Fishing with Howard and Sandy Horn

Fishing with Howard and Sandy Horn

On Tuesday, I was invited by Howard Davis to fish with Captain Sandy Horn. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a skiff with Howard, and it has been too long since I fished with Sandy. Based on this, I was very excited for our day on the water–even though the weather wasn’t as nice as we could have hoped for. Another slight front had pushed through the lower Keys on Monday, and the water temperatures had suffered. Howard and Sandy had canceled Monday due to the inclement weather, and while we discussed moving our day to later in the week we decided it was best to stick with the original plan.

We started out looking for tarpon, which at first seemed like a risky bet. We fished through a few areas without seeing anything, and kept our eyes open and our hearts hopeful that we’d be able to find the fish we sought. We saw a single large fish at one of our stops, and while we hoped more would come they never did. At the next spot Howard was up, and as we poled down a bank Sandy mentioned that he saw a fish sliding towards us. Howard didn’t see the fish right away, though Sandy coached him in to the shot as it developed and within a few seconds the fly was right where it needed to be. Howard stripped the fly until the fish put an end to that with a large surface gobble and took off. Oddly, this fish never jumped, even after we chased the fish down and got the release. Howard continued to pull on the tarpon, trying to either break off the fish or make a face grab happen quickly. Finally the tippet broke and we moved on in search of more tarpon to play with.

Our next stop yielded nothing, but it was at the next (and, once we saw what was there, final) stop we figured out where the fish had decided to hide. I had a couple shots before I stepped off the bow to change the fly, and Howard stood up while I rigged a new leader. Between knots and measuring, I could hear the back and forth of angler and guide surrounded by fish. Howard had a hard look at one of his casts, and another couple that could very easily have worked before I got back up with a new fly. This one didn’t work any better, though when we changed the fly again we found their number: all it took was a [redacted] fly and the fish were willing to go along with our game. I had a few shots before getting one to make a mistake, and soon we were chasing after another tarpon that refused to jump. We made an effort to catch this fish proper, and after 20 minutes the fish decided to jump for us. What we watched was enough jumps to make up for the dry spell, as the fish cartwheeled and crashed just 20 feet from the boat. After the acrobatics I figured the time was now for the end game, but in our efforts to release the fish quickly I applied too much pressure and it broke off and swam happily away.

Howard got up next, and within a few minutes he was dialed in on the casts and placement he needed. A group of three fish soon gave us a volunteer, and again Howard hooked a large tarpon that didn’t jump. This fish was the largest of the three we hooked, near 100 pounds. It gave Howard the work, and after we got the leader release we told Howard to give it his all on 20 to try to grab the beast. Ten minutes of pulling brought us close to a face grab, though the hard pulling opened up the hook and we sent the fish on its way.


I’d like to thank Howard for inviting me on a great day, and Sandy for sticking with a game plan that paid off awesomely. As always, it was great to spend some time with Howard and I enjoyed watching him do great work on the bow.

With that, I’m current on these reports. Monday through Wednesday I’m in the Everglades with Steve Huff and Jason Schratwieser, and we hope to pick a fight on the light stuff.

Reports when I get back,



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Nathaniel Linville

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