So you've got all the equipment. Your knots are finally up to par. Practice and persistence have gotten your casting to the point that you can throw a heavily-weighted crab fly 60 feet into a stiff wind and drop it into a teacup. Your fly box is filled with crustacean-like patterns so real that you're afraid to reach in and grab one for fear it might start gnawing on your thumb. You're finally ready to take the plunge and find the cure for permit fever.
Well, here's a look at 10 of the best permit destinations in the world, in no particular order, both near and far. Undoubtedly, some won't agree with this list. If you have one that you think is better, we'd love to hear about it.
Rimmed by the Caribbean Sea and bordering Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, the predominantly English-speaking nation of Belize harbors some of the best permit fishing in the world, both in terms of numbers of fish and their willingness to eat flies.
Although permit can be found along the entire coast of Belize, most of the focused permit fishing primarily occurs in three different regions of the country: Placencia, Turneffe Atoll and Punta Gorda.
1. Placencia, Belize
Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Outfitters' Jim Klug is an expert on Belize and its permit-fishing opportunities, starting at Placencia. Located midway down the coast, this area is home to several fishing operations, including Whipray Caye Lodge.
"One of the few complaints about this area is that most of the fishing involves runs of 45 minutes or more to productive flats," says Klug. "Fishing out of Whipray Caye, which can accommodate up to eight anglers per week, entirely eliminates those runs. Although accommodations are fairly basic, the lodge employs some of the best permit guides in the world, and its location is right in the middle of some of the best flats. It makes an ideal trip for serious fishermen who want to spend long days on the water fishing rather than riding in boats."
With excellent fishing for bonefish and tarpon, Placencia is also a great place to try for the elusive grand slam - once you get your over-grown pompano out of the way.
2. Turneffe Atoll, Belize
Further down the Belizian coast, Turneffe Atoll is home to one of the most beautiful lodges in the world, Turneffe Flats. Ironically, the area is better known for its bonefishing, but the permit action can be just as spectacular. From Turneffe, fly anglers have access to over 250 square miles of permit flats. Anglers have the option of casting to tailing fish from 16-foot Dolphin Super Skiffs or wading.
"One of the great things about Turneffe is the abundance of things to do if you aren't a fisherman," says Klug. "The diving is every bit as world-class as the fishing. For wildlife enthusiasts, there are over 60 bird species on the atoll, and the manatees and bottlenose dolphins are exciting and fun. Take an ecotour with one of the lodge's 'Atoll Adventure' guides. The trips are informative and fun, and a 25-foot, twin-engine boat is at the lodge's disposal, allowing non-anglers access to the entire ecosystem."
3. Punta Gorda, Belize
Rounding out the Belize permit scene on the southern end of the coast is Punta Gorda. "This could be the number-one destination in the world for permit," says Klug. "There are more fish here than any place I've ever been. For that reason, I keep coming back."
Opened in 2002, Machaca Hill Lodge (formerly El Pescador Punta Gorda) offers anglers not only access to some of the best permit water on the planet, but also a picturesque view. Perched atop a hill, it overlooks the Maya Divide to the west, Guatemala to the south and the Bay of Honduras to the east.
"Fishing here is focused almost exclusively on permit," says Klug. "That can mean this trip is not for everyone. But for those hoping to grasp the Holy Grail of our sport, it's not unusual to see hundreds of permit over the course of a week or even a day when conditions are right."
The Caribbean coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula is another hot spot for those suffering from permit fever, both in well-known Ascención Bay and lesser known Espírtu Santo.
4. Ascención Bay, Mexico
"Ascención Bay and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve are home to several fantastic lodges," says Frontier's Beaver Shriver. "Casa Blanca and Boca Paila offer anglers some of the best opportunities available to catch their first permit - like I did recently."
Casa Blanca is one of the most elegant tropical-flats-fishing lodges in the world and offers great access to perms from October through June.
Boca Paila, located north along the coast outside of Ascención Bay but still inside the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, is booked exclusively through Frontiers.
"This is one of the best fisheries in the Caribbean," says Shriver. "The lodge averages 40 grand slams each season and over a dozen super grand slams (grand slam plus snook). One of the other strong points is the experience of the guides. Most of the flats are too soft to allow for wading, but that's not a problem because anglers can access the flats aboard the lodge's 16-foot skiffs.
Head south from Ascensión, and you'll find one of the best-kept secrets among permit aficionados - Espíritu Santo Bay.
5. Espíritu Santo Bay, Mexico
"There's only one lodge that is ideally positioned to access and fish the majority of the bay," says Klug. "Playa Blanca is located about 10 miles south of its more famous sister lodge, Casa Blanca. It uses the same fishing program, guides and equipment as Casa Blanca, but anglers primarily fish the relatively unfished Espíritu Santo Bay. Almost no one fishes this area, which means the permit see very little in the way of angling pressure. There can be a remarkable difference in the willingness of permit to eat in Espíritu Santo versus Ascención Bay."