Since we had clients spread throughout the bay, we decided to try to stay out of the way and do some exploring. Along with one of our veteran guides, David, we brought a young guide prospect, Chepo, for training. If nothing else, it would be a day of firsts for all of us.
The flat we poled was adjacent to the open ocean and looked gorgeous, but despite lots of stingrays, we saw no other signs of life. The wind had been nonexistent for over four days, and the ocean was pure glass. If the fish were there, we would have seen them.
Beyond some thick mangroves we glimpsed a patch of dark water, and asked David what we would find back there. His response was lukewarm. ' I think bonefish, maybe baby tarpon'. We decided to go check it, just in case.
As soon as we got through the mangrove tunnel that was the single entrance to this black lagoon, we knew something was up. The surface of the water was like a mirror, and fish were pushing wakes everywhere. These weren't mullet or bonefish, these were big fish. Then we saw a tail spear through the surface, then another....permit!
Fishing still water without wind to camouflage your casts is a challenging game. To permit even more so. We spooked a great deal of these fish before our flies ever hit the water. The trick was to get your fly settled on the bottom before the fish passed by, and strip it right under his nose. Permit are erratic swimmers who prescribe circles as often as straight lines, and it was maddening to see them turn away, again and again.
Chepo's eyes were as big as saucers and he was beside himself trying to decide on a target. It was literally acres of permit, as far as the eye could see. David laughed quietly and advised that we stand our ground along the edge of the mangroves, and fished to what came our way, with only minor movements to positiion the skiff. The boat, the pole, made too much noise. It was impossibly still. Even our whispers sounded blaringly loud.
I was beginning to despair as my umpteenth bungled cast caused yet another permit to shoot away from us, but this fish settled down again almost immediately, and was still in range. I put the fly fifteen feet ahead of him, and prayed. Miracle of miracles, he stayed on course. I only had to twitch the fly and it was fish on.