"Permit Fishing is a challenge" is the greatest understatement in fly fishing.
These fish are the masters of their universe and have a Doctorate in not being caught. They not only have giant eyes that can see you pee yourself at sixty feet, but it would seem the whole Ocean is on their side and warn them when the clumsy trout fishermen are there. To catch one of these sneaky little leprechauns of the flats not only do the stars, moon, tide, food, wind, voodoo and your poo poo need to be right, but you also need serious professional local help.You need someone who knows the water as well as the Permit. You need a great guide.
The teacher, Lincoln Westby
There is a certain cosmic force there between you and those tails, it feels like your heartbeat is coming from your temples. Unless you have hunted Permit, it is hard to describe the spiritual tension and nervousness that comes over you when you know you are close. I would love to say everything gets quiet, slows down and my eyes become one with a skillful stroke of the rod but I don't, my knees shake, I go blind and it feels like I am being pounded with waves of gamma radiation as I turn green. Now imagine that is only half the pressure, because Permit master Lincoln Westby is poling the boat and looking right through your soul at his beloved Permit and the shot you are about to screw up. No big deal.
Lincoln Westby is a big deal, he is a great big deal. He is a one of a kind big deal like Gretzky, The Babe, Sweetness or Ali.
The student, Anthony Mazza
If you are a golfer imagine teeing it up in front of Jack at Augusta for a couple of rounds. You would try and not embarrass yourself, quietly and respectfully listen to all the knowledge being dropped and try to stay the hell out of the way and not be "that guy". That is a lot like being guided by Lincoln in his beloved Permit Alley. We were all over come by a strange sense of responsibility when we were with him; we just didn't want to let him down.
After 40 years of guiding he has earned the right to guide and teach however he wants. He has earned his right to be salty and hard after years of teaching people who don't hear so well.
He is anything but that.
Lincoln is one of the kindest and most patient people you will ever meet. He has a way of handling the hand grenade in the baby carriage that Permit fishing can be, with a calm and gentle manner. His quiet laugh instantly brings things (you choking) into perspective. We never failed with Lincoln. When you listen to him and you are able to tune into the surreal vibe around his guiding style, you understand there really is no failure in Permit fishing but there are a ton of real feelings.
Fly tying night in Belize
Lincoln Westby has cared for Belize and it's incredible water his whole life. He is a great ambassador, conservationist and the epitome of a steward to mother nature. Most importantly to all Permit fishermen is he is a teacher, a great teacher who is still learning. He told G and I of the days he and Will Bauer would snorkel the flats instead of fishing them. He wanted more at a time when he was already the king of Permit Alley which says a lot about the type of person he is. At a time when he could have rested on his already strong rep he chose to get even better. He chose to become the Master. Will Bauer went on to catch over 160 Permit in the Alley.
Some passion hanging on the wall of the old Blue Horizon Lodge
Lincoln is known as the Legend or Master in the world of Fly Fishing and they are well deserved but I got the feeling those were probably just words for a humble man like Lincoln. My favorite of the many nicknames Belize has for him was Palinc. A local told us that it means father or dad and to many of the people of Belize he was looked at that way. You see a little bit of all the wonderful people of Belize in Lincoln and in the kind loving friendly yet low key spirit of the people, you see Lincoln.
From a fisherman's perspective, from a client's perspective there is so much knowledge being passed on you almost start to think of him in a fatherly light also. He deserves that.
How must it feel to come to a point in a career of guiding where the client cares more about the guide's feelings than his own?????
The lucky One
I started day dreaming about this blog about 5-6 weeks ago when The G, Kitty and I began planning our trip to Belize. Truth be told I imagined I would be writing about my good friends Scott Thompson and Anthony Mazza and the exciting new adventure these Colorado guides have started with Blue Horizon Fly Fishing Belize. I quickly understood they had been whacked with a stick from the humble tree also after they explained the true focus of why they were there, away from children and loved ones and their American creature comforts. They are there to help Lincoln.
As my years fly by, who I fish with is becoming more important to me. Love these gents.
It takes a few (minutes, hours or days) to understand Lincoln. He is soft spoken and his mix of English and Kriol sometimes leaves you guessing. When you are in his boat you will hear his line, "It's not the best fisherman who catches the fish, it's the best listener" and it's true and yes I wish I could use that gem with my clients. But after spending time with him experiencing moments that will take a lifetime to fade I wonder if he is really talking about fishing or life.
Lincoln is where he wants to be nowadays, teaching, guiding and fishing his beloved flats. He is 73 years young and closer to his horizon than anybody dares to think about. I miss him already and can't wait to see him again. You owe it to yourself to experience this place, this fishing, these people and Lincoln Westby's water.
We (The G, Kitty and I) will be hosting 8 lucky anglers (non angling boys and girls are also welcome as there is lots of other stuff to do) April 18th- April 25th, 2017. Please get a hold of me for pricing and details, it's going to go quick. Can't wait!!!!