Vol 7 No. 1 - September 27, 2006

Lincoln Westby and the Blue Horizon Lodge

A permit blends perfectly with its surroundings.

By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

Editor’s 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 Westby’s 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 wasn’t 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 water’s 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.

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