|A selection of Tarpon Toads tied by Colorado trout guide Chad Pettrone|
I've always been skeptical when I hear about an amazing new and formerly "secret" fly that becomes all the rage in saltwater. These flies are usually nothing more than slight tweaks to proven patterns whose owners are trying to sell to the catalogs. The permit purists are usually the worst offenders, constantly reinventing the Merkin but still managing to get magazine articles written about their "new" creation. There are always a few exceptions and the Avalon Crab is a great example of true innovation.
I felt the same way about the Tarpon Toad when I first heard about it several years ago down in the Keys. The great Andy Mill was absolutely dominating every tournament he fished and was using Capt. Tim Hoover's version of this pattern almost exclusively. He was also doing some other unique things such as tying these flies on relatively small 1/0 hooks, dropping his shock leaders down to 60# test, and casting a stealthier 10-weight rod to fool the heavily pressured Islamorada tarpon.
At that time I was (and for the most part still am) totally dedicated to the old fashioned Tarpon Bunny tied in red and black on a 2/0 Owner hook. I've caught the vast majority of silver kings on this pattern and usually pull it out of my box first thing every morning. But the Tarpon Bunny doesn't stay on my leader as long as it used to these days. If I get one refusal from a well placed cast, I immediately switch to a Toad of the same color. If that fly gets ignored I'll go to another Toad of a brighter shade, usually light green and yellow, especially in lighter water.
The Tarpon Toad has a really unique action underwater, meaning it has almost no action. Unlike traditional flies like Cockroaches, the Toad basically hovers on an even plane when stripped instead of bouncing. This is actually a natural movement for prey and anyone who's watched shrimp swim around in a bait tank will know this. This is most likely the secret to the Tarpon Toad's success. Imitating the prey's movement is far more important than imitating the prey's look when it comes to saltwater fly fishing.
If you're already an experienced tarpon fisherman you're fly box is probably half full of Toads already. If you're new to the sport, using this pattern is a great place to start.