We recently hosted the 1st Annual Palometa Club Permit Tourney, May 17-24. We teamed up with Howler Brothers, a fly fishing apparel company based in Austin, Texas, as a presenting sponsor of the tournament. It was an honor having them there for this Permit Fishing trip, and they endorsed the event as their first “Howler Pilgrimage.” Many thanks to our other sponsors including Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company in Dallas Texas, for helping us promote the event as well as provide thousands of dollars worth of prizes and giveaways for the participants. Sponsors included Hatch Outdoors, TFO Fly Rods, Yeti Coolers, Umpqua, The Drake Fly Fishing Magazine, Costa del Mar glasses and Apparel, Smartshield sunblock, Fishpond, and Country Pleasures Fly Shop
Palometa Clubs’ Permit Fishing Tournament
Permit Fishing Tournament Film
Stay tuned for a full length trailer coming soon. Jamie Howard with Howard Films is under the hood now editing. Meantime, check out a few worthy permit fishing snippets:
The field consisted of ten, 2-man angler teams as well as ten, 2-man guide teams. Anglers rotated among guide teams throughout the course of the week. We had a biggest fish category (single angler award) as well as a team category based on a points-per-inch scoring system; not unlike the famed March Merkin tournament in Key West. The field was made up of many repeat Club faithful as well as a fresh batch of new faces originating from all over the map – Alaska, California, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and even Argentina.
Angler teams were as follows:
- Kenneth Ferderer & Scotty Rodgers
- David Coleman & David Leake
- Cole Clarkson & Fernando Gonzalez
- Tom Bie & Andy Stepanian
- John Schoellkopf & Matt Hornbach
- Mike Gifford & Joe Seelig
- Rick Wittenbraker & Chase Heard
- Mason Brent & Aaron Revere
- Steve Davenport & Clay Williams
- Dave Olsen & Luis Menocal
- Also in attendance were Mrs. Janine Ferderer (cheerleader and bar tender), Jamie Howard from Howard Films and Matt Jones from The Fly Photo who helped document the trip and tournament through their incredible video and images.
All twenty-three guest arrived Cancun on time as planned, and the caravan migration southward came off without a hitch. For the first two days of the tournament, only the biggest fish category was in play. This allowed everyone to mix up fishing companions for a couple of days and become familiar with the fishery, the guides, and the tournament guidelines. A handful of permit were landed during the first two “pre-fish” days.
By far the most notable fish of the week, and the entire season, was Ken Ferderer’s fish landed on Sunday, May 19th. Fishing with guide team, Alonso and Sammy (and fishing companion Mike Gifford from Country Pleasures Fly Shop in Calgary), Ken managed to feed a 38.5 X 36.5” monster. Following a 1 hour, 5 minute battle on 12-pound tippet, the crew brought this legit “fish of a lifetime” to hand. With an estimated weight of 48 pounds, the biggest fish category was a lock. Congrats to Ken!
Despite hosting double the normal guest load (half the group stayed at a hotel next door), the ladies in the kitchen still pulled off remarkable family style meals on par with the high standards our guests are accustomed to. Every night was a party – and the latest stragglers were normally not off to bed until well after midnight. The booze bar (which is open) predictably flowed freely with such a jovial bunch. You did not have to wait too long to hear Rick Wittenbraker yell, “We are undefeated on these waters!”, and the iPod rarely drowned out the sounds of laughter and good fun. We celebrated birthdays for Mike Gifford and Aaron Revere on the last night. Aaron and Mike were treated to the Mexican birthday tradition of getting the first taste of the cake – face first.
The group was also graced with a private concert on the beach by Andy, Chase, and Mason – who are 3 of the 5 band members from the Wrinkle Neck Mules (country, bluegrass, Americana, southern rock). After playing for what seemed 2 hours minimum, lodge owner, and WNM fan, Dick Cameron, summed it up by exclaiming, “That was the best thing that ever happened at the Palometa Club.”
By Ascension Bay standards, it was a tough week. While we had great weather, the consensus was a full moon spawning event kept the fish off the flats and in the deeper water making babies. Nonetheless, with such a fun crew, spirits were very high and eleven permit did come to hand during the week. Two of these included first ever permit by Cole Clarkson and Andy Stepanian of Richmond, Virginia. Winners in all categories won loads goods donated by our sponsors, while the champions are invited to return and defend their title in 2014. When the dust settled, the scoreboard looked like this:
Biggest Permit Category
- Angler: Ken Ferderer
- Guide Team: Alonso and Sammy
Most Points Team Category Champions
- Angler Team: David Coleman & David Leake
- Guide Team: Big Julio & Luis
- Most Points Category Runner Ups
- Angler Team: Cole Clarkson & Fernando Gonzalez
- Guide Team: Aaron & Jesus
Thanks to the Guides & Staff
My memories of the tournament include a smile back at all the camaraderie and good times. Getting together such an incredible group of client and industry friends for a weeklong fishing party is kind-of-a-no-brainer ton-of-fun. What really sticks with me following any trip to Punta Allen is yet another reminder that the guides at the Palometa Club are nothing short of superb.
I’m just thinking about how tired we gringos are after a week in the sun and wind going hard all day. Only one day in, you start getting sore from long runs and hopping in and out of the boat, you are slower moving each morning, and the quiet periods between permit encounters become a little more monotonous. By the end of the week you are sunburned, achy, and worn out! While you are bummed it is over, there is almost sense of relief when sitting down in the Cancun airport at Margaritaville in front of a Budweiser and a heaping plate of nachos when headed for the USA. Now, imagine doing the same thing 6 days a week, for 6 months! Then consider, as a guide, you must add another 2 hours to your day hauling fuel and coolers and cleaning boats and equipment. A guide also spends the day standing at the tiller or on the platform poling overfed gringos into the wind. All of these physical responsibilities as a guide are coupled with the obvious skills needed to find fish and provide instruction to the anglers. Of course you have to do it all with a huge smile, great attitude, and loads of enthusiasm no matter how many fish are around or how crumby the weather is.
Lots of attention is always given to the heros on the guide staff, but the real heart of the lodge is in the kitchen. Rosie, Josefina and Maribelle arrive every morning at 5AM to prepare breakfast and boat lunches, spend the day cleaning rooms, prepare an enormous spread for dinner, before heading home around 10PM each night. Best I can tell they never miss a day of work and there is ALWAYS a smile on their face.
Fundraising for Bonefish Tarpon Trust and Schoolchildren in Punta Allen
The idea for a tournament on Ascension Bay originated in part thanks to inspiration from the recently deceased, Dr. Jon Ain. Among dozens of other credentials, Jon was a board member at the Bonefish Tarpon Trust, founder and director of the March Merkin Tournament in Key West, and perhaps the greatest permit angler of our time. With over 300 fly-caught permit on his resume, Jon was most notably the permit’s (and their habitat) greatest advocate. He raised tens of thousands of dollars for BTT, and helped launch today’s Project Permit program with BTT, who’s mission is the guide permit research and conservation. Jon was also a lover of Ascension Bay, Punta Allen, and the people and fish who live there. Following his death to cancer earlier this year, it was a no brainer to create a charitable benefit associated with the tournament in his honor.
Proceeds from the tournament entry fees, calcutta, and donations benefited the Jon Ain Memorial Fund for the Bonefish Tarpon Trust as well as the schoolchildren of Punta Allen. Collectively, we are proud to announce that tournament efforts raised over $8000 for these charitable efforts! There are not enough words of gratitude to describe how much we all appreciate the support of our anglers and sponsors. Without your generosity and participation, as well as the blood, sweat and tears from the staff, guides, and owners of the Palometa Club, we never could have pulled this off. Looking forward to the 2nd Annual Palometa Club Permit Tourney, April 4-11, 2014!
Meantime, check out some more images from the week…