PERMIT on fly from the flats of GUADELOUPE (French West Indies Caribbean)

PERMIT on fly, the accomplishment …!

Surely the best day of my life as a fisherman !?!

As avid fisherman, we all have a dream. This catch, this fish, the one we are looking for with fervor and that we hope for so much… Whether it is Mr. Salmon, Mrs. Steelhead, GT, Milkfish, Roosterfish, to each his own challenge.

For me, my ultimate dream was to take a beautiful Permit specifically on sight on the fly, and more than anything, to take it on foot as usual, on the magnificent flats of Guadeloupe.

And now, after 10 years dedicated to tropical fishing, the dream has come true !

I have no words to express the joy I felt when I caught this fish so mythical to me !!! This species is recognized by fly anglers the world over as being one of, if not the most elusive and difficult fish to catch by this way, freshwater and saltwater combined. Moreover, I know that only 2 or 3 fishermen, including me from now, have succeeded in meeting this challenge in the entire history of sport fishing in Guadeloupe. Writing this page has been an incomparable experience, and so enriching!

Of all the challenges that I set myself during this decade of life spent in Guadeloupe, taking a permit on fly was the most difficult to achieve !

An unknown place for “trachinotus” fly fishermen, this West Indies island has been talking about it for about fifteen years now. We fish there for big bonefish on fly (my personal record is 76cm- 30 inches), big snooks (personal record at 1m14-45 inches, probably the biggest fish caught from the shore with a lure in France in a sporting way), nice tarpons (record on fly at 1m65-65 inches from a kayak). And so we also have this wonderful permit, this fish so fierce that it is nicknamed the “devil black tail”, quite simply the “Grail”…

Unlike many other “permit destinations” around the world, where the flats are perfectly suited to fishing for big fish, here most of the flats are often very difficult to fish. The small territory that is “Butterfly Island”, the density of this relatively low species present in this type of shallow environment and the approach on foot add to the difficulty. And that’s why the challenge is so huge and exciting !














For all those who follow my adventures on the flats of the Guadeloupe archipelago, you must have noticed that I have always done this quest for the permit by only looking for it on fly. For about 6 years, I have captured 13 specimens of small sizes, and had 3 taken. I knew that none of this would have really allowed me to transcend myself to get there and the result would not have had the same flavor in my eyes…


It is certainly in this sense that sport fishing must be, the catch of a fish being only the end result, the interest remains, in my opinion, in the way of achieving its ends ! And that, in my opinion, is how true “sport fishing” enthusiasts define themselves !

Immersed in the natural environment, seeking a real osmosis in this magnificent environment, I have the feeling of being able to compare myself to those hunters who track deer with a bow “on approach”, or even those mountaineers who climb Everest alone and without oxygen.

Personally, I don’t know of fishing challenges that require so much investment to achieve their goals. But what I would remember the most from this “achievement” is the path traveled to get there! 10 years devoted to this quest and personal learning in exotic tropical fishing where little by little, I saw myself refining my technique, grouping information, preparing myself for it strategically, mentally… But also exchanges and decisive meeting with other well-known “tropics.flats” angler-customers/fishing guides because such a course is never completely done alone. Thanks to all this, I was finally able to enjoy this magical moment, where the dream becomes reality, where the impossible suddenly becomes achievable…

Of course, we can never predict with precision what results our efforts will generate… but what determines the very essence of our sport, the challenge, is what allows us to progress, to transcend ourselves, and eventually arouse the dream in others …


One beautiful sunny day, I decided to fish an area which, according to my calculations, could today bring together the “necessary” conditions to take a permit “on sight”, on fly, in “wading”.

Well aware of the difficulty of my quest and knowing that if a possible fight takes place in this kind of place, the outcome of this one will certainly be more in favor of the permit than mine. Despite several setbacks on a few specimens of fairly modest sizes in the last few months, I continue to believe in it and don’t give up !

I am determined. Based on my experience, I know that the path I have decided to take can allow me to achieve my goals. I had been saying it for a few weeks to my brother as well as to my father, both guides, that I felt that my efforts might soon be successful…

I start my progression in the middle of this flat that I know very well … After about twenty minutes of looking around, I see a suspicious mass in the distance. I approach and suddenly see 2 large subjects of almost ten kilos coming at me. They feed on the bottom. I observe the scene with enthusiasm and tell myself that my calculation was not that bad ! I suspected that the parameters to be taken into account (tidal range, sunshine, wind speed, etc.) had to match at this time to find them maybe at this location.

I attack these 2 big fish. For fear of scaring them with my line, I cast a little short on my first 2 casts. I immediately realize that they have not seen my fly. I finally throw at a good distance, I strip, one of the 2 follows my fly for at least 7-8 meters – 26 feet when all of a sudden, I feel a good bite, strike as it should and in a huge water turmoil that makes it splash on the surface, I start a fight, powerful. In reality with… a fish which is in fact only a big yellow trevally that came from nowhere to catch my fly right in the nose of a permit. A situation that often happens when fishing for bonefish or allowing it on the flats because the small trevallies are often less suspicious and quicker to attack our flies. Surprised and frightened by the action, the 2 permits scamper off at full speed. False joy !!!

While I am harnessed, I manage to spot the direction that the 2 large fish are taking on the run. I hope to be able to see them later. I bridle this fish as much as possible to reduce the duration of the fight. In just a few seconds the action is over and I grab it by the tail to release it quickly.

To do a strong fight like this without breaking fine material is not learned overnight. I learned to do this over time. After hundreds of fishing days, I remember that when I started bonefishing, on these “short flats”, i mean where the “reef” is very close to us, I was often surprised by the power of these fish. Very quickly I had to learn to adjust my brake to perfection.

Here, just on the big bonefishes, it is not possible letting the fish go more than a hundred meters from you, taking the time to appreciate the song of the reel, an anecdote that we can often read in magazines or fishing videos on the large sandy flats of the Bahamas or the Seychelles, for example … Personally, bones longer than 70 centimeters – 28 inches rarely take me more than forty meters – 130 feet of backing, which corresponds to a total wire length outside below 70 meters – 230 feet ! It is important to control this parameter because the longer the length of wire outside, the more likely it is to cross an obstacle and therefore break.

For the record, I have been training to bridle the big bonefish for several months now, even more than usual. The objective is to anticipate a fight with a big permit, in a place that is probably very crowded, not to say a place where the outcome is “almost fatal”. I therefore push my equipment to the test by seeking to know precisely the maximum resistance of the elements of my assembly (solidity of my knots, leaders and hooks that I use). Knowing full well that the big permits are likely to rush towards the first obstacle that comes …

I bounce back. The situation still made me understand that my fly was close to what the permits were looking for that day. I choose the same type of fly, also keep the same size and weight. However, I decide to change the color of this one for another one. Despite 1 follow-up over several meters, he did not take, it is necessarily that an element did not please him! In my opinion, everything was ok, except maybe the color of the fly. Let’s see …

While I briefly think about the strategy to adopt, my eye manages to see the 2 big subjects from earlier who are now slowly moving away. I follow them from afar without taking my eyes off them and I change flies as I continue to move forward.

Here I am finally ready again! They walk me on the flat and I follow them from afar waiting to see them feed again. They make me go a long way then end up reaching the depths, damn, I lost them, or did they just leave the shallow area of the flat. What a pity ! Another missed opportunity!

Come on, I stay focused on my goal. I walk then my attention is now turned to tails sticking out of the water about fifty meters – 160 feet from me… Do these look black ? I approach and realize that indeed, about ten permits are “tailing”. They are also the right size to successfully pull one out in this kind of environment ! Great, I’m lucky. As I tell the fishermen I accompany, when I see between 5 and 10 permits in a full day, sometimes even over 3-4 days, it’s already very good … Here, I’ve only been looking for them for 40 minutes so the number seen today proves that they are very active!

I position myself ideally and start casting. I see 2 who follow my fly but stay away then turn around to get back to the group. I throw again, make a discreet landing, strip, and see one of them stick his nose to my fly for about ten meters – 30 feet … then turn around too. Aaaahhhh!!!! It’s frustrating but so typical of the permit. I cast again, but this time a little long. Well not quite… In reality, when I do my final shoot before posing, one of them suddenly advances towards me. Rather than stopping my line in its tracks to pose shorter at the last moment, something that I generally master, it escapes me and I pose right on it ! No need to tell you that I scared everyone!!! It must remind many of you of a great moment of loneliness on the schools of big bonefish and tarpon … They all went like a whirlwind and so fast that I can’t make out where. Ok, 2nd penalty for Gavin in favor of the permits!! Nothing abnormal with this species that forgives no mistakes ! You have to keep your cool and keep believing !

A few minutes go by and I again see 4/5 fish feeding around coral potatoes. They may have separated from the rest of the group, so probably a bit on the alert, or is it another “school” !?

I am now very close to the coral reef. I move on turtle grass so as not to harm the environment. I put myself at casting distance. Here we go ! I cast too short a 1st time. There it is, I concentrate all my attention and say to myself, stop your mistakes and go ahead, just do what it takes …! I finally cast perfectly on one of them. He is interested, he follows frankly, I strip more and more quickly and suddenly he takes my fly brutally !!! It’s good, he’s on it and I don’t know if most of the work is done, but I especially know what is likely to happen in this kind of place … He’s going at full speed !!! First along the barrier, then cross it completely ! There it is badly crossed! I follow it with the rod very high, to avoid friction. I fall out several times, the waves go over my head, and I get back on my feet as best I can ?! I am well aware that I will not come out of this fight unscathed but no matter, I try everything for everything and continue to be tossed around in rocks, corals and waves… The fish is returned to my backing and despite my ability to avoid most of the salient obstacles, circling the coral heads one after the other, I see that it rubs all over the place along my line. I manage to restrain him a little, even if I also suffered his rushes which seem endless to me!!! How long does it last ? 15 – 20 minutes ?

My father, who had been watching me from a distance from the start, imagined the outcome of the action, telling himself that if it was indeed the fish he was thinking of, he could already see me coming back to him without it. The chances are so slim of succeeding in finishing a fight in these circumstances … He saw me disappear under water, the rod in the air, then reappear, still harnessed, several times during the whole fight …

I’m starting to lose power ! The effort is intense! But I’m not the last of the fighters/lol ?! I give everything until I start to see the distance between him and me shrinking little by little. He passes me twice within 5 meters – 16 feet. I know I’ve been close to breaking several times but the euphoria and adrenaline should probably help me keep hope alive ! At one point, he passes me nearby, I try to catch him but having no support, I am lying in the water and am getting dangerously rolled up by the waves.

At this precise moment, I admit to imagining the worst, the reversal of the situation, breaking and losing him at the very end of the fight, seeing him go without having been able to touch him. But the line is good and the guy too ! History seems to be “written” differently, in my favour !

He starts again, he passes me next to less than 2 meters – 6 feet and there I manage to jump on him to grab it by the tail ! It’s good, I’m holding it firmly, it’s finished, I won’t let go of it no matter what ! I’m exhausted and in a bad position to get out of there, I let myself be carried flat on my stomach over the barrier. I’m starting to feel that my legs must have been abused. It doesn’t matter, I have it !!! It’s good I finally get out of this mess.

My father sees me coming towards him dragging a “thing” in the water. When I get halfway from him, I lift the fish out of the water… He thinks he’s hallucinating ! He doesn’t seem to get it ! As I get closer to him, I take the fish out of the water again ! There I see my father stretching his arms upwards in victory ! That’s it, we’re both aware of what just happened.

I’m delirious ! I finally have it, after all these years of investment, it is here, in my hands ! An immense feeling of joy came over me !!! Who knows, maybe the Caribbean Sea wanted to give me this gift, a kind of thank you …

I realized my dream ! And I succeeded in this, as I have always tried to do, taking care to respect the environment and the species that I am looking for in these fragile ecosystems, that is to say on fly and on foot. Everything I try to share with the fishermen I accompany.

We take the photos to immortalize this exceptional moment. I release my dream by shedding a small tear and immediately tell my father about the course of this memorable action !

By the way, the fishermen that you are will be amused to hear this last anecdote :

Once I got home, I checked all of my equipment and something quite funny, by pulling on my silk/backing connection, without too much resistance, I managed to break the backing by hand, not the knot connection, no, the backing itself, when you know the resistance of a backing wire… I started the operation again, each time removing a few tens of centimeters and I broke like that in 3 different places !!! It only takes a little for the result to change…!!!

This kind of feeling provokes a rare emotion and I wish everyone to experience this at least once in their life as a fisherman !?!

Permit fly fishing Guadeloupe


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