Yesterday I fished with Captain Justin Rea. Joining us was Dave Dalu. Given that the tarpon fishing in the lower Keys has been slim, and that Dave and Justin were excited to do something else, we elected to look for permit.
As it was, the conditions were quite perfect with one (giant) exception: the clouds, that kept us in the dark for the better part of the day. As we waited for a large cloud bank to clear in the morning we staked off near some white sand for a shot at an early tarpon before the permit fishing began in earnest.
As soon as the cloud cover lifted and we went shallow, we spotted a tailing fish and I hopped out to wade after it. It’s worth noting that at this point it would have been nice to remember that my wallet was in my back pocket, but that’s far from the point. As it was I didn’t hook the permit, that refused to give up a good shot and eventually blew out when I lined it.
Following this we left for a flat nearer to Key West, where Justin found a small area that was full of life–including permit. We were soon on the way to a pair of tails that we had seen, and while I was ready to cast at them from the bow I was delayed by a few bonefish that crept between us and the permit. Ever the fan of a bird in the hand I tossed the permit fly at them and came tight to a bonefish, quietly getting out of the boat and dealing with the consequences while Dave and Justin went into permit mode on the skiff. Depsite the fact that they had to tie on a fly to Dave’s permit rod, the fish stayed in range and Dave (no surprise) fired off a great cast at the pair of fish under pressure. From my perspective I was quite sure it would work out, especially when I saw where the cast landed. It didn’t (perhaps, in the fly fishing for permit game, no surprise either), and Dave was able to get a second toss their way before they ran into my fly line and bolted. The bonefish that I had hooked was on his way back to the boat, bringing with him the rest of his friends, and Dave nearly hooked one as they passed. As it was, I was joined by Justin in the water for an easy release and photograph:
It’s relevant to mention that the fly that was tied on quickly for the permit shot may have been the reason Dave didn’t get the bite–it was rescued under duress from the graveyard foam of the console.
We were still cloud-covered, though we managed to get through a few hours of it by eating lunch on tide change and spending some time tarpon fishing. I had a shot at a few singles before the sun came out and we moved to places different.
Dave was up at this point, and we had a school of tarpon to keep him on point within a few minutes of our arrival. He had a couple shots at them before they became intolerant of our behavior, and he switched to a permit rod as the sun came out. There were still a number of tarpon around, and as soon as the permit rod was deployed the tarpon rod came back out, this time in pursuit of a large school of large tarpon. Dave’s first few casts were ignored, but on his fourth or fifth presentation he elicited one of the greatest bites I’ve seen, highlighted with a head out of the water up to the pectoral fins. In its excitement the fish was unable to actually get the fly in its mouth, which prevented a continued aerial display, but we all agreed that the bite was worth the price of admission by its own virtues and continued on towards the permit that were beginning to populate the flat we were on. I was up next, and the permit were beginning to show up in good numbers. I had perhaps five shots, only one of which landed in the proper place, and did not hook a fish. Dave was up next, and had a number of fantastic shots at fish that seemed interested. Four times, he threw the fly, and three times we were all convinced that the fish ate it. Fur times, despite adaptive and relaxed responses from Dave, we were not tight. It’s worth noting that this is permit fishing–ever difficult, totally consuming, and completely unfair. I had a few shots on the way home, one of which was at a very large permit, and another at a pair of fish that wouldn’t commit.
I’d like to thank Justin Rea for delivering a seriously compelling day chasing permit, and Dave (as always) for keeping it classy on the bow.
Tomorrow I’m after tarpon with Bruce Chard and Adam Tondu.