Sunday – Monday, December 5 & 6
Since Terry and I had fished Salinas already our gear was ready and waiting for us when we arrived at the Salinas Ranchon. We helped Mike and Steve with gear set up and then headed out with Juan Carlos to see if there were any permit around. We headed west to an area I have fished and caught permit at before.
It didn’t take long to find the bonefish.
Juan Carlos put us in some challenging situations knowing that Terry and I appreciate difficult situations when landing bonefish. We had chances at barracuda and sharks, which Terry really enjoys. As we got into the permit areas we had some exceptional chances.
The big challenge was as the day progressed the conditions completely flattened out. The area was devoid of wind and the water was completely flat. Most of the time wind is not a friend to fly fishers but we sure could have used some this day. We could see permit “pushing water” 200 meters away but approaching them was very difficult. Regardless Juan Carlos did an excellent job of getting us as many shots as we could.
I was on deck and I had my 6wt bonefish rod with a lightly weighted fly ready to go as we were going through an area that was shallow. We came around a mangrove corner and saw a push of water from what looked to be a school of bones. I made a quick cast in front of them. They didn’t bite but they spooked slightly and all of us saw that it was a school of small permit with their fins tucked in. I made another quick cast into the school and started stripping the bonefish fly quickly in hopes of triggering the “jack response” in the small permit. Sure enough it worked! It was a small permit (salad plate size) but it didn’t matter. No great fish-fight story, but a day full of bones, ‘cuda, snapper, and multiple permit shots was an excellent way to start the fishing week.
On Monday, the brothers decided to fish together which allowed Terry and I to each fish solo for the day. Terry headed off to the “boca’s” and the outside, and I headed west again with my old friend Manolo who has guided in Salinas for 25 years.
We made it to the fishing area by 9:30 and were immediately greeted by black waving flags. There is nothing that gets me jazzed up more than a group of permit happily wagging their tails eating away.
This day of permit fishing will go down in my memory as one of the best ever for me. Manolo made the boat go so quietly and taught me where to stand on the deck to cut down on hull slap noise, highlighting that you can always learn something new out there. There was a slight breeze – just the right amount to disturb the surface but have no affect on casting.
I have no idea how many permit I saw this day but I would guess between 80 and a 100 in groups, a few singles, some doubles and triples. It was incredible!
Most of the fish were small less than 5/6 pounds which I took to be a great sign for the future of the Salinas permit fishery. I saw all the typical permit behaviors – spooked, ignoring the fly, follow the fly, show utter disdain for any cast near them, the works. I also watched permit EAT my flies.
I got three permit to eat over the day. Matching my other best 3 permit day of many years ago in Cayo Coco. The first was most likely the largest, a whooping 4/5 pounds, that took off and I let it have slack not really caring if I landed it. Sure enough it unbuttoned itself.
The second was in a group of 8-10 fish. I cast the fly to the side of the group to try and pull one away and sure enough that worked. These were even smaller fish in the 2/3 pound range. The permit followed the fly and I tried a couple of tricks with it but it eventually peeled off back to the group. Luckily another permit came in behind just as the original one peeled off and started following the fly. I tried a couple of things again and by now the fly was only 15 to 20 feet from the boats but when I stopped the fly completely for the third time we got a perfectly clear view of the fish tipping down, opening its white mouth, and sucking in the fly.
Looking back on it I never felt the fish bite but I reacted by strip setting once the mouth closed and I was away to the races again on my second permit. It took off nicely and did a few laps around the flat. Again not really trying hard to land this small guy I let him have some slack again and as predicted he spat the hook. Manolo said David please land one "is better for pictures!!"
These long-distance releases did not bother me one bit. All of this happened before 11:30am. I figure I had 20 shots by this point. I’ve had less shots at bonefish all day and these were all permit shots. As I said a day to remember!
The third fish took longer to find. The activity in the bay completely died and we changed locations. We saw a couple of water pushes but nothing within range. We turned to the right a bit and saw a push coming our way. Two decent-sized permit that I got two decent shots at. In typical permit fashion they ignored my offering. We fished another 5 minutes and I made the call that it was time to head back.
I reeled in my line, put my fly in the stripping guide and handed it to Manolo to put away. I turned around as he was putting the rod away and low and behold another push of water was coming our way. Manolo quickly passed the rod back to me and I stripped out enough line.
The group of 4-to-5 pound fish came at the perfect casting angle and I took the shot to the side of the group. Sure enough one peeled off the group and started following the fly. I again let it drop and watched in astonishment as for the third time that day a permit casually ate the fly as if to say “we do this all the time just not when you are around.”
As I grabbed the leader just above the tippet knot the permit spooked and broke me at the tippet knot proving that you should always go for the tail grab. So I ended up with a couple of good action shots along with an extremely memorable day of permit fishing. I will cherish these memories for the remainder of my angling days.
We made our way back to the Salinas Base with smiles on our faces, beer in the hand and a warm feeling in my heart that permit do actually eat flies sometimes! Two days and 4 permit bites. Little did I know what was to come in the following days. The stage was set.
Terry also had a great day with shots at some really large tarpon as well as the usual teenagers, jacks, snapper and Cuda.