Yesterday I fished with Captain Justin Rea. The last time I fished with Justin was during tarpon season, and as I recall we hooked a few tarpon and fought one on 6 for around an hour before it broke off. After being beaten by Justin in the Superfly this month (and last year’s Del Brown, and the Cuda Bowl), I was excited to get out there with him.
It had been raining all night, and when Justin called me to potentially call the day off I was disappointed to say the least. I’d been awake for the last three hours (I always get excited before I go fishing, something like a small child at Christmas), and the prospect of doing anything other than fishing sounded far less than engaging. Based on my enthusiasm, Justin told me to meet him at Sugarloaf at 9 AM, and we took off into the cloud cover and scattered showers to test drive the local permit population.
Shortly after our arrival at our first spot, we had a decent shot at a pair of bonefish. Each looked hard at the fly, and each had every opportunity to eat it, but they didn’t–a product, perhaps, of a larger than bonefish-mouth-sized permit fly.
We had another shot at a group of bonefish soon thereafter, and the same thing happened: the fish elevated, tracked the cadence of the strip, but simply didn’t commit. At this point the cloud cover looked like it was breaking up near a spot farther east Justin wanted to fish, and we stowed the rods and ran there to find some permit.
It didn’t take long for our first shot to happen. Justin spotted a fish that was happily tailing on the grass, and after a few pushes I took a cast that landed in front of the fish. The permit raced towards the fly, inspected it, decided it was something he did not want to eat, and went back to tailing. We threw the same fly at the fish a handful of times, nearly hitting it twice, but the fish just happily skated around, tipping up into the current every so often and wagging its tail. Finally, the fish had had enough of us (and, admittedly, so had we of him), and fell off into the adjacent channel. We changed to one of Justin’s favorite patterns, moved back up to the edge of the flat, and went back at it.
Our next shot was at a single fish that I spotted at 10 o’clock. The fly landed just up current of the fish, and the permit spun on its tail and raced after the fly. A long strip and nothing, even as we watched the fish rise up in the water and display body language that could only be described as seriously predatory.
Not long after this, the clouds started to take their toll on our fishing; no longer looking in the water for fish, we were reduced to studying the color of the flat for puffs of mud, as well as the surface for tails. Justin spotted a mudding fish, and I threw the fly in front of the puffs a few times, but never came tight. A school of bonefish blew out of the mud, and we were back on the hunt.
After the clouds brought the rain, we relaxed in the storm for a few minutes, cooling off before running another 15 miles to another edge. There, we found a few small tarpon that gave us a shot. They didn’t want to play, however, and we went back to our permit fishing.
Justin took us to yet another place, and we had three good shots: the first raced up to the fly but didn’t eat it, the second (a group of two) almost gave us a bite after the same enthusiastic chase we’d seen earlier from another fish (noticing a pattern here?) and the third blew out when the fly landed just in front of it as it tailed.
We had another permit shot on our way home, but I must admit I was late in the game seeing it and as such never really had a good shot. There was another tarpon shot (with a very frightening permit fly, apparently) that I forgot to mention earlier, and that was our day: good (great, actually) fishing, but catching that eluded us.
Here’s to a good day on the water and the permit that almost was, and I hope to spend some more days with Justin chasing permit as I begin to enjoy (albeit slightly) the chase of the little bastards.