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Articles: Grand Slam en Cayo Largo

by: Daniel Beilinson

Five Grand Slam had been achieved in the week that started on July 12th by the fifth day. The group consisted of 8 anglers (2, fishing on double basis and 4 on single basis).
As every morning, we set off at 8.20 am. 3 out of the 6 boats headed to sector #1. In Cayo Largo the fishing area is divided into 6 sectors and the anglers never fish in the same sector. It was our last fishing day and my last chance of fishing permit. Even though I had had some opportunities in the previous days, I hadn't been able to catch any. The permit is one of the most difficult species to fish, as it is very active, has excellent eyesight, and is extremely selective and distrustful. In Cayo Largo they are usually caught when they swim on top of the rays, removing the bottom in search of food, such as crabs and shrimps. Sometimes they stay with the same ray for a while and others they change to other rays or move alone.

It was a beautiful day with a few clouds, quite windy and very hot. When it was my turn to stand at the bow of the skiff at about 10.15 am, our guide Rigo pointed at a muddy bottom (bottom moved by a ray) and a possible permit. We were able to approach despite the wind and I got ready when we were 20 yards away. Rigo tried hard to stop the skiff where the wind wouldn't bother to make my cast easier, and then I cast. The fly, a shrimp created by Mauro Ginevri, fell right on top of the ray. I started to strip, but the permit swimming around the ray did not pay attention to it and rushed away. There might have been a shark close, as we had already spotted plenty of them that day.
We kept on in search of another small muddy bottom, and Rigo found another one 10 minutes later. He was sure the ray had a permit on top. My heart started beating faster; there are usually slight chances to find permit and to catch them is much more difficult. Rigo got within 20 to 25-yard distance and he asked me if I was ready to cast and if I could see the permit. At first, there seemed to be two of them. The black tail and the dorsal fins could be seen out of the water. However, they were 3 or 4 actually. I answered I could see them, so he got the skiff into position and told me to cast. My first cast was a bit short, but I started to strip once the fly hit the water and was close to the permit. I was able to see 2 out of the 4 permit, which darted at my fly. I suddenly felt a light tension, so I set the hook without a second thought (at the same time, Rigo shouted, set the hook!). As soon as the permit was hooked, it began a run taking line and backing with it (no less than 80 yards). I tried to retrieve gently, as many permits are lost when the anglers try to rush them. After a 10-minute battle, I succeeded in bringing it closer to the skiff. Rigo took it by the tail quickly. I had caught a nice permit weighing between 11 and 12 pounds. It was not as big as the other permits caught during that week, but it was a permit in the end. We took some pictures and then released it.
As it was our last fishing day, my skiff partner (Raúl Pinochet Herrera from Chile) and I had agreed that both of us would fish evenly. In general when one of the anglers catches a permit, he is granted all the fishing time until he achieves a Grand Slam. We set off in search of tarpon when it was my turn. There are tarpon in Cayo Largo, but they are not as big or as many as the ones found in the Gardens of the Queen or Isle of the Youth. We got closer to the mangrove vegetation in the sector #1, where baby tarpon are usually found. Rigo didn't take long to spot them, but they were under the mangroves. Some of them swam to the surface every now and then, so I placed the fly in front of them as soon as they did it. I was using a rod #10 with a floating line and a Black Death fly). They were never interested in the fly, nor were they nervous. Sometimes they just won't take the fly, and there's nothing you can do about it. We had been sailing among the mangroves for over half an hour, when we spotted small schools of baby tarpon swimming by. None of them seemed interested in the fly. That was when we decided to change the fly for a smaller Black Death and sharpen the shock tippet with just a 40-pound fluorocarbon. As we didn't get any good results, we were almost giving up. Rigo suggested tying a red and yellow rabbit fly for our last attempt. I made a couple of good casts and a baby tarpon took the fly in a second. I set the hook, but unfortunately the line got tangled in the mangrove vegetation and I couldn't control the baby tarpon, which managed to unhook. I cleaned up the line and the fly to get ready to cast again. I made a cast to some baby tarpon placing the fly right in front of them. One of them charged at the fly rapidly, so I set the hook and pulled it always keeping the rod in a low position, in order to get it out of the mangrove and closer to the skiff. Rigo took the shock tippet and caught the baby tarpon with a net. It weighed between 8 and 9 pounds. We released it after taking some pictures.

As only one bonefish was missing to achieve the Grand Slam and it was 11.30 am, we decided to find a beach with some shade to have lunch. After lunch, we devoted our time to find baby tarpon for Raul in the open sea and channels. Rigo suggested catching the bonefish once and for all to complete the Grand Slam, after a long time without any luck. The tide was low and it was very hard to find them in such shallow waters, so we moved to deeper areas. We saw some bonefish in the distance, but they were very nervous. There were many lemon sharks and big barracudas lurking around. I personally don't like fishing for bonefish in the muddy bottom, I'd rather wade or fish on sight, but it was getting late, there was a stronger wind, and I had promised Raul to go back to the channels before returning. So I agreed to fish a bonefish for the Grand Slam in a muddy. Rigo spotted an area and assured there were bonefish. We approached about 15 yards and we could see a good number. I cast my Gotcha, and a bonefish took it as soon as I began to strip. However, it unhooked when I set the hook. I made a second cast, and another bonefish took the fly as soon as it hit the water. I managed to land it after a few minutes; it weighed about 3 pounds. We had achieved a Grand Slam, which meant the 6th of the week and the 8th Grand Slam of my life.

I would like to thank Raul for his patience, sense of humor, gentlemanly manners, and who has proved to be an excellent partner, and Rigo (Rigoberto), our fishing guide, for his professionalism, outstanding work, good eye and passion for the fishing.

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