PERMIT, BONEFISH and to finish the TARPON !!!
Making a 1st «INSHORE GRAND SLAM» (internationally recognized challenge) and especially here in GUADELOUPE (French West Indies), is an unforgettable experience in the life of a fisherman, but to renew the « challenge » is simply amazing !
2 years after my first one, I validate the second GRAND SLAM of my life, so it’s not saying that on this beautiful sunny day my emotion was at its peak !!
Guadeloupe, despite its fantastic playground, remains a difficult island to fish for… This is why many fly fishing aficionados, including professionals in the field, have tried their luck without reaching their goal ?!
Indeed, it is not given to everyone to be able to capture a permit, a bonefish and a tarpon, in one and the same day and even less on foot, from the shore.
It is important to understand that the approach of these 3 species is specific to each one. Becoming, as a sports fisherman, specialist on only one of these species is already not easy and I had to accumulate knowledge about them and learn mainly alone, in order to specialize on them. But I have to say that the experience with the permit is long and tedious …
But if I have the honour of being one of these lucky ones, it is because during the last 10 years of fishing and observation in Guadeloupe, I have learned that only passion, determination and time spent on the water can meet this type of challenge.
Here is the story of a day like no other :
A usual day of fishing on the flats of Guadeloupe was preparing. Alone on foot with my backpack in this dreamy tropical landscape, I was ready to battle with the coastal sports fish among the smartest and most combative on the planet !
After a few minutes spent on a flat that I know « like my pocket », I suddenly perceive some movements of water different from the others. I need all my attention and experience to be able to distinguish a movement due to a bottom element, from that of a fish. There, only lovers of “sight fishing on foot on the flats” of this type of substrate will really understand what I’m talking about …
The wind is strong and rough is the sea. I cast as quickly as possible, my fly must arrive at a good distance in 2 or 3 false casts only. I perform a perfect cast, I strip, and there a «school» of 5 permits popped up behind my fly. They suddenly decide, for no apparent reason, to turn around ! I hope they didn’t feel my presence… I step back, step out of the area where I saw them and wait a little bit …
At the speed at which they run away, they either have a big barracuda hunting them, or they are feeding… ?! In any case, I know that I don’t have time to change my fly, this one must be the right one because they may reappear from one second to the next !
I spot them again. They are excited and swim fast. I cast again, the 5 come in full behind my fly, one of them grabs it from near me. I’ll strike at a short distance, a bit to the rod, a bit to the fly line (not great…) I’ll loose this one, thin !!! Two of them suddenly reappear, it is better to be reactive, I tell you, the action only lasts a few brief seconds ! The 3 biggest have already fled ! No wonder because the permit is a species whose «education» is extremely fast.
My fly is then ejected into the air, and in the same movement, I cast it immediately, I strip and here is a new bite ! This time, he’s on the line ! Here we go …! He swims immediately towards corals, as permits do so well in this kind of environment. Moreover, I have unfortunately lost several large specimens in this way before. But I feel that I progress despite everything every time I attack on sight.
Now, everything goes well because this fish remains of modest size and my experience, among others, on the big bonefish allows me to master it without any problem. That said, a permit is still a permit and the adrenaline is there ! I finish the fight while a friend sees me harnessed, great, he is on time, I will be able to get help for the photos !
I give freedom to this little Grail that makes me dream so much, I am so happy !
I check my equipment properly and we move on. I reposition myself on the flat, I’m ready, I have a few meters of line outside. I quickly see three bonefish marauding. I present my shrimp imitation to the most forward one which is also, a chance for me, the biggest. He grabs it and a new fight is engaged. “One shot”, as in training !! Although often difficult to achieve, this is often what must be done with the «big bones», the first cast must be «the» good cast, that is to say to carry out an attack in little «false casts», so that he does not perceive the shadow of the line above him, neither too short not too long, not too much to the left, not too much to the right ! Otherwise the bite, in most cases, won’t happened.
The pressure is mounting ! I must be vigilant … I prevent the fish from going into the obstacles and rubbing my line against the bottom dotted with a multitude of rocks and cutting shells … Then ended by bringing back this bonefish of beautiful size ! I am in a particular place and taking a photo alone remains very complicated. At the end of the fight, the fish, still connected to my line, quietly recovers underwater, turning around. I take this opportunity to call my friend, who luckily stayed around, and helps me for the photo.
After these two species in my pocket, I think of the opportunity I have to complete the 2nd Grand Slam of my life … The stakes are high !
It is time to attack the third and last species of the Grand Slam, and not least, the TARPON.
Many fishermen manage to catch 2 of the 3 species in one day, but due to more or less unpredictable factors, many of them do not succeed in this feat.
So I know that the hardest part is yet to come …
My friend and photographer «designated» of the day, accepts for the occasion to accompany me. Awesome, I will be able to share my emotion?! We are on our way to try to realize this new challenge that is in front of me.
I arrive at the edge of the water and quickly distinguish some tails that come to caress the surface. Tarpons are far from the shore but are there ! The fly line basket is installed on my hips. I chose according to the apparent conditions, a fly with which I caught several specimens under these same circumstances. I fish the water as I move around, cover the area and try to figure out where exactly the attack can occur.
After determining where I would be best placed to provoke this meeting. I offer myself the luxury of a flat stone as a promontory and I have enough space behind me to allow me to cast at long distance. I’m also starting to anticipate where I might grab him at the end of the fight. With these forces of nature, it’s better to plan ahead …
After covering the area, and observing the movement of the fish that roll on the surface, I know that they have potentially seen my fly without it being of interest to them. So I decide to switch to another one. This one was given to me by a fly-fishing fisherman. So, I believe hard ! I take my shots again, after another 30 minutes, at the end of the strip, I perceive a large silver mass following my fly, about ten meters from me. I know it’s a tarpon, I can even estimate its size which must be around, 5 feet (1 meter 50). I still insist with this one but without success !
It’s time to change for a 3rd fly. I choose this time a fly from my creation. One of my favorites ! Now it’s been a good hour that I’m trying to get this bite when suddenly, I literally get my hands ripped off the line !!! I hold it strongly and in the same second, I pull with all my strength by pulling in the opposite direction ! A perfectly successful strike ! There is «Yuko» for Gavin, as we say in judo ! Well, it’s not finish, the fights with the “Silver King” are always uncertain ! I know something about it… I remember this time when after a fight of 3 hours of time, i loose one almost in my hands ! This kind of anecdote forces you to remain humble and also to stay very focused from the beginning to the end…!
The fish jumps a first time at short distance, it seems to be about 40/45 pounds and about 1 meter 30 (4,3 feet). Perfect for a fight without too much difficulty and is slightly bigger than the one 2 years ago. Don’t lose this one, maybe there won’t be a second chance ?!
I must move on the rocks so that the line doesn’t rub at any time. The fish will still do a few jumps and then decides to go offshore. It suits me because in these conditions he can go away from obstacles. With experience, I manage the fight without too much difficulty and after barely 25 minutes, the tarpon gets tired. We must keep the attention until the last second ! I cross one last obstacle, and finally arrive on a shallow sandy bottom where I can enter to finally grab it by the mouth ! Hippon, K.O. … !
A feeling of well being invades me… With my friend we fall into arms… That’s it, it’s done ! I just realized my 2nd Grand Slam !
After only 10 years of life and fishing in the tropics, right here in Guadeloupe !
You too, give each day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life…
“A dan dot soley” !