Today was a day of brutal, yet beautiful defeat. This is now my third year returning to the Bay Islands, and my third year without catching a permit at that, so it is hard to express the emotions that flooded through me when I hooked into my the first permit.
The first year I came to Guanaja I was naive to culture. My whole life I have been fortunate to grow up in a family and community that provided for me without a second thought. I have been surrounded by stable income and the opportunities to travel and explore, and it is because of those opportunities that I found myself in Guanaja. I was fish driven, and unfamiliar to the true meaning of cultural immersion. However, when I first met Steve and the staff of Fly Fish Guanaja, I was woken up to a completely new world. One of the guides, Rankin, single handedly made me realize the importance of ones history. Sure, I have grown up knowing that everyone carries their own story, but until I sat in a boat house shed listening to hours worth of stories of this stranger’s past, I finally realized the importance of the human condition. Rankin grew up in a world so far gone from my reality, that when actually coming face to face with it, it absolutely changed my life.
This moment carried me through a new passion, a passion to experience culture not native to mine.
When I returned to the islands my second year, I was far past fish driven. I came down with a group of very close friends, and all I wanted them to feel on this trip was what I experienced a year previously. Catching a permit was the last thing on my list, and I think because of that mentality I was able to find more even more joy in the simple interactions with locals. Selflessness is a word that comes to mind from that week, not from myself but from everyone present. We all wanted to give each other the bow, we all wanted to see each other succeed, and because of that, my second year here proved to be as awakening as the first.
It is funny to me, that despite those emotions that dominated my life, that I still managed to return this year with a fish driven mindset. In preparation for this week, I spent my whole bank account of a new fly rod, a new reel, leaders, tippet, flies, whatever would help me land the permit of my dreams.
I have always been superstitious, and have always found that you catch fish in the moments that you forget you are fishing, and are truly in ecstasy of your surroundings. However, when I woke up this morning, all I could think about was the moment when I would hold a permit up to the camera and get the permit tattoo that’s been on my mind for three years now. I tried to shake these thoughts, and tried to convince myself that I wouldn’t catch with that image repeating in my mind.
The moment happened though. Even with all that bad mojo surfing through my mind, I was able to drop my kung fu crab right into the eyes of three hungry permit. I felt the electricity in my hands as a the lead fish swiped once, swiped twice and then ate my fly. I have never felt more confident in my ability to see the eat, to set the hook and to watch that fish run off into the ends of my fly line. All those images of me in the water with Edwin holding that fish, of me getting that tattoo on my forearm, of my friends commenting of my instagram, flooded into to me. I was ecstatic, I was absolutely losing my mind over the reality that I actually have a permit on the end of my line.
That reality was crushed in a matter of minutes. Even when doing everything right, the permit still spit my fly. In utter anguish, I sat down on the front of that sky blue ponga and let those dreams flee away from me.
I didn’t know what to think after that. I didn’t black out, I was perfectly calm in a weird state of confusion. A whirlwind was in my head. Echoing images of a sinful raven floated around our boat, Johnny Cash sang solemn lyrics in my ears, and the pure water of the salt flats spit on me in disgust.
The day carried on, and my mood did lighten as I knew this was just my second day out on the water. However, my faults nagged at me. On the way back to the lodge my dirty, sweaty, experienced Fly Fish Guanaja hat flew off my head into the ominous blue. This trapped me back into negativity. A metaphor kept echoing, that the loss of that hat is my loss of hope, my loss of any future potential to land a permit.
Ultimately, it is conversation that saved me. It wasn’t until 15 minutes before writing this entry that I was once again at peace with my mind and the troubled water that surrounded me. At our nightly round circle, Hagen spoke to the other students of why we are truly here. It is true that the reason we first came here was for the fish. We all came down with the similar goal to catch from this famous fishery. But fish aren’t the reason we fall in love with a place like Guanaja. It is the culture, and stories of the people who are from here that have made me, and many others, become obsessed with this unique community. In a land that is far, far less fortunate than how many of us grew up, you find the happiest people. It was then that my memories of my first and second year came to mind, that what would truly make me happy is seeing Bo land his permit; that what would truly make me happy is sharing another story with a guide; that would truly make me happy is kicking a soccer ball with a kid I can’t even speak to.
Even so, with all all these amazing factors that aid in my goal to become more immersed in this community, a permit still eludes me.
Conversation once again saved me, as Heather made me realize that I actually had accomplished my goal. I made the cast, set the hook, and kept the tension, and I fed a permit; I just didn’t land it. But that is okay. Sometimes loss is the best reward one can receive, as it drives you even further to succeed what you first came to accomplish. Failure is acceptable, and it always be, especially when surrounded by the people that will wake you up to the beauty in your defeat.
By: Drew Brown