With the Del Brown finished, it’s time to put everything up here on these pages. It was a truly amazing tournament, and I want to get to the results (as well as everything that happened leading up to them) up here as soon as possible. That said, I have to keep things in order on these pages as best I can, and that means that first I’ll post the report from the two days last week when I fished with Aaron Snell. We were joined by my friend Jason Schratwieser.

Day One:

We started out early, in search of a tarpon or two before our focus shifted to permit. The tarpon fishing was slow, and we soon lost interest in the fishing for tarpon as the sun climbed higher.

We bumped around for a few hours, from flat to flat, looking for some permit to throw at. The fish weren’t around in great numbers, however, and we didn’t find any shots for our efforts until late in the day. Jason had a few shots at a school that was waking in some shallow water, and then we saw a few bonefish nearby that Jason threw at. It took us a little bit to get the right angle on them, but when we finally put it in front of them one piled on and Jason quickly caught a nice fish in the early afternoon. Soon thereafter, we made a final move to a place far from home and there started to see a few permit. I had a pair of fish blow out from in front of the boat as I took a (stupid) cast at a barracuda, which caused me to recommit my focus and take things a bit more seriously. We saw another few fish and never had a shot at them, and as we continued down the bank we soon saw a single fish slowly creeping down the flat towards us. I put a cast a little too close, and the fish looked hard but didn’t bite and instead swam a large circle away from the boat, returning to casting distance upwind. It took a few casts to get it there, but when I finally did the fish dropped low and wagged hard as it ate the fly. A short fight later Jason grabbed our first permit for the day, a decent fish that weighed about 15 pounds:

 

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After that Jason had another similar shot into the wind, and was foiled by aerodynamics. That was it for our first day, and even though the fishing was tough we had high hopes for day 2.

Day Two:

Our second day was special. In light of what some other people accomplished in the Del Brown, it feels a little off to be writing about “what we did the days before”, but this day in particular was one for the memory bank and it’s a nice story, so here goes:

We left the dock a little later on day two, and went directly to look for permit. The light was still low when we left the ramp, though the run was long enough to get some light on the water. Jason was up first, and as we poled along Aaron spotted a fish tailing nearby. He poled over to it, and Jason made two casts: the first was behind the fish (to be fair to Jason, the fish turned just as the cast was being delivered), and the second was just right: Jason twitched the fly, and the permit made a beeline for it and closed the deal. Jason fought the fish for 15 minutes, and at the end of it had in his hand his largest permit ever, a 21 pounder that posed for pictures next to the boat:

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As soon as we had released the fish, I stepped up on the bow and stripped off line from my rod. I made a cast off to 11 o’clock, and as I stripped in Aaron pointed out a large permit cruising down the bank. I had more line out than I needed, and my eyes darted back and forth between the fish and the line I had out to check the distance. I made a spastic cast that landed in front of the fish, and the fish darted toward us and swam off the flat. Unbelievably I was tight, and both Aaron and Jason pointed out to me that it was entirely possible that this was Jason’s recently released fish, hooked again accidentally with a too-close cast. I couldn’t believe this, and a long run into the backing confirmed that this was indeed a fresh fish. In another 15 minutes, Jason grabbed my fish: a 25 pound permit, hooked right in the mouth:

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Two fish over 20 pounds in a day is enough for anyone to be excited about, though we were nowhere near where we would end up. In less than 10 minutes, Jason had another shot at yet another giant fish, and once again he made two casts–the second of which worked out perfectly. This fish was bigger than his first fish, and it was smarter too: multiple times, when it was close to the boat, it ran under the hull to escape my grabby hands on its tail. Eventually, I got ahold to it and didn’t let go:

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Here’s what it looked like out of the water, a fish we weighed at 24 pounds:

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In under 45 minutes we had hooked and landed three permit, each over 20 pounds, on three shots.

But the day wasn’t done. We bumped around looking for a few bonefish to maybe turn some of these permit into grand slams, but we couldn’t find any and went back to looking for permit. At the last spot of the day, I had one more shot at a group of mudding permit, and when the fly landed everything happened just as it should: a large fish from the school stopped, turned as I stripped the fly, and got us tight for the fourth time that day. This fish ran into some deeper water, and in 20 minutes Jason grabbed our fourth fish for the day. This one we didn’t weigh, but we were sure it was over 20 and estimated it at 22-23 pounds. Aaron got artistic with the black and white on the last shot of the day:

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We did have a few more shots on the bank before we called it a day, and try as we might we couldn’t turn it into a five fish day. With the last shot behind us we went home, and prepared for the Del Brown.

 

I will say, before I write up the tournament tomorrow, that this was one of the most epic events I’ve ever been a part of. The winners were Matt Fitzgerald and Joe Skrumbellos, first runners up were Scott Collins and Ed Young, and winning the award for third place as well as biggest were Captain Drew Delashmit and Kathryn Vallilee Linville, my wife.

 

There is much to tell about the tournament, and I don’t have time to do it properly today. But tomorrow I’ll post it up here with pictures, so check back in for the full story.

 

More to come,

 

nathaniel