Secret ingredient to a Cuba grand slam
I recently caught my first saltwater grand slam—a permit, tarpon, and bonefish in a single day—while fishing in Cuba. While this event was special to me, what made it more exciting was my discovery that many others have been doing the same, thanks in large part to a new permit fly developed by Mauro Ginevri.
While most permit flies imitate crabs, in Cuba the permit feed heavily on shrimp, leading Ginevri to develop a shrimp pattern that sinks quickly in deeper water, swims upright, and most importantly catches fish.
So far, the Avalon Permit Fly has accounted for 134 permit in Cuba alone, and more results are starting to come in from other parts of the Caribbean. In the evenings during my visit there, I had several chats with Ginevri about his new pattern. I enjoy learning how other tiers think, and how they work. Of course we also talked a lot about the techniques and materials he used to develop his final creation.
I was privileged to learn each tying step from the original designer. Certain proportions of the Avalon Permit Fly are so crucial that if one of them is incorrect, the success of fly is degraded. I am grateful that Ginevri asked me to help him publish his pattern to prevent other tiers from incorrectly imitating it.
Mauro Ginevri was born in Civitanova Marche, Italy, in 1963. Since 2000, he has fished diligently for Cuban permit, using mostly crab and shrimp patterns, some tied by the world’s most famous saltwater tiers. Many flies were also given to him by lodge guests, but due to lack of success, he began tying his own flies in 2001. Today, his greatest passion is tying bonefish, permit, and tarpon flies.
Like most other fly fishers, Ginevri noticed how easily permit become alarmed by the fly, or how they follow the fly during the first two or three strips, and then suddenly spook and change direction. At the same time, he noticed that many flies meant to fish with the hook point up, actually rolled over onto their sides when stripped. These two facts, he thought, were probably related.
It became an obsession for him to develop a shrimp pattern that sinks quickly, and stays hook up at all times, regardless of retrieval speed. He started to design and develop many creations, and each of them went through intensive tests in a swimming pool, observed while snorkeling. Underwater, Ginevri studied the action, position, mobility, sinking speed, and behavior of each prototype.
In 2007 one of Mauro’s customers showed him a fly with a beaded keel system. The monofilament keel—weighted with stainless steel or silver beads—gives the fly extra weight, and to keeps the fly in the hook-up position while fishing.
The beads move freely on the monofilament, allowing them to clack or snap when the fly moves. This audible cue may be a trigger—at the very least it does not put the fish off. The two pieces of Zonker strip tied in a delta-wing position prevent the fly from rolling over, even when retrieval speeds are changing.
The Avalon Permit Fly is a shrimp pattern, but why is it so long? While studying the flats of Cayo Largo, guides pulled a net over distances of almost 100 meters, and on nearly every run they made, discovered at least a dozen or more shrimp that were 9 centimeters or longer. That’s why the Avalon Permit Fly does not come in a range of sizes—the #2 hook and the material lengths provided in the recipe create a perfectly balanced fly that rides hook up, and imitates the larger shrimp permit prefer.
On April 26, 2009, Ginevri was finally satisfied with his final design, and gave the flies to six customers to try in Cayo Largo that week. The result that week was five permit landed, and overall, much better reactions to the fly. The fly has become so popular in the past year, and so credible with the guides, that only two permit have been caught at Cayo Largo using other flies.
Hans van Klinken is the commander of the Royal Dutch Army Gunnery School. He has tied flies since 1976 and is the originator of the Klinkhåmer Special.
Avalon Permit Fly
HOOK: #2 Tiemco 811S.
THREAD: Tan 140-denier UTC Ultra Thread.
EYES: Silver or gold 3 mm dumbbell eyes.
KEEL: Hard 20-pound nylon monofilament with four2.8 mm silver or stainless steel beads.
MOUTH: Arctic fox tail dyed yellow/orange (1 cm).
ANTENNAE: Black or wine Krystal Flash (7 cm).
LEGS: Two strands of medium orange, Hareline Grizzly Barred rubber (5 cm).
SHELLBACK: Two strands of Pearl Diamond Braid.
BODY: Tan marabou.
CLAWS: Two straight-cut light tan or gray Zonker strips tied delta wing (skin 2 cm, hair 4 cm).
HEAD: Fluorescent orange 210-denier UTC Ultra Thread.
Insert the hook into the vise, and attach the thread. Secure dumbbell eyes on top of the shank with a series of figure-eight wraps. Use Super Glue to ensure the eyes do not twist in the powerful crushers of a permit’s mouth. Secure an 8 cm section of 20-pound nylon monofilament to the top of the shank. Tie in a small bunch of Arctic fox (3 cm) to the underside of the hook shank. After the fibers are secure, trim the tips to about 1 cm.
Tie in two black or wine Krystal Flash fibers one at a time on the left and right sides of the shank.
Tie in two Grizzly Barred rubber legs one at a time, positioned symmetrically on the left and right sides of the hook. Trim them to 5 cm. Attach two strands of Pearl Diamond Braid in the same position and trim them slightly shorter (4 cm).
Tie in a large tan marabou feather by its tip at the rear of the hook shank.
Wrap the marabou feather forward and secure it. Cut off the excess.
Tie in the Zonker strips one by one on each side of the hook shank just behind the dumbbell eyes. To create the ideal delta-wing shape, apply extra tension on the last few wraps of thread.
Pull the Pearl Diamond Braid strands forward one at a time and secure them to the left and right sides of the hook eye.
Thread four silver beads onto the monofilament keel and pull the monofilament forward to create a loop 2 cm long and 1 cm deep. Secure the monofilament at the hook eye and whip-finish. Use fluorescent orange thread to finish the head, and add a sturdy coat of head cement.