Today was one of those days when fishing decided to show us just who the boss is - we got torn to pieces by big fish all day long. We have returned this evening with bruised bodies and shattered egos. It started at just after 5am when Scott hooked a really big tarpon under Seven Mile bridge, and then for over an hour he played it really well, almost to the point where it was time to grab the leader. You can see Scott playing the fish above. But tarpon are not one of the world's ultimate game species for nothing, and right at the last minute the fish took off on a huge long run and smashed Scott up on the bridge. Gutted. John then had a good bite on live crab but did not connect. Back for breakfast and a regroup. 1-0 to the fish.
Later on this morning we headed out to a wreck to try for permit and amberjack, and the fish were on the feed. I have never fished for permit and was dying to hook one. I have seen one hooked on the flats on fly, and I have seen the Indo Pacific variety on the flats in the Seychelles refusing flies, but I have never fished for them myself. Down goes a live crab on 50lb braid and a very tight drag. A few minutes later and I get a gentle kind of bite, but after I strike it, all hell lets loose. Within five seconds of hooking this permit I can see what all the fuss is about - they are awesome fish. Their turn of speed is insane, in fact I have rarely seen a fish take off so fast against a seriously tight drag. And of course the fish went and did me like a kipper. OK, so it isn't fly fishing for them, but this way of fishing for them is serious fun. 2-0 to the fish.
John meanwhile has dropped a live pinfish down to the wreck on 80lb braid and a proper boat rod and reel. Above you can see what happened about five minutes after he put the bait close to the wreck - that drag is wound down as tight as it will go, I could hardly pull line off it myself, but the amberjack ripped him up big time. Look at how much pressure John is putting on the fish, but still he never stood a chance as it powered back to the wreck. The power level of this fish is simply impossible to describe. 3-0 to the fish.
I then get done by another big permit - I wound my drag up even tighter, but still I could not stop the fish reaching the wreck and cutting me off. I am ashamed at my language when I lost that second permit !! I abused that fish, and still he did me good and proper. 4-0 to the fish and we are starting to wonder what on earth is going on here.
John is next to be ripped up by a good permit, and by this time his body is suffering a little bit after getting abused so badly by the amberjack. 5-0 to the fish. We are bleeding here.
We make a move to a different mark, and the permit are there as well. Sometimes you can see them swimming around, and Scott hooks up on a small jig baited with prawn. Things are going really well and the fish eventually begins to tire. This is it, nearly over, time for some photos of a fish I have wanted to see for ages. But then the permit suddenly charges to the surface with a number of sharks in hot pursuit, and then these sharks tear into the unfortunate fish and rip it to pieces in a complete frenzy. Seriously gutted. 6-0 to the fish. Pain time.
I rush to change over to a little wire trace and a bit of cut fish bait, and within a few seconds one of the smaller sharks hits my bait and I set the hooks. The shark charges off and promptly bites through my wire trace. 7-0 to the fish and we head for home - broken, damaged, sore and humbled. What an incredible day. What else can humble like fishing ?
The Florida Keys are insane. I know of no more cost effective way to get at this world class fishing than to get in touch with Rodney Goodship of Fish the Dream and book some time out here. We simply have no fish in the UK that fight anywhere close to species such as tarpon, permit and amberjack. Tomorrow is another day.