Long-time Fish Tales customer Anthony Manconi was part of our second week of hosted fishing in March 2022.
“MI CORAZON” by Anthony Manconi
This was my 12th saltwater fishing trip and I was still waiting to land the elusive Palometa (permit). I had managed to hook three on previous trips (Cuba & Mexico) but the permit always won.
It was day two of my March trip to Las Salinas, Cuba and my guide, Manolo and I headed out in the morning with ideal hunting conditions. We motored into a small, quiet bay and were very surprised to see large flashes 400 yards away. Palometa! It was like flash bulbs going off steadily in the water. Manolo quietly motored the skiff to the top end of the bay where he staked out the boat. We waited.
Ten minutes later, a large group of 20-30 permit came feeding in our direction. Black sickles breaking the surface as the permit tailed. When the fish were 100 yards away, Manolo instructed me to wade out and intercept them.
They were 30-40 feet away; I dropped the Merkin Crab one foot ahead of the school. Permit, being permit, fed right over my fly without an eat. Once the school cleared my line, they changed direction and I made another cast ahead of them. Again, no eat. Six, seven, eight more casts. Nothing. They never spooked but continued to feed with no interest in my fly.
Just when I thought it was time to change the crab, the school changed direction again and were coming directly toward me. I made a 30 foot cast and the entire school rushed my fly. I continued to slowly strip; they chased the crab until I had half the leader in the rod guides. I basically had a school of permit at my feet!
And then, oh my god, FISH ON!
A quick strip set and the leader and line RIPPED out of the guides. OMG, it didn’t break off. Seconds later, I was 150 yards deep into my backing. Looked over my shoulder to Manolo, sitting in the boat 100 yards away, cheering loudly.
I yelled, “Mi Corazon!!!”
With no end in sight, I yelled to Manolo to bring the boat over to help land this fish. Knees shaking, hands shaking, I slowing walked toward the fish to regain as much line as possible. With the line back on the reel, the permit took its second screaming run. Finally we had the fish within 30 feet of the rod tip, that’s when the rodeo began. The permit made two crazy runs UNDER the boat and AROUND the motor. I had to shove the rod underneath the skiff to clear the line.
At last, the thirty minute battle was won. I tailed my very first permit. Hoots and hollers and fist pumps all around.
PS Anthony had carried with him on his flats trips for the past 10 years a DeYoung Permit rocks glass to have a rum toast once he caught his first permit. Once back to the Casa he ordered a top tier rum and had a well-deserved drink with Manolo. Once they were finished Anthony gave the glass to Manolo and said, “I don’t need this anymore!!” So of course they had a second rum!!