Two weeks ago (or some other time, I can’t really remember) I fished with Scott Collins. We had a day on credit after missing a weather day in January when Jeff Audette was down, and we randomly selected one that on which we had no other obligations to give it a shot. The weather was warm, and we had a brief discussion surrounding which species we wanted to take a look for. Scott mentioned he wouldn’t mind taking a look for some tarpon, and I was happy to have the chance to try out my (hopefully) improved fish fighting techniques I’ve been working on in the off season. I tied an optimistic 12 cobranagle leaders up the day before, figuring if we used half of them we’d be in a good place. I did bring a permit rod in case we decided that we needed something else to do, and met Scott at 8 AM.
The first spot we looked in held nothing, though we pushed through it for a while in hopes of finding something. After a half-hour Scott called a zip code change, and we ran for a while before shutting down for a look-see. We scratched around for a while in hopes of large masses of tarpon heading toward us, though with the clarity of this not being the case soon pressed eject and went to a place many miles away the Scott had a feeling about.
As soon as we shut down, a large laid up tarpon floated up nearby. I grabbed a rod and stripped out, got the fly there and was immediately rewarded with a bite and a jump from my first tarpon of the 2018 season. This fish jumped off, and I missed another bite before staying connected to a 80-pounder that gave me an opportunity to practice the stuff I’ve been working on. Scott poled after the fish and I gave it what I could, and after 20 minutes Scott grabbed the fish. It’s hard not to put tarpon (let alone the first of the year) into the context of weight or release fish moving in to tournament time, and getting a hand on the first one felt quite right. Scott and I discussed the fight afterward, and the joke about whether or not we were prepared to do that five times in a day started to circulate. Five would be the maximum number of fish over 70 lbs a team could score in either the Golden Fly or Gold Cup, and as such was as far as either Scott or myself would ever have to take the theoretical question of how many we could bring to hand in a day. In real life, getting a hand on a big fish for fly removal on 16# represents a coming together of a great many things, and while hooking a lot is one thing getting a leader release is a lot different than grabbing a jaw and taking the fly out.
It was fun to think about, and as usual I took the thought experimet more seriously than I should have. However, after jumping another fish and staying connected to a second of about 85 pounds that we again took the fly out of I began to think that it might be worth further serious consideration.
What followed is one of those special days that will be, unquestionably, one of the good old ones. We saw permit and barracuda, throwing at the former but never coming tight, and in between it all kept hooking and catching tarpon. I had probably near 20 bites, and while I messed up more than a small percentage of them was still able to spend the majority of the day pulling on tarpon faces and watching as Scott grabbed jaw after jaw. When the smoke cleared in mid afternoon we went through a lull in activity, having already caught four fish between 80 and 110 pounds as well as a small one of around 40. We took a break, had some food and got back in to position for the last hour or two. I soon hooked the fifth weight of the day and Scott grabbed this one also, and as soon as we let it go were able to secure one last bite from a large fish to finish the day. On this fish also we were able to avoid all that can go wrong and keep it 100 to the last, when Scott got ahold of the sixth and final weight fish of our day.
Obviously, a day like this is one in however many I’ve ever fished and then some, a perfect confluence of right place/time/people/etc that rarely lines up. I consider myself lucky to fish with a guy like Scott, and I can’t wait to try some of my new tarpon fighting tactics in the tournaments this year.
I’m leaving this afternoon to fish for two days with Steve, and we will be joined by Jason Schratwieser. I’m behind on these reports, but will be catching up over the weekend.