Yesterday I fished the glades with Joe Rodriguez. We were in pursuit of the 6.
We left Joe’s house at 4:45 AM and drove to Islamorada. Following a quick lunch purchase, we splashed the boat and headed out.
Joe told me that he wanted to check a spot close by Islamorada, so we ran for a quick 25 minutes before he powered down and hopped up on the platform. There were a few fish rolling, and we saw a number that were large enough to be potential 6 targets. Unfortunately the fish were spread out–we would push towards one that rolled, only to see one roll where we just were. I had a few ‘sort-of’ shots at a roll here and there, but never the good cast at roller that usually produces a bite.
In 10 minutes, however, the fish seemed to converge in the basin about 200 yards away form us–Joe saw this, and in short order had us positioned just outside the melee.
On our second shot we hooked a fish that was too small. Despite us going slack on him as soon as he jumped, the hook found a permanent home and we broke him off in order to preserve the relaxation of the other fish. Another shot and another fish hooked–while this one appeared marginal, we never saw it jump as the hook came out as soon as I came tight.
Two fish then rolled going away from us, a cast was made over their backs, and before I could strip the fly a second time it was eaten with a large tail kick and a flash. The fish didn’t jump at first, giving us a good opportunity to set the hook. We were glad for the hook-setting opportunity when it jumped and we put its weight at just over 100 pounds–easily big enough to break the existing 88 pound record.
From the outset, this fish was perfect: it wanted to stay shallow (away from the deep channel which would be a sure end to the 6 pound tippet), it appeared large enough, and–most importantly–it acted like a fish that was tired. Each one of these elements is hard enough to find by itself; all together on the same fish is a boon of the finest kind when chasing light line records. Within 10 minutes we had the fish under control and within 50 feet of the boat. At 20 minutes it was acting like we had fought it for an hour and a half, and we hadn’t even begun to play offense seriously. At a half hour the fish jumped, and we got a good look at its depth–this fish was easily 130 pounds, if not bigger. As soon as we commented on the size of the fish, it jumped again. The fly came out, and we both just sat down and sighed with a mix of frustration and disbelief. Fishing 6 pound means we are using very thin hooks designed to penetrate easily and with minimal pressure; losing a fish to a pulled or thrown hook is quite common on 12 pound and heavier (and the attendant heavier hooks), but with 6–and after a half hour of pulling on the fish to further bury the steel? Looking back through my reports, I can’t find an example of a fish throwing the hook after that long. I guess we had this way left to fail, but I must admit that I hope we are running out of failures and looking down the barrel of success.
That said, as always it’s great to try. And a great thanks is due to Joe Rodriguez, who is not only a good guy to fish with when the fishing’s great but a great guy to lean on when things get as tough as they did at 7:40 yesterday morning.
Next we left for the Everglades proper, but not before being gifted a Buff (I had forgotten mine) by Mark Krowka’s AWESOME clients–a neck saving gift that will surely be paid back with a nice goody-box of stuff (I know a guy…).
We arrived in the park with recently dashed though elevating hopes. Our first stop found only a few, our second none, and our third only a handful. In our attempt to find a fish that was big enough we passed up a lot of smaller creatures, sacrificing easy fishing for the grind of trying to get something done. As the sun got higher and the wind slacked to blanket slow, I was increasingly happy to have made my new Buff-loaning buddies.
We met up with Andy Thompson to say hello, and soon thereafter went to look for some tripletail that Joe had found the day before. I had never caught one before, and was of course down with the idea. Even cooler was seeing them on a channel marker, trowing a shrimp fly to them, and catching my first ever tripletail. Thanks of course to Joe for a new experience for me (and a for a future of annoying future “Can we go check that trap for tripletail?” for the guides I fish with).
Finally, in the heat of the afternoon, Joe found us the proverbial “nut” of tarpon. They were everywhere, and if anything there were too many to focus on one. I had a bite, missed one, jumped a little one that I went slack on, and blew a huge number of shots–due mostly, I admit, from the crease in my brain from straining my neck to look at so many tarpon so quickly. I was literally bent on the fish, throwing over closer fish to ones farther away, throwing at close ones that spooked others to their side. Finally, after my pulse rate lowered to a much more tolerable 165, I managed to feed a larger looking critter near the boat. Joe hopped off the platform and fired up the motor to give chase to a fish that, on second jump inspection, looked to be around 100 pounds.
After 20 minutes, we had the fish near the boat. When it jumped again, we both agreed that the fish was between 75 and 85 pounds. As such, I began to play it more aggressively, and immediately could flip it over and float it briefly before it righted itself and ran again. We elected to attempt a hook removal–which, if we had been successful, would have been a neat trick on 6 pound tippet. It didn’t work out, though breaking it off after it was a few feet from the boat was a victory in itself.
And while we had one more shot at a pair of laid up fish on the way in, our day was done.
I would like to thank, of course, Joe Rodriguez for one of the most amazing days of tarpon fishing I’ve ever had, and my parents who gave me this charter for my birthday. It would have been nice to catch the 6 when I was still in my 20’s, but I’m hoping that now in my 30’s I’ll find the calm and mature focus to get it done. Or some nonsensical platitude like that, either way yesterday was epic and I can’t wait to fish more on 6.