After a two year permit drought, Christiaan Pretorius finally catches a moose of a fish at Abaco Lodge in the Bahamas.
PERMIT. They are by far my favourite target species and the one fish that still drives me absolutely nuts. I get a kick out of fishing for all different species, but there is just something about permit that is different.
For one thing, they are not easy. I’ve been on a two-year permit drought in which I must have cast at numerous fish, probably close to 300 permit and they just haven’t eaten the fly. I have been fortunate enough in the Seychelles to fish and land quite a number of permit and was lucky enough to guide a bunch of guests into these fish, but over in the Bahamas it’s a different beast. They are difficult to catch in both places, but in the Seychelles you get more shots than you do in the Bahamas.
The other thing that draws me to permit is the hunt. Coming from South Africa, many of us grow up as hunters. So being able to hunt and stalk a fish like a permit speaks to us. When you actually get a chance to fire a line at one, that’s a complete bonus. And when you eventually get one to eat the fly, that’s as good as it gets in fly fishing.
Lastly, with permit you’ve got to know what you’re in for. You can spend days, weeks, months, years and never even connect with one (my own experience a case in point), but when it all comes together as it did recently, you know exactly why you do it and why you will keep doing it.
TWO WEEKS ago, everything fell into place and I finally broke my personal permit drought at Abaco. Running around managing the lodge, we don’t usually have a lot of free time, but on this morning we had three hours free. It was 9am and with our new guests arriving at 12am and the grocery shopping and all that kind of stuff still to be done, it was going to be tight, but you’ve got to take your moments when you can. I phoned up Travis, a young guide here at Abaco who is just on fire at the moment and we decided to head out. After a thirty minute run we stopped at a promising area we have looked at in the past. We started poling around and about ten minutes into the session we spotted a ray. Both Travis and I immediately saw two black Vs off the back of the ray – two feeding perms! For those who recognize the shapes, this is both the most exciting sight for a passionate angler and also the ideal scenario for trying to catch one.
From the initial sighting, everything just went according to plan. Travis kept me quite a long way off so I had to fire off a couple of rocket-like casts to get close to the ray. First cast, pushing my limits with a slight breeze, was about a 90ft cast I would guess, but the fly landed just a tiny bit short. I picked it up, stripped back and fired off another one. The leader turned over beautifully and dropped that fly probably about five feet from the permit. As soon as the fly hit the water one of them charged over, followed the fly for like 20ft and then suddenly the line went tight.
Thinking about it now, the sequence of events was a bit of a blur and you could feel the tension on the boat. It was nervous pressure, but in a good way. It’s amazing how quiet everything went when that fish started following the fly. Neither my girlfriend Lindi, who was also on the boat, nor the guide said a word. It was just one of those things that was beyond our control – will he eat the fly or not? We’ve seen that sight often enough where permit just follow, follow, follow and then never do anything.
When it all comes together as it did this time, it’s absolutely fantastic. Hooking that fish on a ten weight, the sheer power when it took off was incredible and it was a great privilege to land it. Having Lindi on the boat might just be the lucky charm. It’s strange how we look for those signs, something that might just bring luck to your game. I might just invite her with me on the next trip out.
Oliver White put it well when he saw this fish and said, “You know that counts as two fish, right?”
My first Atlantic permit, at a guess of around 35 pounds, this was definitely a fish of a lifetime for me.
As for the celebrations when I got back to the lodge?
I got in the van and went off to do the grocery shopping.