The last two days, I fished with John O’Hearn. The first day, we were joined by Captain John Benvenuto, the second half of our Cuda Bowl team. With overcast conditions and light wind, we were left with not much to do besides cover water in hopes of catching a few on blind casts. I was up first and, in short order, caught a small 32″ fish that we released. I missed another bite on my next few shots. Then John B got on the bow and fished for a while. Despite a few good opportunities, John was unable to capitalize on the fish we had done so well with last year. We traded shots in the deteriorating conditions. While we were sidetracked briefly by a school of skittish permit, for the most part we covered water over light spots, looking for a barracuda to play with. I kept working in the afternoon as the light got worse, and in the last spot, we saw a large ‘cuda take off from our shadow down-light. I cast over it, and while this fish didn’t eat the fly another one did. In short order, we had the fish to the boat, a 41 inches that would score well in next week’s tournament. John snapped a picture of the capture and the grin it created:
After that we left for home, with the beginnings of a plan for the Cuda Bowl.
Dave Dalu was unable to come with so John and I set forth just us. We bounced around some edges looking for permit, and while we didn’t see any we did see a fair number of barracuda. I unpacked the cuda rod from the gunwale, and in a few casts was tight to a fish that we measured at just under 40 inches. With no wind and great light our prospects of catching a permit seemed poor, but we took a hard look nonetheless. At our first spot we found a large school of fish in heavy current, and my second cast landed in the zone. As the heavy current began to move the fly laterally across the bar, I came tight to a fish. Even with a long strip I was unable to make the hook bury before it was ejected. Sad stuff, but par for this particular course.
Later (after a tide change), we were again confronted with a school of mudding permit into which we lobbed a crab fly. The cast was on point, and as the fly swung through the puffs of mud, I came tight. I set the hook like I was making a point in an argument, and the line slipped through my hands and came tight to the reel. I wound on the reel to make the fish run, and when it did a nearby shark gave chase. I told John to start the motor (politely, and totally calmly I promise…) to prevent the shark from getting our permit, and as he did I noticed the fish had stopped running. The fish was now coming at us, and John wondered out loud if this may in fact not be what we hoped it to be. I was convinced it was a permit, and when it swam by the bow I was looking for nothing but a black fork to prove my point. Instead of black, however, I saw yellow: a large yellowtail snapper had eaten the fly instead of a permit, and at nearly 20 inches he was big enough to confuse us for enough time that we gave chase. Now the school of permit was scattered, our hopes dashed, and we released the snapper with a disappointed huff.
We still had permit shots after the Yellowtail Incident, but they were all of sub-par quality. Note to self: before you start the motor and blow the school out, make darn sure it’s a permit. Especially in a tournament.
With that our permit fishing was over, though we continued to look for a shot. We found some large barracuda, again near where John and I fished last year, and made some mental notes to revisit those places next week. The barracuda were seemingly uncatchable: even 50-foot leads caused them to shy away from the line as it landed. We found a small group of baby tarpon on the way home, and had one hard look at the fly (along with a permit shot with a tarpon fly) before we called it a day and headed in.
Next week is the Cuda Bowl, and after that I will be in the Everglades with Steve Huff for 3 days in pursuit of the six. Reports (and, hopefully, some sort of success from either of these two ventures) will follow, along with pictures.
More to come,