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.