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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5 thoughts on “3 Things I Learned By Not Catching A Permit

  1. Another learning; never ever go island exploring on your last day, with your rods already in the suitcase.
    Taking pictures of feeding permit at 10m out is not great if you still have to catch your first 🙁

  2. Sure sorry to hear that man – I know first-hand how tough it can be to hook that first permit. Dozens of blown casts, good casts with follows and rejections, strip sets a fraction of a second to late, etc. It can almost turn ya into a bait fisherman! =) If it’s any consolation, once you land the first, the others seem to come a bit easier and more frequently. Not sure why that is – it’s like you break through some sort of unseen barrier and the wind is suddenly (and blessedly) at your back. Fair warning though – it’ll get into your blood just like swinging flies for steelhead does. Speaking of steelies, I just returned from a four day camp on the Deschutes with our mutual buddy Hickman. Epic!!

  3. Holy shit! What’s a crab fly cost vs the opportunity to hook a permit? I can hardly believe you passed an opportunity for fear of losing a 5 dollar fly, especially once you calculate what it cost to put yourself in front of that fish. Your third piece of advice is spot on. What you’re talking about is a level of faith and belief that rivals any religion. If you don’t honestly believe that permit eat flies and are catchable, you’ll never catch one. Great stuff!

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