"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 faster...no...slower." "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."
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.
One cast can change your day...maybe your life.