Fishing with Doug Kilpatrick
Earlier in the week I got out on the water for a day with Doug Kilpatrick–the number at the bottom of a complicated receipt. There was an eating competition involved, and a pick gaff, and somehow it ended up that Doug was going to take me fishing and that’s how it happened. We set out on Tuesday, both wanting to fish for permit, and while it was cloudy and on the verge of too windy gave it a full measure of our attention anyway.
We started at a place that Doug had in mind, and as soon as we arrived he announced with typical Kilpatrick enthusiasm that things looked perfect. I was convinced easily, and we poled slowly down the bank as the sun got higher. Within 20 minutes we’d had our first shot, a close fish that spooked off the boat before we could generate any interest in what we had to offer. The second shot was to a large fish that tailed slowly as it crept into the moving water, and before the fish found covering depth we were able to get a cast in its direction. We never got another look at the fish, though on the retrieve I thought we might get lucky before it became apparent that we hadn’t. Doug soon spotted a different fish tailing on the bank, and when a cloud went over us staked the boat and waited for the animal to swim by. He saw it nearer than we would have liked and I got a quick toss off in its direction before it darted away. A second cast turned the fish back in to the current, and a third ended up in front of it as the interest level seemed to climb still higher. The fish spun hard on the fly and ate it beautifully, and after clearing the line to the reel we started the motor and gave chase to what was clearly a very large fish. We netted it without issue after a 10-minute fight, and brought it to a flat so we could weigh it for the IGFA annual competition. 25 lbs and pretty as we could hope for it was a nice way to start the day:
We revived the fish and got back after it, and as Doug made his way nearby for another pass of similar water we both made the shift from feeling hopeful to feeling lethal. Our second shot at a fish was a fantastic one: a single fish feeding hard, looking actively for a crab between face-ploughing events. We were able to get the fly just in front of the fish and it was attacked, though in the faster than normal pace of affairs I set the hook quicker than I should have. I was briefly tight to the fish before the fly came out, and sadly we never got another chance to retry our presentation to any interest.
Doug and I continued on, making our way through some late morning doldrums before finding another set of shots at midday. One was at a shallow tailing smaller fish, and while the cast landed in a reasonable spot the fish was already on edge in the skinny water and looped around the fly before taking interest. We were unable to overcome the permit’s desire to flee with our tiny feathered crab, however, and after a second manic inspection the fish wobbled quickly away from us and found some deeper water. The next shot was at another tailing fish, and this one also took to fleeing as soon as we got a toss off in its direction. Doug called another move in the early afternoon and we headed that way optimistically.
Finding this spot occupied by another boat Doug hooked around and began to push back near where we’d just been, though now in the opposite direction heading into the wind with the sun behind us. Doug spotted a fish in a few minutes, and while I didn’t see it at first I was able to follow instructions from Doug to get the fly where it needed to be. This fish took a few hard looks at the fake crab before finally committing to it, and as I cleared the line a giant wad of fly line made itself into the second stripping guide and lodged there. I turned the rod upside down to attempt to clear the tangle, though the line stayed wedged despite this. I had a few seconds to think about what to do, which wasn’t much, and I decided that the only thing I could do was to tug the line back away from the stripping guide and hope to get it through the guides on a fresh pass. Instead of passing tangled through the guides the line slithered free of itself in a way that I couldn’t believe before going slack as the fish ran. I brought the rod to the side until I was tight to a straight line, and after that it was a unremarkable fight with a decent (though smaller than the first) permit, our second of the day:
After number two we were eager for number three, but by this point the day was heading toward high water with a heavier wind that we now had to pole (and throw) in to. We kept at it until we had to leave, looking for but never finding number three.
I’d like to thank Doug for a great day on the water, and I hope to do more permit fishing with him in the future. Kat and I are fishing with him in the Sugarloaf Showdown, and I’m sure that will be an opportunity to do just that. Kat is out with Simon Becker today, and I have plans with Joe Skrumbellos and Ian Slater for a day on the water Wednesday. More to come as always.