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Eddie 08-15-2003 09:48 AM

"Ughh...pick it up", my Mexican guide sighed in disgust. It was my first cast on my first trip to the flats. I had missed a school of bones by 10', and they had swum off. Out of habit, and not knowing any better, I continued to strip the Charlie.
"Pick it up." I felt a bump, and a wriggle. I had hooked some thing and hand lined the little fish in.
"What's that, a Pompano?", I asked. It was as big as my hand.
"A permit.", the guide said.
"That doesn't count."
"Oh, it counts, you'll be telling this story for the rest of your life."
Permit are tough to catch on a fly. Picky, paranoid, and hard to find. On a good day, some say you would be lucky to get eight shots at tailing fish. Lead the fish by too much, and the fish might never even see it. Worse yet, the fly sinks and snags on the bottom. Put it on their head and they will jump out of their skin leaving a rooster tail trailing off the flat. Get it just right, and the permit will more than likely ignore your offering untill you spook him.
Then come the theories: "I should put on a shrimp next time." "Maybe a seven weight would be better?." "I guesse 15' leader isn't long enough." "It must be the moon...or the tide." "They heard the boat...and the the coral under our feet." I should strip" "Not enough wind." Yeah, more wind. That's the ticket.
Some anglers have fished hard for them for years and never caught one. For a few unfortunate souls, they represent the Holy Grail of the flats. An angler caught up in permit fever is more than a little unpleasant to be around. "How was the trip to Cuba?"
"It sucked. Tarpon and big bones everywhere, but we didn't get into any permit."
"Oh...that's a...shame."
Del Brown had caught over five hundred of them. He fished as much as 100 days a year in the Keys,and he kept it simple. Never stripped off more than 50' of line, and only fished his Merkin fly. Having Capt. Steve Huff on the pole helped too.
So much for the theories. This is the solution: Opportunity + Presentation - Bad Luck = Permit. Simple as that. As I have found, good luck can trump bad.
With regards to opportunity, While Del's 500 + permit is an impressive achievement, I think that more incredible was that he lived in California, and managed to fish hundreds of days in the Keys. His wife should be on the fast track as the patron saint of saltwater fishermen.
So, with all of this on my mind, I left my young family for six days of fishing in Belize.
For Permit. Exclusively.

Dble Haul 08-15-2003 10:17 AM

Great post Eddie. I hope you get what you're looking for.

Adrian 08-15-2003 05:26 PM

Yeah - go git 'em Eddie

So, for another questionable theory I read somewhere that permit are total suckers when the light levels drop - early a.m. and late p.m. - "...hit just like smallmouth bass ..."

Hmmm, I'm really not too sure about that theory but hey - they made a sucker out of me enough times.... :rolleyes:

Those "margaritas grandes" make a great antidote to the permit fever. :D

Eddie 08-15-2003 06:14 PM

"hit like smallmouth bass" huh?
sounds good to me. I'm aleady back from my trip. I just got tired writing.

mcutchin 08-15-2003 06:54 PM


Nice work. As Del Brown once said to me when he caught a rather small permit: "It's still a permit."

Besides that, you've already discovered that the real reason we chase permit is to go to beautiful places. You've already entered the "big time" if you get that part right, and that's what led Del to spend so much time fishing for them, IMHO.


JWW 11-09-2003 10:38 AM

Ascension bay?
Eddie did you go to Ascension bay?
I was in Placencia last june and we spent one day hunting for permit. I did not have any luck, but our Guide Egbert put us on several fish. A more experienced, competent angler probably would have caught one. Anyway, Placencia is an ideal place if you are interested in Permit.

Eddie 11-09-2003 04:14 PM

A more experienced, competent angler probably would have caught one...
...or probably not...:)

Rick J 11-11-2003 02:35 PM

Spent a few days a year ago July in Isla Blanca (north of Cancun). The draw was mostly small tarpon to 25#'s but got hooked on chasing the permit. All the flies I had were crab patterns and relatively heavily weighted. Most all the permit we saw were trailing rays. The heavy flies invariably spooked the fish when you put it on their head. The third day the guide's son acted as our guide. He had a very small (#8) unweighted crab pattern using felt, mono eyes, rubber legs and epoxy. (He was an exceptional fly tier!!) Put that right on the permit's head and it barely caused a splash and they hammered the thing. Nothing big but my brother hooked his first permit on a fly, around 8#, and it promply ripped off at least 200 yards of backing!!! He is sure hooked for life!

Last day we both hooked but did not land slams. Very cool place to fish!!

SDHflyfisher 11-20-2003 09:18 PM

i might want to take my brother with me to fish for bones and permit
he used to fish but stopped because "the fish are too small" the only fishing he wants to do is offshore for marlin andthe such he's a big computer junky and is going to college to be an architec
that might just be the way to get him to go

this will be in the far future

i've always been fasinated with bones and permit

Rick J 11-21-2003 08:51 AM

I would highly recommend Isla Blanca - the trip was very reasonable - guides and lodging at a great place in Cancun was $1750 for 2 - 4 days, 5 nights. So that was $875 plus air fare, food and tips!!

SDHflyfisher 11-21-2003 02:07 PM


The French guy 02-06-2004 10:21 AM

permit myth...
I have not caught a permit yet... but I had many shots at them last year and this year (over 40).
I flyfish in Florida (Biscayne Bay) and from now until March bonefishing and permit fishing will be hot.
Last year, I tried the Merkin and followed advices given to me by Del Brown through Dan Blanton's Email (the guy was allergic to Emails).
I presented the fly correctly 80% of the time. I had the permit rushed to it and then I was waiting... sometimes more than 1 minute... which seemed to be an eternity.
Anyway, they refused my refusal by ignoring the fly, or I spooked them when trying a little twitch.
Wow they are picky... considering I catch a fair number of bones each year and nearly at least one for each half day of fishing... My main problem is probably the lack of experience with permits.
See, for bones, it took me some times to understand how they move and what is the eating mood of the day... Once you have all figured it out, they are really easy as you tune your presentation, stripping and fly according to their behavior... nothing more.
Now, for permits, this is another story...
The fish is so easy to catch on wrecks that they would eat a popper... In the surf they are easy too... and would eat a streamer... (According to the guys I fish with. most of them are guides).
Now, on the flats, they are not easy... but not spookier than a bonefish. Try to cast to a bonefish 3-4 times without spooking it... For permits, I could present the fly many times... switch flies and the permit would not spook, but would come and look at my offering... So, getting the fly to them is not that tough finally.

The problem is all in the retrieve and to read their behavior.
Here are the ideas:

1- when they are tailing like crazy, they are more easy to catch and presenting a crab dropped at less than a foot will generally do the job... (unfortunately, the flat I fish does not hold tailing permits). The Merkin would do the job, but a permit would not take it if it is not moving. The trick told by a friend (guide) who caught a lot of permits is that once the permit has seen it, you should drag the fly slowly on the bottom by 5" and then stop... wait and do it again.

2- when they are cruising on the edges of the channels, it is better to strip the fly. Bob Branham has his own ideas on this and I witnessed the success of his epoxy fly stripped in the current with a pulsating action. The permit generally takes when the fly reaches the boat. Bob says: "permits are not difficult on fly. The no retrieve thing is total bullsh*t. You cannot immitate a crab with a fly as it has no scent... You need to move the fly to make it alive and fool a permit. Permits are a little bit more difficult on fly than bones, but not much. The difficulty is to spot them in great number. They are a more rare than bones that is it. They are just jacks and by stripping the fly, you will wake up this jack instinct. They hit hard you know..."

This is another sentence suggested by a guide: Del (Brown) had more money than anyone to go fishing. He fished with the best guides more than 100 days a year. He had everything he wanted to facilitate his task and get a permit on fly. The merkin is a good crab immitation but with no retrieve the permit will not likely eat it. Del's method is good if you have many opportunities a day." This guide has caught lots of permit on his permit rat fly... with lots of 4 per tide...

Just some ideas about permit fishing and from the information I got from the Internet and friends. They are just fish. There is a learning curve with permits.


JWW 02-06-2004 10:12 PM

Serge: you seem to have a lot of insight on permit for someone who has never landed one. The keys are well known for having Big Permit but as far as i understand the shots are limited. Perhaps you should plan a trip to a well known permit spot. One that has many small permit and will offer you lots of decent attemps at them such as Punta Gorda, Belize. Although permit will always be the holy grail in FF i bet that wants you haev caught a few and cracked the code you will see your numbers steadily increase back home. How else can Dell Merkin have caught 200 permit during his life. He cracked the code he understood how they feed and react. If you only had a shot or 2 at a bonefish every couple of weeks as opposed to every day you probably would also have difficulty catching them. You better Belize it!

mcutchin 02-07-2004 05:59 AM

Actually Del caught 513 permit on fly.

Capt. Mel Simpson 02-07-2004 11:47 AM


Del Brown spent many years fishing 200 days a year chasing Permit with some of the best guides in the world, I would say that he caught over 500, (he said) by mostly being persistant.

I've hooked quite a few permit in Southern Belize and it still ain't easy to land them even tho they are usually pretty small.

As far as the Keys fishing goes, for Permit and Bonefish, those are BIG FISH and like all big fish they are tough. So often I hear people try to compare the schoolie fish of Mexico, Belize or the Bahamas to the Keys, but there just is no comparison, big fish are just a whole different world.

I would say for successful fishing there really arn't many secrets you just have to put in a lot of time doing it. And for those of us that prefere big fish; British Columbia Steelhead, Homosassa Tarpon, Keys Bonefish and Permit, you gotta put in alot of time to land a few.


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