Yesterday I was invited to fish with Fitz Coker, who had Aaron Snell booked for the day. Just to spend the day with two of my favorite people made the day worthwhile; it was all the better for the fact that we were fly fishing for tarpon. While we only caught two, but the company amplified the enjoyment of an otherwise normal day of tarpon fishing.
After a 30 minute run, we arrived at our first spot. Aaron had us on a school of rollers next to a quiet mangrove shoreline within 5 minutes, and Fitz had a fly in front of them in no time. The first cast didn’t work out, and when he dropped cast number two at the school he spooked one. The rest followed, pushing the water into creases as they fled. We stayed for another 20 minutes until we decided we had enough sun for sight fishing.
We arrived at spot #2, and Fitz had a shot in short order. Another followed, and after a few more he ceded the bow to me. I had one or two shots at fish that didn’t give us a great angle before a group of three larger fish came over the flat edge onto our white sand spot. I threw up current of the lead fish, and left my fly to swing into their line. As they came into the deep pocket we had staked out on, however, they dropped out of sight, too deep to see. I had no choice but to keep coming with the fly, as it was now out of sight and as such maintained a (dwindling) chance of getting bit. I kept stripping even as we wondered out loud where they went, and my fly began to track back up to the boat. As soon as I saw my fly we saw the fish behind it, and he ate it once and spit it before I could come tight. The second time he grabbed it, however, we got the line tight and away he went.
We were interested in this fish because of our pursuit of the 6 (we were not fishing 6 this day) and our accuracy in estimating fish weight from jumps and rolls. Our intention was to capture the fish, tape it, and use the formula to determine its weight. We each voiced an estimate: Aaron said 77 pounds, I said 88, and Fitz called it 99.
After 20 minutes we had the fish near the boat and flipped.
Aaron grabbed the leader and we got length and girth measurements before reviving the fish and sending it on its merry way. The fish had a 32.5 inch girth, and a length of 63 inches. The formula put this fish at just under 84 pounds–a good fish but one that wouldn’t cut it on 6.
Fitz was up next, and after a few shots at errant schools finally made a beautiful cast to a long string. Immediately upon its arrival on the scene, his fly was eaten and he was pulling.
I grabbed the leader and landed the fish,
and Aaron snapped one of the nicest fish pictures I’ve seen in a while of the little critter:
The rest of the day was hot. I’m reminded of the opening paragraph of The Grapes of Wrath, where the word ‘dust’ appears something like 27 times (and who said I didn’t learn anything from Mr Scanlon in English Class. . . ). Simpy replace the word ‘dust’ with ‘heat’, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what we were dealing with.
We lasted until 2:30, when we were done with the fish and the heat and headed home.
Thanks to Aaron and Fitz for one of the nicest days I’ve had in a long time.
When I returned home, I fished for a few hours at night with my good friend Michael Driscoll, and though we found plenty of small tarpon we were unable to get one to eat. Frustrating, to be sure, but a good reminder of why this fishery is the best in the world: you can be humbled by the docklights. What a beautiful thing.