Tarpon 30–Dally 0



IT’S an affliction, but there is something about tilting at dinosaurs that floats my boat: Musky in Wisconsin, King Salmon on Kodiak, Halibut on the edge of the Bering Sea.

Last week Bec and I went to the salt, a day ahead of the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show in Orlando Florida. For Bec it was to be her first taste of the saltwater I’ve spoken about so much, and I had lined up a shot at tarpon down on Tampa Bay.

We could have gone for other targets, smaller tarpon in the backcountry, redfish & seatrout or cruising snook on the beaches. The beach fishing has been excellent, tarpon a lot tougher. But like musky, tarpon have been an itch for the past few of years.

I’ll tell you straight off I had my butt handed to me, but so were 3 other guides fishing on their days off on the same stretch of beach_ we saw only 2 fish jumped, all day. But the trip will remain one of the most memorable days fishing I’ve had anywhere.

Guide Capt. Chris Hargiss, (Fly Quest Charters) put us on fish, and watching those silvery sides rolling in the early morning light was almost heart stopping. It was only topped during a frenetic run of afternoon action, the big dark shapes showing impossibly big, as they move implacably down the beach.

But as always when you miss the fish you want, there is the question: “what could have I done better?”. I was pondering this on the drive home, through a couple of brutal thunderstorms, and I realized I had taken for granted few hard learned lessons from travelling blind into unfamiliar fishing situations. Now they might not guarantee you that the fish are going to eat, but it will give you the best grounding.

1 _ PREPARATION: You have probably heard it before but there is no substitute for spending some time pre-trip casting your gear, particularly if you are stepping into unfamiliar line weights. But seriously try practicing the type of shots you will be getting. With plenty of streamer fishing, trout and musky, over the past few years, one would have thought there’d be few problems. But hitting shots into a dinner plate on a moving target is a whole different skill set. Now throw in some wind and a pitching skiff deck, so rough the guide got down off the platform and the back deck, and it’s a whole other ball game.

If you are doing a single day saltwater fishing its hard to justify the cost of a good tarpon grade outfit, particularly on the reel end. But even if you are an above average caster, picking up a rod and making pinpoint casts is a big ask.



2 _ PLAN YOUR TRAVEL: I’ve always been of the notion that doing a guide trip as early as possible in a trip is the ideal. But give yourself time to yourself set if possible. Otherwise you might find yourselves in the spot we were: sitting 7 hours in an airport for flight delays, crawling into bed at 2.am for a 4.30 rise and drive.

Ok it harder when you are juggling work/fun and limited schedules, but we are talking the ideals here.




3 _ STRIP RIGHT: When you are chasing predators making your fly act like the prey is the key. I was having a hard time believing that those monsters coming down the beach were going to eat something stripped like a woolly bugger on trout water. Spotting some schools of bait helped, as did getting my guide to grab the rod and show you the tempo the fish want. Having confidence in your presentation of the prey is a huge asset.



DON’T FORGET TO LOOK AROUND: Fly fishing takes us to some incredible places, but its easy to spend all day focused on that small patch of water you are fishing. Have a look around, take some photos, drink it in.




TAKE A GOOD FRIEND: Nothing like shared experiences.




  • Steve:
    I have the same fetish but with Permit. I just cannot seal the deal. Glad you had a good trip.
    “Life is Good on the Fly!”
    Randall W. Goins

    • Ah permit I can see the attraction there too. I forgot to mention we had a school of permit circle the boat, apparently rare where we were, very cool fish. They didn’t eat a tarpon fly either 😉

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