There were a couple changes when we woke up at 4 AM today here in Belize. First and foremost, I felt much better. Thank God! Second, when we left Belize Permit Camp dock at 4:30 am, instead of the temperature being in the 50°s like each morning so far, it was 66°.
Skies remained hidden beyond a thick layer of clouds and the wind still blew from the north at around 20 mph. But the rise in temperature was key. Immediately we saw permit and at 8 am I dropped my fly a foot from a hefty waving permit tail. Like magic the permit seized my fly but in less than ten seconds of his run, he severed my leader on coral. Wil Flack reached into his Yeti and handed me an early morning Belikin while I examined my leader and announced, “Progress in the right direction”.
We expected good things to continue but the tailing permit chances disappeared. The only permit we saw were cruisers underwater. The wind howled and the clouds remained dense. Sight fishing was a challenge. Instead of spotting these permit 100 feet out allowing me a chance to cast, we were continuously ambushed at close range – spotting them and spooking them at the same time. But in permit fishing you keep trying and eventually we got lucky.
Wil spotted three big permit 30 feet away and they were oblivious to us. I saw the permit as Wil pointed them out. I made the short cast and the largest of the three fish lifted from the bottom.
Every so often a fish paints an everlasting impression. This permit rose to the crab fly like a trout rising to a stonefly. I could see right down this permits crab-crushing throat. I set the hook and cleared my line as it sizzled from the deck.
Chaos is the best way to describe a hook up with a big permit. The most dangerous hurdle is clearing loose fly line. So many times line jumps from the deck and raps on something. This could be your own feet but most often it’s the butt of the fly rod. But we survived step one. In seconds I was deep in the backing and Wil was poling after the permit like an Olympian.
While we survived the first dangers of the permit fishing process, now we had to land him by avoiding all the obstacles along the way. Permit are one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea. Things seemed well this round. This permit ran off the flat away from the dangers of jagged coral. Cheers from Wil and Tayler filled the air. But I saw a bad development. This clever permit was making an about face back to the flat. Back to the coral heads.
The permits change of direction forced me to reel like wildfire. I gained back my backing and once I was straight to the fish again I could see his plan. He’d run directly through a coral field. I eased my tension and Wil put down his pole and fired up the engine. We raced to the scene.
The permit was well past this coral and still on. I flipped my fly line loose of the coral. I’m sure it was nicked up but my leader must not have touched. We were lucky, but then the permit, who was now in backing again raged through the next group of corals. This time he got me. My line went limp. “****!”, echoed through the boat.
Me and the boys were feeling bleak after that one but agreed, the permit were hungry and there was no time to waste. It was after 3 pm and our boat rides home had been bad enough this week with the high wind. We didn’t need to try it after dark.
Wil thought it was safe if we left for home at 4. The problem however, we found a school of tailing permit at 3:55. Like any sane anglers we ignored the time and went to work.
One permit lost is tolerable. But two in one day? The reality hurt. But it could all be forgotten with a miracle here. These permit were patient. I got a dozen casts right too them without them spooking. The tails would go down for a couple minutes but back up they would come and we’d track them down. At 4:30 I connected!
There was coral everywhere. Things didn’t look good. The best attack when you hook up around coral is don’t apply too much pressure and hold your rod high. I had my Winston so high in the air I was on my tippy toes. It worked!
A hectic three minutes of battle went on and this permit zipped away from the coral and headed for the ocean. Like twice earlier today, we cheered. I was near my backing and this permit was straight down below the boat in 70 feet of water. I had my work cut out but I was eager to begin the tug a war.
This was a big permit and I took my time. I reeled my rod tip to the water and lifted a foot at a time. Five more minutes went by when the horror happened. The fly came loose.
There’s few words to describe the feeling of the hook pulling from a permit. Frustrating. Maddening. Infuriating. But there are no words for losing your third of the day. Needles to say, it was a long boat ride home.
We’ll be back at it tomorrow. Hours later I’ve excepted todays bad luck. But I’m confident for tomorrow. Rumor has it the sun will finally appear. We should see plenty more permit. And now I know I can get them to eat.