Arriving in Muscat, Ray and i got the mail from Kamal, “Meetings this weekend, I cant make it”. Damn. Down to two. I arrived at Rays house exhausted, the old lady next to me on my Cape Town – Doha leg decided I would be great company and needed my earphones taken out and to be shaken awake when she so desired. But that was out the way now, we were 6 hours away from destination 1 and would be meeting Jeff Currier and Yvonne that evening.
The drive South was fantastic, the last time I did it with Theo it was evening and we could only guess what was out there. Egg rolls, Bengali Coffee and some old school rap kept us going, and we even managed to get through the military checkpoints with all our supplies in tact. We found Jeff and Granny on South Beach, she was already making food and Jeff had just finished a stint on the beach. We moved to one of Rays usual camp sites, a walled rock garden thats usually free of Mosquitos and Goats….usually. A few stories were told, a particularly chilling one about Jeffs experience as Tiger prey on the Ramganga, and then it was bed time. Having been artifical environment bound for almost two years it was going to be tricky to relax again, but luckily the Mosqitos found an easy meal at Rays bed and I managed to drift off. For the first time in a long time I managed to forget about the stresses of the world and must have hit 8 hours sleep. Mission 1: accomplished.
Now what you may not realise is that Rays camel chasing pup Ellie passed away after my trip to Oman, and I think hes been convincing himself to not get emotionally involved again, but mother nature had other plans, and so began the goat attachments. I was tucking into some more coffee and cereal and having a chuckle at these beady eyed walking recycling plants when I peered around the car to see Ray feeding a cute little guy some Cheerios. Then came the goat selfies, then the heard left, but the Cheerio eating kid had stars in his eyes and decided the grey bearded Permit whisperer of the middle east would be dad. Ray managed to escape his new furry son as shot off into the desert with that post coffee porclein hunt look in his eyes. I too had the coffee purge on its way, and was perched under a rock, wet wipes in hand between the herd and the car, with the goat crying blue murder looking for his dad. He eventually shot off after the herd and we took the gap. Permit time!
We fished a new area at the arch, one hell of a hike but sheltered from the Permit scattering algae blooms that will quickly ruin your day. The hike in was difficult as usual, but the anticipation of it all meant for an intense pace.
“Theres this spot I found last time, as the stone clears and youre forced to wade, I saw big fish there last time, cant wait to check it out!” We got to that spot, and almost on cue there she was, a big old Golden girl coming in hot. I dropped knowing I wasnt rigged properly after chasing some Bream.
Ray took a couple shots and the fish doubled back. I was ready now, and took multiple shots on the nose, but my fly wasnt behaving like I wanted to, and frustrated I went to my fly box. I tied on a big heavy Velcro crab, which meant leading the fish further still. Doing the meerkat dance back and forth on the beach ray was now on my left
“I think there are more than one” came the call.
“Ya, one big girl, one smaller one!”
Then I got a glimpse of something spectacular. Ray put in a perfect cast from the top of the beach. The fish swam up and over, like both had done maybe 12 times already, but in our over stimulated states as the world went into slow motion, the wave cleared giving that little section of dream water. He had waited it so perfectly. Its intesly hard not to move a crab when a permit isnt reacting. As the clear water pulled over the area where the fish was, Ray twiched the fly. Instantly the fish reacted, turned slowly and did a headstand. “Its going to eat”I said, then told myself to shut up and calm down. But still he didnt strike. If he had it wouldnt have happened. The split seconds that he waited further cannot be taught. And there it was. “There he is, fish on!”
In comparison we both had an idea in our heads of the size of the fish, and we didnt think it was big, so Ray pulled like hell in a fight that maybe lasted 45 seconds. He surfed it up the beach when I ran down.
“Shit its big!”
One problem, Ray had fought it like it was half its size, so he now had a permit doing a yellowfin tuna impresison in his hands. I wanted to get some underwater shots. Ray asked me to unwind his leader from around the tip, and in a split of a second with a wrap remaining, the fish dropped into the water and ran like it was mid fight. Pop went the rod. Ouch. “Im so sorry” “But great fish!’
Now I was ready for a fish, so set about combing the beach. A bream came surfing in a wave, which I quickly presented a crab to. The triggerfish style tease resulted in a hook up, but the fish came off mid run. 10 minutes later a bigger one arrived. No mistakes this time. I set like a handline fisherman and quicky got this bream to hand. What an hour!
The rest of the day presented fish, but not the opportunities needed, and we headed back for a Beer. I must have had a dumb look on my face that afternoon. Ive fished with some talented anglers in some interesting places and situations, but never have I seen the obvious magic and skill of a lifetime of experience in such a perfectly choreographed moment. That was as humbling an experience as ive ever had in flats boots.
“That was some textbook shit Ray. Damn.”