Like many people suffering from winter ‘cabin fever’ I yearn for a sunny break during this dour time of year. This February my better half and I had the chance and some spare time to do it. On my fishing ‘bucket list’ is the dream of sight fishing for tarpon among the mangroves. So taking advice from friend a Rutland Water Fly Fishing member Frank Daley, a little island off the gulf of Mexico was chosen.
Many of us are in the same boat, going on holiday with the wife is never a fishing holiday, but I was lucky enough to pack the fly fishing equipment for a couple of hours here and there. I found myself out fishing for baby tarpon and bonefish….
Giant tarpon of 100lbs or so migrate to this area in the Summer, but baby tarpon can be found here all year round and are generally as spooky and as tricky to catch as their larger brothers and sisters.
Day one in cloudy and rainy conditions we sped across the ocean at 30 knots towards the mangroves which was over an hour away. The guide and I saw many pods of baby tarpon, often up to 15 or more milling around looking for food in the shallow water. These guys can spot a fish which to me looked like a stick on the bottom. Maybe after 20 years fishing here I will be able to spot them as well as the guides… Maybe!
The idea is to sneak up on them, without the engine, gently punting along the mangroves trying to spot them and if you see some, to generally cast around 3 feet in front of them with accurate and light presentation. The fly is best left to sink for a few seconds then a gentle strip to lure the fish into following. It’s almost like a one on one hunt. You and the tarpon… Just when you think it’s ignored the fly, there’s an almighty tug, which sends shock waves through your body!
You must set the hook immediately. No that’s not good enough. You have to set the hook as soon as you see the fly disappear as to wait for the pull is often too late. Strip strike with the fly line, not the fishing rod and point the rod at the fish till it’s firmly hooked. Then the thing goes ballistic.
The ratio of actually landing a silver king is 6:1, with many anglers jumping more than they land. Personally, I managed to boat three on this first day.
Day two and three were a disaster, two frustrating blank days with many fish missed and lost! Water temperature were lower than usual, causing the fish to go off the feed according to the guide anyway! What to do, call it a day and admit defeat? Or have just one more day? If you knew me, the answer was obvious… And what a day it was! With a low tide many of the areas we fished previously were almost dry land so we concentrated on the deeper channels of around 3-4 feet deep. As luck would have it so did the tarpon and we spotted fish continuously. I was casting at fish most of the day with frantic instructions from the guide… “12 o’clock, cast! 9 o’clock long cast!, 1 o’clock short cast!”
I was recommended the Airflo Bluetooth Nano fly fishing rods by the Fishtec customer service team, along a matching chards tropical punch fly line – and to be honest, together, they performed brilliantly – punching out accurate casts even into a strong head wind.
I have to go back! The trip ended on a high, I have caught the tarpon bug and there’s some unsettled business with a 40lber that I’d jumped… Or maybe I’ll go in the summer sometime, after the real big fish!
I am a Rutland water based fly fishing Instructor and fishing guide, if you’re interested in a days guided fishing please get in touch.