SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
A permit blends perfectly with its surroundings.
By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Editors note: Sun Outdoors Editor Rusty Chinnis
recently went to Belize to pursue his passion for permit
fishing with a fly rod. This is Part Two of his adventure
to that Central American country.
One of the things that make Lincoln Westbys operation
stand out is his philosophy of giving anglers a unique
opportunity without pressuring the resource. While other
lodges go for numbers, the Blue Horizon (occupancy six
anglers) concentrates on the quality of the experience.
Westby also fishes by the tides (high rising, high and
high falling) and not by time. Keen eyes allow him to
slow motor along the edge of flats looking for tailing
fish and avoid long spells of poling. We would still explore
reefs that he knew to be productive at a given stage of
the tide, but I never had the feeling that he was just
putting in time. Every minute that we fished he was alert,
totally focused on finding permit and getting me in position
for a cast. During any given tide (we fished the morning
tide, took an afternoon break and then fished the afternoon
tide), Westby afforded me casts at scores of permit, most
of which were tailing. He skillfully positioned the boat
in the path of feeding fish, and we would make a cast
from the boat or get out and pursue them on foot. It wasnt
unusual to make casts at 10 to 15 schools per session.
Although I have fished permit for more than 10 years and
caught a fair number on fly, I was humbled by his skill
and made aware that there is so much yet to learn.
A mentor takes you to a new level, reminds you of the
complexity of the natural world and feeds your desire
to learn. On the day I photographed Westby, he left the
boat to stalk a school of feeding permit and I was able
to experience a master at work. He made a high looping
cast that sent the fly softly to the waters surface
just two feet short of the feeding fish. Not once, but
five times, the permit rushed the fly only to turn off
at the last minute. Each time Westby waited (when I would
have attempted to set the hook) until the fish had just
turned off the fly and then gave a three-inch strip that
teased the fish back to the fly. On the fifth look, the
permit took the fly.
If I had to condense the knowledge I learned in my days
with Westby into a short paragraph, it would be that permit
are moody, and every presentation and opportunity will
be influenced by many factors. The angler must judge the
mood of the fish, know where the fly is at all times and
take into account the tides, weather, availability of
food, wind, structure of the bottom, sun angle and much
more. Permit fishing is incredibly demanding, and therein
lies its appeal. Quantum leaps in fly fishing can be built
up with years of experience, or on occasion, by having
the good fortune to learn from a mentor. It keeps it fresh
and vital and makes us keen for our next adventure.