The saltwater fly fishing community has been spoilt, we get chances to fish aquariums like Farquhar, Los Roques, Kiribati, etc, which have shifted the paradigm and raised the expectations unrealistically of fisherman lucky enough to have experienced them. Places like that get you used to tripping over fish all day long.
And so I think that was my first adjustment, getting used to seeing only a few fish in a full day of hiking and exploring. The mental game was huge, enduring bad nights of sleep, small bland meals and massive efforts in hiking. Driving hours to find plastic, nets, and not a single fish in between. So you have to dig deep. By day 12 I had lost 11 kilograms, testament to the effort.
Then after endless hours and hours of searching the surf you finally spot a fish, only for it to vanish in an instant. Its an experience that absolutely guts you, and you’ve got to learn to be happy with the fact that each chance like that is one step closer to your next hook up.
I eventually got so used to fish vanishing that I would just count each off, expecting to get a shot at every fourth or so. When you’re seeing 4 a day with massive effort that’s not easy. Then the next day the fish are really there. Then the green water or big swell comes in and they vanish completely.
I learnt something very important watching Ray on the first day. He was absolutely at peace just walking on the beach, breathing it all in. That rod in the hand is just in case. Find this peace and the rest will develop in time, but not your time. Maybe they’ll be there the next tide, maybe they wont, maybe the Bengalis will see where you’re fishing and net the whole beach that night. In that case, maybe some fish will be there next month.
You’ve got to just be able to smile at the challenge before you. If you’re expecting a bent rod all day or to test tackle or rack up the species this isn’t for you. You will be fishing to the fussiest fish on earth in the toughest possible conditions. If the word impossible gets you going then maybe this is for you.
I had a real concern that people would get the impression that this wasn’t the case from my posts, my description of individual moments and shots seemed to last forever in my head, but typically its only the highs that stand out.
It made me feel bad that for a period Ray would get 30 emails a month instead of the usual 20, from prospective anglers all wanting spots and advice. Of those hundreds of emails a few trips materialise, of those trips there have been two that yielded permit, I feel incredibly honoured to have been one of those. They say you’ll only get a Permit when you deserve one, and so it must have been my time again.
I am obsessed with the history of the sport I love the most, and the chance to fish with one of the greats is enough to get me on a plane. Of the greats there are very few lucky enough to have their names etched in history alongside a fish’s name. Dedicated men whose passion and curiosity have truly developed our sport.
Billy Pate, Andy Mill & Co & Tarpon
Robert Hyde, Will Bauer & Atlantic Permit
Jannie Visser & Spotted Grunter
Arno Matthee & Milkfish
Ray Montoya & Arabian Permit
I hope to one day be on that list, and if I could chose a fish to be remembered by it would be the one next to Rays name. Permit are considered to be the holy grail because they are so ridiculously difficult to fool on fly that its almost audacious to get nervous casting to one. To find a new fishery, to figure it out, and then constantly catch the penultimate fish where noone knew they existed is a hell of a thing. Ray Montoya and his Arabian Permit. Ive met the man and caught the fish. The bucket list is a line shorter.
There are a few moments from the trip that really stand out to me; the first shwarma, beach drive & fish, beers with Theo, Mark and Naomi, the craziest take ill probably ever see, Mojitos with Ray, Kamal & Kerry (much stronger when you’re 11kilos lighter), exploring the Wadis, walking the Souks, inventing a new fly with a new friend (The Razzmataz Ghost Crab) & rediscovering some old school rap in the unlikeliest of places- Rays Patrol. I may have also decimated a Bocce ball on a sidewalk, while Omani youngsters did donuts on the beach in and around kids playing soccer.
My fly rod will always be my 9ft, 4 piece excuse to see the world.