To avoid detection, I crouched low and moved smoothly. Initiating my back cast, I delivered and landed my fly softly in front of this wary “black-tailed devil.” The permit lit up to a nearly-neon, blackish hue when it eyed the crab, quickly swimming its way straight to the fly. Not wanting to ambush myself, I steadily “crawled” the slack out of my fly line.
Then, as inevitably happens in permit fishing, the sun disappeared again behind the same inane cloud. Yet, against the odds, I felt a subtle tightening of the line and reflexively strip-set the hook with a firm pull of my left hand. Fish on!
In a blur, the permit raced towards me, flashing silver as the fish dramatically turned on its side, scraping the rubble bottom in an attempt to dislodge the prickly crab fly from its mouth. Failing at that, the permit panic-maneuvered a 180 degree banked turn, frothing up a circular water wake as a precursor to hightailing it off of the flat. My shrieking Waterworks Vanquish reel provided the audio accompaniment as the permit disappeared with the fly line and most of the backing.
“Dermin, get after him with the electric motors!” I implored. Dermin scrambled down off of the poling platform. The chase was on. Two football fields away, at the edge of the flat, loomed a severe drop off into deep water. Guarding that drop off was a phalanx of sharply pointed coral heads. There was some progress made in regaining line while the skiff followed in pursuit. “Dammit”, I shouted, realizing that just ahead, my fly line had snagged around the edge of a short coral head. As tension built on the terminal tackle from the binding and scraping of the running permit, I thrust my rod forward, desperate to clear my line on the right side. No good. I arced the rod around the left side of the coral head - the line was clear!
Gathering the slack line, I reeled with all the speed and intensity I could muster. Mr. Rubber Lips was well on his way to the abyss as he ramped up into overdrive on a second long, long run. Until now, I had kept the reel drag setting light to encourage the fish to run long, rather than dive into the coral. This time, as soon as I was able to see and recover the back end of my fly line, I cranked down on the drag and began to apply maximum sideways pressure on my rod and my 16 pound fluorocarbon tippet.
Certainly no fool, my savvy permit abruptly turned the advantage his way, outflanking both myself and the skiff, dead set and determined to back track to the ominous coral heads.
“The electrics are too slow – start the Honda. We have to beat the permit to the coral!” I barked at Dermin. He obliged. We made it just in time to wedge our position between the coral and the permit. It was time to dig in and start the heavy lifting. Knees and legs bent, I tried to lift and pull the permit away from the coral, securing my gains on the reel as I lowered the rod for the next pull.