Q: Is it tougher to catch a slam with spin or fly?
BRL: Depends on casting skills, weather conditions, how well the angler can see and how well he follows advice from his guide.
BB: They're a real challenge on spinning tackle, but fishing for them on fly is really taking it to the next level. The reason is the elusive permit: Permit are very difficult on fly and considered by most to be the hardest fish on the planet to catch on fly.
Q: What's the easiest part of catching a slam?
TIR: The easiest part is to find the tarpon first. Since tarpon roll on the surface, they're easier to find - but more difficult to land.
BRL: The easiest is to catch a bone, tarpon and snook, probably in that order, because bones are the easiest to catch in adverse weather.
BB: Day in and day out, tarpon and bonefish are the easiest part of the slam.
Q: What's the hardest part of catching a slam?
TIR: Sometimes the fish are not feeding regardless of the type of fly or bait you use.
BRL: The angler's ability or inability to accurately cast 30 to 60 feet. Fishing for permit in very windy, overcast conditions is also difficult.
BB: Permit are, without question, the hardest part of a slam; they're the spookiest fish on the planet, especially on fly.
Q: What's the perfect scenario for a slam day?
TIR: Tide plays the biggest role, as we need a strong outgoing tide.
BRL: Light east/northeast winds (5 to 10 mph), clear, sunny, rising tide in the morning with high tides around midmorning. Low tide in late afternoon for snook.
BB: In general, a calm morning for spotting tarpon rolling as the sun comes up. Then, the wind would pick up to help disguise your offering to the other two. Tides and water temperature come into play as well. In the Keys, we have an abundance of oceanside and Gulf flats, and flats in between. In the lower Keys, we have flats full of bait and worms and crustaceans, which help draw these fish from the depths.
Q: What tackle do you recommend for targeting slams?
TIR: For tarpon - 30-pound test; 10- and 12-weight fly rods. For bonefish and permit - 10- to 15pound test; 8- or 9-weight fly rods for bonefish and 10- to 12-weight for permit.
BRL: For bonefish - 10-pound line, Mike's modified ounce wiggle jigs; 8weight fly rod, floating line, light flies such as Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, Bonefish Special and others. For snook and small to medium tarpon - 15-pound line, 60- to 80-pound leader, a variety of lures from poppers to slow-sinking jerk and twitch baits; 9- and 10-weight rods, floating lines (intermediate 10 for some locations), tapered leaders, 60- to 80-pound shock tippet, #2 and #3 flies like Deceivers, Black Death, etc. For permit - 15-pound line, no leader, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce jigs with flash and weed guards; 9- and 10-weight rods, floating lines, 8- to 9-foot tapered leaders, 15-pound tippet, #4 and #6 Borski Slider, Merkin, etc. For large tarpon - 25-pound line, 100-pound leader, 65M11 MirrOlure, Yo-Zuris, 4 1/2- to 7-inch floating and sinking lures; 11- and 12-weight rods, floating and intermediate lines, tapered leaders, 20- to 25-pound shock tippet, 4/0 flies like Black Death, Cockroach, etc.
BB: In spring, I use 30-pound tackle for tarpon and 8- to 15-pound for bones and permit. In summer, you can get away with 8 to 15 for tarpon. On fly, 11- and 12-weight tackle for tarpon, 10 for permit and 8 for bones. I like to throw a 9-weight for bones and permit with a fly that either would gladly munch. Downsize rods on windless days; go up a rod weight or two on really windy days to help you turn over your fly.
Photos by Earl Waters. The full version of this article appears in the April 2011 issue of Sport Fishing