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Well, we finally got a break from the crappy spring and early summer weather and were blessed with a couple weeks of good sky, light winds, sweat soaked shirts, and tailing fish.
My good friend Tom Rapone managed to break away from his busy schedule of guiding anglers out of Martha’s Vineyard and snuck down to do some fishing of his own. Tom has a knack for bringing foul weather in his carry on bag but it didn’t happen this time, apparently he has been volunteering some time at the local homeless shelter this year or something.
What we did have to deal with was the madness of the last day of mini lobster season on our first day on the water. If you care at all about the flats fishery in the Keys then mini lobster season is something to completely avoid. What a junk show. We couldn’t even begin to count the number of boats on the edges of the flats, in the channels, and running over the flats in bimini topped 20+ foot boats loaded with nets, snorkels, beer, and morons. Needless to say, the fish think about as much of mini season as I do. Total disgrace.
The second day was much better, the morons stayed at the dock, hungover, sunburnt, full of lobster, and wondering how their prop got bent. We found decent numbers of tailing permit early and then threw every fly in the box at a large school of floating permit that we found wandering across a flat and hanging in the channel just off the flat.
We fished the same pattern, early morning and late afternoon, for the next couple days having a lot of shots at tailing permit in very shallow, slick calm water and also continued to try new flies on the same school of floaters. There is nothing quite like seeing permit tail in these conditions. There are also few things as difficult. We finally managed to come tight to a fish on the 3rd day after coming very close several times. Unfortunately the fish came unbuttoned.
The final day we decided to have some revenge on the floating school that had been tormenting us and catch one on the crab. The school must have known we were bringing the real deal this time because the number of fish had really decreased. Still, it was one cast and fish on. The size of some of the fish in this school was truly incredible because we felt like we had hooked the runt of the litter and this is it. Very nice fish!
That evening we went back out with the fly and what we witnessed was definitely in the top three greatest evenings of permit fishing I have ever seen. As soon as we poled onto our chosen flat we could see nervous water, wakes, and tails. This continued for 2 straight hours until we were forced off the water by a storm that had my pushpole and Tom’s rod tip buzzing.
Just before having leave the tailfest to get away from the electricity, one of Tom’s fishing dreams came true…almost. His dream was to catch a tailing permit while wading and he had the perfect opportunity on this evening. The fish were all over and feeding hard so Tom got in and started taking his shots. After having a couple shots where the fish followed literally to his feet before bolting off the flat, he made a great cast to two fish that were working side by side. As soon as the fly landed and he made one strip, one of the fish sucked it in and screamed off when he felt the hook. Tom later said this was the happiest moment of his life. Unfortunately, a large shark didn’t care much about Tom’s happiness. Neither of us, or the permit apparently, saw it coming and there was nothing we could do. The exploding, white water in the photo pretty much tells the rest of the story. Next time dude, next time…
In an attempt to make him feel a bit better before getting on a plane the next morning, I figured a little night fishing was in order. After dinner the boomers had passed through so we snuck out for a few hours and got 9 tarpon bites and had a good time trying to forget the shark incident. I can guarantee one thing, Tom will be back to even the score.
The bonefishing has really been either red hot or very difficult so far this year but I do expect that it will get more consistent as we get away from this full moon and get deeper into summer and early fall. Here is a photo of my first time flats angler from Finland, Samuli Tursas, and a bonefish we caught out of a big school yesterday. Samuli really improved in our time on the water, maybe more so than anyone I have ever seen, and we also landed two tarpon last evening to cap a great day of fishing.
Now lets just hope that the rest of hurricane season goes as it has for the last several years!