Fishing with Ian Last Week
After taking a few days off from the epic trip with Chad and Co. I headed out for an evening look-see with Ian Slater. He was working at the shop until 6, but with sunset happening late this time of year we decided that it would be worth it to take a pair of evening hours to find a permit shot or two. We were delayed slightly by Kat’s run-in with a kitchen knife, and we left her in the care of Ian’s (almost) father in law for the stitches while we got the rods on the boat.
Ian took us to a grassy margin near a channel edge, hoping to find a permit making its way onto the platform to go about its crabby business. We saw a single fish tail, though the water was too high for us to have a clear picture of where it was headed. We staked off and waited for the fish to give us any indication, but we soon found that the fish had crossed inside of us and seen us first. We watched as it spooked back into the channel, and we returned our attention to the flat to look for more. Another hundred feet showed us another permit, but again we were unable to see the fish until it was too late. We continued on, and soon saw a small disturbance on the edge of the grass. I took a cast just in case, and as the fly landed it was clear this was a good call: a permit appeared on the grass, backlit by the low sun, and we watched as the fly landed in front of the grey forehead. The fish dodged and swerved as the fly landed, and for a brief moment Ian and I thought the animal might curl around and eat the thing. Instead, the fish kicked forward and away from the fly and circled toward the boat, eyeing the source of the crab and running quietly back into the safe cut.
We hung around for a while longer, hoping for something else to happen. It didn’t, and we moved to a nearby place as the sun set to finish out the evening in search of a tail. We never had a clean shot in the deeper water, but there were fish to be found on the bank. We saw a few spook off when they got too close, and were (badly) fooled by a finning eagle ray as the dark took over. On the way in we hatched a plan to get out the following morning for some more fishing, hoping for some redemption.
The next day we met early–Ian had to be at the shop at 2, so we left at 6 in order to have time to get something done. We bumped around for a few hours in the early light, never finding much and moving from spot to spot. We saw a fish here and there, but none afforded us a good angle for a shot and we kept looking. I caught a small barracuda on a blind cast, but there wasn’t much in the way of permit shots to be found. After relocating again we found a good shot at a small school of fish that were swimming at the boat. I threw a cast as best I could, and a single fish swung in behind it, appearing very interested before following its jittery friends off in the other direction. We stuck with the school for as long as we could but the fish felt us chasing and kept the distance growing no matter what Ian did to get us closer. We moved around again, checking on a place that we felt should have fish on it and seeing none before relocating for the last two hours of fishing closer to home.
At this last spot we shut down and I changed flies. I put on a fresh tippet and new crab, and as soon as I cut the tags Ian told me we had a school of permit nearby. I stayed in the cockpit for the shot since I didn’t want to make things louder than they needed to be, and threw where Ian told me to. The fly never got in play, and as the fish moved off we made our way after them in pursuit. This school of fish kept us interested for a while, and when they got into some deeper water we could see them waking around. Ian got us in position for a shot as they curled back at us, and with the wind blowing to our advantage we were able to get a cast in their midst. As soon as the fly landed I was tight, but early on I suspected that this might be another yellow jack. This was confirmed when we saw the fish in the water, and even though this was a large one we felt a little robbed. We put the fish on ice for later and kept pushing on, trying to find our intended target.
As we moved on, Ian spotted a school of small tailing permit approaching the boat. I hopped out to give it a walk, and didn’t have to move far before the fish made their way in range. I threw the fly, expecting to come tight as the fish swam into the fly. They half-spooked instead, and I kept moving around them to try for an intercept point farther down the flat. After ten minutes of moving faster than I was able to easily I was in range for another shot at the school of small fish. Frustrated with a first cast that never generated any interest, I threw my second into their midst and was rewarded with a school of permit spooking out away from the aggressive placement. I walked back to the boat, still frustrated with my decision to get aggressive botching our opportunity.
Back in the boat, we threaded around again to the bank and continued looking for permit. In short order we had another shot at some tailing fish, and I again left the boat to give chase. This school of fish mimicked the first–they gave us a good shot at they passed by, swerved outside of our offering, and continued tailing on their way down the flat. I gave chase again, ending up behind them and throwing over their shoulders when I could get close enough. None of the fish seemed to notice the fly, and I made another effort to loop around in front of them and get into position for a head-on cast. I took a break to let the fish (and me) relax a little bit, then waded deeper and as fast as I could tried to circle in front of them. Within 5 minutes I was where I wanted to be, and the fish turned towards me as they hit a shallow feature on the grass. I put the fly in front of two outlying fish, then re-cast in front of the meat of the school as they gathered and started to curl around the shallow hump. It’s always a crap shoot with permit, of course, but in this moment I was confident I’d get a bite: getting a fly in close to tailing fish is usually the hard part–once it’s there, things tend to work out favorably. No bite on the first case and I put it in the fish again, this time spooking a pair but leaving the rest of the school intact. I stripped and jiggled the fly, hoping to get a bite before it was too late. Sadly, the fish regrouped and blew out, aware of enough to know they were is some sort of danger.
Back at the boat Ian and I discussed what could have been done differently, as well as what we felt was right. The casts had been in play and could have worked easily; beyond that, we were left to imagine what might have been. When the clock hit 1 Ian had to leave to make it to work on time, so we left the flat and pointed towards home.
Tomorrow, at 6 PM, Dave Skok is coming to the shop for a tying demo. He’ll be tying mostly permit flies, as well as some of the flat wing tarpon flies that we’ve been using in pursuit of the six. Monday and Tuesday we’re fishing with Simon Becker, and Wednesday and Thursday Ian is taking Dave with Kat.
Reports will follow, and I’m sure Dave will be able to supplement them with some of his robot pictures.