Friday, February 17, 2023

We’re on a mission from god



I first met Ben Levin when we were both selected to be on the US Jr Flyfishing team. We’ve been great friends ever since…

 We both started chasing permit around the same time , and have comforted each other over the trials and tribulations that have un -folded over the last few years. Ben is one of the best anglers I know, and his particular strain of bad luck for permit was getting to be ridiculous.  

Ben and I have fished Cuba saltwater together on several occasions, and on a recent trip to Jardines del Riena, we were both optimistic and realistic about our chances of seeing a permit up close.  Ben and iI have fished here together several times with nothing but sad stories and near-misses when it comes to Permit.  And so the day started as the two of us set off with one of the most experienced guides in Jardines del Riena (Bemba!) to chase permit together and try to get Ben his first.

 I offered Ben the bow of the boat first because for one thing, I was hung over from too many mojitos night before, and for another thing I was absolutely certain that he was gonna catch a permit. So after five minutes fishing when we spotted the first group of permit, I was not surprised when ben made a perfect cast, and hooked a monster.  Bemba was nothing short of genius and his boat maneuvering as he motored after the fish in an attempt to keep it out of the rocks that were very prevalent. After about 5 minutes , for no reason at all the fish just spit the hook. Ben’s bad luck reared its ugly head one more time.

 While Ben sat in the boat questioning his entire existence, Bemba just said “ let’s go find another one”.

 Anyone who has permit fished, especially in this location, knows how rare it is to hook a permit, let alone two in the same day. So while Bemba’s attitude was encouraging, I knew Ben realized he had probably missed his chance for the week. 

 As we mowed it up to the next flat, Ben naturally handed me the rod as it would be my turn.   My words exactly “ I’m not getting in the way of destiny”. I handed him the rod and said get back up there. I KNEW he was due.

 So, in a weird way, I wasn’t surprised when 10 minutes later I watched him make a perfect cast at some tailing permit, strip the fly, and hook another Permit!  It was nerve-racking battle this time, complete with a tangled fly and a near shark attack. 

 I’ll never forget our collective exuberance as Bemba tailed that fish. Ben and I were both moved damn near to tears, as we hugged, fist bumped, high fived and took pictures of Ben’s first Palometa.

 It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have a fishing buddy that you enjoy fishing with so much that you were actually just as happy when they catch a fish as you do. I was so incredibly stoked to be there for Ben’s first permit. 

 Now, of course, it was my turn for real, and it was really hard to get my head in the game. my hands were still shaking from all of the excitement, and the previous nIgor’s Mojitos were still sloshing around in my brain.

 I was all nerves as I totally screwed up several really good shots at fish.  Even though it seemed like a near impossible feat to hook three permit in one day, something just kept telling us that it was gonna happen.  I’m thinking Dan Akroyd  in blues brothers saying “ we’re on a mission from God.”

 To put things in perspective, I had hosted a total of 37 anglers to this destination in the past, and had never seen a permit, caught here.

 After four or five blown shots, I finally put a decent cast on a pair of permit that were hanging out on the edge of some turtle grass. One of the two fish peeled off, followed my fly and I felt him eat the fly.  I tried to pull the line tight on him to set the hook, but it went slack, I just kept stripping and he came back and took it a second time.  Again I couldn’t get tight. My heart sank is the fish started to swim away, but I just kept stripping, and he turned around, came back and ate it for a third time!


 Ben and I topped off the day with a couple of bonefish and  a Tarpon each-  Double slam! 

 It was an incredible day with an incredible friend, and one I’ll never forget. Thanks to the legend Bemba for making it happen!




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