THOUGHTS ON AN ABACO PERMIT
That was some permit you recently caught at the Abaco Lodge!
Ian: Yes, it was my largest by a long shot. I was lucky enough to land a 25-pounder in Cuba this past summer and did not think I would ever top that.
How big was it?
Ian: Unfortunately (or fortunately for the fish), we did not get much time with the permit to do measurements or shoot lots of photos. After a quick round of photos, my Abaco Lodge guide (the famous Paul Pinder) put his whole hand in the fish’s mouth to dislodge the fly, then the fish exploded with a massive tail kick and swam away, leaving Paul and I soaked. It was an awesome experience and we laughed pretty hard. Paul and a few other guides estimated the permit to weigh between 39 and 45 pounds after seeing the photo. I had the fish tightly gripped at the base of the tail, and my weakened arms after the fight where no match for the fish’s raw power. It might have been some type of record because I was using 15-pound tippet, but who really cares about records. That fish swimming away will be burned in my memory for the rest of my days, and that is good enough for me.
What was the situation?
Ian: We began the morning fishing for juvenile tarpon deep in the mangroves and had a few shots. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we caught some bones while waiting for the tide to come in, so we could switch over to focus on permit. Of course right when we began looking for permit the weather turned to high winds and substantial cloud cover. So typical when you get “that day”. Being a visitation and not a hosted trip, I actually got some quality bow time, so I was pretty excited to hunt permy. I was fishing with Christaan, the new lodge manager at Abaco Lodge who has guided in Kamchatka and the Seychelles. He is an awesome angler so it was super fun to go shot-for-shot with him. You cannot ask for a much better team with Paul Pinder on the platform and Christaan fishing. I was locked and loaded with my camera and getting some fine Abaco Lodge photos for the Yellow Dog catalog and website.
After poling for permit all afternoon it was apparent this was not going to produce, which was fine since we recognized realistic expectations for permit, and had a wonderful day on the water. We simply just did not have any real visibility and had to pole directly into the wind, because that would be the way the fish were moving. The Bahamas permit fishing is not like Cuba, the Keys, or Central America. You simply do not get as many shots on an average day, so you gotta make it count when the opportunity arises. I will say the majority of Bahamian permit are larger ocean fish, since the islands are surrounded by deep water. Anyways, towards the end of the day we were running inside the Marls, and back towards the lodge when Paul abruptly swung the boat around. In his low, baritone voice he calmly advised us to “ready the permit rod”. We quickly stowed our freshly-opened Kaliks and pulled out the ten weight. He had caught a glimpse of a big, black sting ray near a mangrove shoreline. Paul positioned the boat directly downwind of the ray, so he could hold the boat near the target, and not get pushed over it by the 25 knot wind gusts. Visibility was brutal due to high passing clouds and low angle of the sun, but magically two permit were feasting on a natural buffet of crabs evading the ray. Oftentimes, permit and GTs utilize rays to locate food as it combs the bottom in search of food. Sometimes an angler can get multiple shots and try different fly patterns in these situations, which is rare, exciting, but also extremely nerve racking. Even just tying quality knots can be tough if your hands are trembling.
Since Christaan had never fished for Atlantic permit, he was on the bow first and pretty jazzed. We would catch a quick view of the fish from time-to-time, due to the glare on the water’s surface. This made it very difficult to present the fly in front of the fish before it left the slice of visibility, and passed back under the harsh glare. He made a number of excellent casts with a Doug McKnight Crimp fly. We had a few follows but no takes. The Crimp is my “go to” permit fly. After a flat out refusal 15 feet from the skiff, we put on the Avalon Shrimp which had no looks, so we then changed to a small crab fly Christaan has caught numerous Indo permit on, and still nothing. At this point Christaan graciously handed the rod over to me. At this point there was only one permit left around the ray. I changed the fly to a heavy, jig hook, Velcro style crab fly I tied with Doug McKnight and Justin Rea’s tutorial. I think it was the third or fourth cast when the permit followed the fly and pinned it to the bottom. To be honest, I have no recollection of the actual eat or strip set. All I know it that I did not trout set and felt the fish come tight. I must thank Hatch Outdoors for their incredible tippet and leader materials (and reels), because 20 minutes later the tackle preformed and fish was at hand. The fish only ran into my backing twice, made only really three or four tail kicking explosions, so it was a tamed fight compared to some of the other permit battles I have experienced. Another special thanks to Thomas and Thomas Fly Rods, as I was trying their new Exocett rod for the first time. The rod had the backbone and action to cast very well into the strong wind, while still having subtle “feel” to play the fish perfectly. My philosophy is to land all fish quickly to ensure a healthy release, and especially in the Bahamas where there are always lots of big sharks!
What happened after the battle?
Ian: I hugged Paul, and then appreciated how much I love my job while finishing my Kalik.
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