Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle

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SEA FISHING

For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over four years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

Have a good Christmas and good fishing in the New Year.

20 December 2005

Permit at last

Permit, in case you haven’t heard, are the tropical angler’s Holy Grail. Deep bodied, fork-tailed, platinum coated fish with enough power to shift a decent sized cruise liner. Add to this a set of early warning systems to put the Bank of England to shame and cunning to match the wiliest carp and there - if the tales are to be believed - you have something approaching this wonder fish.

Neither of us had ever caught a permit. We had seen them and lusted after them during our visits to Tobago, but setting a hook in one was a totally different kettle of tropical fish.

We were staying with Chris and Sue Harris - in their apartments near Monkey River. On the first morning we set off with Ian, our guide, for Port Honduras Bay, a region of calm, gin clear, water dotted with innumerable little coral and mangrove studded islands, each with its own tiny sea grass covered flat, some no bigger than a football pitch. On one island resides the warden of the marine reserve and first we had to visit him to obtain what we called our ‘permit permit’. In fact it turned out that he had run out of tickets so, in typical Belizian fashion, he refused to take any payment.

Ian liked the look of Steve’s ten weight fly rod so, armed with a weight forward floating line, a cast tapered to 12lb BS and one of Ian’s ‘crab flies’ Steve got down to it.

Steve was sight-casting for the permit in no more than 18 inches of gin-clear water. A hush descended over the three of us as we concentrated on the surface of the sea to the left, to the right and in front of us. Straining our eyes for the tale-tell signs of fish – a bow wave, a glint of flank in the sunlight, or a black sickle-shaped permit tail cutting the water surface.

Ian was red hot; he expertly poled us round one flat after another and invariably spotted the signs of fish long before we did. There were lots of good sized permit, in singles and small groups of three or four and they proved to be just as fussy as we had been led to believe.

Although Steve is a competent fly caster mis-timed casts spooked the fish, fell too short or were just ignored. Frustration set in, followed by renewed determination. You can see how, for some anglers, permit become a life-long obsession. By now Steve was dropping the fly within feet of tailing fish time after time. Often they were spooked and shot away with a disdainful wag of the tail. On a few occasions they turned onto the fly and then refused it. Frustrating! It certainly was. After five hours of casting in the tropical heat Ian took pity on us and said it was time to try something else and Steve at last sat down as we motored into Deep River, he seemed just a tiny bit disappointed but also slightly relieved.

Our next permit trip was out to the Sapodilla Cayes, far offshore on the barrier reef. It was wonderful. Miles of coral and turtle grass flats laden with fish. We saw eagle rays, sting rays, bonefish, jacks and yes – more permit.

Following Steve’s fly fishing marathon and having been warned (by me) of my fly casting buffoonery, Ian had brought along a bag of ghost crabs collected by the local children. I set up my light spinning rod (Veal’s 4 Surespin) carrying a Shimano Stradic fixed spool reel loaded with 15lb Whiplash braid. I tied on a yard of 12lb nylon and armed it with a size 2 Varivas semicircle hook (one of our “fancy” hooks as Ian began to call them). A crab was hooked on and when we spotted the first group of feeding fish I flicked it into their path.

The fast moving fish seemed to have passed by the bait so I began to retrieve for a second go when the crab was seized. I let the line run through my fingers for a couple of seconds and then tightened. The reel screamed and the rod bent and away went my adversary. After a stout battle it showed itself to be not a permit but a modest yellow jack – brilliant iridescent blue on the back and golden yellow down below – amazing!

I rebaited and Ian poled onwards. This time we could see that the feeding fish were actually permit. Out went the crab again. Within seconds I felt the tug of a taking fish. Again I let it run and tightened – it was on! Screaming reels weren’t in it. The fish went berserk running and running again. My heart was in my mouth in case it should come off but in due course it was swimming close to the boat, the flat, silvery, violet shaded body and the jet black sickle shaped fins were quite spectacular – what a fish! Ian lifted it from the water and unhooked it. Steve took a quick picture although, to be honest, the picture is burned into my memory for ever and back it went. Our first permit!

Steve’s daughter Hayley cast the next crab. Again it was seized at once and she hooked the permit. It ran like a train but after it had taken perhaps eighty yards the line fell slack. When we retrieved we found that the nylon trace had been chopped through, presumably a small barracuda had attacked the fast moving loop knot. The next fish to take a crab turned out to be a smallish bonefish, so Steve picked up his eight weight and, in short order landed several hard fighting bones. What a session.

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com

"Permit permit"

On our second trip we managed to get the 'permits' the price is $20 Belize (about£6).

Flat.

This is typical of the little flats where we found permit.

Steve fly fishing.

Note the socks to avoid roasted feet.

My permit.

Even seconds after capture the irridescent violet colour seems to have faded.

Close up.

The semi-circle hook did its job perfectly.

Hayley's bone fish.

This one took a crab intended for permit.

Bone on fly.

Steve quickly got the hang of tempting bonefish on the fly.