Permit Jigs are put in a tough spot. They're tasked with fooling one of the most challenging game fish any of us ever chases. Permit are notoriously picky, refusing even the most perfectly presented fly or jig. When hooked they fight hard and put your tackle to the test. And they aren't as plentiful on the flats as bonefish, so every shot needs to be taken advantage of. I hope you're as excited as I am about this challenge! We take it very seriously, and put our most intense effort into designing the Permital Bugg, a permit jig that has proven worthy of the task!
Inspiration from a Classic
Permit present a unique challenge whether fly fishing or with conventional tackle. From either perspective, crab imitations are the most effective. When designing a permit jig, we looked to the classic permit flies for inspiration. Del Brown's permit fly, or Del's Merkin, was the first effective permit fly to gain notoriety. Carpet fibers are tied along the hook shank and then trimmed to the shape of a crab. Feathers for the claws and silicone legs complete this simple pattern.
This profile matched up pretty well with the crab profile of a Beastie Bugg, our top jig for sight casting to redfish. I designed the Beastie Bugg during the fall of 2012, and put my best effort into it. The rabbit claws are splayed in a defensive position, and the rabbit body mixed with silicone legs gives it lots of movement whether at rest or scooted along the bottom. But the profile was too big for a permit jig, so I found a way to downsize it to match the profile of a permit fly and the crabs permit eat.
A Permit Jig That Works!
This was the summer of 2015, as I prepared for an October trip to El Pescador Lodge in Belize. I was hoping to catch my first tarpon and my first permit, and was putting a lot of effort into designing a permit jig. It had been three years since I designed the Beastie Bugg, and through steady tying I had improved my skills. I was able to create the same profile on a smaller scale and add eyes for realism. I tied a dozen or so for my trip, and on the last day we found a permit slowly cruising a flat. I was rigged with a small shrimp imitation, and cast it to the fish first. I didn't want it to spook before I had a shot. The permit looked at it, and kept cruising. While I was furiously tying on a permit jig we lost sight of that fish. I'll never forget it, and will be back someday for another shot!
The great thing about owning Buggs is that I have lots of friends who will gladly test jigs for me. The following spring a customer named Jeffry Wright headed to Belize armed with several permit jigs. He was successful, and I knew we had a winner!
The Fancy Name
When it was time to name this new Bugg, permit would certainly be in the name. But I also knew that lot of other game fish eat small crabs. And since my best local customers chase redfish in skinny water, I was certain they'd love them as well. So I got a little fancy with the name. I apologize in advance. Here's where it came from...
Right after college I worked an a fly shop in Aspen, Colorado for a guy named Jonathan Feinberg. One evening a bunch of people came into the shop looking for Jonathan. A lady wrote a note for him and signed it, Sally (or something, I don't remember her name) et al. I didn't know what et al meant then, but I remembered it. And I didn't look it up for a number of years, but when I finally did I discovered it was a Latin abbreviation that meant, “and others”. Fear not, the Latin lesson is over. Back to the name...
So I combined permit, because it was a permit jig, with et al., because it's also effective for other fish that eat small crabs. Permit + et al. = Permital. So there you have it, the Permital Bugg! They're tied on a 3/16 oz. Buggs Bonefish Jig Head. This is a great size to get some casting distance and yet not spook the fish. A double weed guard is standard, and the profile is right on the money. There are lots of available colors, and here are a few of the best. When fishing for permit, get your guide's perspective on colors, or match the bottom.
Permital Bugg Colors
This head design is important when fishing a permit jig. When targeting them on the flats, most everything a permit eats will be on the bottom. The Permital Bugg lands softly and gets to the bottom, hook point up, every time. That's the first step, to get the Bugg in the path of the permit. And then pray the fish will eat! After the quick prayer, vary the action of the Bugg. Guides come in handy here, trust them to give you the best advice. Sometimes they'll tell you to scoot it slightly along the bottom, and sometimes they'll tell you to let it sit. One of the cool things about Buggs is that even when they're sitting on the bottom, there will be some action from the rabbit and the silicone legs.
Redfish will definitely eat a Permital Bugg! If you're fishing really skinny, clear water, these jigs will work great. Bonefish will eat them as well. Just as the name suggests, anything that eats small crabs will eat these Buggs!
Permit are really tough to fool on a fly or a jig. They'll test your skills as a fisherman, and will put up a serious fight should you get them to eat. But what an accomplishment when you catch one! You'll never see a frowning fisherman holding a permit. For this type of challenge, I put all of my skills into designing the most effective permit jig. And it works! I hope you'll accept the challenge and target these fish the next time you get the chance. And until you do, please cast a Permital Bugg to anything else you fish for that eats small crabs. You won't be disappointed!