast approaching for the net, and each time I saw the leader I would step back and allow Chad the run of the bow in front of me to stretch out and close the deal with. An approaching storm added to the feeling that things were about to get wild, and in a moment two things happened that finished the endeavor: the fly came out, and it started pouring.
We put on our rain gear, talked about what went wrong (and whether the fish was indeed big enough to be record class material), and headed in towards home.
Our second day of fishing started off with a near bang. The first fish we saw was large and tailing beautifully, and Chad waded after it with the 2 lb rig. John and I watched as he approached and started casting, then watched as a second cast sent the heavy fly flying backwards on a too-early forward cast. I grabbed the 9-weight from the tube and headed his way, telling him to stay put while I stripped out line. I passed him the butt of the new rod and slunk away with the other, and as I backed up to the boat got to watch a perfect cast met by a willing partner. The fish curled behind the fly and quickly bobbed up and down as it ate, and while Chad got a solid hook set the fish was able to avoid a solid hook up and took off. Chad, despite not getting this fish to hand, clearly earned enough points to take the “most improved permit angler of the century” award home, by a giant margin.
I was up after this, and had a very similar shot. I was unable to convert my shot into a hooked fish, and for the rest of the day we looked in vain for some more opportunities. The great action wed had the day before was lacking, and while we visited every spot that had given us shots the day before the two shots in the morning were all we had to play with on this day.
I snuck out for a few hours with Brandon Cyr and Michael Hetzel two days ago, and we had tough fishing despite almost hooking a permit on a very high quality shot. While I’d like to do a separate report for that day, I’m out of time and don’t want to get too backlogged so that’s that.
I’d like to thank both John and Chad for another epic trip, and I’ll be seeing more of them soon. I’ve got some days with Steve and Chad in pursuit of the 6 in December, and some time with Chad and Ian in February planned. One of these days, one of these records is going to fall, one way or another.
Tomorrow Kat and I start fishing with Doug Kilpatrick in the Sugarloaf Showdown, and pictures and a report will follow.