The following feature was published on the Red Bull website:
A permit is not (only) something you need to legally be on the water. It is indeed a fish. THE fish
As addictive as fishing warm water shallows, ‘flats,’ may be to saltwater fly fishermen, they can be frustrating deserts through which many agonising footsteps in sandy boots may meet no fish. Those times are a reminder that a fish on the flats is a deserved victory over the rash in your groin. People rave about how far bonefish run, or that there’s no fish that compares to the strength of a giant trevally caught on foot. In reality, most saltwater fish have the ability to make a reel smoke and give you a run for your money.
However, if there is one fish that can lift the spirits to the next level – even on a good day in the Alphonse Group – it is the Indo-Pacific permit. Described as the holy grail of flats fishes, feeding permit are not encountered often enough to get a fair chance to catch one. Put it this way, during a recent visit to St. Francois atoll with Alphonse Fishing Co. I got one shot at a feeding permit in six day’s fishing (and it wasn’t due to a lack in guide’s knowledge, there simply weren’t that many opportunities).
“Serious fly fishermen are all aware that catching a permit marks a personal epoch in the sport. Permit are members of a family that includes jackfish and pompano. They are powerful, keenly sensitive fish that visit the warm water shallows where they can be sight-fished by light-tackle anglers. This is extremely difficult fishing even though advances in the patterns of flies used have improved the odds.” Thomas McGuane
I’ve heard via the trade winds that these fish can be picky about the crabs they eat and the fly tied to the end of your line is mostly not included in their diet. Luckily for me, the guides at Alphonse had done their homework and this fish ate the fly on the first cast.
Then permit old-timer Ray Montoya spilled some patronizing advice into my coffee while recently e-reading. In his words, “Presentation trumps pattern” (‘The Lifer’, issue Two of www.themissionflymag.com). So if your casting extends to placing a ball of yarn inside a hula hoop at the other end of your lawn, how hard can it be?
I realised just how big the moment was when I tried to cast an Alphlexo crab exactly one-and-a-half meters ahead of the hunting fish, but the rod and line felt heavy in my jelly fingers. A deep breath and encouraging words from Alec Gerbec (the guide) were the only things to my aid to recollect and commit to the cast. I simply had to try as I knew there was no ‘tomorrow’.
The odds against hooking a permit seem high. Sometimes the swells align though and the fish will start following the fly with the first gentle strip. One or two more draws later and it ate my fly.
Tightening the line with a firm strip-set to connect with your finned opponent is standard procedure, but the fish was so close that I stumbled backwards and set the hook with a sharp lift of the rod. It took off in a dust cloud and headed for the edge of the flat.
Turning it was adrenalin-pumping stuff. Getting it to hand downright exhausting.
The release played in my head like a clip on social media, over and over again for the rest of the day. Now I can’t wait to see a permit’s fins breaking the monotonous hologram of sunlight reflecting off the surface and make that cast again.
For more on flats fly-fishing on Alphonse Island in the Seychelles hit this.