Last week, prior to the latest cold front, I fished with Captain Doug Kilaptrick. We were joined by Jason Schratweiser from the IGFA, and our target was tarpon.
We began fishing at the end of a small run, and had some great opportunities to start. A few large schools of fish rolled in some deeper water, and Doug put us in position for a few tosses. Jason was up first, and had two bites before I was up. I had a nippy bite from a smaller fish before hooking a larger fish, which luckily ran away from the school of rollers and allowed us to give chase with the motor. We soon had the 60 pound fish next to the boat and Doug was able to remove the fly and give the fish a substantial revive before we let it go. Jason next hooked a bigger fish, though this fish proved harder to grab: it ran up current, and after a long run jumped and broke off. Jason had another bite, maybe I did–at this point, the fishing was so good it was hard to keep track of.
Within another hour the fishing slowed, and we moved to a nearby edge for a shot at what we hoped would be a good number of tarpon. It wasn’t, and though we managed a bite from the single group of three we had an angle on we moved elsewhere as soon as we could.
We found clouds, and a few more fish, in the early afternoon. Our shots at the latter were prevented by the former of these additions, and we moved to yet another bank to search for a fish. I was up, and after a few hundred yards of poling Doug found us a few targets: a wad of laid up tarpon, facing us and waiting for something to snack on. I threw the fly into the tangle of upturned faces, and one cracked open and ate. Not coming tight, I kept stripping until the fish tried a second time to eat it, and then watched as the school began to unwind and move off their pad. A large fish circled around, high in the water, and our second shot was in front of it and the fish kicked up and ate. We set the hook and watched as a very large tarpon took to the air:
We fought the fish for about 45 minutes, during which time it went into some very shallow water (where is my 6 pound tippet when I need it?) and gave a great account of itself. When the fish floated up next to the boat, Doug grabbed it like a ninja and we held it in the current to revive it. Here’s what the beast we estimated to weigh 140 pounds looked like:
We released the fish on a nearby flat and it kicked off strong. With this great capture, in addition to some great fishing and another landed fish in the morning, one might think Doug would be done. One would be wrong. As it turned out, Doug had a final spot in mind for us and it was worth every minute it took to get there.
We found fish stringing, laying up, and eating Jason’s fly with reckless abandon. Jason hooked what I remember as three fish, getting the leader in the rod tip on the final of these before the hook broke. I had a couple more shots, and the one that caught me a third was odd: a string of fish appeared just as I’d clipped my old fly off, and I grabbed Jason’s rod out of the tube and made a cast sitting down at a close group of traveling fish. Another fish in the 60 pound range ate the fly and we soon had hands on a third fish for the day. Amazing stuff, and a day I’ll remember for a long time. We finished out the day with a too close shot in the failing light and headed home to rest up for day two.
We were confronted with deteriorating conditions on our second and final day of fishing, but Doug wasn’t going to go out without a fight. Jason hooked up early and got the leader release, and I stumbled through a few missed bites before the clouds rolled in. When they did, we were left without visibility and targets were hard to come by. Even so, Doug spotted a single fish at our next stop and Jason slid the fly in to position. After a great eat and a long run, Jason tamed the beast and I grabbed it on my second try. Here’s the evidence:
With that we continued our quest at that location but saw nothing. Our fishing was overtaken by clouds, though once again Doug couldn’t be stopped: another long run ended in another few great opportunities. I got a bite from a member of a pair that approached, thankfully, from downwind. This fish I fought for 20 minutes before the leader wore through, and Jason finished off the day with a few sniper shots at a tarpon of biblical proportions that caused us all to shed a tear when it didn’t eat.
I’d like to thank Doug Kilpatrick for some of the best tarpon fishing I’ve had in a very long time, and Jason for showing me how the college boys do it.
Yesterday I fished with Michael Hetzel and Simon Becker, and I’ll upload that report when I’m able. Thursday and Friday with John, in preparation for the Goldenfly and Gold Cup. Much more to come.