Last Sunday and Monday, I fished for two days with Simon Becker. On the second of these two days Kat and I shared the boat. Here’s how it all went down.
Simon and I started at a reasonable 8 AM, hoping to find some tarpon to throw at. If you’ve read these reports recently you’ll not be surprised by the fact that, in addition to some Goldenfly tournament tippet to practice with, I was armed with some new fluorocarbon as a bite tippet. Our fishing started far away from the ramp, at a place where Simon thought there might be a fish rolling in the early clouds. We saw a large single fish roll, and on the second cast up current of the bubbles we had a small nip that roughed up our leader but left us fishless. We continued on in this spot until Simon got an idea to go elsewhere.
At our second spot we found a number of tarpon passing through, and the first shot we took garnered us a bite: great reinforcement of our fly choice but less than thrilling confirmation in our choice of hooks. This close to a tournament, every failure leads to questions that I’d rather not have to ask or answer. The second bite we had at this stop gave us a solid hook up, and Simon took care to pole away from the fish before starting the motor and giving chase to the fish. I had a knot in the fly line that I needed to untie, and we spent a few minutes fussing with this difficulty before we cleared it and made a hard run at capturing the animal. This fish was large, and we had to put some work on it to get it next to the boat. Within 20 minutes we had the fish floated next to the boat, a solid fish of around 120 pounds. This fish was perfect, and it was a much-needed boost to my confidence going in to the Goldenfly next week. We followed that fish up with a move to places new and unexplored, leaving the fish alone for a rest after our antics.
At the next spot, Simon found a few fish in a basin that we had a hard time figuring out. The tarpon seemed to be traveling through, occasionally laying up, but mostly snaking around in groups of twos and threes on the bottom. We took a couple fly changes in stride and stuck with a plan to try to force an error. From these tough targets we were able to coax only two bites: one from a large fish that threw the fly soon after it ate, and another from an 80 pounder that stayed well hooked. With this fish we decided not to play, not wanting to throw out the entire basin by chasing it around. The fish made a long run and I tightened the drag to break it off so we could keep fishing. For the next hour we made what little we could out of our targets, unable to get another one to crack open before leaving for new places.
For the remainder of the afternoon, we were stuck with some more tough fish that we couldn’t make work. From a long string of fish we did come tight on a large tarpon, though a weird jump and some strange activity confirmed that we’d buried the hook in the wrong spot. We broke the fish off after a while of pulling to see what the tippet would handle and continued to fish until the light got low and we headed towards home. As we passed through a channel on the way home we were surrounded by rolling tarpon, which was pretty in a way I’m not up to describing. Simon shut down the motor and we drifted through the bobbing flashes.
It didn’t take long for me to hand a rod to Simon, and while we had fish all around us our hearts were not in the predatory mood. Simon took some casts, and eventually we drifted on to a flat and I took the pole to exercise my serviceable (but certainly no better than that) skills on the platform. We were interested in what we were seeing: fish of some kind or another, skittering across the glass-covered flat and staying forever just out of our limited range. We took our time to enjoy the moment, not interested enough to make a hard run at a capture. After an hour and a half of watching and being in delayed position thanks to my insufficient poling skills and our interest in watching more than catching, we headed home after sunset.
This day, we were joined by Kat. We started off looking for tarpon, and it took until the second stop before Simon had us in a position on a school of small fish. I had four or five bites on a couple casts, each time failing to get the hook in the little guys. I cut off the weed guard that had costs us the come tight and handed the rod off to Kat for her turn. Kat had another few shots at schools of small tarpon before Simon headed off to another spot he wanted to fish. At this third place Kat had a number of shots at large tarpon, though the wind and current conspired to keep the fly from where the fish needed it to be. We left when the fishing slowed to try our luck elsewhere.
Here we had a few shots at tarpon, and after a few I hooked a 60 pounder that ran into a nearby channel. We had the fish nearly beat on the edge of the flat when I decided to jump out and attempt a photo op on the flat with the fish. I stepped out of the boat at the same time a stingray flushed away from us, scaring the tarpon back into the channel. I had to walk towards it to get an angle to pull, and a school of small permit flushed off the flat as I ambled down current to the fish. Pretty stuff, and too much to do anything about at all at once. I pulled on the fish for a little longer, trying to apply maximum pressure to get it over with before the shock got into the mouth scissors and the fish got away. We left the spot and headed onwards to a place we’d found some animals the day before. At this place the light was an issue, and Simon made the call to look for permit instead. We poled a long bank looking for a permit, though upon finding none Simon made a run nearby for a spot that might hold both permit and tarpon. With the rod for the latter in hand the former showed, and we were again taught the lesson to not chase our own tails too quickly when the rods were switched and a school of the latter showed up, this time in a roiling school. I passed the appropriate rod back to Kat, who had a few shots at a slow-rolling blob of tarpon that never gave up the error we were hoping for.
Kat stayed on the bow for another hour or so, during which time I had a great shot at a single permit between tarpon fishing. Sadly, my casting skills were not up to the quality of the opportunity. Kat soon redeemed the earlier misplacements with a perfect shot on a pair of fish that got one in the air, though the hook fell out on the second jump. Happy with her redemption, I got the rod for the final fishless hour before we headed back.
There will be a gap in the reports since I start fishing the Goldenfly tomorrow, and the final report will include the tournament goings on as well as the last two days that I fished with John O”Hearn. Included will be a near death experience on Thursday as well as at least one giant tarpon brought to hand.
More to come after the festivities,