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British bonefish Or British permit?

My largest of the season so far

Glittering prize.
Glittering prize.

A gloriously warm and sunny day gave way to an equally agreeable evening. The mark I was to fish is only accessible on foot, or better still by mountain bike. Sky and sea fused into a never ending cobalt mass as I stepped from the deserted, sandy beach into the warm waters. The ebbing tide was fairly slack and did little to produce the strength of current required to encourage shoals of golden grey mullet to feed amongst the slowly emerging sand banks. Nothing stirred. A single hour of daylight remained and I was forced to search for rather than wait for fish. I turned my attention to the shoreline.

A gentle south-westerly breeze pushed lazy waves through the sandy bay. Breaking waves attract both bass and mullet and I scanned the wash for evidence of feeding fish. For a brief second, a small dark shape punctured the polished surface 100m to my left, tight against the shore line. It was difficult to determine form such distance if the object was a fin, tail or floating weed but was definitely worth investigation. I hurried over, unhooking the point fly and freeing line as I went. There it was again, only this time the shape could clearly be identified as a tail, a very large tail at that, which caught the glow of the setting sun as it quivered and fluttered in the soft breeze. The tail suddenly disappeared and I felt a wave of anxiety. It reappeared 30 seconds later, some 20ft distant, where the mullet continued to nose through the sand in search of food.

I read an article recently by a mullet expert (if there is such a thing as an expert where mullet on the fly is concerned) who stated that persuading an individual, tailing mullet to accept a fly is every bit as difficult as fooling a permit. A few years ago while in Cuba, I had a single shot at a tailing permit. The fly landed perfectly and the fish turned to investigate. My guide became excited, unlike the permit which swam away in disgust. There was more than a sense of deja vu as I prepared to cast the flies towards a tailing fish once more. The flies landed with a gentle plop, within 18in of the mullet. The fish immediately disappeared from view and I cursed myself for forcing the situation.

Suddenly, the line tightened and almost in disbelief I struck and lifted the rod all in one motion, lifting the mullet's head clear of the water in the process. The first, lightning fast run took me far into the backing, as a fish in peak condition powered through the shallows towards deep water. Twenty wonderful and absorbing minutes were required to control the fish and bring it to the net. The mullet was my largest of the season so far and certainly my most prized capture. With one flick of its huge tail, the fish melted into the twilight.

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