After the day with Simon, I took the second day off and Kat went fishing by herself. Without getting into the specifics (for that, Kat will have to be convinced to write her own report), I’ll say that she hooked three tarpon and lost a large permit to a broken leader–a tough break on the loss, but great fishing nonetheless.
After that, I started two days with John. Leading up to the Goldenfly these were our only days on the books, and as such we were excited to shift gears and focus on tarpon.
We started early in the morning, and had a shot at a school of tarpon after 10 minutes at the spot. Our second throw at the school drifted among the bodies, coming tight on a flash. I set the hook, and the fish took off down the bank into some deeper water. There, John and I set to work to get the fly back–as though this were a weight fish in a tarpon tournament. After only a small amount of just-getting-back-into-it bickering John grabbed the lower jaw of the 85 pounder and took the hook out, holding the fish in the current to revive it before letting it go. I stripped off the line and prepared for another shot, but the fishing had died and we left after an hour in search of something new.
We looked one place, finding nothing before moving on. Again we found nothing, again we moved on. The fish were taking an apparently unauthorized leave. At our next stop, we poled along for 45 minutes and finally had a shot at a small wad of laid up tarpon. Our first shot made the grade, and a single fish peeled off the group and ate the fly. Our hook set was sadly not up to the standard, however, and the fish rolled the point when we came tight.
After this we looked in two more places, and in each we found a similar number of tarpon: zero. With a landed fish already under our belt for the day, however, the pressure didn’t seem to be getting at us with as sharp a set of claws as normal. Oddly, John got the idea at this point that we might look for permit. Considering that getting him to permit fish leading up the March Merkin was harder than pulling a tooth out of a tiger, I was more than a little surprised at his suggestion. However, John seemed sincere in his desire to go permit hunting and I was more than ok with that so off we went in the early afternoon for a look for the tails.
We didn’t find any on our first pass through a bank, but on our second there they were, plowing their blunt lips into the bottom and puffing mud down current as they tacked over the edge. I threw the fly outside and up current of the horde, and as it drifted down into their window of opportunity it looked like every single fish in the school attacked. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t hooking one, and tried to convince myself that no matter what the behavior of these fish might suggest to the contrary that these were, in fact, permit and not jacks.
After maybe a dozen fish stopped and shook on the fly, I was running out of room. The only thing I could think of was that the current had been pulling the fly out from under them as I stripped it, so when the fly was dead down current of us I stopped and watched as a single fish lined it up and stopped. I fed a little line so the fly wouldn’t lift up in the water column, and when I lifted the rod to pick up slack I was tight to the fish. The permit raced off the flat and we chased it with the motor, avoiding a few nearby trap buoys that always seemed to show up at the worst time. As we fought the fish we talked about how may bites from permit this shot had caused–the number be came up with was well north of ten. In short order John grabbed our fish and I held it for a few photos:
Two-thirds of the way to a slam on three shots, we couldn’t help ourselves. We went back through the permit spot again for a second look, but found none and quickly ran elsewhere for a look for a bonefish to complete our slam.
Within 20 minutes, John spotted what he assured me were two small barracuda on the white sand. I threw anyway, and even when I was tight to a small fish he told me it was a barracuda. It wasn’t, and when the leader came through the rod tip for the official slam we couldn’t believe our day: a grand slam, on essentially three shots.
I’d definitely like to be this lucky more often.
After that there was nothing to do but get home as soon as we could while we were ahead.
The following day, we were joined by my friend Michael Hetzel. Michael had fished with Drew Delashmit in addition to the day we had with Simon earlier in the week, and had hooked a nice tarpon before losing it. This day, despite the fishing for different things we’d done the day before, we were focused on tarpon and tarpon only.
We started near where John had found some fish the week prior, and quickly found the fish that he had reported to be tough. Tough they were.
I had a number of shots before becoming frustrated, and when I stepped down for a fly change I left the new fly in the hands of Michael to see what he could do with it. After two shots, John spotted a school of fish and positioned the boat into range. The fish were hidden by a cloud twice before Michael got a chance to make a perfect cast at the school, and was rewarded with a flashy bite when the right bug slid in front of the right fish.
He set the hook and, with much instruction (and a bit of yelling) from John and myself soon had the fish under control. The fight ended after 10 minutes, when Michael’s brute strength caused the 16 pound tippet to straighten the hook out. A leader-release, however, was all that we needed for some euphoria and good thoughts about what was to come.
Sadly, despite our best efforts, this was the only fish of our day. We had a lot of casts at fish, a fair number of follows, and more than a few reactions that we thought would lead to another bite, but none did. Tough stuff, especially with the tarpon tournament season fast approaching.
Tomorrow and the next with Chris Robinson, and my guess is that we’ll permit fish as well as look for some tarpon.
More to come,