Tuesday, August 16, 2011

5 Easy Ways To Catch More Tarpon On Fly

This is for those of you who are beginners or are struggling with these fish here around Pine Island. 

5 Ways To Catch More Tarpon On A Fly.

1. Use a lighter fly rod. You really don't need anything heavier than a 10-weight to catch the majority of tarpon you'll encounter off Pine Island. Mid-range saltwater rods are not only easier to cast but the lighter lines hit the water with less impact. This is less likely to spook these fish, especially given our calm conditions most of year.

2. Use a heavier leader. If you’re not trying to set a world record then there's no reason to use anything less than 20# test for your class tippet. In fact, I know several guides who simply use a single 9 foot piece of 30# fluorocarbon as their entire leader. This eliminates any knots and it's invisible in the water. It's also more than strong enough to let you muscle a mid-size tarpon to the boat quickly. That's important since a long battle in the 90 degree summertime water is a sure way to kill these fish. Get them in fast and they won't become shark food after you release them.

3. But use a lighter shock leader. The straight 30# leader idea is great but I still like to tie in 18” of 40# fluorocarbon as a shock leader. Tarpon have a mouth that feels like a cinder block so something a little heavier at the hook stops them from rubbing through the leader. In the spring and early summer, when triple digit fish are around I'll bump it up to 60# fluorocarbon. In 15 years I've only had a handful of tarpon wear through that size shock leader. Use anything heavier and the fish is more likely to see it and less likely to eat the fly.

4. Use sharper hooks. It's hard to find a tarpon flies these days that aren't tied on pre-sharpened, cutting edged hooks.  If you tie your own flies then spend the extra money and get the best hooks possible. My favorites are the SSW style Owner Cutting Point in 2/0 size. They're wickedly sharp and penetrate the tarpon's mouth better than anything else. They also have a small barb that holds beautifully but is still easily removed from the fish. A package of 8 costs around $5 but they're worth it.

5. Use your drag. When I was guiding down in Key West my buddies and I had a rule that three jumps from a tarpon counted as a caught fish. After the third jump, getting it to the boat was just a formality.  Everyone should use this rule since it’s easier on the fish and the angler. As a beginner I lost many tarpon because I babied them during the fight. I'd give them too much slack and barely pull on them for fear of breaking the light tippets I used. In other words, I was so afraid of losing the fish that I'd eventually lose the fish.

That changed one summer when I had a client get heat stroke fighting a big tarpon. While he chugged some ice water I covertly cranked down the drag on his Tibor reel, hoping the fish would break itself off before the guy dropped dead on my bow. Instead, my angler quickly found himself in complete control of the tarpon for the first time in over an hour. Five minutes later we had the 100 pounder next to the boat and both angler and fish survived the ordeal.  Start off with a light drag but after that third jump don't be afraid to really crank on them.

Good luck and hope this helps.