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Articles: La pesca de palometa

by: Daniel Beilinson

When we start fishing a species for the very first time, we try to find similarities with the fishing we are used to. We search for written information, ask fellow fishermen and friends, search in Google and watch videos on YouTube. However, when the time comes, I can assure you by personal experience that reality is always beyond our expectations. I have been fly fishing the sea for over 25 years, and my first experience was with bonefish, the same as everybody. Then I took up tarpon and snook, and finally permit. Bonefish fishing proved to be a turning point in my fly fishing experience for several reasons: first, because I had to learn to spot fish so as to sight fish; secondly I had to cast more accurately (in spite of the wind many times); thirdly, I had to improve casting distance to avoid making fake casts or hit the water; and lastly I had to learn to deal with a very fast and powerful fish. Tarpon fishing was my second experience in the sea, and it made me change my concept of fishing in general definitely, especially in the way of hooking and tackling the leaps. However, it was fishing permit (Trachinotus Falcatus) many years later what made me become addicted to saltwater fly fishing.
Fishing for permit gathers some characteristics that make it unique. The fish has very good sight; it is very sensitive to sounds, shades, tides and possible predators. It is very selective with regard to the food and extremely fast to taste it and reject it if it doesnt like it. Its palate is so hard that it can crash a hook. Whats more, its flat body and big tail make the permit a fast, powerful and fighting species. For all this, I can assure that fishing for permit is not an easy task and that is why it is very special.
The permit (Trachinotus Falcatus) is found in the Atlantic Ocean, from Northern Carolina (USA) to the south of Brazil, mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. They live in shallow tropical waters, flats, canals and muddy bottoms. They can be spotted alone or in small schools, usually near the shore, although they prefer deeper waters to spawn. Sometimes they are seen in big schools of juvenile in the summer (Northern hemisphere) in sand banks. They feed on invertebrates, mollusks, crabs, shrimps and small fish. They can reach up to 48 inches long and weigh 80 pounds.
Fishing for permit is not an easy task, as I have already said above. It depends on what the permit is doing at the moment and where it is, if it is alone or with a group, if it is just swimming by or feeding. The best is when the permit is eating and is focused on finding food. Sometimes they are tailing (searching for shrimps and crabs in the bottom), so it is easy to spot them in the distance for its black tail and dorsal fin. In this case, we should check if it is alone or with other permits. The angler has to choose what permit to target. It should be the one that is closer to us, because if there are other permits and the line flies over them or the fly hits the water, they will be frightened away. Once you have picked the permit, the cast should be very accurate, trying to place the fly (crab or shrimp) near the permits head, although you might think that it will be frightened when the fly touches the water (it could happen, though). The fly should drown without touching the bottom and then move it gently with short irregular strips, to call the permits attention. When the permit spots the fly, it usually follows it and leans to suck it. That is the very moment to hook it, pulling back to tense the line and lifting the rod. If the permit takes the fly, you will feel a mild tension in the first second, but then it will dart away taking line and backing. We should never try to stop the races; we should let the reel brake do its job. After a first run (that could take up to 150 yards from backing), the permit stops; and that is when the fight starts. The permit is a powerful fish that doesnt give up easily and usually takes many long runs before quitting. When the permit is tired, it lies down showing all its side and stops offering resistance. It is important to take it by the tail and avoid holding it out of the water for a long time. The hook must be removed quickly and the fish should be placed back in the water as soon as possible to revive it before releasing it.
The other way to catch permit is when they are riding rays. Rays are spotted easily, but we take longer to see the permit traveling with them, as the water is always more turbid. The permit are not always on top of the rays; sometimes they go away and then come back and swim around them. In this case, casting should be made about one yard ahead of the ray, so that the fly is on its back when the ray moves. Crabs or shrimps will do well in this case. Strips should be short, irregular and gentle; and never let the fly die. The permit will take the fly as soon as it sees it if it lies on top of the ray or will follow it to take a better look. They dont usually take the fly when they follow it, but the ray offers a second chance to cast again, as long as the permit is not scared away.
The permit suck their food, and if they dont like something they throw it out so quickly we hardly realize (the fly might be inside the mouth for microseconds). The permit may also suck the fly (crab), and when it reaches its palate and gets to the end of its throat, the tension makes the hook turn so it wont hook up. That is when you get the feeling that you have hooked a permit, but it doesnt race away. Sometimes the permit takes the fly again, but you cant actually hook it. When fishing for permit, always check the hook, as it might have turned, and the leader, which shouldnt have any knots.
Permit are easily frightened. Hitting the water with the line when casting, making fake casts to take distance, tossing the line over the fish, making too much noise on the boat will only scare the permit away. And when one is frightened away, the others around will also run away. That is why you have to make the most of the few chances you get. Bear in mind that bonefish are usually with permit and they are faster when it comes to taking the fly, so dont feel disappointed if you think youve caught a permit and it turns out to be a lovely bonefish. These things happen.
The most famous destinations for permit fishing are the coast of Florida in the US, mainly the Keys and the Gulf coast, the Yucatan in Mexico ( Isla Blanca, Bahía de la Ascencion, Xcalac), Belize (Turneffly; Punta Gorda; Ambergys Cays and Placencia), Honduras (Roatan), the Bahamas and Cuba (Cayo Largo; Jardines de la Reina; Cayo Coco; Cayo Romano). Permit are likely to be found in other islands in the Caribbean (Anegada; Union Island; Tobago Cays), Colombia (San Andres), Venezuela (Los Roques) and Trinidad & Tobago. The most productive months are from March through September.
The recommended tackle for permit consists of a 10Wt or 9Wt rod with saltwater floating line (Tropical Core), saltwater reel with a good brake system and 200 yds of 20 or 30 pound-test backing. Flies may vary in the different destinations as the food may be different as well (crabs, shrimps, small lobsters, among other mollusks and crustaceans). Hooks should be resistant and sharp; stainless steel is highly recommended. The most common sizes are #2 and #4. The best fly patterns for permit are: Del Browns Merkin; Rag Head; Anton Crab; Bonafide Crab; Clouser Minnow; EP Spawning Shrimp; Mc Crab; Turneffly Crab; Mangrove Criter; AVALON Fly; Palometa Crab; etc.

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