If it wasn’t for Gerhard’s nice Indo-Pacific permit catch yesterday I’d have been tempted to make today “The hunt for the 10lb bonefish”. But he got it done which meant I needed to buckle down yet again and give the yellow permit my best shot. I took a good look at my crab flies then had Gerhard pick me a lucky one to start the day.
I fished with Gerhard today as well. Our guide was Brendan whom I fished with on the first day. We made short run to a flat I fished two days ago. It’s exactly where Ben caught his permit.
There’s been a change in the weather. We had a 4 AM rain. It stopped by the time we got up but there were threats all around us. Distant storms make for spectacular back drops for flats fishing photography.
As usual there were bonefish when we started. I hung loose waiting for my menacing permit. Gerhard was permit fishing also but wasn’t afraid to tag a bonefish here and there. The strange thing however was that the bonefish were noticeable edgy. Most days this week you could drop a heavy crab fly a few feet ahead of one and the bone would crush it. Not today. They were crazy spooky so you had to lead them by at least ten feet or they blew up!
Despite the weariness factor, the bones are always catchable. Gerhard knocked a few and eventually, I had a 7lber swim by. At first I remained on point for a permit but then said screw it and snuck down the flat ahead of him and caught him. One must keep the skills from getting rusty. We’ll call it, permit practice.
Four hours hunting slowly searching for a permit ended with Gerhard and I each getting one mediocre at best opportunity. The permit simply aren’t cooperating. At noon we ate some lunch then hit a flat called Hermans.
I walked the finger shaped flat with Brendan and a huge permit came to the edge but never up on the flat. Because he was patrolling the deep edge of the flat he was nearly impossible to see. I got a cast in the vicinity but miracles don’t happen with permit.
That was the only permit we saw in two hours on Hermans. Brendan went for the boat and was going to pick me up to save me the walk. Gerhard who was on another flat headed for the boat as well. He saw nothing. Ten minutes went by and just as I heard Brendan start the motor to come retrieve me I saw something.
Far off (300 yds.) to my left a large shape appeared. Hermans is close to where I cast to the tiger shark on Day 1. While most sharks are nothing to worry about a 10-foot tiger is. They are true man-eaters. Without thinking twice, I headed for higher ground – hoping Brendan would meet me along the way so I could get in the boat.
Naturally I didn’t take my eye off the shape and soon realized it wasn’t a shark. I thought it could be a ray (now 200 yds. away) and instead of retreating I went towards it hoping perhaps a permit was hanging with it like they often do.
At 100 yds. away I recognized the animal. This was a gigantic giant trevally! I almost always carry a GT rod with me on the flats and had been all day. But the second rod can be annoying so I stupidly gave it to Brendan when he went for the boat. By now he was close with the boat and I screamed, “GT!”
You want to see a FlyCastaway guide go into action – “GT” is the magic word. Brendan had my 12-weight Winston flying through the air to me so fast that I just dropped my 9-weight for him. I caught my 12 in midair and went into a sprint across the flat, up on to an island then back to the water in a channel where I expected the GT to be headed.
I stripped line off my reel so fast I have line cuts in my fingers tonight. That can happen when you have the drag cranked on your Bauer Reel. I didn’t feel a damn thing because by now I knew my prediction of the GT’s movement was 100% correct. I was just in time!
Fish the size of barndoors do cause havoc to anglers. I launched the sloppiest 80ft cast of my life. It landed far from tight so it required a few strips to straighten the line and leader. The GT was about 75ft from my fly. When I stripped to sort my cast my fly jerked straight ever so slightly. Incredibly, that’s enough to get the attention of one of the oceans most fierce predators. The giant headed for my fly at mock speed!
One thing you learn in over 40 years of fly fishing is what your good at and what you’re not. I am not good when standing waist deep in the water stripping a huge fly with a 12-weight in hand with a 60lb fish chasing at 40 mph. Basically, watching such an event unfold causes me about a 99% chance to **** it up. My trick is DON’T LOOK!
Once I knew the GT was after my fly I looked down, crouched down and stripped long and as fast as I humanly could. On an 80ft cast that’s about 25 strips before hitting the leader and I was praying to go tight long before that.
Even without looking I knew the GT was following because I could hear the cheers from my friends watching. Each strip seemed in slow motion and on every strip with such a fish you have an unexplainable excited-fear rushing through your veins. It must be experienced to truly understand.
When a GT chases something at 40 mph his body raises above the surface of the water. So much so that his eye can be seen. He’s not just completely dry by any means. Actually, his speed and shape of his mean face and forehead create like a shield of water all around his protruding body. This you must see to believe!
Shockingly, I reached that 25 strips mark without going tight. That caused me to look up. The flash of GT that I saw from barely a rod length away will stay firmly etched in my memory forever. In fact, if I ever lose my mind, I won’t forget this.
For some sad reason the GT didn’t like my fly but followed it till the end. He got so close, that he basically ran into me. I looked up just in time to see the oversized jack put the brakes on. His head was a foot across. With his pectoral fins extended used as his brakes he easily appeared 3ft wide. His predator eyes were completely focused on me. We both panicked. I stood up as if to defend myself. The GT went into a sideways skid tossing his shield of water all around me. Then once he got his traction to retreat he headed off leaving a race boat like rooster tail.
There’s one thing I left out on my list of goals for this trip. That’s “come home with a forever memory”. I may not have caught that GT but I certainly got the best of the experience. Memory made.
I hadn’t noticed but a massive storm cell was close. Brendan wanted to hit Bacardi Flat before the storm. We got in the boat and I popped a Phoenix for the short ride.
We got to Bacardi only minutes before the skies let loose. Gerhard and I jumped out so we could walk at least some flat before the storm. I must admit I was still thinking about the GT and hardly noticed the dark clouds over our heads.
Then it hit. First were those big random freezing cold rain drops. Then it picked up. You could hear the tropical rain as it approached. It was so drenching it sounded like we were getting close to a waterfall.
We hunkered down for a few minutes but it wouldn’t let up. The worst part of this situation is when your sunglasses get covered with water drops. It’s hard to sight fish. We took our glasses off and made a short walk in hopes of spotting a tailing permit but no luck.
We left Bacardi at 3 and the heavy rain continued. I could see the other boats heading for the lodge in the distance. I dug out my yellow lens Costas and pulled the bill of my hat down tight to keep them dry and looked at Brendan. He’s a sporty fish hunting 24-year-old and without speaking smiled and we headed to one more flat. We ended up fishing it hard till 4:30 in the rain but caught nothing more than a few pompano and too many undersized spangled emperors.
When we got back to the lodge I opted to take a walk around the island. You never know right? It was still pouring and I was already soaked. I didn’t see a dang thing but I enjoyed myself immensely. You don’t get to fish in a warm rain much back in Idaho.
When I showed up at the lodge just at dark, the guys were partying and having a good time. They welcomed me in with a cold beer and saved me some scrumptious fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi. I didn’t even take my wet clothes off. I dove into the party.
There was some celebration as well. First of all, Andy, one of the other clients, caught a golden trevally. I’ve only caught one of these and mine came in Dubai with my friend Nick Bowles. Mine was big and outgrew most of his stripes. Andy’s golden was one of nature’s finest.
Ben and Scott went dredging today – something I love to do at Farquhar. Overall their luck was fair at best, but it only takes one fish. Ben caught this insane looking surgeon fish. The odd-looking fish is being called a unicorn surgeon but I’m not so sure. No doubt his body shape is correct for this species but where’s the unicorn? I’ll check on this when I get home.
It’s been another great day at St Brandon’s Atoll here in Mauritius. Time for me to join the party. We have two more days of fishing. . . .