Night before last, I arrived at home and decided that somewhere the permit had to be tailing. I’m lucky enough to have a large number of people I can call that wouldn’t be totally put off by my need to observe (let alone discuss) this fact, but I figured that Ian Slater would be someone that would be particularly sympathetic to my predicament. We hatched a plan to go take a look before the front scheduled for this evening arrived, and at 7 Am yesterday met up at the ramp and headed out to take a gander.
At our first spot, we didn’t see much initially. The flats did have plenty of life, however, and after 45 minutes we spotted a single tail prick up in the clouds. Two fish plucked around, and I tried to get into position wading for a decent shot. The first of the shots was wide, the second also. Soon, I was able to get a touch closer and make a cast that we thought would work. The fish tailed up and I took a long strip, hoping that it was tailing on my fly. I felt nothing, and sadly even our fourth cast to the fish didn’t make anything happen. The fish blew off when they got too close, and I sulked back into the boat.
We had another shot at a school of fish approaching, though again the fish were too close to convince with the merkin before they fled. At this point we decided to change the fly, for no real reason except to try something different, and as I cut the old one off I saw a little disturbance about 90 feet away. I told Ian, jokingly, that this must have been a tailing permit and continued tying my fly on. He soon told me that it surely was, and I hurried along to tie the fly on. I didn’t trim the tag end or step onto the deck, just tried to listen to Ian’s instructions and drop the fly where he said the fish was. I saw the fish as the fly landed behind it, and immediately stripped in to re-place the cast. The second cast landed close to the fish an a little past it–just where we wanted it. The fish kicked forward and made a hard move on the fly, and we watched as the fish lined it up and started to make a mistake. I came tight on the strip, and the fish came at the boat. All I could do was continue to strip and stay tight to the fish, which I did until we realized we’d been robbed. Instead of the permit I thought we had, it was a small barracuda that had snatched the little diablo crab from (un)certain crushing death. We both laughed at how awful it felt to have our permit turn into this, and while it wasn’t the first time it had happened to me I can say that it was nearly the worst. I unhooked the cuda and made it a point to gently return it to the water to get bigger–good karma, I hoped, that might come back to me in the upcoming Cuda Bowl.
We spent the next few hours cuda fishing, though soon the idea of a permit appealed to us too much to ignore. Ian made a run for a faraway place, which we would only have an hour to fish before he had to leave to get to work on time. At this final stop, we had a single shot at a permit that did not work out. After that, we saw a single large barracuda nosing into the current. Ian let the tide carry us way from it while I grabbed the other rod and stripped out the line. When I stepped back on to the bow the fish had already moved off into a deeper tranche of darker bottom, and despite our best efforts we could not locate the fish. Ian asked for a blind cast, which we sent out over the mottled bottom. As the fly passed over a white spot on its way home we saw the unmistakable maw of a large water wolf in hot pursuit. I sped the fly up but the wolf would have none of it, cooling its once-hot pursuit as it neared the boat. We tried another long cast in the direction the fish had fled, but the fly came back with zero teeth in tow.
I grabbed the permit rod for the final hundred feet of the bank (hey–it’s never a bad idea to be optimistic) and then we headed home.
I’d like to thank Ian for a great morning on the water, and I am looking forward to fishing with him more in the future.
Next week I have to be in New York for a day but will return on the 16. Michael Hetzel arrives on the 15, and then Frankie comes on the 27 for 10 days of straight barracuda madness.
I’m sure I’ll have pictures, not to mention an eventual hi-def video product courtesy of Frankie, of many a tooth. Reports will be posted.