Permit Tales – St Brandon’s
Over the last few seasons the St Brandon’s guide team has been fortunate enough to get some personal as well exploratory fishing time on the atoll between trips. This is obviously hugely rewarding on many levels, but most importantly it gives us as guides the opportunity to test out the finer details of what we are trying to relay to our clients as well as the opportunity to scout out areas we have spent little, if any, time with guests.
This past season fellow FlyCastaway Head Guide Jako Lucas and I had a chance to spend a good few days out there together, without the standard pressures and demands of a guiding week. We were really excited as it had been a few seasons since us “old dogs” had spent time on the water together but I would be lying if I said that we were going to take it easy. So it was with great excitement that we waved goodbye to our fellow guides Matt and Christiaan who would be accompanying our past group of happy guests back home.
So by now I’m sure you’re thinking “those lucky %$#^$^”, but before you get carried away it’s important to note the following: 1. We would be filming flat out to get enough footage for a project that has us on a strict deadline. 2. The footage and project solely revolves around Indo Pacific Permit of St Brandon’s. Easy hey…? Not on your life! This fish is without a doubt the toughest, most technically demanding and down right frustrating fish one can cast a fly to. Getting them to eat is tough enough, but to get it all on camera…well let’s just say there isn’t a lot of good Permit footage out there and for good reason.
With that in mind we wasted no time at all and headed straight to work as soon as the MY Gryphon upped anchor and began its journey south. Jako and I had decided it would be best to concentrate our efforts in one or two areas and wait for them to come to us. Firstly we knew where they would be likely to come onto the flats seeing we were in the midst our guiding season so we got ourselves into a position where we could wait patiently if the fish took some time to show themselves. Secondly it would allow us time to set up all the camera gear, which was imperative if we were to get the type of footage we were after. Yes we would miss opportunities on other likely flats, but realistically this offered us the best chance of filming successfully compared to running around the atoll chasing the tide.
So with the game plan set we held our ground at our chosen flat. To be honest it was a lot harder to stand and wait in one place than we anticipated. We were very much in the rhythm of bouncing around on a standard guiding day and it certainly took some getting used to, sticking it out for hours on end. In time however we relaxed into it and were privileged enough to witness -and almost become a part of – other species’ (such as Bonefish and Giant Trevally’s) daily routine, unhindered by anglers casting flies at them (although it was tempting to cast at them ourselves I can assure you!!). Every now again we kept our casting arms loose by catching a nice Bone or Trevally, but only when the tide and water levels dictated there was almost no chance of seeing a Permit.
The first day we had a fair number of shots at fish ranging in size, out of which we managed to hook four. Sadly however we only managed to bring two smaller specimens to hand with the other two bigger fish running into coral. Despair!!!! Losing a Permit, regardless of how, is like losing the family pet. It’s heart wrenching and your head becomes filled with “what if’s”. Could I have done this or maybe I should have done that? It’s this frustration that makes Permit fishing such a special experience and creates a thirst that can only be quenched by more.
The second day we had fewer shots come our way but on this occasion we managed bring two beautiful fish to hand, Jako’s 10lb fish is one I will never forget. There were some really big fish on the flats but they were being their obnoxious selves and were giving us hairy eyeballs of note! That night I sat down at the vice and poured my heart and soul into some flies which I felt would give me the confidence on our chosen area and bring that trophy fish to hand. I cannot overestimate the importance of having confidence in your fly to the point you can imagine it sitting or creeping along the bottom just waiting to be eaten. You’ve got to feel the whole thing.
The following day we were greeted with winds gusting up to 30 Knots, a tough ask casting wise for sure but with time running low and the pressure to get a good fish on film we battled through a heavy head wind and some pretty bumpy water and made it to our spot. Thankfully it was worth the effort! I managed to get a great fish of 12lbs on my newly tied Carpet Bagger Crab…all on film. It was however our only Permit for the day but the events of the rest of day will live with me forever…but that’s a story for another time.
The second last day of our time out on St Brandon’s alone and we were fortunate enough to get a double hook up on Permit. Jako had just come tight on his fish first, when I suddenly I noticed another set of fish tailing towards us. I quickly put the camera away and made a cast. Lucky enough for me a fish ate and with this all hell broke loose. Jako had run for deeper water, passing through a minefield of coral with Jako just hoping against hope that somehow the leader would stay true. To my surprise the fish I was connected to also made for the deep water, in the same direction as Jako’s fish had just done. I sprinted after it, clearing my line away from small coral heads and other snags. Jako by now was swimming as the fish had reached the ledge and had gone around a rather large coral bommie. Not wanting to follow suit I applied some breaks to the reel, only to hear Jako scream out with disappointment as his leader parted. I kept up the pressure and thankfully my fish turned back up the flats where Jako and I eventually landed it …..a Permit of 13lbs. I felt gutted for Jako but we both agreed that it would be a moment never forgotten ever…a double up on Permit!
The next two days saw the wind die down which made things a little bit more manageable. Added to which the fish seemed more forgiving and we experienced some fishing most people only dream about. Four fish were landed, all of them over the 10lb mark. Yes there were still some casualties along the way with some very big fish making it off the hook prematurely, including a 15lb plus fish which Jako had hooked after sitting in the exact spot for over two hours. I could tell by his body language that it was a big fish when he hooked it and even more so when after 5 min the hook pulled out. He quite literally dropped to his knees as if shot by a sniper…But that’s Permit fishing and the reason we love it so much! It’s not for everyone thankfully, as I don’t think I could guide exclusively for them…my heart just wouldn’t take it!
So there you have it, an incredible few days on St Brandon’s. We got the footage…most of it anyway and now it’s time to sit back and wait to see the edited version. I cannot wait!