Patience. Persistence. PERMIT.
Patience (or forbearing) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.
So I have to admit. I'm still working on the patience part of this mantra spoken to me by Wil Flack, Owner of Tres Pescados Fly Shop in Belize. By definition I have completely failed at the patience part this year. For those who do not know me, let me explain why and the reason for this blog.
I used to be a full time fishing guide in Sanibel, Florida spending most of my days filled with castnetting bait and taking clients to fish the flats for Tarpon, Snook, Redfish and Sea Trout depending on their skill level. While I really enjoyed my job and felt blessed to guide some clients into their very first fish and others into a catch of a lifetime, I still felt like there was something I was missing.
I can attribute my obsession with flyfishing to a few people. My Aunt KK had showed me pics of her flyfishing adventures out West since I was a little girl and it wasn't until she took me out to Montana to fish in Yellowstone that l I really understood how amazing it was. Capt Chris Rush was a fly nut since he was a little boy landing his first tarpon on fly at age 11. He was fishing the A.W. Dimock Fly Tournament every year with guide buddy and good friend of ours Capt Randall Marsh where they remained undefeated several years in a row giving me the itch to get in the game. Lastly was the beginning of saltwater flyfishing porn by Capt Will Benson from World Angling that filled my computer screen featuring sick footage of FL Keys tarpon and permit.
Capt Chris taught me how to cast and double haul but because of our busy guide schedules we didn't have a ton of time to really get it dialed in. So I started spending my evenings and days off from guiding working on my casting stroke in hopes that I would land a tarpon on fly. That first year I started to throw line I missed 20 tarpon in a row. The whole strip set thing was a issue and a hard habit to develop because of a entire lifetime I had of setting the hook bait fishing. The curse was broken one day when Capt Randall took me to stick a juvenile poon on our days off from guiding. Not long after, Capt Chris took me to Biscayne Bay where I blew shot after shot at not only tarpon but a couple shots at schools of permit until I finally landed a handsome poon. From there I spent nearly every opportunity I had to stick fish on the long rod. Catching snook and reds on a weekly basis, honing in and becoming quickly addicted to feeding flies to fish.
The evolution from there was to begin tying a few flies. I started with mostly baitfish patterns with EP fibers and deer hair. There was this rewarding sensation that I'm sure some of you have experienced, nothing like hooking fish on flies that you tied with your own two hands. In September 2012 I was just beginning the journey that I am still traveling on today. Spending my time tying flies, chasing tailing reds & bowhunting for whitetails. I was in Illinois hunting for bucks that were crowned with horns the size of Yeti Coolers on their heads when I got a phone call from SIMMS Fishing Products that would change my life.
I quickly packed up my quiver & bow to head to Belize for 7 days of chasing the elusive permit on fly with SIMMS Central America Rep Wil Flack and the talented photographer Brian Grossenbacher. I quickly transitioned my mental game from bowhunting to flyfishing. With all the confidence in the world I thought on that plane ride that I would stick a permit in Belize on this trip. First impressions are huge and I'm pretty sure when the 3 of us met we knew we would be friends for a long time. First stop was the Garbutt's Fishing Lodge in Southern Belize where Scully & Oliver showed me my first tailing permit. Fishing was tough and what I didn't realize until now is that it really wasn't tough, it was just permit fishing. Known notoriously around the globe for their finicky attitude and impeccable eyesight, they were just being permit...
Second stop was the infamous Blue Horizon Lodge out in the amazing keys of Southern Belize. If you love to chase permit on the fly rod there is a chance that you've been to BHL and for certain that you have heard of it. I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life until fishing on the flats of BHL where permit look like beautiful ballet dancers on a stage filled with sea fans and coral. With every bit of elegance they feed as the tide rises with the perfect height of water for them to make their way to the table. Despite many shots and efforts we didn't land one but the experience was one that will forever stick with me as one of the most incredible places I have ever been in the world.
Third and last stop on the permit train was what I would consider the Key West of Belize, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Full of reggae bars and rockstar resorts surrounded by some of the coolest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. At the time I didn't realize that I would one day very soon call this place home. Despite many efforts and shots we still didn't stick one because of a couple reasons. The first was that I took a day off with a super sore foot (got some coral stuck in there while spearfishing) while Wil and Brian hit the flats. As they were poling into a massive wad of hungry permit and the perfect opportunity for a seasoned permit flyfisherman like Wil to stick one they got a phone call from Wil's neighbor Capt Robby who had found me passed out on their deck. Let's just say that it was a little scary as I watched the red line venture up through my foot and well I hit the floor like a sack of potatoes lucky to be rescued by Capt Robby and his wife Mina. So while poling into the school of feeding fish they dropped everything and came to make sure that I was going to be okay like good friends do and I will never forget waking up in the doctors office to them half pissed off but glad that I was okay.
Brian left that afternoon and I gladly took the invitation to stay for a couple more days to put shots at permit and hopefully land one with Wil. The very next day I landed my first permit on fly after multiple failed attempts and was seriously so in love.
Things from that day forward would never be the same. I moved to Belize 5 months later to chase permit. A simple place with a more simplified life. I decided to make the move for many reasons but at the top of that list was to figure out this whole flyfishing for permit thing. I mean really could it be that hard? Why was everyone so obsessed with this fish? I wouldn't have answers to those two questions until nearly 2 years after I caught my first one. I spent almost all of 2013 trying to catch #2. I blew shots, after shots, after shots. Humbled, frustrated and ready to pull all of my blonde hair out I returned to FL for a couple months to guide a little bit and regather my momentum.
That October I found myself traveling to British Columbia to catch my first steelhead before I returned to Belize to chase permit for the second season in a row. I learned the art of spey casting and swung my little heart out for a week. Cold and confused I started to draw some parallels to these two fish. I realized that just like permit fishing it may take a thousand casts before I land one of these incredible fighters. Lucky for me it was just a few days later that I secured the Prom Dress fly into a sexy hen.
On a steelhead high I headed back to San Pedro and thought that I was ready for permit #2. Little did I know that I would find myself in the same spot as the year prior, feeling deserted by my failed efforts to reach my goal. The season came and went just like the customers in and out of the Tres Pescados Fly Shop that I began to manage full time. Every free moment was dedicated to catching bonefish out my front door and honing in my skills to get ready for those precious permit opportunities. I am positive that a 20lb + fatty ate my fly while fishing with Wil, Jim Klug from Yellow Dog Flyfishing and Greg Baldwin from Fly Fish Guanaja. Now there is no doubt in my mind that he ate it, several times and all I had to do was go long with the stripset. Frustrated we all changed position, Wil got on the bow and Greg on the pole and bam just a few minutes later I went to a permit clinic.
I managed to lose two permit right in a row in February of 2014 due to angler error. Thanks to Mr. Bonefish my game was getting better, I was successfully landing tailing bones nearly every day but my confidence when Mr. Permit showed up was so low that I would easily crumble. As Wil told me repeatedly during the season the words that cut me to the core every time, "You have all the skills, the cast, the opportunities but when you see the permit your mental game is WEAK." I couldn't keep my composure when I encountered permit, I wasn't analyzing the fish and I would quickly fall apart. I landed bones and tarpon but no permit and I started to get into a funk.
On the very last day in Belize before I headed to the FL Keys to commercial dive for lobster and Wil was heading to BC to guide steelhead as we idled out I positively thought to myself that today is my day. The night before I had busted out a brand new Hatch 9 Plus Reel and loaded it with the new Rio Permit WF9F fly line onto my Scott S4S Fly rod. Everything that I had been working so hard for was about to pay off and the power of positivity won. Let me introduce you to permit #2.
Satisfaction is not the word. Gratitude filled my heart that day and I have to thank my lucky stars and Wil for sticking it out and not giving up on me. They say that you never forget how many permit you've caught, that each one has a special place forever engrained in your mind. Now I understand why. I would have never gotten to permit #2 without the help, guidance and encouragement from Wil Flack.
If you're trying to get in the game and land number one I would strongly suggest you spend a week (or 2) with Wil in Belize and begin the journey. For more info visit www.belizefly.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.