What a last fishing day to end this trip on - roasting hot, the sea was glassed off, and the fish were on big style. I think it's fair to say that Nick, Cian and Paul have had their collective minds blown by the fishing here in the Keys, and I am so happy that everything has come together so well to give them a real taste of how awesome it can be to go fishing overseas. We have caught so many fish because we have been staying with and fishing with one of the best guys in the business, indeed it's almost been uncanny how Rodney has said we'll catch so and so here and it's happened every time. Tarpon, permit, sharks, jacks, grouper etc., Rodney has put us over plenty of fish all the time, and he's also huge fun to spend time on the water with. Utterly infectious. Sell a kidney, give your relations to charity, do whatever you can to come to the Florida Keys and experience some of this fishing - check here.
Anyway, we steamed out into the flat calm of the Atlantic yesterday morning, and from the off the fish were on. Tarpon of course get the most press from a "conventional" saltwater fishing point of view, but fishing for these permit over a wreck is in my opinion about as outstanding as fishing is ever going to get. We are using the kind of gear that we use for bass back home, and for the permit we are simply tying on a 30lb fluoro leader with a decent hook. Very good knots are essential. Hook on a live crab, cast it around the boat, and then wait for either a tap or the rod tip to slam over as that crab drops slowly through the water column. These permit tend to hit you fairly close to the surface, and nothing will ever prepare you for the raw power these majestic fish have. Above is Cian and a 30lb permit from yesterday. You don't see fish like this everyday.........
The permit is a member of the jack family, and if any of you have ever hooked a jack then you will have some idea of how savage the fight is. I have watched as the drags on the guys' reels have been gradually tightened up as the week has progressed. But still these permit rip line off at an alarming rate. The spool of my spinning reel was hot to the touch during one fight yesterday, and just when you think your wrist is on the way out the fish then screams off again. As I have said many times before, I am a UK saltwater angler at heart, and I love "our" fishing back home, but we have nothing in our waters that compares say to a big permit on light gear. Nothing runs this fast or pound for pound comes close to the almost silly levels of power. What I think the guys have seen this week is how hard you can push the light gear and still land big fish. OK, so you need a "clean" fight, and any rock anywhere is going to do damage to any kind of braid, but tie decent knots, know how far you can push your fishing tackle, and it's amazing what can be achieved. I have been fishing for these permit with the lightest of the travel rods I have brought out here, but never once have I felt undergunned on a fish. If I was still into my wreck and reef fishing like I used to be then I would be fishing with completely different tackle.
Nick has caught any number of different species by dropping down with small jigs and plastics on his Sakura Mazzera rods, including jacks, yellow jacks, various grouper, small amberjacks (bad fish, you don't want a big one of these on light gear), you name it, he's nailed it. Just a huge amount of fun using balanced gear.
But as much as we have seen and landed a stack of different species this week, for me it's the permit that I think will leave the most lasting impression on me this time around. As a fishing photographer I am desperate to one day be around fish like this on the flats on the fly, indeed if a permit on the flats goes anything like they go on the wrecks then I guess that would explain a lot about so many anglers and their permit obsession. As an angler I just love that simple approach of hook plus crab and nothing else, and then that ridiculously powerful scrap. Best of all though is seeing these fish swim safely back to the wreck, and we have not lost one permit this week to sharks.
The guys are still asleep as I am writing this blog post, but soon enough we are going to have to pack our stuff up and get on the road to the hustle and bustle of Miami airport. All being well I should be back home with my family sometime tomorrow afternoon UK time. I need to say a massive thanks to Rodney and Fish the Dream for such a special week out here in the Florida Keys, plus of course Nick, Paul and Cian for being such a blast to fish and spend time with. Hope it's nice and warm back home ?