The last three days I fished–first with my mother (Vicky) and Captain Drew Delashmit, then with Aaron for two days. Yesterday was the Superfly tournament.
Vicky and I met Drew at a civilized 8:00, and we immediately went to look for bonefish. I hadn’t fished for nearly two weeks, and as such was at peak readiness for a day on the water.
We looked for a half hour at a known bonefish loitering corner, though the lower than anticipated water and cold-snap-thinned current bonefish population met these expectations with crisp disregard.
Soon we moved on to another bonefish hostel, hoping to chat them up. We saw a single which we flushed before we could get a shot off, and then another that was too close to do a whole lot of chasing before fleeing as well.
Our next stop was as barren as the first, and we elected to switch our focus from bonefish to permit. As we began our permit search, Vicky was up and decided to take a few practice shots at the local bonnet shark population. Anyone who’s fished for bonnet sharks with a fly rod knows that they are willing but specific consumers, and as such they represent a relatively perfect practice animal. She only let one get by the boat before she hooked one. My job was to land the fish for her for a photograph; I had the beast by the tail when he kicked free and broke the tippet in the same motion; we moved on to look for more permit.
The fish we found were singles and doubles, mostly fleeing, and not doing “their thing” (“their thing” of course, being “our thing”, but who’s counting?). I had a great opportunity at a large school of permit swimming towards the boat, though I cast too early. If you’ve fished down here (or in any other sight-fishing, distance-closing situation before), you probably know that this means two things: One; the fish are closer on your second cast than they needed to be if you hadn’t thrown early, and two; that the second cast begins with more line out that you need to cast. This almost invariably leads to a crappy second cast at a close than needed fish. I’m writing this to prove a point, and mostly to myself: Wait to take the cast you know you can take, even though you can see the fish a long way off. It’s better to wait a little longer and make the right shot than mess up the first cast and shoot from the hip on your second.
Dear Self: I’m not mad, but was a little disappointed in you. Get it right next time.
Our day continued with another shot at a school of permit, and while I didn’t cast early we never had a great angle on them. Vicky fished the next flat, and had a good opportunity at a single fish but was foiled by a crisp right-shoulder wind. She also had a great shot at a school of mudding bonefish–while she didn’t come tight dragging a merkin through the puffs of feeding bonefish I’ll never know.
We went home to prepare for the next day, when I was scheduled to fish with Aaron and Vicky again with Drew.
Aaron and I decided to focus on permit fishing for the day–as the member of the grand slam trifecta that is unequivocally the most frustrating, we believed that our prefishing time would be best spent greasing the permit groove.
We started out picking through spots, seeing a fish here and there but never a large enough group to stick with. By our third stop we’d had one or two shots. As Aaron pushed down an edge, the frequency of permit sightings increased; so of course did our number of shots. Soon, I was looking at three fish in a white sand hole; each was large, and each was well within range (thanks to a note my past self had left me, I was eager not to cast too early) when I took the first cast. The fish didn’t do much on the first toss, but on my second throw the rear fish (the largest) took an interest. I let it drop, and when I took a long strip I could feel the palpitating weight of a hooked fish. He flashed on the hookset, I said “I’m tight, he’s got it”, and the fish immediately bolted toward the boat, mouth open and shaking loose the fly. I was tight for all of 3 seconds before the line went slack and I took the standard “dammit” roll cast at the three fleeing crescent tails.
Aaron shrugged it off more easily than I, though we soon had more targets to keep my mind off the lost fish. I had a shot at a single or two before a small pod of three permit came over a sandy patch and Aaron spun the boat for a shot. I put the fly on the side of the lead fish, and he swam over it and followed a long slow strip before I came tight. The little fish rushed off, and Aaron staked the boat. I got out to land the fish on the flat for some photos, and we released the permit and kept on.
Immediately after releasing the fish I had another shot that didn’t work out, still on the stake before Aaron could pull it out. We found another school of large fish, and had multiple shots before they ceased tolerating the feathers in their midst.
We left for another edge, and finished the day with another half dozen shots at singles and doubles. Twice a fish raced over to the fly and I stripped to come tight but felt nothing–more of the same permit fishing to which I’ve become accustomed.
We ended day two with two permit hooked and one captured, a good idea of where to get one the next day for the Superfly, and we headed home.
Day Three (Superfly):
We left Hurricane Hole at 7, and headed immediately to look for a tarpon. At our second spot Aaron found them, and I hooked up. The fish was little but extra motivated, and after a tense 5 minutes the hook pulled. Another hook up (after, admittedly, more than a few of my backcasts attempted to mate with the mangroves) led to a broken 12# tippet, and 30 minutes later I fed another tarpon that shook the fly out immediately. Par for the course with tarpon fishing, though tough to stomach when you need releases to move on with your tournament day.
We elected to continue our tarpon pursuit, as our intention was to then move on to permit fishing and finish off with on a bonefish flat. Aaron soon had me on a shallow basin edge, where I threw at a few rolling juvenile tarpon. Soon, Aaron mentioned that there was a fish of some kind moving up the edge towards us; I started to cast before I saw the fish, basing my angle and distance on his instruction. Soon, I spotted the shape–one more false cast and I dropped the fly in front of the critter, it ate, and we were off. As the fish swam off we thought it might be a redfish, though soon the giant black line on its side revealed it as a snook. The fish was large, especially for a fly-caught snook, and never jumped. I was extremely happy to catch such a rare and different fish, especially at a trophy size, and hopped out to land the fish and pose it for some photographs:
After the snook, we continued to look for tarpon. We called it off shortly, however, and went to look for a permit. We arrived near where we had caught the fish the day before, and while we found a few fish it seemed that the large body of fish had moved on; what was left was spotty and acting dodgy. I had a few shots at single fish, one at a school, and we made the decision to finish the flat and head elsewhere. A singe fish crossed some white sand at our 12 o’clock (a hard angle, since you can’t cut their line), and as it crossed into the darker bottom I picked a spot where I thought it would cross and threw my fly there. I didn’t come tight, and Aaron said he thought the fish went right. As I looked there I felt a tug, and I looked back left to my fly in time to see a black sickle tail cutting a rug and all types of up in my diablo crabs business. One long strip and I was tight, the fish took off away from us, and I reeled the fish in. Aaron took the following photo to document another sweet capture:
We immediately left the permit, feeling the tournament clock burn beginning. Aaron shut down at our bonefish spot, and immediately we saw a school of them. I couldn’t strip out the line fast enough, and we missed what was a great opportunity at bagging our bonefish with an hour and a half of fishing time left. We continued to look in vain for a bonefish, and our clock ran out after another two bonefish shots and a few throws at errant permit.
After three days of fishing, I’m happy to report I had some of the best fishing I’ve had in a long time. The snook, the multiple permit captures, fishing with Vicky and Drew, and of course getting beat again by Justin Rea (with whom I’m fishing next Monday) and Cal Collier, Jr., all made this an incredible and indelible 3 days. Thanks of course to Aaron for the most fun I’ve had in a while. Credit is due also to Vicky, who held her own in the Superfly and posted a tarpon release on the scoreboard.
More to come Monday, when I fish with Ted Margo and John O’Hearn.