Michigan man lands grand slam

A Southern Cross Club guest from Michigan completed the Little Cayman Grand Slam of Fly Fishing after 12 years of hunting local flats.

In mid-April, Ross Schofield achieved something many fly fisherman only dream about: he landed a permit, a bonefish and a tarpon within a 24-hour period to complete the Little Cayman Grand Slam.

Considered the world championship of saltwater fly-fishing, this is the stuff of lore in the shallow flats and beach bars of the island. Many arrive dreaming of a grand slam, but few leave Little Cayman having achieved one.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Schofield, who lives in Traverse City. “But I’m more excited about catching the permit than the grand slam because you can go your whole life and not catch a permit on fly.”

Permit are hard fish to find and harder to catch. Schofield had been trying to land one in Little Cayman for 12 years, so when Christopher Gough, the Southern Cross fishing guide, rushed over with the news that a permit was in shallows near the dock, he grabbed his gear and decided to go for it – not really expecting to catch it.

“I had no hat, no sunblock – I figured, the permit would swim away just like the last 12 years,” Schofield said.

Schofield cast his fly about 6 inches in front of the fish, worked his fly-fishing skills and was happily surprised when the permit went for the hook. The battle between man and fish was on, right in front of Southern Cross.

Resort owner Peter Hillenbrand watched it all from his porch, saying, “I saw the hook up, gave a yee-haw, grabbed the camera and ran down to the beach to watch the fight.”

Word got around and soon there was a crowd watching the action. Schofield recalls the scene.

“Peter said to me, ‘No pressure or anything, but half the island is watching!’ It was grand stand fishing. It was pretty exciting and really fun.”

Being near the shore, Schofield saw people sitting under trees, on the dock and on the dive boat watching his fight with the fish. When he landed the permit after an hour and 15 minutes, Gough said the crowd went wild.

“It was better than watching your favourite team win a championship, Ross holding up his permit like a trophy in front of a full stadium,” Gough said.

Having landed and released the permit first, angler and guide decided to go for the grand slam. Schofield landed a bonefish the same afternoon just before dark and tried for the tarpon that evening in the Little Cayman Tarpon Pond. But it was too dark so they stopped.

Little Cayman is one of the few places in the world with a landlocked tarpon pond. The next morning, Schofield and Gough went back, finally landed the tarpon and the celebration was on. All three fish were caught in about 15 hours, well within the 24 hours required for the grand slam.

Hillenbrand says there have been four grand slams completed during his 18 years at Southern Cross and he was delighted to see Schofield, a long time repeat guest, complete the feat.

“Ross has been diving and fishing with the Southern Cross Club for so long we forget when he originally showed up on our stoop for a dose of salt water adventure. His wife, Sherry, comes down to dive, but Ross likes to mix it up and he enjoys the thrills both in and on the water.”

Schofield agrees and says Little Cayman, with its diversity and beauty, is special.

“You can go blue water fishing one day, diving the next, fishing in the flats the day after that or you can just lie in a hammock and read. I love being outside and walking around in the flats seeing other things, like a little octopus, a baby shark, or little barracudas – you see everything in the sea.”

Little Cayman is acclaimed as a dive destination, but the fishing is also world class, both inside and outside the reef. Fly-fishing in shallow water flats offer bone, tarpon and permit fishing all year.

Anglers going for the big pull in deep water, off the island’s famous drop-off, can hook wahoo, tuna and marlin. At Southern Cross, guests can step out of their beach bungalow and wet their line within 15 minutes.

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