If you have ever spent much time sight fishing on the flats whether it be for Tarpon, Bonefish, Redfish or Permit, then you have spent a lot of time starring at the water sometimes while your shirt is about to be blown off your back. Staying focused, managing your fly line, while the clouds hover allowing very low vis you have a lot of time to think. Personally, I have thought many times what the hell am I doing and are these clouds ever going to break, is this wind ever going to die, or is my luck ever going to change! All of us that has spent much time on the bow of a skiff have had these thoughts, realizing how many things must come together in order to actually present the fly properly, get a good hook set, make sure your line is clear as it gets back on the reel and finally bringing a fish to hand.
On a recent trip to the Florida Keys I had absolutely the best Tarpon fishing that I had ever experienced when Keith Rose Innes (co-Owner of Alphonse Fishing Company) and I jumped 20 and landed 12 in just 2 hours with Capt. Joel Dickey. Once we started back to the dock, I thought this is why you keep coming back and starring in the water, these are the kind of days that can happen, but you often think never will. The next morning I met Capt. Zach Stells at the dock at 6:00 a.m. and lucky for me my fishing partner for the day had stayed out all night drinking and chasing a bartender and was in no shape to be on a boat much less fish! Zach and I headed out for hopefully another morning of successful Tarpon fishing, the bite was a bit slower and after a couple of hours I had jumped 3 and landed one. Zach made a recommendation to go try and catch some bonefish, and I was all about that because I really wanted to catch a bone on my Oyster Bamboo 9 wt. that I made last year for my 50th birthday. Maybe 10 minutes into poling and searching the flat I picked up a couple average size bonefish on my bamboo, when Zach asked do you want to go another flat and look for more bones, I looked at my watch and we had 4 hours left to fish and I said there is only one more species we need to seal the deal a Permit! We left our spot and Zach poled his butt off over 3 flats and we saw 1 sea turtle. At this point it’s time to start heading in and I told Zack I don’t guess it’s going to happen today and he said there is one more flat I want to check before we head in. As soon as Zach stepped up on the poling platform he and I saw what we thought was a Permit at about 200 ft down the flat making a push, as we got closer we could positively identify that this fish a very nice Permit. Zach put me into to position and my first cast was about 3 – 4 feet left of the fish and he never saw my fly. The fish started to swim away from us, but slowly Zach and I stayed focused and kept trying to get closer. I had a second chance and made a cast at about 60 feet and with the south wind I had a small bow in my line, the fly dropped a foot away and the Permit’s tail popped in the air and I continued to slowly strip until I felt a connection, which I never felt and the fish started to swim away slowly again! At this point I was about to have a heart attack and possibly have a bowel movement while standing on the casting platform! This fish gave me one more chance and we finally got back onto range and I dropped my 3rd cast at 70 ft. or so a foot from the fish again and this it time there was no mistaking getting an eat or not!!!! I set the hook and freaked out as I was trying to clear my line and get it on the reel! After about 20 minutes Zach reached over the port side gunwale and grabbed its tail and brought onto the skiff! If there was a boat in a 3 mile radius of Zach’s skiff they heard us both hollering and celebrating as if we were the next contestant on the Price is Right! What a feeling of accomplishment and gratitude! I was so thankful to Zach for his hard work and patience in helping me land this fish and achieving my first Grand Slam! We estimated the fish between 25 – 30 lb.s after accidentally kicking the boga grip off the back of the boat before we weighed it! So the next time you’re out there starring at the water thinking nothing is going your way or it will never happen; stay focused because persistence definitely pays off!
I am very fortunate to have landed this fish of a lifetime, but more importantly this fish was caught for my sister that I lost to cancer back in March this year! Deb this one was for you! She always dreamed of catching a Permit and catching one with me, unfortunately that never happened but I could see her smiling as I released this one! RIP Deb I love you!