Fishing with Doug Kilpatrick and Wes Smith, also with Ian Slater
Last week I was invited to fish with Doug Kilpatrick, as a guest of Wes Smith. Wes had three days booked with Doug and asked me to tag along on day one, which I was glad to do. We got ready in the morning and set forth for [redacted], hoping to find some shots at permit.
Wes was up first, and in the early morning we found some great looking water. Doug kept us in the zone, and just before we decided to leave Wes had a shot at a single fish skittering towards us. His first cast was blown to the left, but he quickly adjusted the placement and got the feathers near the business end. The fish slowed with interest at the fly, though soon overran it and kept coming our way before blowing out and taking with it a smaller second fish that we hadn’t seen. Wes stayed up since we were now going to stay, and had another shot soon thereafter. This fish was quartering away from us and difficult to see, and while Doug talked the fly to close to where it needed to be it never got right and this fish also swam away without attachment. We blew out a pair of fish that were hiding on some dark bottom, seeing them only as they left for deeper water, and saw another single that approached us from behind and did the same before we could make a presentation. Wes had another shot at a single fish, and this one landed near where it needed to but was ignored by a fish that seemed more intent on going where it was headed to than stopping to chat up a feathered crab. After hanging around in hopes of more permit (not to mention seeing some giant barracuda), we left for some new ground. I was up next, though at our next spot we were met with a total of zero shots before we moved on.
I stayed up at our next spot as well, hoping for a shot, though all we were able to find there was a fish that was too close when we saw it. Wes graciously allowed me to stay up once again, in order to try to even the shot count, and Doug relocated nearby for a push into the now growing afternoon wind. The first shot was given to us by a large fish that approached the boat much in the same way that the first fish in the morning did, and while we were able to get the fly in front of it it was ignored. Our second was from a large single that mudded hard in the glare, and this cast also landed in range. The fish spun around and appeared interested before deciding better of the whole thing and leaving toward deeper water. The last shot we had before we left was at another large single that Doug had seen tail, and a cast at this one was nearly derailed by wind. The cast landed farther away than I would have liked, and the fish swam near the fly before returning to its last location. I stripped to get the fly back in to play, and when I did found out that the fish had eaten the fly without me realizing it. Doug had seen it and called for a long strip, which led me to believe that I needed to get it back near the fish, but as it turned out the deed was done a fair number of moments before I had any idea what was going on. Gotta love permit fishing. Wes grabbed the fish when we had it near the boat, and we hoisted the large fish on to the deck for photos:
After that we returned to the same spot, this time hoping that Wes might get one also. We didn’t see any and relocated once again, fishing hard for another hour before the light got low and we headed home.
I’d like to thank Doug for another great day on the water (we’ve had incredible luck the last few times we’ve fished together, though I’m sure the readership knows that luck favors the hard work and time on the water of someone like Doug), and thanks are also due to Wes Smith for the invite.
After the day with Doug, I had another day of permit fishing scheduled with Ian Slater. We left early in hopes of finding some tailing fish, which we did at our first stop. I walked on a single, though the deeper water made it hard to figure out where the fish was. I waited in a spot that I thought it would show up, and when it tailed next I had a good opportunity. I assumed there might be a few fish in this group, and therefore put the fly a little far in front of the fish that tailed. I took another cast at another tailing event, this time closer in hopes of getting some interest from the apparent single. The fish turned around and swam away from me, and after this I got back in the boat for some more looking. I hopped out again on a faraway tail, though as I approached it Ian spotted another one nearer to him and I turned around to take a shot. This fish was also hard to see in the deep water, and the only cast I was able to get off in its direction was ineffective. We hung around for a while longer, not finding anything before moving on. We soon found another great opportunity at another single tailing fish, though this one had with it a small lemon shark that pulled my cast in its direction since I thought it was another permit. By the time I figured out I was casting at tooth face instead of rubber lip it was too late and the latter had gone.
At our next stop I had a great shot at a pair of tailing fish in shallow water, and thought we were about to come tight on the first cast when the fly landed. The fish turned away from me and continued to feed, ignoring the fly, and I gave chase on foot to try to secure an angle that might work. I stayed with the fish for probably 100 yards, getting a fair number of casts in their direction but not making anything happen. I finally got back in the boat when they got away from us, and we tried to find them for another 5 minutes before giving up and pushing off of the flat.
At our next spot we found nothing, though in the early afternoon came across a large school of permit in some deeper water that kept us occupied for too long. We threw at them for a while, never getting much interest, and changed flies a few times to try to generate some. I had a few fish look hard at our fly, though after a while it was apparent that things weren’t going to go our way and we moved on. Ian brought us back to where we had seen some fish in the morning, and after 40 minutes we moved on once again having not seen anything. At our final spot Ian found some tailing fish, though as in the morning the water was deeper than we needed it to be for consistent tails. We would only get a look or two before the fish dropped down, forcing us to divine unsuccessfully where next they’d be. I got a cast off at a fish that spiked up close to the boat, and was honestly surprised when things didn’t work out. This fish met up with another and I took a final try over their shoulders, blowing them out in the process. Ian spotted another fish, and at this one we had a better opportunity. My first cast was on target, though the fish ignored it and continued to tail into the wind before spinning around and heading for the bow. I shortened up quickly and took a low-probability cast in its direction before it hit my long afternoon shadow, at which point I figured the jig would be up.
This fish, despite what I’ve come to expect will terrify even the most bottom-focused permit, continued tailing through my shadow and into Ian’s, and we kept throwing at it as it did. In all, I’d say we had a full two minutes of time in range of this fish, and in that time took at least a dozen casts in its direction. None worked, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, and after a while it decided to go back into a nearby channel and tipped its way annoyingly off the flat. Sigh. We were now finished by the light, and headed on our own way toward deeper water and then home.
It was great to fish with Ian, and while I think we could easily have converted on any number of the opportunities we had none worked out. In permit fishing, however, dealing with rejection is a groove worth greasing–especially before the March Merkin next month.
Tomorrow I’m intending to get out for an afternoon with Michael Hetzel and possibly Mitchell Duggar, and Friday I’m headed out with Scott Collins. Chad Huff comes the following Monday and we’re hoping for a 10 pound minimum on 2 pound. More to come as always.