Ever since I have moved to South Florida 3 years ago the “Big 3″ have consumed me. The Grand Slam (Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon in one day) seemed like a distant fantasy and an impossible achievement. My good friend Derek recently had his day and proved it possible to me. It still seemed highly unlikely as his skill and patience far exceeds mine. No matter the skill level though, to achieve this feat requires a lot of things go your way. Read on to hear the story…
The trip started out like many…a good forecast and a phone call from a friend to chase permit. In this case it was to skip work and head to the lower keys with Alex on the paddle craft. 4:15am we load up the kayak/sup and start the 100 mile journey to the launch. The drive there always passes fast with non stop fishing stories and excitement of what the day might bring. We launch to beautiful conditions. It’s not long before we find a few tailing reds. We both catch one quick and decide to move on in search of bigger and better.
At this point I decide to venture off my own way as I usually do to get in my zone. I search a couple of miles with little to no signs of life. This proved to be a bad move as I hear hoots and hollers from the distance. I quickly pole towards Alex to find him hooked up with a fine bonefish. He brought to hand his biggest bone to date and our day was made!
Spirits were high and I continued on, frantically searching for a gamefish. I thought to myself how happy I was for Alex and how I knew it was his day and began to just relax and take in the moment. This may sound corny or whatever, but one of the main attractions to the paddle craft for me is the trance. A few times a year things line up and it happens…the weather is perfect, my mood is perfect, the scene is perfect…I just paddle without a care in the world on an endless flat in almost a euphoric state of freedom. It’s really the best feeling in the world and I continually try to get there every time I go fishing. A few hours pass and the water rises to ridiculous heights as it often does in the fall. The call is made and its time to relocate. A few gas station hot dogs later and we are back in the game in a whole new area.
We paddle into the new area with promises from Alex about bonefish and permit galore, the typical banter when you take a friend to one of your favorite spots. We paddle side by side with the sun high and the viz perfect. At one point I stop paddling and feel the urge to peel off my own direction…but for some reason I paddle on for another minute. Out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar grey shape. A lone bonefish headed away from me as they so often do. I glance back and see the stirred up bottom which lets me know he had spooked. I tell Alex and continue to watch him fade off. Then it hit me…shit! He didn’t spook, he just mudded there…he doesn’t know I’m here! I put the push pole down and fire the 10wt with all my might in two false casts…I make the loop as big and high as possible…the wind catches my line and arcs the heavy permit fly in perfect 2ft to his left….he turns ands eats in an instant! What are the odds?!
We high five and celebrate! What a day…we both scored the Red/Bone! Hell Yes!
After that I decide to let Alex take the lead on his favorite stretch and make my way to an area that caught my eye earlier. As I continue on the feeling of happiness and achievement consumes me again…everything is perfect. Fly fishing can be so rewarding! The thoughts of permit take over and I pick up the pace. I spot one! Without hesitation I fire the fly…this procedure is well rehearsed. “There is no thought that goes through your head when you try to feed a permit…it’s all instinct and feel” This is what I have been told many times over by people far more experienced than me….well its true! I strip the fly just the way he liked it and I was on. At that millisecond I knew there was no way in hell I was getting this fish. I was already prepping to deal with the let down that had got me three weeks earlier. The permit was in my backing instantly and had wrapped himself on every sea fan in sight. I threw my anchor off my board and jumped in shoulder deep. I took off frantically going from seaweed to seaweed untangling…every now and then I would feel the thump of his tail to keep my hopes intact. After what seemed an eternity I had the mess cleared and I was fighting him on my fly line. We played dosey-doe for maybe 10 minutes while I tried to bring him to hand. The whole time I feared of grabbing the leader and breaking him off. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way. You make it through the whole fight for that fish of a lifetime…no reason to get impatient in the last minute. Finally I grab his tail and scream with excitement! A nearby boat comes by to check on me as I make my way to my board. I assure him Im okay and hold up my prize for him and his wife to see. About that time Alex rounds the corner to see what all the fuss is about. I was grinning from ear to ear during the photos and release! What are the odds?!
Alex and I share the excitement with repeated fist bumps and high fives and then it hits me…I NEED A TARPON FOR A GRAND SLAM! Alex quickly agrees. I know this was tough for him as I just caught a permit and he is still in hot pursuit of his first. But he insisted that this was a one time chance and we had to capitalize! We haul ass off the flats and load up to hit spot number 3. The whole drive Alex ensures me that this is going to happen and he has been saving this spot for just this occasion. Without him this would have not been possible. We pull up to the flat and launch. Within minutes I had my chance…A nice 10lb tarpon attacked my fly and I swung and missed. SHIT! There are no more in sight. We continue on in hopes that they settle down and provide another chance. A little while later I had another chance. I made sure my line landed extra tight and strip set hard and firm…I stuck him good. A few heart stopping jumps later it was done! My first Gland Slam! In the words of Alex…”Holy Santa Clause Shit!” What are the odds?!
I took a moment to take it all in and then the quest for Alex to get a slam was a short one. He quickly landed one for a Red/Bone/Tarpon slam of his own! What are the odds?!
We loaded our gear and took off to celebrate over a mexican dinner and a couple beers! It was a day that wont soon be repeated and never forgotten!
PS. here are a few randoms from the last week or so.