CHASING PERMIT

 

“Out here they hit hard!”

 Was that a fish or a semi doing 80? Line burned my fingers as it shot back to the reel, and the coil at my side disappeared in a split second. Fish on. But KP said this in a way that made it seem funny, and laughed at how unprepared for that take I was. This was the first permit I hooked into off Turneffe Atoll, Belize

 

This past May I graduated with an English degree from the University of Vermont. Now, I’m not really sure how that happened come to think of it, but let’s just keep going.  As a celebratory adventure for this achievement, I was able to convince my dad to take me on a fishing trip to Belize, specifically Turneffe Island Resort. I am truly grateful and lucky to be able to do a trip like this, especially with my dad, and normally we have terrible fishing luck together, but that was about to change.

If you want consistent shots at trophy permit go to Belize first, and specifically ask for KP to be your guide. Clifton Wade is very appropriately nick-named KP for “King Permit”. I was only skeptical for how much of a king he was until he took us fishing. A King he is.

 

The first day in the flats we chased tails the whole time. From schools of bones, triggerfish, and permit, we were casting at fish all day. I didn’t expect to be put on so many fish so soon, but KP got me focused, “We will take our time, we will take our time.”

 

In moments of excitement and passion it is easy to rush things and make mistakes you normally wouldn’t. KP saw this in my cast, and his words are now stuck in my head every time I fish. We will take our time.

 

We fished for permit and bones in the flats, but KP has something special out on Turneffe Atoll. The Elbow. “The Elbow” gets its name from its location at the very southern tip of the Atoll. This is not like any permit fishing I had seen or read about. These fish are massive and school up by the hundreds in about 60-80 feet of water over a coral reef. Permit that are too big for the flats. They are easy to see in the water column too, because when they turn, their bellies are so shiny and big that they light up the entire ocean. The schools change the color of the water from a dark blue to light turquoise as they slowly work around the deep water.

This place is absolute madness. The fish are always there so if the weather cooperated, that’s where we would be too. KP made it very clear that I wouldn’t get as many chances at 40-50lb permit on the flats. I was following rules and politely obliged.

Flyfishing in the open ocean is pretty tough and basically just involved me whipping around an old 12wt again and again and again. We would find the fish, KP would set the boat according to what the wind, current, and fish were all doing, I would cast, fish would leave, boat engine on and circle back to find them again.  We did this all day, waiting for the fish to get hungry. They have to eat sometime right?

The coolest part of staying out there all day, was being able to observe the behaviors of these massive fish for an extended period of time.  We always found them close to sea turtles too. We watched these fish for hours. We saw them school up really tight and slowly descend to the reef as dolphin, a natural predator to permit, come in to have a closer look at them. We would see them rise up and flap on their sides at the surface, called “floating”, eating small crustaceans and anything else they can find at the top. We saw them eat my flies too.

 

When they are floating high in the water column, that is your best chance at a hook-up. It was like you do the same thing all day, repetition, repetition, repetition, and nothing. A lot like something else that involves heavy tackle… And then all of a sudden they get hungry. You get one small follow, than another, and another. And then a fat, aggressive fish comes right to your boat and sucks down your fly. I hooked into about 6 permit all in the 35+ category, having consistent shots everyday, but just couldn’t get one to the fucking boat.

Here’s a short list of what can happen to help you lose a permit:

You suck at strip-setting

You keep on forgetting to strip-set

Hands too sweaty to hold rod

The fly line breaks

The leader brakes again and again, but fish won’t eat with larger pound test

Fish outruns the boat

Hammerhead shark eats your fish…

For the integrity of KP’s business, I will not discuss the secret fly or line/leader set up we used because he has competition for this spot. But the competitors only see the fish, and don’t know how to catch them like KP. So if you are interesting in having your mind blown go spend a week fishing with King Permit on Turneffe Island Resort in Belize. I promise you will be put on fish.

Take your time, tight lines, and stay core.

Special thanks to KP and Turneffe Island Resort for one of the most epic fishing trips!