Last week I fished with Ian Slater for a pair of days. Our goal was to tarpon fish, and while we had everything we needed to do this the weather worked to keep us from success. The two days we fished were the windiest within a windy week, and the gusts felt like they howled extra loudly each time we had a shot.
In the morning of the first day we found a small number of fish where we started, and from these were able to get a bite from a large one that didn’t put up much of a fight. After 15 minutes we were able to get a face in our hands and took a picture to mark the moment:
After that we continued to look, not finding anything more to attach ourselves to. Ian moved us in the late morning to a spot we could grind in the wind. We didn’t have many other options than to dig our heels in and make the best we could out of the worst wind I’ve seen in a while. Remarkably, our first shot worked out just how we wanted: a single fish came by the boat, and all it took was a single cast to get a grab that stayed buried. We set off to chase the fish in the chop, and Bear (who was nearby) took a few pictures of us fighting the beast. Eventually, despite landing the fish on the upwind side of the boat, we got a hand on the girl and held it in the water for Bear to take a few pictures:
After that things slowed for a while, both in terms of shots as well as interest from the fish in what we were offering them. We hooked another one in an hour or so, fighting it for a while but ultimately losing it to a broken class tippet that I had neglected to change after the last fish we caught. We jumped off another one on a botched hook set before we called it a day, happy with what we were able to make out of a tough day.
Our second day of fishing took a slower start. We stuck with a very similar program, with a few additions thrown in to see if we could find some fish elsewhere in the wind. Where we first stopped was lacking in animals, and after a short glance to confirm this we moved to where we’d began the day prior. The fishing was again tough, and the one bite we were able to persuade from the fish never got the hook placed. We kept on, as we had the day before, until Ian decided to put us in the grind for the late morning.
Where the day before we had enjoyed our success straight away, this day made us wait. We had a few shots at fish that appeared interested, and we were unable to convince one until after lunch time. The first that we fooled gave us a chance to fight it, though we wore through the shock before we could get a hand on the fish’s face. After that we continued to bide our way through many fishless minutes for a few moments of action. After a few casts were foiled successfully by the wind we came tight to another tarpon, this one smaller than the one we just lost. The fish gave a good but shallow account of itself, and we soon had a grip on it to remove the hook and snap a picture:
We went back to where we’d hooked it, waiting for another shot. One came that gave up a bite, but this one didn’t stay connected. We waited for another grab to start things off, though we were not able to get one for an hour or so. The shots we did have generated lots of interest from the tarpon, most of which came close to the fly for a nearer inspection before turning away without biting. After a fly change we had a shot at a pair of fish, and this one worked out perfectly from the lead fish that shot headfirst after the fly and opened up beautifully. We set off to fight the beast, which we estimated at around 70 pound, and soon had a hand on a second fish in the wind:
It is of note that these two fish were right on the verge of being weight fish in the upcoming tournaments, and I wasn’t sure if I would have strapped either on day one. Had I been in need of a strap, however, both would have been measured and my gut tells me that one of the two would have made it.
We kept at it for a while, getting a few more bites in the wind but never being able to convert any of them to another capture. When the fish started to slow their roll we went home.
I’d like to thank Ian for a stellar two days of fishing, not to mention a super-human effort in the wind. Tomorrow I’m fishing with Lenny Leonard as Adam Tondu’s guest, then on Thursday I’m with Doug Kilpatrick.
More to come,