Part three of my coverage of fly fishing’s Grand Slam brings us to one of the most highly-prized species of the flats: the permit. Known for their elusive and crafty behavior, permit have long been considered to be one the Caribbean’s most sporting fish. To complete the Grand Slam and claim the ultimate fly fishing prize, you’ll have to tackle one of the most challenging species in the water. This task isn’t as impossible as it seems, however, and with a few tips and a little knowledge, the Grand Slam title is as good as yours.
As with other flats species, permit are built for speed and endurance, which can test even the most seasoned fly fisherman’s skills. Permit, however, pack a little more punch than species like bonefish. They’re larger and therefore stronger than bonefish, but permit are surprisingly more skittish. This makes even spotting one a difficult task in itself, and many anglers consider themselves fortunate should they spot permit on the flats. Further still, once you’re lucky enough to find them, their strength and tendency to run with sudden bursts of speed make fighting permit an absolute test of stamina and skill.
You can find permit in similar areas where bonefish roam, such as the flats, but because they’re bigger (ranging from 20-50 pounds) and more elusive, they tend to stick close to channels and deeper water, where they feel more secure.
The typical flats angler will use an 8-10 weight fly rod for permit, with 9-12 feet of 12-20 pound test leader. Also, as with tarpon, be sure to have at least 200 yards of backing, in order to better handle the spontaneous but lengthy runs that permit can produce.
Flies that have proven themselves to be effective on permit are the Merkin, Raghead, and Turneffe patterns in 1/0 sizes. Tan, brown, and green are excellent color choices for these flies, as they reflect the natural hues of the prey that permit primarily feed on.
If you’ve never had the privilege of fly fishing the flats of the Caribbean, and think that these species are just more fish to be caught, I assure you, you’re in for a surprise should you ever get the chance to travel to such an exotic location and try your hand at the Grand Slam. Tarpon, bonefish, and permit are very timid, but incredibly strong fish, and each will put even the most experienced fly angler through the ultimate test. Take the time to enjoy the amazing scenery and definitely bring a camera to preserve the memories you’ll make during a trip to the flats, as most never get to experience such an absolute rush in their lives. Who knows, with a little luck, some patience, and maybe even some guidance from a local veteran, you too can become the next angler to obtain the prize known as the Grand Slam.