Sometimes I think of smart things while fishing for permit. As I walk a beach-side flat for the fourth consecutive hour without seeing any fish, I start thinking of deep things – things I should have probably written down then and there. If only I’d had pen and paper.
BY ANDRE PEDERSEN
This year’s permit-trip was no different than all the previous ones. I had lots of time to think about how to act and sound like a pro – only to find out that, sometimes, the permit are the real pros. So, here are my thoughts from two weeks of getting skunked in Mexico.
The day fish followed all day long and I never came tight
From my experience, the permit you really want are the ones that decide what to do the very instant, they see your fly: The ones that act like jacks and come rushing in. They’re usually the ones that will eat your fly. Nothing is worse than “the thinkers” – the clever and suspicious ones that look at your fly from various angles, slow moving- left to right. In the end, these fish tend not to eat; either because you run out of line to retrieve or because they see you.
Even the ones that spook and scatter before the fly hits the surface are better than “the thinkers”. At least they don’t waste your time; time you could have spent casting at fish that are actually “catchable”.
The day I spooked them all
In any given school of fish there are typically a few that are more likely to chase and inhale your crab fly than all the others. If you can pull two or three fish out of the school, your odds of hooking up improve. If the one in the back is the only one that sees your fly, it’s very unlikely that it will leave the school to follow it – as there is safety in numbers. The ones in the middle are usually better.
Casting to the middle of a school of permit obviously involves the risk of spooking the whole school, so cast to the edge of the school instead. When done correctly, two or three permit might see your fly – maybe a few more. Having other fish by its side usually does something to a permit’s confidence. And it dramatically increases the chances of it grabbing your fly.
Casting to the guy in front is tempting, but it’s usually a rather bad idea. It increases the amount of fish that will, potentially, see your fly – but when that lead fish spooks (which it often does)…. Well, then the whole school will be gone along with it.
How to DIY in Yucatan
The Yucatan is hard wading. Traversing muddy flats on top of uneven limestone is exhausting to say the least. Good wading boots and even better ancles are mandatory.
The use of pack-rafts is a total game changer. I now use pack-rafts to effectively move between flats, across depressions, and through deep mangrove lakes and -channels – areas that have put me too close to crocodiles too many times. After less than an hour’s worth of fishing, you’ll realize how it’s a perfect gear, camera, and spare rod storage solution too.
Every angler that has ever been successful on a flat knows the hassle of getting a decent picture of that elusive 7-pound bonefish. The task of retrieving your camera (with a foggy lens) from the bottom of your moist roll-top when you’re half-a-kilometer from dry land – in butt cheek-deep water on a muddy flat – is daunting. Well, just pull the pack-raft in close using the rope around your waist. The camera is right there: Snug between your big fly box and an ice-chest with a couple of beers in it.
Not a numbers game
Everything must come together when fishing the beach side for permit. Especially when you’re on foot. Weather, wind, tides,… everything. The fish need to be in a “happy” mood too. They’re far in between – the days when the permit fishing is “ON”, but such days do occur – and when they do, you should fish from dusk till dawn. Dinner can wait. The next day will probably bring deteriorating weather, so keep at it until dark. Or at least until you’re unable to see the crocodiles, jaguars, or cartels lurking ominously around.
There are countless cool species to catch in the Caribbean. If the permit have gone incognito, just leave them and catch something else. Triggerfish, boxfish, bonefish, barracuda, snook, pufferfish, jacks, and tarpon can all be found on the flats. They’re all a hundred times easier to catch, but they all offer different types of interesting challenges – along with a welcome break from the masochism and heartbreak of permit fishing.
Personally, I think the barracuda is a very underrated fish on the fly. The jack too!