May 21

Getting back out there, with Jim Klug

My Facebook Memory today was me with a very nice tarpon on a trip I had with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and Jim Klug in Cuba. I wrote Jim just to thank him for that experience and we got to talking about fly fishing travel and where things stand now. I sent Jim some questions and he took the time to respond. Thanks for that Jim.

Awesome shot by Jim Klug.

For me it is going to be a while longer. I’m vaccinated and employed, so that’s good, but child care is much more complicated and my wife’s doctor schedule is unpredictable for the time being. We’ll need things to settle a bit before I find myself on a flat, but I am thinking a lot more about it these days… looking at pictures, going through my gear, thinking about what plans I need to set in motion.

Jim provides some insight and good advice in the answers below.

How did Yellow Dog weather the pandemic?

Well … We’re still here!  There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for our business and for destination angling in general. We had thousands of trips that were cancelled or postponed 

What did you learn about the travel business and your own company as a result of the pandemic?

We had some interesting and important take-aways from 2020, and we learned some valuable and important lessons about both our business and our customers. All told, Yellow Dog navigated some tricky waters in 2020, and along the way, we identified some key take-aways from the past 16 months:

  1. We learned that for our clients, having a legitimate agent working on their behalf is incredibly beneficial – especially when things get difficult. We saw this play out time and again in 2020. While we were not always able to immediately fix things or deliver the perfect answer for cancelled trips, we worked tirelessly for our customers – operating on their behalf and looking out for their interests. Having an agent like Yellow Dog (the largest creator of trips for many of the lodges in the industry) often-times made a difference. For people that had booked on their own or through a smaller shop or hobby agent, the outcomes – and the solutions offered – were often-times markedly different.

  2. Patience is everything. We’ve learned that tenacity and persistence goes a long way when it comes to re-bookings, re-schedulings and other resolutions. In the beginning of the pandemic, many operators and lodges were unprepared or unable to provide optimal solutions for cancelled or affected trips. Over time, however, we were able to work with many of these operations – on behalf of our clients – to secure better solutions and improved offers. Patience pays!

  3. Being nice matters, and when the shit really hits the fan, you truly see the very best of people, and also the very worst. Luckily, the vast majority of our customers and clients were patient, nice and incredibly understanding throughout the pandemic, realizing that the world shutting down was not our fault nor the fault of the lodges or guides. The entire destination angling infrastructure took a devastating hit in 2020, and – unlike major airlines or cruise ship companies – there were no industry bail-outs or easy money. Every lodge, guide, outfitter and agent was hurt by this, and for every one of our clients who was kind, patient and understanding in the face of cancelled trips and disrupted fishing plans, know that it was very much appreciated!

  4. Trip insurance can help, but it is important to understand the fine print and details.
    For years, trip insurance was the security blanket that promised to make things right if a fishing trip was cancelled or disrupted. And when it came to work conflicts, illness, hurricanes or cancelled flight routes, these policies usually paid off. The problem with trip insurance is that – like all insurance products – the companies know how to cover their asses against big-time cataclysmic events, and way down the list in the fine, fine print of things that were NOT covered was … you guessed it … “worldwide pandemics.” It turns out that most insurance policies would not cover trip cancellations that were pandemic-related, which meant that travelers who seemingly did everything right (booking early, securing a trip with the right deposit, and of course covering themselves with a travel insurance policy) were left hanging when their trips were cancelled due to lodges (and the world) being shut down. Moving forward, we fully expect that travelers will remember this, and we hope that those companies and products that have failed to protect travelers in the pandemic will be replaced by innovative policies and new products which actually deliver. 
  1. Having a solid and healthy destination angling infrastructure is crucial to our sport. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve known that – eventually – things would get back to normal and we’d be able to get back to doing what we love most: traveling and fishing the world. Having a lodge to return to (or your favorite guide still around to fish with) is a big deal, so being supportive of this infrastructure matters. For everyone that accepted a trip roll-over, re-booking fee or new dates, and especially to those that sent along the equivalent of a guide’s tip or donated to industry economic relief efforts, thank you.

Are you seeing the pent-up demand from a year off?

Oh yeah!  Things are absolutely crazy right now. Once January 2021 hit, things started ramping up, and it has only gotten crazier since then. After a brutal 2020, Yellow Dog just closed out a record-setting first quarter of 2021. It was as if someone flipped a switch in early January, and people are now booking and reserving trips at a pace we’ve never before seen. Trip dates are being snatched up as quickly as toilet paper was selling out ten months ago, and the biggest challenges for the year ahead will unquestionably revolve around availability. If you are thinking about planning a trip for the near future – or even 2022 or 2023 – my advice is to start the process now. Getting out in front of the demand will ensure prime dates and great guides at the best lodges and destinations. “Last-minute” trip planning – while still possible – is going to be more of a challenge than in years past. If you know that you want to travel and fish in the near future, then get a jump-start on the planning process and get your dates and destinations on the books.

Many waters got an unanticipated rest over the last year. What are some of the benefits or silver linings after a year-long COVID shut-down?

Obviously, one of the biggest positives that has come from the pandemic is the environmental benefit that comes from literally shutting the world down for months on end. Global satellite images from space in late-2020 showed pollution levels that had dramatically decreased from those of only eight to ten months earlier, showing how nature can heal and recover when we simply reduce our footprint and let the planet do its thing (even for a relatively short period of time). For anglers, the effect of this “global rest” has been evident and abundantly obvious over the past several months in the quality of the fishing and the behavior of fish that we’ve witnessed across the planet. For many of the destinations that have already reopened (Alaska, Belize, the Bahamas, the Yucatan, Costa Rica, the Seychelles and numerous other destinations), we have already seen off-the-charts fishing and numbers that have not been seen in years.  

Were there any operations that didn’t make it through?

That remains to be seen. This is something that will likely play out in the year ahead, but sadly, we are going to see some lodge, outfitters, guides and agents that will likely be gone by the end of 2021. The travel industry and destination angling as a whole were absolutely crushed when the world shut down. People stayed home, lodges closed, and airlines stopped flying. Small business loans and programs designed to keep people employed provided some assistance here in American; however international lodges, guides, outfitters and support businesses were largely left to survive on their own. Many of the guides we’ve fished with and come to know over the years were dealt a serious financial blow, as there was literally no work and no income for most of the year. Some guides were forced to sell their boats. Lodges terminated large numbers of staff, and many in the fly fishing community left the fishing world all together. Every international operation (along with many domestic operations) was hurt by the shut-downs, widespread cancellations and the lack of sales, and it will likely take years to fully recover.

When folks are booking now, do they require proof of vaccination or testing or what is it that has to happen to get back out there?

Proof of vaccination is not required to actually book or reserve anything (at this time) but there are plenty of countries that are requiring proof of vaccination for entry as a tourist. Regardless of how you personally feel about vaccinations, the fact is that life as a traveler and as a traveling angler will for sure be easier in the months (and possibly years) ahead with proof of vaccination. This is going to be true for some time to come with many foreign destinations. 

Are there places that are still closed/highly limited?

For sure, and some that are likely to remain closed into 2022. Right now, New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands are all closed indefinitely. Argentina, Chile, India, Canada, Russia, Christmas Island and several other popular fishing destinations are all still closed as well, although we are hopeful that things will open in the months ahead. We’re thinking August for Christmas Island, although that is not a for-sure opening date!

Is there somewhere in particular you are excited to get back to?

For me personally, I’m really excited to get back to the Seychelles for the coming fall season. Honestly, any place that requires a passport stamp is going to get me excited at this point!

Any recent trips that you’ve been able to do?

I actually just returned from an incredible week in the Yucatan, fishing Xcalak and Chetumal Bay. An incredible fishery with some of the best permit fishing I’ve seen in years.

Jim with a permit from his recent trip to Xcalak… on first glimpse I thought it was a GT.

What would you say to the traveling angler who is still hesitant to get back out there?

You need to be comfortable to travel right now, and that is a personal thing for everyone. DO your homework, research what is involved in traveling to a destination, and above all have someone in your corner that can help if problems or unexpected delays pop up. But travel is possible right now, and there is a lot of great fishing that can be accessed and enjoyed in a safe, easy manner. Regardless of your destination, however, when you are ready to get back out there, we are absolutely recommending that anglers begin their planning and booking processes earlier than normal. As a result of losing the entire 2020 season, there are countless trips that have had to be rolled over and rescheduled for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, which means that availability for the foreseeable future will be tight. For those destinations such as the Seychelles, Cuba, prime permit destinations in the Caribbean, and others that were already in high demand, it will be even more important to look ahead and plan well in advance. Even destinations in Belize, the Bahamas and the Yucatan are likely to book up quickly for this season and well into 2022. Our recommendation for those that know they want to get back out there is to start the process now.

Jul 18

The permit shot – Grand Bahama Edition

We were running along a sand/rock shoreline when Cecil spun the boat around and killed the engine.

“Permit, on the beach.”

Permit, by Juan Bosco. Click the pic to go to the art site.

My reaction to the news was not joy, but more a sense of dread. Permit shots are things to screw up. Permit shots become moments of second-guessing and regret. Permit shots almost never end well.

Elliott, a day after catching his first bonefish, gave me the bow and I got up to throw at the thing. I could see it, silver-bodied and black-tailed against the white bottom. The first and greatest hurdle had been cleared… finding the fish. Here was the fish. He was in range. He wasn’t running. I had no wind. The set-up was good.

I was worried about the fly. Was it heavy enough? I put on a tan shrimp with barbell eyes. It would get down to the fish, although the fish was maybe in 5-6 feet of water and it would take time.

In the back of my mind I had two thoughts about the fly. First… it wasn’t a crab. Aren’t you supposed to throw crabs at permit? Isn’t that how you are supposed to do it? Secondly, why don’t I have more good looking crabs? I don’t fish crabs often at all, but why is that? Has my avoidance of crabs handicapped every permit encounter I’m going to have for the rest of my flats fishing life?

Cecil told me to shoot at the fish and I did. The cast wasn’t bad. I was in the zone, but again, doubts crept into my mind. I went back to my first (only) permit from Belize, a small fish to be sure, which behaved in most ways like a jack, chasing down a fly stripped quickly and eating an inch below the surface. I also thought back to my one permit shot in Cuba where I again stripped the fly in quickly and the permit followed, putting his frigging nose on the fly without eating it before becoming board and blithely giving up on the chase. There was also the permit shot in Mexico where the fish lit up on the fly when stripped, but then gave up. But… aren’t permit supposed to eat only crabs cast 10 feet in front of the fish when the fly never moves an inch and the fish simply intuits the fly’s presence?

So… strip or not to strip?

In the end I managed to pick the middle road the satisfied neither type of permit.

The fly landed about 5 feet from the fish and the permit saw it and moved toward it, looking interested. At this point I simply gave it a slight twitch and that was enough for the permit. It moved away and started ambling leisurely away from us.

We followed, waiting to see if it would turn. I asked some follow-up questions of Cecil like “WHAT SHOULD I DO!?” He was in the “leave the fly alone” camp. Noted.

Mostly, the fish showed us his back. I made a couple more casts when he turned slightly, but to no avail. The last cast was too close and it moved away, disappearing over a darker bottom.

The shot had passed.

As friend Nick Denbow told me, “The permit you catch is easy, it is all the other ones that are hard.”

Apr 17

Permit to be demoted from Grand Slam pedestal.

Well, the IGFA looks set to demote Permit from its Grand Slam place of preeminence. Impending rule changes would put permit along side any fish from the Jack family. Permit would still count, but so would a Horse Eyed Jack, Jack Crevalle, Bluefin Trevally or a Lookdown.

An unnamed IGFA source said “Look, permit are assholes. Why have we elevated this moody and uncooperative fish to a place of honor? They are like cats. They turn on and off their affection at will, totally ignoring the efforts of the angler. Is a cat even a real pet? We’ve had it with permit. We are going to include some fish that actually eat for a change. We think this rule will help preserve the sanity of many an angler and at the end of the day, let’s face it… permit are jerks.”

Total jerk of a fish

Total jerk of a fish

This certainly is going to change the record books.

The rule looks set to take effect on April 1st 2017.

Oct 15

Permit are a-holes. Go chase a-holes with Hatch magazine.

I don’t like permit and I have a feeling it’s a mutual thing.

Permit.  Not a world record, but a frigging permit!

Permit. Not a world record, but a frigging permit!

I caught one in Belize in 2010. It was a small permit, but it was a permit. I almost hooked one in Cuba… but I didn’t. I’ve seen a handful, but I haven’t fished for them too much. I haven’t fished for them because I like fishing to a fish that wants to eat and isn’t such a jerk.

I know people get the permit sickness and those who have it have generally already let the bonefish illness run its course… maybe tarpon too. If you have it, there is no cure. It is a chronic condition that will rob you of your free time and spending money.

Now, if that sounds awesome, you should check out a hosted trip that Hatch Magazine has going on. The trip is in February down in Ascension Bay in Mexico, which is, like Belize, a place you can actually catch those bastards.

There are still some openings and that should be a good time, maybe easing the permit sickness just a tad for a couple of months.

Aug 13

Permit… I don’t know you

I’ve been doing the reasons I mostly love and hate a little bit the various species out there.

I can’t do permit.

I don’t know them well enough to have an opinion. I’ve caught one small permit and I’ve cast at maybe 6 others. They are mostly very fleeting memories.The shots were there and then gone and once they were gone they were permanently gone. They don’t stick around and let you flail at them, from my very limited experience.

What I have experienced of actually setting out and fishing for permit is that you need to be prepared to do a lot of standing around and looking for them. Mostly, you don’t see them, or you don’t see them where you need them (up-wind and 200 feet away, moving away, doesn’t help).

So, permit, I’ll spare you from the list. Maybe, in time, when I have a few more days of fruitless permit fishing and another couple blown shots I’ll have more to say.

Until then, permit, until then.

Permit.  Not a world record, but a frigging permit!

Permit. Not a world record, but a frigging permit!

Apr 13

My new theory on permit

I saw that Joe Gonzalez (Joe did an interview here a while back) recently caught a permit in Biscayne Bay that had been caught two times already.

Third time for this fish... that we know of.

Third time for this fish… that we know of.

On yesterday’s outing, to our surprise ,we caught the same previously tagged permit we had caught 6 days earlier about a mile away. Bonefish Tarpon Trust Costa Del Mar Project Permit reward tag # 07019. So we know this guy has been caught 3 times already. Looks like program is on its way acquiring relevant knowledge. Please continue to support BTT on their efforts to protect & enhance our fisheries.

From this data* I have come to an earth shattering conclusion about permit.

Here it is. The small number permit caught each year are actually the SAME permit over and over again.

Permit are picky way beyond a fault. The damn things are nearly impossible to catch and they have driven plenty of anglers out of their minds as they empty their bank accounts and shun work and family obligations in search of the permit pull. Permit are notorious for their fickle moods and ability to ruin your day and/or life.

Still, every once in a while someone actually catches one. That gives us all hope it can be done and so we go out and look for the damn things buoyed by the knowledge that someone else has done it, therefore it must be do-able.

However, what you don’t know is there are only a small number of permit dumb enough to be fooled and only those specific permit eat flies. There is just a small sliver of the overall permit population who are so gullible they eat flies no other self-respecting permit would even follow.

In my estimation** there are only about 20 permit in the world eating flies and they fall victim time and time again.

So, the next time you cast a fly at a permit and it doesn’t eat… no worries, that must not have been one of the permit that actually eats flies. See… it isn’t your fault at all.

This little guy is one of the dumb ones. It surely has been caught dozens more times in Belize since 2010.

This little guy is one of the dumb ones. It surely has been caught dozens more times in Belize since 2010.


* – OK, my “data” is just the fact that Joe posted the picture of a tagged fish that had been caught twice before. I don’t have any other solid “numbers” or “proof” or “anything” to back that up. Sometimes you have to go with your gut.

** – I should tell you that in college I only had to take one math class and it was “Studies in Modern Mathematics.”  We read books and kept journals and talked about math, but we didn’t have to DO any math. It was awesome and I got an A.

*** – I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I do. No… I’m not serious about the theory.

Feb 13

Interview with Capt. Joel Dickey

Another interview from readers suggestions. This time it is Capt. Joel Dickey, another Keys guide. Joel has been out with the Gink & Gasoline guys and knows one or two dozen good thing to know about fishing in the Keys.

How much of an off-season do you get down there in Florida and what do you do when
you aren’t guiding?

Well in my honest opinion there are great opportunities for fishing year round in the Keys. I would put it in that there is a “softer” season as opposed to an off season. The Keys is famous for tarpon season which runs from March until mid July. However some of the best opportunities for the “grand slam” is from late June till September. From September to mid November is spectacular bone fishing and permit fishing.. And yes there are still some tarpon around then too. as for the ” soft season ” I would say mid-November to the end of January. Don’t get me wrong though the big three can still be caught during these months the weather just has to be right. As far as what I do in the off season? Fish of course! What else is a guide to do? I also tie flies, come up with new patterns for the upcoming season. I also like to take photos during my trips and this is a time I can really edit photos. However this year I plan on hosting some trips to the Bahamas and other places for my clients. In the Keys you have shots at all of the Big 3.

Where do bonefish rank there for you and what do you like about them?

I don’t think I can really answer that one because there are aspects about all three that Ilove. That wouldn’t be very fair to the fish now would it lol. The sheer power of atarpon, the unbelievable speed of the bonefish and the stubbornness and craftiness ofthe permit are things that I highly respect of each and these traits give each auniqueness that everyone should experience. As far as bones though speed says it all.Pound for pound I don’t think there is a more explosive fish swimming. Just look at theway they are built.. The engineering from the Big Guy above is nothing less thanperfect. I also like their eagerness to eat a properly placed and fished fly. If your adecent angler the refusals are cut to a minimum. Lets not forget a lot of this happens inless than 10 in. of water so you can wade for these fish very easily which is a treat initself. But let’s be honest tarpon is what brought me down here as is with most everyone else!

Photo by Joel Dickey, and a nice photo it is.

Photo by Joel Dickey, and a nice photo it is.

Often times there are people who play a big part in our evolution as anglers. Is there someone that helped you become the angler or guide you are now?

To be fair, as you know “it takes a village” and I have been very fortunate to know some really respected guides and anglers in the industry. The people who have inspired me the most would first and foremost be my late brother Brett and my late grandfather who introduced Brett and I to fly fishing. Some of my favorite memories are when Brett would come home for college every weekend and as soon as he got home we would hit the river no matter the conditions. Even in the dead of winter in of which back then we didn’t have waders and wet waded a lot of times in 30-40 deg. temps. The fishing was so good on the Toccoa back then we hardly noticed the cold. It was his dream to become a guide and back then in North Georgia that was just unheard of especially a fly fishing guide. Of course I can’t forget to mention Lee Howard who gave me my first guide gig for a legit fly shop and who taught me a lot about all aspects of fishing. Last but not least Capt. Bruce Chard for pushing me daily to be the best guide I can be and helped get me established here in the Keys and in the fly fishing industry itself.

Guiding is not fishing. What do you think it takes to be a good guide that is different from
being a good angler?

First and foremost to be a good guide I feel as though one needs to be a superior angler and I do mean far superior than most. I think you need to have an understanding that is almost like ESP of what the fish are doing. Not only that you have to be able to teach this to your client. Now that sounds easy but really it’s not. You have to be able to convey the information not only as so your client can understand it but be able to perform what you explained when asked. A lot of guides can regurgitate information to clients but you also need the understanding of why you make a cast this way or fish a fly that way and teach the client why also. I cannot tell you how many times a client has thanked me for explaining why a particular flat is productive instead of just going to a flat and saying ok there are fish here. Why are the fish here? Where and what direction are they coming from? Why? These are simple questions a guide should explain. A lot don’t. To do this properly you need to read people and focus on the aspects of fly fishing they are good at and set up your fishing to enhance what they are good at and while doing that teach and work on the aspects they are lacking in. Let’s not forget to do all this in a way so they will enjoy it!( that was a mouthful). I also think that the better guides in the industry are the ones who can evolve to changes. Evolve in the changes of the fishery, flies, and techniques.

Joel bonefish

Photo by Joel Dickey.

What is your go-to rod/reel for bonefishing? For tarpon?

Well my favorite bone fish set up is the Thomas and Thomas TNT 7wt with a Hatch 7+ reel.
My fav tarpon set up is Thomas and Thomas TNT 11wt with a Hatch 11+ reel.

Everyone tells me there will come a time when I embrace permit. That hasn’t happened yet. The pace just is too slow for me. What’s your take on permit?

Well permit for sure is a different animal and not for the faint of heart. I like most have a     love hate relationship with permit. Love seeing them, love hooking and landing them but absolutely hate getting denied time after time by them. However, I personally think that most people fish for the wrong fish.. To elaborate more on what I mean I think there are a few types of permit that come onto the flats and which type a guide targets has a determining factor to how successful the angler is. There are tons of flats that you can take a client where there are plenty of permit “cruising” but not really eating. The chances of hooking these fish are extremely low no matter how good the cast is. Then there are flats where fish are actually there to eat. They move slowly and methodically looking for the opportunity to pounce. I think the shallower the flat the more likely to hook one. Then there are tailing and mudding fish who are in the process of eating in of which your chances go way up with a properly placed cast. The point of this is the permit most anglers see are the “cruising” type and they get frustrated when they don’t eat. Thing is they might not have eating on their mind when they are in the “cruising” state of mind so we tend to be too hard on ourselves. What you have to do is find the last two types with of course the tailing and mudding being the best shot at getting one to take a fly.

Permit and photo by Joel Dickey.

Permit and photo by Joel Dickey.

I’ve heard stories about incredible fishing that can take place after a hurricane. Have you had any post-hurricane fishing experiences and if so, how did they compare?

I have and yes it can be off the chart.. The reason being is when a hurricane comes through an area it is obviously the strongest system in the region and acts like a vacuum cleaner and sucks every other cloud and pollution in the air up and takes it along with it in which ever direction it goes. So that means the next few days are the absolute most clear and beautiful days for visibility you will ever have and in sight  fishing when you can see it further away the better the chances are to catch it. Not only that, but think about being hunkered down in a channel for a few days with nothing to eat. You would be hungry too! So now you have the best of both worlds it’s as if the planets align, you have great visibility, weather and really hungry fish.


Dec 12

Fly Fishing Guanaja

I approve.


Nov 12

Aquarium Visit

Love going to the aquarium… ya know… for the girl. The California Academy of Sciences is the place that we have a membership to. When I was doing the whole Stay-At-Home dad we went to the Academy a lot. These days that pesky work gets in the way.  Today though, we had some time and we headed off to the aquarium, grandparents in tow.

One very interesting part of this aquarium is right in the front door, a tank with the newly renowned Indo-Pacific Permit, also known as the Snub Nosed Pomapano.

That shadow is a pretty classic silhouette.

I’m pretty sure Jim Klug is catching these riiiiiight now over at St. Brandon’s Atoll.

Cool fish. They are in a tank with some rays and some Black Tip Reef Sharks. There used to be some baby tarpon in here, but the Reefers ate them. I do love seeing them though, cruising like mo-fo’s ruling the joint. One of the sharks even chased a Cow Nosed Ray around for a bit. I think they were a tad hungry.

Safe to say, we had a good time.  There is a tarpon in another exhibit here, so that makes 2/3 for a grand slam. Only missing a bonefish.

You have a favorite aquarium?

What it’s about.

Oct 12

Permit, with Yellow Dog

I know those Yellow Dog guys are kind of crazy for permit. I have yet to come down with that particular bug. Everyone tells me that I really should be crazy for permit and maybe someday I will be, but for now, I still have bonefish on the brain (and a bit of an interest in tarpon).

People will go to great lengths to chase after permit. It seems to be a deeper sort of infection. It would have to be. Permit make bonefish look plentiful and crazily easy. Permit anglers are destined to fail way, way more often than they succeed. You don’t go out to catch permit, you go out to find them and have a shot.

I’m not there yet.

This post from the Yellow Dog blog will give you a bit of a sense of the permit angler.

The black tail.