North 40 Hosted Trip: Do or Die Permit - Belize - Day 6

Catching Permit

It was do or die. If Jim, my fellow angler, and I were going to catch a permit on this trip, it had to be today. In my mind, I was mentally prepared, nothing else mattered except for good chances, good casts, and focus. Jim and I were happy to see Darrell and Francisco on the boat as they pulled up to the dock. These guys are some incredible permit guides. Darrell seemed quiet this morning, almost as if he was in his own head, focusing on the day ahead. I like to see that sort of dedication in a guide.

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We loaded up and then took off from the dock and started the day. The hunt was on. We buzzed a few spots searching for fish. Darrell was standing on the wheel, steering with his feet, getting a high angle to spot fish. Our first spot was not what Darrell expected. We moved slowly into a lagoon flat, where right away Francisco and Darrell spotted a school of permit. Jim was on the bow, and we were luckily sheltered from the wind for a brief amount of time. Jim had an awesome chance about to come.

At about 40 feet, Jim launched his fly right at the fish. Almost instantly, two or three permit tailed up right around Jim’s fly. They absolutely mobbed the thing. Jim followed Darrell’s instruction, but for some reason, the fish didn’t take the fly. Jim did everything right. I guess that’s permit fishing, right? Jim stayed up on the bow for about a dozen more chances. It was like watching a repeated loop. Jim delivered good casts, but the fish didn’t eat the fly. Darrell, being frustrated, yelled at the fish, “EAT THE FLY!”

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Belizean Snow

Next, it was my turn. Darrell had me jump in the water and chase down the school on foot. Again, we went post-holing through the “Belizean snow” and mud. We cut off the school and had a great chance for a cast. I was standing in knee-deep mud, and belly button deep water, trying to double haul with little grace. I delivered my fly right at the fish, with no hesitation, and unfortunately, no eat. The fish then circled right, which required a cast straight into the wind. I shifted in the mud and changed my casting angle. I got my cast going well. As I hauled back, I prepared to deliver a powerful loop forward, but as it hit the sheer of wind, it folded up about 10 feet short of where I needed it to be. We retreated to the boat and then reset on the school. At this point, my legs were burning, but the adrenaline pushed me on as we literally ran through the water after the school. It was one chance, one cast.

Read about Belizean snow in, Casting at Giant Belizean Permit - Belize - Day 3 here.

The school was tailing and feeding, and we had the drop on them. About five or six fish were tailing when I delivered the fly. The cast landed right in the middle of the school, luckily, the wind was to my back. As the fly hit bottom, three or four tails poked out of the water on top of the fly as I stripped it back. As I was on the fourth strip, the line went tight. The fish continued towards me, and I had to make long fast strips across my body to keep the line tight. As soon as the fish turned its head, I went from about 20 feet of line to about 175 yards into my backing in under 30 seconds. Pure adrenaline.

The fight was tense, and we avoided talking about landing the fish or pictures, it isn’t over until it’s over. The runs the permit made were incredible. The amount of power these fish have doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever felt before. As the fish tired, Darrell grabbed the leader and tailed the fish with ease. My soul must’ve left my body for a split second, as I just caught undeniably the toughest fish I’ve ever targeted to date. Darrell handed me my permit, we grabbed some pictures and safely released it. After some blood and sweat, the salty flats air tasted sweet and all was good.

Jim’s turn again. After fighting my fish, the school split on the flat. We had two different options to chase for Jim. It was about 1 p.m. in the afternoon, close to closing time. Jim seemed surprisingly calm with the time crunch on his shoulders. Right away, Darrell hopped up on the platform and poled Jim towards the school of tailing permit. The fish were being predictable, and Darrell was already winning at today’s game of chess with the school. Right away, the school angled towards the port beam, giving Jim a better casting angle in the wind. As Jim delivered the fly, tails breached the surface. Jim’s rod tip was down, and all I could see was the line bounce with each strip. On about the third or fourth strip, it went tight. Jim was on!

Fish in Hand

This fish, unlike mine, ran straight off the get-go, running into Jim’s backing until we could almost see the spool. We chased the fish slowly with the boat for about 50 yards to regain line, and we stopped to hold our ground. Jim fought the fish well, constantly turning its head to tire it out. The fish came to hand, and Jim got his permit. As Darrell tailed the fish, you could see the stress leave his body. Darrell stopped for a moment and looked up to the sky, fish in hand, and was still for about five seconds. Darrell’s pursuit, like ours, was finally closed.

We all busted for these fish this week. Darrell and Francisco make a great team, we couldn’t have done it without them, Tres Pescados Fly Shop and Belize Fly. Between all anglers on the trip, we lost count of the number of bonefish caught, we all caught multiple species, and five permit were landed through the week. The hospitality on the trip was fantastic, as well. After another destination and more species in the book, we’re already eager to return to the flats of Ambergris Caye.

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I grew up in the east, along the limestone belt of the Appalachian Mountains, where I pursued trout on the classic streams of Pennsylvania such as the Yellow Breeches and the Letort, along with endless brook trout streams and other great trout waters. My love for fly fishing grew and I began expanding my horizons when I began guiding for smallmouth bass in West Virginia and onto Alaska, where I fell in love with the landscapes, grayling, and salmon. Idaho and the inland northwest were calling to my trout bum soul, so I picked up and moved to Clark Fork, where I pursue a work and play lifestyle with North 40 Fly Shop. Stop in our Ponderay store for a cup of coffee and trade lies about the one that got away.
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