fly fishing for permit near the Marquesas Keys

Fly Fishing For Permit In Key West



Fly fishing for permit is my passion in life. It’s a big part of what makes me tick, and what makes me happy. When I think of fly fishing for permit I think Key West. The two are intertwined. No other place has a higher concentration of big permit than Key West and the Marquesas. The black tailed devil is a love-hate relationship for most fly fishermen. Everyone loves to catch permit, but they can drive you mad in the process.


They are beautiful, cunning, and baffling at times. If you ever think you have them figured out, think again. Fly fishing for permit can take you places you didn’t know existed. I’ve seen grown men scream with joy, and throw temper tantrums like a 4 year old, sometimes in the same day. That my friend is the lure of fly fishing for permit. It is so emotional.


Permit are a deep water fish that use the flats as a restaurant. They don’t feel comfortable in shallow water. This makes them paranoid and a little on the shy side. The exception is early and late in the day,  permit will let their guard down at times, and tail like banshees. Permit in schools tend to be slightly more relaxed, because of a safety in numbers mentality.


Fly fishing for permit is seldom easy but always interesting. When targeting permit you learn to enjoy the chess match. The more you learn to enjoy the process the better at catching them you become. Fly fishing for permit requires an accurate cast usually in somewhat windy conditions. When you throw a fly at a permit you try to hit them in the head, so out of instinct they will pounce on your fly.


No other fish will get in your blood quite like a permit. Once you have been bitten by the permit bug chances are I will see you on a regular basis. Key West and the Marquesas are the epicenter of the permit fishing universe. The fly fishing for permit here in the Key West is fantastic and it seems to get better with every passing year.


The Florida Keys are part of a special permit zone designated by the Florida wildlife commission in order to protect this amazing fishery. The permit fishing is great all year long but February through November is prime time.

Find out more about fly fishing for permit in the Florida Keys


Rods and Reels For Fly Fishing for Permit


Being an adequate caster is your greatest asset when fly fishing for permit. In a perfect world you should be able to put the fly in a hula hoop at 40 – 60 feet most of the time. If you can do it backhanded even better. Don’t let this scare you off. Great permit fishermen get great by practice, the right attitude, and spending lots of time fly fishing for permit. When you are practicing do so with a weighted fly on a 10 or 12 foot leader.  A 10 weight fly rod seems to be the standard for permit fishing, but if you have a 9 weight you like by all means use it. Most permit flies are on the heavy side so a little extra backbone doesn’t hurt so I suggest rods on the faster side. I like long leaders when fly fishing for permit for added stealth. Every bit helps when you are chasing the black tailed devil. As far as reels are concerned any reel with a smooth drag and a decent amount of backing will suffice.

 Permit Flies For Key West


When it comes to fly selection for permit you can leave that up to me. I have spent a lot of time at the vise trying new things, and have found what works for me. Most are crab patterns of some sort and some are not. I use only a handful of patterns and the depth and conditions dictate what I like to throw when fly fishing for permit. All you need to know is they work. You can thank me later!

Get more information on Key West Fly Fishing


fly fishing for permit in the Florida Keys and Key West
Florida Keys Permit fly fishing
Key West angler with a nice permit on fly
fly fishing for permit in the Florida Keys
fly fishing for permit with a happy couple
fly fishing for permit on the flats
permit fly rods and reels
merkin permit fly for Key West

Where Do We Go Fly Fishing For Permit In Key West?


Permit are found everywhere throughout the Florida Keys, but the fishing is definitely better the closer you get to Key West and the Marquesas Keys. Where we target permit tends to be dictated by the season, and sometimes the prevailing winds. Typically in the spring starting in February we concentrate on gulf side flats. These areas tend to have more turtle grass so they warm up quicker as the day progresses. On these grass permit tend to tail more often than over other bottoms. This is what fly fishing for permit is all about.


In April and May things start to change. Permit start to gather in schools in preparation for spawning. They don’t all go at once so there are plenty around that time of year as well. In May some big permit start to show up on the beaches, I assume they are returning from spawning. They are often seen following or mixed in with schools of tarpon. I actually have some of my best permit fishing during tarpon season on the gulf side flats, because everyone else is on the beach fly fishing for tarpon.


During summer and Fall the permit are all over the place. Outgoing tides on the gulf edge can be spectacular in the evenings. Schools of permit can be seen sipping crabs off the surface. The ocean side flats are productive too, with schools flashing in the sand spots on the beach. You will also find big permit alone or in pairs. The permit on the beach are fun because you can see them so well. Exciting stuff to say the least. Get information on Florida Keys fishing seasons.


Key West fly fishing for permit locations by season

Tips For Fly Fishing For Permit In Key West


When fly fishing for permit in Key West, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help ensure our best chance at success.  If you practice these techniques beforehand you will be prepared when permit start tailing 40 feet away, and all hell breaks loose.


1. PRACTICE your casting as much as possible in a variety of conditions. Practice when it’s really windy, and when it’s flat calm. Practice your cast into the wind, and with it at your back. Always practice with weighted permit flies. Keep your practice sessions short, less than 30 minutes so fatigue and bad form don’t creep in. Try to relax and enjoy the practice, it will come in handy later.


2. Work on your accuracy. It’s not like fly fishing for tarpon. Your mission is to put the fly right on the fishes head or as close as you can. The key to consistent accuracy is not over thinking it. Use your instincts and just lay it in there. I like to set plates or magazines out around me and practice casting a weighted fly at them time after time. Try to minimize your false casting. A quick delivery is crucial to success fly fishing for permit.


3. Finally, relax and enjoy it! Permit are super cool fish that can be intimidating, but you can catch one. Despite all the hype, they are just another fish. A little confidence goes a long way  in the permit fishing game.  Just lay the fly in there, say a prayer, and laugh it off if it gives you the finger. You’ll get the next one, or the next!


For more information on fly fishing for permit in the Florida Keys click the link.