Book Review: “A Passion for Permit”

This book is the latest in the “Masters on the Fly” series published by Tom Pero’s Wild River Press.

A Passion for Permit is exhaustive and incisive and just leafing through this two-volume set tells you that you’re about to embark on a journey.

Before going on, I would like to single out Wild River Press for supporting as big and bold an endeavor as this one: the world of niche publication is not an easy one. There are plenty of good fishing books that are currently on the market, but A Passion for Permit will undoubtedly become that masterful reference document that hardcore permit junkies will cite whenever the topic of permit fishing arises.

Also, a word on Jonathan Olch, who is, quite literally, a permit junkie. He is also a world-class angler who has spent decades chasing permit. He has figured out what makes the elusive species tick and how to catch them – and you’d be hard pressed to find a more suitable candidate to write these two hefty volumes.

Weighing in at 1,120 pages, here is a laundry list of what you’ll find:

You get the requisite, full-blown technical chapters covering permit anatomy, habitat, flies, gear, gear setup, permit geography (the book leans heavily on Belize but doesn’t skimp on other locations, some well-known, others not), tidal/weather evaluation, permit behaviour, strategies/techniques, etc. In purely technical terms, this set leaves no stone unturned.

There’s excellent photography, and lots of it (over 1,000 photos, maps, diagrams).  Both topwater and underwater environments are extensively covered, letting you in on what a permit’s world is like in the most technical, visual terms. The book is also peppered with top-tier diagrams covering anatomy, knots, and casting mechanics.

Olch includes extensive journal entries, which pick up on his primary writings and go on to expand, for example, different grass types and how they harbor permit, their various prey – as well as which flies work best in each of these subtly different environments. These outstandingly detailed entries make up approximately 8% of the book and they alone are worth the price of admission. The entries come as close to on-the-water experience as you can get without actually being on the water.

Extended (20 pages plus) discussions with long-time permit aficionados, some of whom along the way have become ‘permit legends’. These chapters – nine in all – feature everything from very colourful discussions with the Huffs (Steve and son Dustin) to commentary by noted permit whisperer Lincoln Westby. Some even range all the way to what constitutes a great skiff. These nine persons (ten with Huff Jr.) have logged an astounding number of permit-dedicated hours, and all of whom are very generous with their findings, observations, story-telling (mostly historical anecdotes), and overall knowledge.

Summary: A Passion for Permit is by far the most thoroughly researched and written book published on the subject.  As all good fishing books do, this one will inspire and encourage readers to seek out this beautifully mysterious species. I booked my very first permit excursion just a few weeks ago, and A Passion for Permit went a long way in preparing me in far more than just technical terms.