Learners Permit – 3 Tips For Taking Your Trout Game To The Flats


A wake comes toward us at mach speed. At nine o’clock the sickle shaped tail and trash can lid shaped body of the permit comes into full view. Frantically, I attempt to throw sixty feet of line to intercept it. Two false cast and I let her rip. A combination of buck fever and alligator arms sets in. I forget to load the rod. My double haul must have missed a connection en route from Montana. Line shoots from the guides and falls unceremoniously short of the target. The moment passes without showing the fish my fly. This Permit was on a mission and It might not have mattered what my presentation looked like, but you never know unless you make a good one.

Until that morning I had never laid eyes on a permit. In two hours I saw more than anyone could expect on a good trip. Many never gave me a shot. Several opportunities I completely botched in nearly every way you can imagine. A few I managed to give a good look. None of them ate. Permit is permit, shrugged our guide. I was a mess and immediately addicted. We all have to cut our teeth sometime. Slowly over the course of a week I got my act together. It didn’t make a difference to the Permit, but at least I was starting to do my part. I’ve been fortunate to make a few journeys to the salt. Based on my limited experience here’s a couple thoughts on how those of us who spend most of our time throwing five weights to diminutive salmonids can transfer our game to the flats.

Breathe – On the trout stream we might be a bit rusty to start the day, but often we get into a rhythm and have the chance to cast all day. Occasionally, you might be sight fishing, but just as often we thoroughly fish likely water. Hope is eternal as you could get an eat any time. On the flats you know when you have a chance and they can come quickly. Like bird hunting, all of a sudden fish appear. You often have a limited window of time to make the most of the opportunity. Rarely are they going to hang a round, so every cast counts. This is where excitement can get the best of us and everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Take a deep breath, pull it together, execute. It’s easier said than done but it matters. You need to be a cool customer.

Slow Down Your Cast – I’m not talking line speed here, but rather the time it takes you to deliver your cast. Your first cast counts and is often your best opportunity. Taking an extra few moments to make sure it’s a good one will pay off. By not following my own advice to breath I tend to rush my cast. The pause in my back cast disappears. I don’t let the rod do it’s job. Everything falls apart. Starting my cast deliberately, pausing until the rod loads with every stroke, making a clean powerful haul, and shooting line with confidence all lead to better results. Basically, I need to remind myself to cast like I do in my yard…calm, composed and relaxed. When I turn into some crazed version of a body builder with a fly swatter my chances of catching anything greatly diminish.

Do The Little Things – Chances are limited, especially with species like Permit. You want to do everything in your power to stack the deck in your favor. Don’t cut corners and make sure everything is just right, so when your chance comes you minimize the odds of making a silly mistake, which will still inevitably occur, that will leave you kicking yourself. Small things like examining your knots, leader, and fly frequently could make the difference. If you end up with a wind knot, frayed leader or dull hook, fix it, it might make a difference. Being diligent about having your line stacked (fly end on top), free of tangles, and not under your feet, with just enough fly line out of your guides to start your cast will pay dividends. If you don’t have a rod in your hand, while your buddy is on the casting platform, help them out. Keep an eye on their set up. Move their line if you see a tangle in the making or be ready to hand them the cudda rod when one suddenly appears. This list is likely limitless and I frequently make new blunders that I didn’t know were even possible, but I try to take care of the things that are in my control.

I still get the yips and the fish might not eat but minding your P’s and Q’s, slowing down, and taking a deep breath can all increase your chances of success when taking your trout game to the flats. While the environment and some of the tactics are certainly different those of us who fish for trout have a solid foundation, that combined with practice, can lead to success on the flats. If nothing else we can certainly have a good time.







4 Comments on “Learners Permit – 3 Tips For Taking Your Trout Game To The Flats

  1. Excellent advice. Relax, don’t be intimidated, and make your cast. If you can deliver a relatively quick, accurate cast at 60 feet, you WILL catch bonefish. And you’ll be in position to catch permit, should they decide to play.

  2. And after you’ve made that calm, cool and collective cast that got an eat – Strip set – don’t lift your rod until your shoulder is about to come from untogether.

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