Written by: Ben Pierce, Brickhouse Creative
This was my first trip to the Florida Keys. I went down with my friend from Bozeman, David Thompson, and we fished out of Sugarloaf Key and Key West for four days with Doug Kilpatrick, president of the Keys Guides Association. David has fished the Keys flats for years and has had success chasing permit, so that was our big goal for the trip: one permit in the boat. We were curious what we’d find in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
The first day was tough, with just a few permit spotted, but the habitat looks great despite the presence of numerous stray buoys and lots of hurricane debris. David managed to land a bonefish, but we headed back to the lodge feeling a bit defeated. We started the second day fishing one of the tarpon basins near Sugarloaf Key and found rolling fish in the morning. After landing the fish seen in the film, we headed west in search of permit. It was another tough day–my impression is that most days you’re just after shots, and to connect with a fish is a rarity.
Toward dusk, we were just about to head back to Key West. David had secured his rod in the boat, and we were just about to jump up on plane for the trip home when Doug spotted a permit out the back of the boat. In a mad few moments, David managed to ready his rod and dropped an amazing cast to a permit in four feet of water. The fish ate, and the fight was on. I scrambled to prepare my snorkel and camera and jumped in to capture some underwater shots. It was a real thrill to see that fish, and I suddenly understood the appeal of chasing them.
The next day I was fortunate enough to have a few shots myself and hooked my very first permit on the fly. I’ll never forget the sight of it turning to take my crab. Afterwards, I was shaking on the casting platform . We flew back to Bozeman, and I’ve been thinking of the Keys ever since.