Fishing with Chad Huff and John O’Hearn
After the tarpon extravaganza with Scott Collins I fished a pair of days with John O’Hearn and Chad Huff. Our target remained the 2lb permit record, and I made sure we had ample pre-tied tippets for what I was sure was going to be a great opportunity to put this record to bed. Regular readers of these reports know how close we came in August with a fish that weighed a scant 4 ounces less than Del Brown’s existing record, and again lost likely candidate back in October that ejected the hook after 45 minutes. We have a good track record at staying connected on the lightest tippet, and I’ve privately thought for a while that this record might be on a faster track to completion than my old frenemy the six.
Chad arrived late the night before our first day of fishing, and it was scheduled to be windy for our days. I hoped that any disadvantage we had from the wind would be offset by an increased compliance from our target species, though with permit I’ve learned to suspect that whatever I expect is likely wrong. Our first day of fishing proved this clearly.
We started enthusiastically earlier than we perhaps should have, and took a look at some low light places before the sun got up. We left our first spot for another, and made our way into a fishless morning. Before John was able to get to the place he wanted we hadn’t pieced together many shots, other than a low quality going-away that worked out as poorly as could be expected. With the tide right we slipped in, eager to get after what we hoped was going to be a shot at some glory.
I had the first shot, and while the fly landed nearby it was not able to turn the fish towards us. We followed the fish’s cross current tacking in delay, waiting for the angle to get right between turns. When it finally did we got a cast off in its direction, and the fish appeared to briefly pause with interest before skittering off into the nearby deep. I recall another similar shot before Chad got up, and his first opportunity was great, if somewhat unfair. John spotted the fish behind the boat and Chad got the fly there, giving John a great look at what was going on in the water from his guide perch. The fish veered hard on the fly and paused, and John called that the fish had eaten it. Chad stripped slack only, never feeling the fish, and we had to watch once again as a fish swam away free of attachment. We scratched our heads (was it the 2 lb getting in the way of a solid hook up? The thin wire hook? The leader assembly disaster?), chinned up and kept moving along. Over the course of the next hour we had a few more good shots, though the wind was now growing and kicking up sediment. We found more permit than we hoped we would in the muddy water, and a few casts that they ordinarily would have seen were hidden by the smoke. We threw at another three fish this way, hoping for one to make a move but watching them all act instead as if the fly was a phone call from a crazy ex.
In the later afternoon we spent an hour in high water, waiting for things to get right elsewhere. We had a single shot at a large fish that also spun around on the Skok crab and gave us all every indication that things were going to work out before leaving us hanging. This opportunity was particularly painful to lose, as this fish was both large and in a place that would have been shallow in any direction. We kept on, the tide now right where John wanted to spend the afternoon, and headed that way to make what we could out of the wind and non-compliance.
At our final spot we had two or three shots, and each was imperfect. The wind and tide conspired to hide the fish until it was too late, and we struggled to get any interest from the fleeting opportunities before the clock hit time to go. We left, slightly bruised from the treatment, ready for another day on the water.
Our second day of fishing was windier than the first, and the deteriorating conditions extended to the animals we sought. We found a shot in the morning that looked similar to the ones the day prior–the fish whipping in behind the fly, stopping hard and wagging before swimming off unaffiliated with our game. We moved on throughout the morning, finding nothing and padding more and more hope on to the place we had found a number of shots the day prior. I was up for this spot, and had a front row seat to the dashed expectations that ensued. We stuck with it for longer than we should, and after we left we again found nothing. The afternoon wind grew, keeping us off where we’d found shots the day before, and John took us to a final place for an into-the-wind shove. Chad had a shot at a hard tail from a single fish, and got the fly in range for a potential discussion with the front end. The fish didn’t like being spoken to, however, and took off hard on the arrival of the crab fly. We kept on until it was time to leave, fishless and without a hook up after two days of hard trying.
I’d like to thank John O’Hearn for a great effort in the face of some tough wind, as well as the added difficulty of pushing around two idiots who only want to throw 2# tippet at permit, and Chad for coming along and being a part of the team once again.
I have another trip with John and Dave Skok to add to these reports, as well as a trip to the Everglades with Jason Schratwieser and Steve that happened a few days ago. I’m fishing tomorrow with Ian, but by the time the Merkin starts (we prefish Monday before the tournament starts Tuesday) I’ll be current.
More to come,