Well, it’s hard to find the words to express how I feel right now after winning the 2011 March Merkin tournament. My angler Mike Dawes and I have been working hard to post a win for four years now and it has finally happened!
Our week started with 3 days of very tough pre-fishing that produced very few shots and ZERO fish. Water temps started in the morning around 67* warming to only 70* at best during the day. Most of us like to see our starting temps at 74 warming into the high 70’s. Needless to say those cool temps made the fishing tough. But there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Day one brought warmer temps and partly cloudy skies. Mike and I were able to get on our “first choice” flat after a shotgun start and found fish immediately. The fish were on the move with the incoming tide but not really feeding; we must have had 15 good quality shots before sticking our first fish at 2:00 pm. Six fish fed in from the starboard side of the boat, tailing as they slowly moved in our direction. Mike fired a 50 foot cast to 11 o’clock after a quick spin with the boat putting the fly about six feet past the farthest fish and started a long slow strip. Strip, Strip, Strip, and then the third fish in dipped hard, tailed, and ate the fly! Mike came tight and 15 painful minutes later we landed and tagged our first fish! We were on the board! Three fish were caught by three different boats on day one. Mike and I found ourselves in second place just a few inches behind Keven Guerin and Doug Behrman.
On day two Mike was able to stick a single fish around noon with a 35 foot back cast to 2 o’clock. That permit ate so hard Mike only needed a very short strike to bury the hook. The fish took off across a very shallow hard bottom and didn’t give it up for about 15 minutes and soon found the bottom of the net where it was quickly tagged and released after a few pictures. We returned to the marina where we found that there were six fish caught. To make it worse, Jon Ain and Doug Kilpatrick managed to land two fish putting them in second place just a few inches short of Mike and I going into day three.
We went into the final day feeling like we needed at least two fish to seal the deal. The ideal plan was to get one very early, work super hard to get another by noon, and then fish the rest of the day hard.
Well, the morning started out a little rough. Justin Rea beat us to the flat (by 50 yards) we had been fishing all day each of the two days prior, so we moved to plan “B” which was to fish the flat just 300 yards east of Justin. We were on the flat for 15 minutes when we found a tailing fish and landed him at 9: 30 a.m. We later found out that Justin saw us stick, land and release the fish.
We thought we had lost the tournament at 4:00 p.m. when we stuck and lost what would have been our largest fish of the week. He just came unbuttoned. Talk about heartbreak! In the end we didn’t need a second or a fourth fish on the last day to win it.
Thanks go out to each and every Permit fisherman that has ever spent time on my boat. Hundreds of days on the water and the knowledge they brought made this win possible. Mike Dawes, what can I say……some of the best damn fishing I have ever seen! “Lets find another fish!”