The dawn raid on the bay this morning again failed to hook any tarpon, but Bonito Boy Phil Mellor managed another fantastic Bonito of about 8 lbs which gave him an excellent fight. Again the tarpon were present, rolling all amongst the pelicans and gulls mobbing the sardines. My fishing partner for the day was Graham Birkett and our guide was Darwin. Having fished the pancakes for the last few mornings I decided to make along run out to the south east side of the archipelago to a huge sand flat down there. We saddled up for the long walk across this flat, Darwin packing some extra water.
Almost immediately I saw a pair of fish scooting away from us and slung out a cast with a small Christmas Island the one of them obligingly took to get me off the mark for the morning. The walk was long and unfortunately there were not the quantities of fish we expected, although I did catch a further three fish off the flat, each one hoovering up the Christmas Island special off the sand.
There was hardly a breath of wind today and the heat was quite literally searing. After a quick discussion with Darwin we motored back the way we had come down the east side of the archipelago to a fantastic ocean side flat I have had great fishing on. The water is iridescent blue straight off the ocean and the first flat the fish encounter when coming out of deep water. As such it normally has large fish on it when at the right stage of tide. As we arrived a large permit dashed across the flat for deeper water much to my annoyance. Graham, Darwin and I wandered across the flat a little way before deciding there really was not enough water on it to do any good. As we turned back towards the boat, joy of joys just off the edge a large black sickle tail was waving at us as permit dipped down and tailed. Now if there is one fish that can totally throw me and turn me into a quivering wreck it is Kermit the Permit. Graham graciously told me to take the shot as he had caught on the day before. The fish was in deeper water and obviously of substantial size as its whole tail was in the air in a foot and a half of water. I threw my flats pack across my shoulders and Darwin and I ventured into the deeper water to try and get above the fish. The permit continued feeding and we managed to get above it as I peeled line off the reel. My heart was hammering as I began to cast the large simram out to the patch the fish was feeding on. The fly landed and drifted slowly into the feeding permit…… I gave the fly a couple of long slow strips…. the tail went down… and nothing happened. The permit had not spooked, but just vanished… well that is just permit fishing. We moved up to the end of the flat and I actually got two further shots at permit before we moved on.
Heading back across the inner lagoon Jardi our boatman threw Grahams plug out the back and trolled as we had our lunch. Just after we finished sandwiches the reel began to scream as a large barracuda hit the lure hard. I ran to the back of the boat, grabbed the rod out and passed it to Graham to fight. He managed to bring the cuda quite close to the boat and we could see it was a big fish between 20 – 30lbs. Unfortunately not long after a couple of further runs the split ring pulled apart and the Cuda was gone. Gutting…
The pancake flats were going to be tough, we knew that. The tide was on slack water, and as soon as we arrived we saw tailing fish. Darwin took Graham round one side and I wandered down the other. Graham cast to pair of tailing fish downwind of him which immediately erupted in cloud of spray. I then had a similar experience with a school of fish swimming around me as I sat on the flat trying not to spook them. This continued for a while as oddly enough the fish would spook but not leave the flat. Often the cast would go out well in front, wait for the fish to come over the flat, a couple of twitches and they would just ignore it. What was particularly frustrating as the fish continued to tail in front of us so they were feeding. I can only imagine they were clued into one particular food source which we were not matching. On the next flat finally Graham managed to hook one, a real achievement. He quickly landed it after two or three powerful runs. A lovely bone of about 4 ½ lbs. We tried one more pancake (incidentally these were three pancake flats that I had never fished before) and Graham manage one more where I failed miserably. I had three fish on those flats that came and ate the fly but each time I failed to hook up and could not understand it. Finally I checked the fly and found the hook tip had been bent inwards on the coral.. that will teach me.
The day had been a tough one due to the complete lack of wind and we have all got a bit fried. The tally was only 23 bones to day, one of which was a stunning 8lber of the pancakes by Mike Timms, and 15 other species including some good Cuda, pompano, snapper, and Ian Hutchinson got smoked by a Wahoo on the outer edge of the reef. Even though numbers were down many said it was one of the most intense days fishing they had had so far and really enjoyed the challenge of catching fish on the pancakes. Even taking one or two was a real achievement.