Sunday Classic / 3 Things I Learned By Not Catching A Permit

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I could just photoshop my head onto this photo of Captain Bruce Chard  Photo by Louis Cahill

I could just photoshop my head onto this photo of Bruce Chard Photo by Louis Cahill

I am not a master permit fisherman. I think that’s exactly the thing I enjoy about it.

I like the challenge and if you’re looking for a challenge, permit have one for you. While I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, I am learning and that puts me in a great position to share what I learn. Even if I am learning from my mistakes.

I had a great shot at a permit the other day and I totally screwed it up. Here’s what happened.

I was fishing with friends Joel Dickey and Rob Kramarz, both experienced flats guides. I was on the bow and we were fishing the early part of a falling tide. At twelve o’clock to the boat there was a cut in a small key and we anticipated that permit might be coming out with the tide.

As we poled slowly toward the mouth of the cut, I caught movement in my peripheral vision and turned to find a fish coming straight for the boat at two o’clock. It was an odd looking fish. Too light in color to be a permit and too dark to be a bonefish. As I struggled to identify it, the fish closed on the boat.

“It’s a bonnet head,” my buddies told me, but the fish’s head didn’t look like a bonnet head shark. I went ahead and made a cast. The fish, now less than forty feet from the boat, picked up the fly and tracked it.

“It’s a bonnet head, you’re gonna lose that fly,” my friends repeated, so I took the fly away from the fish as it charged. Spooked by the sudden motion, the fish made a sharp left hand turn showing us the distinctive profile of a permit. It was very light in color, but a permit nonetheless. Talk about heartbreaking.

So here are the three things I learned from botching a perfectly good shot that should have ended with hooking a permit.

1) Don’t hold on to preconceived ideas.

Just because you expect fish to be coming from a logical location doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. Fish are not logical. If I had been scanning the water more thoroughly I might have seen that fish earlier and hade more time to analyze the situation.

2) Be Decisive

Don’t wast valuable time second guessing. Better to land a jack than miss a permit. If you’re not sure what kind of fish you’re looking at, cast to it. I’ve seen a lot of cuddas turn into big bonefish. There’s plenty of time to identify fish after they’re hooked, but only precious seconds to take a shot at a closing fish. When in doubt, cast it out.

3) Commit

Don’t let doubt cause you to take a half-hearted shot. Once you start the process, trust your instincts and commit to that shot. Play it out and see where it goes. If I had taken this advice I’d likely have landed that permit.

Try to remember these lessons next time you’re on the bow and maybe you will catch a fish that makes your trip. Maybe you’ll just break off a bonnet head shark but at least you won’t feel like the dumb ass that took his fly away from a charging permit.

Trust me, that sucks!

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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