Big Permit on the Fly!

by | Nov 12, 2018 | fly fishing for permit | 3 comments

Turneffe Flats LodgeGranny and I awoke to another gorgeous sunrise here at Turneffe Flats Lodge in Belize.  At 5:30 AM we were sipping coffee on our deck overlooking the lodge flat.  In my younger years I’d have been on the flat fishing but I’m more relaxed these days – saving energy to execute later in the day.

 

flyfishing for parrotfishWe fished with Alton again.  He announced it was a good day for permit and we began where I nearly hooked the permit yesterday afternoon.  The permit wasn’t around but some magnificent rainbow parrotfish were.  If you’ve read this blog for years than you’ve seen me go bananas over the monster bumphead parrots of Farquhar.  Today I reacted no different and got the lead fish to eat my crab only for the hook to pull seconds later.  Landing him would’ve have been doubtful but man I’d loved the chance to try.

 

flyfishing BelizeWe saw a few permit but they wouldn’t cooperate.  Eventually we reached a flat covered in bonefish.  Granny and Alton waded out to them and today the ghosts of the flats were hungry.

 

 

bonefishing in BelizeWading the flats catching bonefish is as fun as it gets.  With bright sun and clear skies Granny found spotting the bonefish to be easy and went on to catch a few.

 

French gruntThis was a narrow flat and had I meandered towards the bones I’d likely have messed up Granny’s fishing.  Instead I waded towards the end of the flat where just off the edge was a garden of coral heads.  Drop a crab or Clouser along these and you’re guaranteed to hook all kinds of fun fish.  I managed a small grouper, several dog snapper and a colorful new species, the French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum) or perhaps a pigfish (Orthopristis chrysoptera).  Any help would be appreciated!

 

flyfishing Turneffe Atoll BelizeAfter lunch Alton took us to Big Flat.  Its one of the largest flats on all of Turneffe and a stunning example of a fly fishers dream flat.  Its known to hold some of the best permit fishing on the atoll and it didn’t take long to spot one.

 

bar jack in BelizeI took a deep breath then launched my cast.  I landed a bit further ahead of the fish than I’d have liked but went tight anyhow.  Only it wasn’t the permit.  Often times permit travel with body guards and this bar jack took me out of the game.  The permit spooked during the jack fight so I took the time to snap a photo of this pretty little character.

 

flyfishing for permitI’m getting better at permit fishing despite the jack interception.  Already this year I’ve landed two.  Both were yellow permit while at St. Brandon’s Atoll.  The first trick I’ll share is be ready.  Start by getting your line out and in tangle-free order by making a long cast.  After your long cast pull a few more arm lengths of line because often we cast further in the heat of the moment.  Then strip in into a neat pile.

 

Next, when you see a permit make a cast so that the permit sees your fly.  Don’t cast behind them and don’t lead them too much and expect them to find your crab fly.  Permit seem to have a viewing window of about five feet.  Cast your fly so it lands a foot in front of the fish and then you know he sees the fly and you may not hook the body guard that’s five feet in front.

 

permit fliesOften times landing a heavy crab near a permit spooks them away.  Don’t feel sad if it happens.  If you spook the permit at least you landed your fly close enough he saw it.  AND, don’t give up because they often come back.  I let my fly sink as I would have had the permit not spooked.  Often times the permit spooks by running only 20 feet then comes back to see what it was.  The jumbo permit I caught in the Bahamas last year did exactly this.

 

flyfishing for permitIf you’re lucky enough to have a permit come look at your fly, now is time to move it correctly.  While there’s no perfect presentation there is a method that works best.  Let your fly sink to bottom.  If the permit moves to it leave it and see if he tips on it and pins it to bottom like they would a real crab.  Strip ever so slowly and if you feel tension strip-set IMMEDIATELY.  Permit can spit a fly so fast your head will spin.  If you feel nothing keep that strip going about two feet then stop and watch to see if the permit follows.  If so, let it sink again and see if he pins it again.  Then same thing again over and over till you get him or spook him or run out of line.

 

If the permit loses interest and leaves or you suspect he doesn’t see the fly, give it a few hard strips.  Get the attention of the permit.  They may come running.  But if not, its time to cast again.

 

Jeff Currier flyfishing for permitThis afternoon at 2:15 PM our permit luck came right.  As Alton poled, I spotted a pair of big permit.  I made my cast and my fly landed a foot in front of them.  Fulfilling my dreams, the larger of the two was so excited he ate my fly as it sank.  It happened so fast I wasn’t sure, but without second guessing I strip set and he was there.  Last but not least, when you hook a big permit hang on!

 

Jeff Currier flyfishing BelizeI had a ton of line loose on the deck because I hooked this permit at only about 50 feet away.  As he bolted, I danced to keep the line from tangling under my feet.  It’s a great feeling when the line clears and the drag of my Bauer starts singing.  In less than ten seconds this fish was (without exaggeration) 100 feet into my backing!

 

While some permit anglers prefer a 10-weight I’m good with my Winston Salt Air 9-weight.  Angle your rod correctly during battle.  Don’t get it too high and bent and whatever you do, don’t point it at the fish.

 

This permit tried everything in the book to free itself.  After his long run failed his escape, he began rubbing his face on the bottom trying to dislodge my crab.  It was dreadful to watch but the fly stayed stuck.  Then he did what every big fish does and that was shake his head side to side violently.  It was a hectic fight the first ten minutes.  I thought this mighty permit was going to get away.

 

permit fishingI kept the pressure on while Granny and Alton cheered.  After the insane first ten minutes I got my fly line back on the reel.  After another ten minutes then I had the permit by the boat.  Alton had two instances where he tailed the garbage lid sized permit but he dropped him both times.  Tailing a permit of this size isn’t easy to do but it has to be done on first try or disaster can happen.  Luckily it didn’t.

 

Jeff Currier flyfishing for permitIt was try number three that Alton got two hands around the tail.  We had our permit!  This is no doubt my biggest and while Alton thought 25lbs I thought more like 18lbs so we’ve rounded him off at an even 20lbs.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter.  All I know is I’m finally starting to catch permit with regularity after years of struggles.

 

permit on the flyIt was near 3 before we started fishing again.  We took pics.  I let Granny release him and then Granny and I celebrated with a Belikin.  It’s a special time after you catch a permit and my last advice is – enjoy it!

 

Lo and behold, as we downed our last sip, a huge tail emerged in the distance.  I wade guided Granny after this tremendous permit and she got two very good casts to him but he wouldn’t eat.  It got Granny’s heart beating though – let me tell ya!

 

permit releaseGranny and I will move on to a different guide tomorrow.  We had a fantastic time with Alton and he did a fine job guiding us.  I wanted to thank him with more than just a cash tip so I drew a permit in his Pelican camera case in celebration of the awesome fish he guided me to.

 

permit artwork by Jeff CurrierChristmas is around the corner.  DON’T FORGET my Online Store has gifts for the angler that has everything!  I have painted over 60 species of fish now available on my coffee mugs and frosted beer steins.  There’re also my new Solar Flex shirts in both men’s and women’s.  AND my growing collection of fish decals can be purchased on Amazon.

Be sure to keep track of my upcoming travels around the world!

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3 Comments

  1. Lance

    Congrads!! And thanks for sharing your advise on how you present your fly to these great fish! Helpful… Turneffe Flats is such a great place, I got my first ever taste of saltwater fishing there as well and can’t get enough since then!
    Thanks Jeff

  2. Jeff

    You bet Lance. Hope to see you in Denver soon.

  3. Mark Cooper

    Congrats buddy GREAT fish!!!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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