PART FOUR – A BREAK IN THE WEATHER
One of the most common inquires we receive in the Yellow Dog saltwater department is “I want to catch a permit, but I can only go for a few days.” We will of course accommodate any length trip, but realistic expectations must be established for short trips. The weather plays a major role when permit fishing. Too many times the weather is perfect on your arrival day, a front moves in during your angling days, and then it returns to great weather again as you depart.
If you have good visibility for 50% of your saltwater trip – you have had an A+ trip (not what we want to hear, but these are realistic expectations). This most recent Yellow Dog group trip to Ascension Bay is a wonderful example of why we always encourage our valued guests to extend saltwater flats vacations (and especially for permit focused excursions).
The first three days of this trip offered tough weather, but productive backcountry fishing, and a few “partial” permit shots. Visibility was insufficient, due to the fact we were surrounded by tropical storms, which produced horizon-to-horizon clouds and high winds. Late on day three the weather finally broke bringing clear skies and low winds. Since the group had booked a seven fishing day package, they still had four days left of fishing!
On day four, as the boats passed the famous Punta Allen lighthouse it was as if the fish gods had turned on the lights for the group. The flats were illuminated, with the sun alone in the deep blue sky, and no hovering clouds to hide the fish we sought. Now, we would learn if four months of COVID rest in Ascension Bay made any difference in the fishing experience.
We had heard how it affected the Florida Keys fishing through comments like, “it was like 30 years ago!” We found consistent permit fishing in the mornings and solid opportunities for tarpon, snook, and bones in the afternoons. Did the permit engulf our flies more than before COVID? Who knows? We made fine casts, had good numbers of follows, a few hard eats, but permit remains innately finicky creatures. It was not like since they had not seen a fly in months, they relentlessly hammered the groups’ flies.
The guides did locate consistent numbers of larger permit floating high around Tres Marias and the numerous other islands, but was this due to low boat traffic? We did have the whole bay to ourselves, which is rarely crowded.
The permit generally seemed most interested in EP Spawning Shrimp and Squimp patterns. The guides tended to choose permit flies with green heads and orange or yellow-hued bodies, due to the sargassum seaweed. The influx of this seaweed in the summer months has increased the number of tarpon and permit around the oceanfront flats since huge numbers of shrimp and crabs hide (or live) in sargassum.
The bait takes on the color of the seaweed, which is orange. Now, the group did feel that there was more tarpon and snook around the beaches and lagoons, due to low boat traffic and angling pressure. These fish were eager to slide out from under the mangrove and chase down an EP style baitfish pattern. Natural and dark-colored flies produced most consistently.
Towards the end of the trip, the fish settled in with the calm weather. It often takes any type of fish a few days to feel more comfortable and feed after an extended high-pressure weather event. The last two days of the trip were as good as it gets for saltwater flats fishing.
Again, this is why it is best to have the most possible days on the water, and that is not a sales pitch! Numerous permit were fed, plenty of tarpon was launched into the air, and the group was now completely satisfied anglers. In fact, on the last day, one of the anglers had a Grand Slam and lost a snook at the end of the day to almost complete the Super Slam.
In fact, when trying to get the bonefish to finalize the slam, a perfect cast was made at a single bone when a permit slid out of nowhere and stole the fly. Usually, it is the other way around! You make a perfect cast at a permit and a bonefish, jack or snapper steels the fly from the approaching permit. It was an amazing way to wrap up a wonderful week of camaraderie and flats fishing.