Sunday, June 26, 2016

Juvenile Tarpon On Fly

If I'm lucky, I might get half a dozen chances each year to step on the bow of my skiff and cast a fly at a tarpon.  I got my first shot of the season a few days ago with my dad and 9 year old nephew watching and, after a bunch of horrible throws, actually made one connect.

This 12 pound juvenile is typical of the fish we're seeing inshore right now and will keep seeing throughout the summer and into the fall.  It was hanging with at least 100 other similar sized tarpon that were rolling like crazy at high noon in some very shallow 90 degree water.  These are the situations where a light fly rod works better than anything else, a perfect target for the 8-weight TFO rod I was using.  I actually could have gone lighter and will probably be dusting off my old 5-weight Sage very soon. 

Even though I was casting a mid-size fly rod, I was still using a heavy leader of 30# tippet.  This let me seriously yank on the tarpon and get it to the boat in only a few minutes, which is crucial to the survival of these fish in the hot summer water.  And since this tarpon was under 40" long I was legally able to pick it up for a very quick photo.  Anything larger than that has to stay completely in the water according to Florida law. 

Four years ago off Cayo Costa, I caught my personal best tarpon on fly; a 120lb fish that took half an hour to land.  That was definitely a memorable catch but I enjoyed this juvenile tarpon so much better.  It gave me the chance to hand off the rod to my nephew, who still lives 1300 miles north of Pine Island in Pennsylvania.  He helped me land it and then wanted to tie his very first tarpon fly later that afternoon.  Can't ask for anything better than that. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Addictive Fishing And Beavertail Skiffs

Monday, June 20, 2016

Building Your Own Tarpon Fly Leaders

Summer is officially here and it’s also the start of our juvenile tarpon season on Pine Island. The big migratory schools, which usually show up in early April, are still here but their numbers are tapering off as they move further up the coast. The little resident fish, and by "little" I mean any tarpon under 30 pounds, will start sliding out of their hiding spots and become a regular sight on the inshore flats and residential canals all along the coast.

If you’re a fly angler, these are the perfect saltwater gamefish. You can target them with an easy casting 8-weight, they’ll eat a variety of simple patterns, and with the right leader you can have them whipped in just a few minutes. So let’s talk about that leader system for these juvenile tarpon.

When I started guiding two decades ago, back in the Monofilament Era, tarpon leaders were remarkably complex creations of several 12 to 80lb test line segments held together by a mix of Bimini Twists, Homer Rhode loops, and Huffnagal knots. Each leader usually took a quarter of Monday Night Football to construct before they were attached to their designated fly and snapped into something called a stretcher box. Once there, they would wait in straightened silence for springtime.

Fluorocarbon, which is effortless to keep straight compared to mono, changed all of that. Tarpon leaders can now be tied while motoring away from the ramp and I don’t miss those mind-numbing leader building sessions at all.

For small tarpon I use Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon to create a 10’ leader I call a "4-3-2-1." That simply means 4’ of 40lb, 3’ of 30lb, 2’ of 20lb which is the class tippet, and just over 1’ of 40lb for a shock tippet. If you think you’ll encounter larger fish then bump that last part up to 60lb, which will withstand a big tarpon’s rough jaw even better. All these lengths are joined together by double surgeon’s knots which are effortless and hold at nearly 100% of the line’s strength. The fly is attached to the shock tippet with a perfection loop, which I also use for all my spinning lures, and that’s it.

If you tie your knots properly, and test them afterwards, this leader won’t let you down. It’s simple, effective, and very inexpensive compared to prepackaged tarpon leaders which can cost up to $10 each. Give it a try and be thankful that you don’t have to fill up a stretcher box anymore.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Recent Pine Island Catches

It wasn't the best weather for my anglers with lots of wind and the occasional shower but still a productive week here in SW Florida:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pine Island Tarpon Fishing In June

Capt. Eric Wrenn with a five pounder on fly.
Fish like this one are coming out of the woods up and down Matlacha Pass right now.  Don't expect to see them everywhere but on the flat calm mornings most canals will have them rolling by the dozens or even hundreds.  If you can't feed them a fly go to pinfish of large shrimp hooked through the head and free-lined into the rolling schools.  Juvenile tarpon season is just beginning in SW Florida and should last through the summer and into mid fall.