All week we had to watch Tadd Fore posting killer pics from his trip to Campeche with father-in-law Duane Hada, so we made him give us a run down so you could check them out again. This looks like an awesome trip.
Three hours of total air time. That phrase can be used to describe both the amount of time it took to get to our destination and the amount of time our target species spent above the water connected to our fly during our four days of fishing in Campeche, Mexico.
Thousands of fishermen have enjoyed being connected to a tarpon by way of fly, but each of those thousand had their first. After years of dreaming, I now have mine. As a father of three with an increasingly busy schedule, a saltwater fly-fishing trip couldn’t have felt further from reality. However, with the prodding of good friends and a supportive wife (who, may I add, has already been-there-done-that in the salt), the dream became reality with a trip due south to Campeche, Mexico to give chase to juvenile tarpon.
Tarpon, even the juveniles, are everything I’d read and heard about. Eager to eat a fly. Acrobatic. Chaotic. Immensely strong. In a world of small-stream smallmouth bass and White River trout, nothing could have prepared me for four days of constant tug-of-war with a truly wild animal.
The group for the week consisted of Jeff Willis from Fort Smith, Tom Harrison for North Carolina, Duane Hada, and me. A motley crew, to be sure; we knew we would pair up for some memorable times together on the water. We fished with Tarpon Town Anglers, who developed this fishery some 2 decades ago.
The first day began with an hour boat ride out to secluded mangrove islands. Jeff and I were in one boat and Tom and Duane the other. Tom and Duane would stop well before our boat and fish small pockets of islands for rolling tarpon in shallow water. Jeff and I would motor about 30 miles and stumble upon a giant school of rolling tarpon about 500 yards off the mangroves. In five casts we had already jumped 4 tarpon, landing 2 of them.
We proceeded to jump several more, only to come unbuttoned with them mid-jump early into the fight. Once the rollers dissipated, we moved to the mangrove edges to hone our spot-and-stalk skills. Tarpon would cruise the edges of the mangrove roots, tucked away tight like a White River brown trout on 8 generators.
The most surprising aspect of this whole experience was how eager these fish were to eat a fly. It was not uncommon that an ill-placed cast would trigger a tarpon to cover several feet to gorge itself on an easy bit of protein. According to Raul Castaneda, the owner and operator of Tarpon Town Anglers, Campeche tarpon are so aggressive because their primary diet are fleeing baitfish, as opposed to shrimp and crabs.
Each day, our guides expertly managed the conditions of tide change, weather change, and fish behavior to place us in the best possible locations for a successful day. All in all, we brought 51 tarpon to hand and jumped many more. Incredible fishing, delicious cuisine, and genuine people made this trip an excellent first expedition to the salt. I will be back, you can rest assured of that.