Yup, we had a great time!
Yes, the fish were educated, but hungry. I never saw fewer than 6-8 schools on any of the flats that we fished. Most of the flats are between small islands that are just in from the barrier reef. The best spots to fish were where there was a small break in the reef; just deep enough to allow the Bones to migrate in easily from the deep water to feed on the flats. I have to admit, I did "pig" one of these honey hole open spots for almost 2 hours. I just stood there and cast to school after school of fish as they came into the flats to feed. Not quite like shooting fish in a barrel; but not that far off either. The best times to fish these reef-breaks was just before to just after high tide. Although the tides in Belize are only on the order of 1 1/2 ft., it made a difference in terms of allowing the Bones to easily access the flats.
Yes, the TCX is a fast rod; but nowhere near as clubby as the TCR was. It's designed to get the line out there in a hurry with good accuracy and it does that very well. Overlining will slow down the action of any rod, since the rod has to deal with the extra weight of the line and the flex action as well as the recovery time is changed in the process. For me the overlined 7wt. was definitely not too fast. I fish it for smallmouth bass all the time; with a WF7F line, and it gets me some nice casts.
I did order a Scott S4S from a local Orvis dealer who also carries Scott rods, but when the rod came in (although I was ready to love it), it was too fast for my casting style. So, back it went to Montrose, CO. Instead, I took my trusty Scott A3 9 wt., which turned out to be a good rod for Permit. Marty fished a Sage Xi-3 9 wt., which she liked; I liked it, too.
Average casts on the flats into the teeth of wind were about 40 ft. They weren't the kind of casts that you make videos of, but they got the job done for us. Side to the wind the casts were longer and with the wind at our backs, the casts were probably on the order of 60+ ft. When fishing from the deck of the boat, I was getting the line out there pretty close to 80 ft. off the wind; which made for some nice fishing as you could strip back the line over various underwater terrain.
The most effective technique that I use for Bonefish (I think everybody uses it) is to cast about 10 ft. in front of where the school is heading, let the fly sink and then start the strip just when they're within a foot or so of it. I got to do that a lot on downwind casts to schools that were coming in onto the flats from the ocean. The results were pretty good.
Here's a point that I found interesting and that I'd never picked up on before. When you hook a Bonefish on the flats, you get the "flats rocket" effect; into your backing in short order; sometimes multiple times. But when you hook them in the deeper water, although they put up a strong fight, it's more like hooking into a trout. The feel is completely different. I'm not sure if others have noticed this, but I assume that they have. I asked our guide; Eddie, what the difference was. He said that Bonefish are naturally warey when they're on the flats in skinny water; unless they're feeding, and when hooked on the flats, their first instinct is to try to get to the safety of the deeper water; to return to the ocean. Hence, the panicked, rocket effect. When you hook them in the deeper water, they're already in the ocean, so to speak, so the fight to free themselves is not as dramatic. I'm not kidding, it's like hooking two different species; at least it was for me.
---------- Post added at 08:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:18 PM ----------
I'd like to think that's the case with Permit, because I don't want to have to live too long with the alternative.
We'll get one someday; soon I hope. The record for Permit down there is 55 lbs.; a good sized fish! But, most of the ones that are landed are on the order of 15-25 lbs.
By the last day, I would have settled for a 5 pounder!