Over the Weekend with John

Over the Weekend with John

Over the weeekend, I fished for two days with John O’Hearn. Our target was a permit record on 2 lb tippet. Currently, the record is held by Del Brown and Steve Huff.

Day One:

We started off by fishing for tarpon before the light was high enough to see permit. In two hours we had a number of shots at rolling tarpon in the glare, and jumped one off and had a bite from another. When the tarpon fishing dried up, we left to search for our record. Incidentally, I thought I would share what the world’s smallest Huffnagle (used to connect the 2 lb fluoro to the relatively giant 12 lb shock tippet) looks like, next to a dime for scale:

The permit fishing was inconsistent, likely due to the recent influx of a huge amount of boats from mini season. We found a few fish that looked to be behaving properly, though were unable to get one to commit. One of the issues with 2 lb, in addition to the fact that it’s exceedingly weak, is that it requires a much slower cast–especially with a heavy permit fly. If you don’t slow the cast down and/or take another false cast, you risk popping tippet. With permit, delivering the fly quickly is everything–squarely at odds with the need to take your time and deliver a cast slowly. The last time I threw any 2 lb tippet was during the years we were throwing it at sharks: the flies were lighter, the fish closer. I was unprepared for the added difficulty of throwing the fly slowly at a permit. Nonetheless, we were able to get the fly near to a few targets on four or five shots. None were players, though we kept with it in the clouds in hopes of getting lucky. As we permit fished we discussed what the problems would be with 2 lb–admittedly, it has been a long time since I fooled (and it really is foolish) around with the light stuff. On a permit flat we saw a pair of small bonefish. This was an opportunity to get a little practice in, and after a few poor casts I made one count and got the grab. Initially, we were hoping to survive the first run. This would have given us some much-needed confidence that we could survive the first run from a permit, especially since when we hooked one we would immediately start the motor. If we could survive the initial surge from a small bonefish, we would feel that the 2 lb permit record was possible with our current tackle and approach. After the first run, the fish came back at the boat. I kept his head up as best I could, then defended the tippet on his next shorter run. Within a few minutes, oddly, this fish was nearing completion. I pulled as hard as I dared, and the little fish came up to the surface and into John’s hands. Here’s what the bonefish looked like–not a trophy, but a great capture on 7x and one that did for our confidence more than we could have hoped for:

And another view, since we took two pictures and were happy:

With that, we decided that we shouldn’t be looking for permit in places particular to the needs of 2 lb. Bolstered by our success, we went to where we thought the most fish would be, not where we thought the best place to hook them might be. We finished the day with a few shots at large permit, excited and now convinced that we could do this with nearly any fish. We had a few good shots but never came tight, and headed home.

Day Two:

We started early once again, this time spending some more time with them. I hooked two before I got the steel in one well, and in short order we had a nice fish next to the boat for the picture. While not a weight fish in a tournament, this would have been an easy release fish in any of the tournaments and John and I were happy to practice:

We stuck with the pons long enough to overstay our welcome, and ran through a rain storm to an area near where we were fishing for some permit shots. We found a single fish in the glare which spooked on a decent cast (I guess it wasn’t that decent), and stayed on in hopes of some inbound groups of permit. We found only a few scattered permit here, though there were plenty of large bonefish to keep us occupied. I hooked a few fish that were likely around 7 or 8 pounds on 2, and each broke off after their first run. When we ran out of 2 lb tippet we switched to four, and hooked another nice bonefish on the (now heavy feeling) 4 lb tippet. Had a large lemon shark not shown some interest in it, we may well have had a chance at catching this nice bonefish on 4 lb. As it was, when the shark showed up we showed some mercy and broke the fish off. Had the fish been on 12, we would have tired it out and been unable to break it off when the teeth arrived. As it was, the shark was unable to catch up with the still-green bonefish and sulked off into the depths when his prize got away.

While we were even more confident that we could catch any permit on 4 lb, we were also in very different territory as far as our needed number of pounds. The 2 lb record is 9 pounds, 8 ounces while the 4 lb record is 24 pounds even–decidedly different animals. We nonetheless went to where we have in the past found fish large enough to make our chosen stick, and plugged away through the glare in hopes of a shot. We saw a few tails, a single fish mudding, and by the end had not a single clean shot to show for our efforts. Clouds, it seems, are the most deadly enemy of permit on fly.

With that we called it a day. It’s worth noting that one of these two record will be a new focus of mine with John, and I can’t wait to get after it.

More to come, though the next fishing I have planned isn’t until the end of the month. If the past is any indication, however, I’ll find a way to sneak out before then.


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Nathaniel Linville

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