"One shot, that's all I ask," Fred was saying. "Just one shot." We had not seen a pampas all day.
"Sure, mon, you get de shot," Kent told him, all business. He wanted the Turneffe Island slam as badly as Fred did. It would mean immortality for the two of them.
Kent ran the skiff for a half hour before cutting the engine. He had taken us back to his favorite permit run, the one he had started us on the first afternoon. It was a few minutes before six, a half hour until sunset. He and Fred took their places, stern and bow, and we drifted along a sandbar that separated the deep water from the shallow. "One comin' right at us," Kent said. He was pointing to a spot beyond casting range.
"Let me know," Fred said.
"Try it dere," Kent said after a moment. His voice sounded hesitant, as if he had lost sight of the fish. Fred cast the crab fly into the wind. "Li'l more right," Kent said; then, "Good shot."
Fred stripped in the fly, thought he felt a bump, and struck. The fly flew out of the water. He cast it back in. This time, when he struck, the leader came out alone. A barracuda swam away with a small fortune in pheasant feathers hanging in its jaws.
Fred tied on a new fly. We drifted along, approaching the shallows where the sandbar ran smack into the island. It was full high tide. "The water's perfect," Fred said. "They should be right on top of the bar."
"Yas," Kent said. But no fish were there. Kent looked at his watch. There wasn't time to try a new spot. The sun was already setting.
"What the hell. Let's go back and try this drift again," Fred said.
Kent shrugged. He started the engine and circled back around so we would not disturb the bank we'd be fishing. At the top of the run, just as he was cutting the engine, Kent cried out as if bitten by a sea louse. "Aieee! Holy mon de tango!" Or something. It was Creole. He had seen a school of 20 permit, but too late to keep from spooking them. They must have moved onto the flats within minutes of our first pass. This time, we would have drifted right through them.