Yesterday and the day prior I fished with Captain Chris Robinson. It’s not often that I get to fish with Chris, but we are usually able to make two days happen in the beginning of April. As was the case last year, our fishing was challenging and we had to put in some time to get one. Again this year, we were able to justify the tough conditions with a nice fish right before the buzzer. Here’s how it all went down:
With the March Merkin long gone and the next two upcoming tournaments tarpon-only, we started our morning in pursuit of the large scaly dragons. This turned out to be a good call in theory only: where they had been they were no longer, and we looked hard for two hours before calling in quits and breaking out the permit wand in hopes that we could still find something to throw at that had not yet moved off shore to make babies.
We poked around an area that Chris had found fish in recently, and over the course of the next three hours had a few shots at deep fish that were well camouflaged against the bottom. Of the ten fish we saw, the number we saw before they flushed was under five. Of those, we had three get on or near to the fly before the jig was up. While the fishing was beyond challenging, we were coming close enough to justify the continuation of this particularly daunting task. The closest we came was to a stationary single permit on the edge of a flat that got behind the fly and exhibited keen interest. While I came tight to something, there was no way to tell if the tension was from the tough lips or the bottom they were made tough for.
We left these fish for a final spot, where we really put in The Work: two hours, ready and looking, without a single target to throw at. We threw the towel in instead at 4:30, ready for the next day and more of The Work.
Our second day was equally difficult, though Chris did have a few more tricks up his sleeve. I also brought a barracuda rod, just in case we became fed up with the head banging.
At our first stop, we looked for nearly an hour and a half before Chris spotted a large permit close to the boat. Facing away from us, this critter gave us a nice opportunity to put the fly in front of him which I was unfortunately unable to capitalize on. The fish half-spooked from the boat (and the terrible presentation), and the next time we saw it it had gone full-fright and ripped away from us, unconnected.
At our second stop, Chris again found us a single opportunity, this one of the best kind: two fish, happily tailing and mudding as they plodded down the bank toward us. The cast I made was again far from them (and farther still from halfway decent), and yet the fish still looked hard before deciding they knew enough to know better. Plagued by these most recent failures, I did my best to thickskin through it thanks to Chris’ advice.
We ended where we had found our shots the day before, and at this point we were committed. Find them or no, we were going to run this train into the ground.
Our first two hours there mirrored the day before: what few fish we saw were deep, hard to see, and often unmoving. The few fish that we were able to get a shot off at were either high and swimming fast or low and seemingly taped to the bottom. We went through the spot once and then Chris went around for a second and final push into The Work.
This time around, we started farther back in the spot hoping to find a shot at a barracuda on the white sand that preceded the area we’d been finding the permit. Where on earlier passes we easily saw two or three, we only saw a single one for our efforts. We put the barracuda rod away and got the 9 weight ready. The Work continued.
We saw a single fish that we thought to be a barracuda before realizing it was a permit, and blew out one from under the boat that we were unable to see. Chris made a move down the edge toward deeper water. In the deep glare of the last flat of the day, we saw a single touch of color and threw the fly. My first cast didn’t make the grade but our second did, and the fish got behind the bug as it sank and wiggled hard. I didn’t check-strip the fly, thinking that the longer he had to eat it the better. As soon as he flushed from the boat, however, we were tight to him. Elated, we cleared the line and gave chase with the motor.
The fight was tough, but uneventful. There were a few crab traps to avoid, and the fish never took a long run to tire itself out. We had a few tense moments, but in short order Chris netted the fish that we weighed at a solid 18 pounds and we took some pictures:
The Work complete (and paid in full), we headed home.
I’d like to thank Captain Chris Robinson for another permit and a couple of great days on the water. I’m looking forward to fishing with him again.
Speaking of The Work, next week I’m headed back to the Everglades with Steve Huff, where I’m hoping to finally consummate our efforts on the six. A report will follow, good or bad.