Fishing with John O’Hearn and Lawson Stiff

Fishing with John O’Hearn and Lawson Stiff

At the end of last month, I fished a day as the guest of Lawson Stiff and John O’Hearn. Our plan was to fish for permit, and it was a great day to do just that.

We started off looking but not finding, and when the tide got right the fish appeared where we hoped they would. We poled after a rumbling school of smaller fish, never able to get a shot in front of them before they dipped in to a channel and disappeared. As we neared the same channel John decided to motor around the bend and get in front of them, and after a short run we shut down and drifted on to the flat. In the deeper basin adjacent, tails suddenly appeared. There were likely 100 fish spread out, pushing their black triangles out just enough to sucker us in to a few shots at them before they ceased accommodating our efforts.

As we went down the edge, another group of fish showed up in front of us in shallower water. Lawson left the boat to wade after them, and I stayed behind to talk with John. Soon, however, John spotted another group of fish behind us, and gave me some instructions (“go get them”) and sent me on my way.

The fish weren’t too happy, and as I approached they were far from settled. I stood still for a few minutes until the group came by and gave me a shot, which landed near the head of the school. I stripped through them, and just as the middle of the pack reached the end of my leader there was a splash and I was tight. I fought the fish for longer than I thought I would, and when I grabbed the tail I could see why: near 18 pounds this was one of the largest fish that I’ve caught going “full-wade”, and if it had run into the channel I may well have lost it. I dragged the fish over to John and Lawson, who were both walking down the flat in front of me, for a visit before sending it on its way. The cameras were left on the boat, so there isn’t any evidence of this fish except for this report and a fuzzy feeling I get when I think about it.

After we let the fish go, I heard from them the story of what happened when I was fighting my fish. Apparently, Lawson had thrown a dart into the middle of the school that was eaten by a small barracuda, foiling their efforts. For all we do for the barracuda down here, you’d think they’d have more respect for a small group of permit fools.

We hung around the flat for a while, waiting out its expiration before leaving and heading far away to new water.

The afternoon drifted in on us, and while we had a few sightings as it did our fishing was slow. By the late afternoon we were in need of some more shots. John soon found us some at a sandy lane that was being used as a crossing point for a group of permit. Lawson had a few shots, then I did. The fish were tolerant but disinterested, and despite more than a few lasers from Dr. Stiff they wouldn’t give it up. I jumped up again after a while, and when a fish approached us from down current made a cast out in front of the fish. The current dragged the fly down toward the small permit, and when John said “he ate it” I didn’t really know what was going on. I was frozen in the moment of things unexpected, and even when the fish scooted off in a flash with my leader following behind it I didn’t react. The fish got on its side and rubbed its mouth along the bottom and in so doing jettisoned the fly. I had nothing to offer on this other than to hang my head and laugh at my deer-in-headlights reaction time.
Lawson continued to fish for a while, then me, then Lawson again. I hopped out of the boat and waded for a little while John and Lawson fished from the boat, though one capture and a spectacularly missed bite was all that we would get for the day.

I’d like to thank Lawson Stiff for inviting me along once again with John, and it’s always a blast to fish with great guys that want to get it done. I look forward to fishing more with them both.


Up next, a day with Doug Kilpatrick and Ted Margo. Then Louisiana.



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Nathaniel Linville

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