Yesterday I fished with Aaron Snell, and we were in full pursuit of the 6. The problem, this time of year, is that most of the fish come in sizes too small and places too deep for success. As such, we made a major concession when we decided to look for a large fish in shallow water. We spent our morning and early afternoon looking for fish in areas that were great for capturing, but less than loaded with targets. In fact, in the 7 places we looked, we only saw about 7 or 8 fish; only a few appeared large enough, and none of them cooperated.
By 2 PM we were feeling like we wanted to at least capture something for all our efforts, and we moved to the ocean. We had a few shots at strings that never fell into a rhythm, and we were almost ready to call it a day when we decided to look in one last laid-up area before calling it a day. This turned out to be a great call, as within minutes we had a shot a two fish; one of which looked easily over 100 pounds. Neither ate the fly, but as we pushed down the edge we could see fish quite clearly over the light colored bottom and had a steady parade of shots–just what we hoped for. Our fly, unchanged from our first stop, stayed on. We both knew we should change it, but the fishing was too good to care–surely, we could make one eat our black toad. After a few more refusals (on less than perfect shots, to be fair), we changed the fly to a [color and pattern redacted]. Within seconds of looping the class through the butt section, we had a shot at a fish moving away from us. This fish, upon seeing the fly, immediately spun around and inhaled it. We were off to the races with a fish that was borderline at best; we tried to get it to jump for some photographs before breaking it off and heading back to the bank.
While on our way back to the fish, I tied on the last [color/pattern redacted] that I had. Our light was failing, the fish were getting harder to see, and we had one last fly that was working. The lights, as the say, were lit–bright as I’ve seen them in a long time.
We had four or five more shots, one fish that tracked the fly and elevated but didn’t eat, and then a fish on our right side that kept swimming through our shots. Just when I was losing interest in that fish (the opposite seemed also to be true), Aaron pointed out another fish on our left. This second fish was equidistant; all I had to do was pick up the line from one side and it drop it on the other–luckily, it landed right in front of this new target. I stripped until the fish elevated, then kept it coming as the fish followed the fly. The fish didn’t eat the fly right away, but instead tracked it or 8 or 9 feet before cracking open, wide as it could get, and inhaling the fly. I set the hook,
and we were off and running.
This fish wasn’t acrobatic at first, but when it jumped we were sure that it was big enough:
What followed was, while unsuccessful, one of the best fights I’ve had with a tarpon. The fish was crafty, interesting, and, at times, approaching clairvoyant. We were unable to keep the fish on the flat, and it seemed to anticipate every move of ours designed to get it shallow. Eventually, it settled in to a fight that included crab-trap buoys, a mooring line, and channel markers. We almost had a shot at it when it followed the edge of the channel and briefly looked like it was going to run towards the mangroves, but the fish dodged us once again and dipped behind us back in to the channel.
After an hour, and certainly one of the most memorable and engaging fights I’ve had in a long time, I lifted to put some pressure on the fish and it was over. I reeled in the slack, we stowed our gear, and headed for home. It is worth mentioning that even though we failed in this specific instance to set the record we pursue, this fish gave us everything anyone could ever want from a tarpon: a great eat, a crafty battle, and an hour spent doing the thing I love the most.
Clever fish. Thanks again for your time, my hat is off to you, always and of course.
I’m fishing tomorrow morning with Ray Vasquez (and potentially this evening with Aaron, though the latter depends on how late dinner goes) and a report will follow. Thursday I’m headed to NY for the weekend so reports might be intermittent.
Here’s some more photos: