The Grand Salami

To be honest, I don’t really care one way or the other about permit. It’s not that I actively dislike these overgrown pompano, I just don’t have enough experience or context to elevate them, as many anglers do, to Holy Grail status. Besides, as Tom McGuane has pointed out, if you mention these fish to your nonangling friends, they usually think you’re talking about your fishing license. And yet, here I am, on the bow of a skiff staked out on the ocean-side drop-off of an enormous flat in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba, during what has been billed as the prime permit week in one of the best big permit destinations on Earth.

We’d been poling along the deep edge of the flat when our guide, who I will call Señor Holler, spotted three permit off the starboard bow. This, after four solid days in which nobody in our group had even hooked, let alone landed, a single permit. Now, my friend Mauro and Señor Holler are on foot, about a quarter mile away, stalking the elusive fish that seem intent on leading them on a wild goose chase. I watch the receding figures walking with exaggerated stealth. From time to time, they pause, crouch, cast, then continue walking until they become tiny dark silhouettes in the blinding glare of tropical light…

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