Tarpon Fishing with Fitz Coker and Doug Kilpatrick

Tarpon Fishing with Fitz Coker and Doug Kilpatrick

Today I had the pleasure of fishing with Fitz Coker and Captain Doug Kilpatrick. While we had intended to get some good shots of leaping tarpon for this fishing report, we forgot the camera. Instead, I can offer you a picture of an alligator gar sent to us by Captain Jacob Shemper

as well as a picture of the fly as returned to us after we caught a large laid up tarpon

Note the opened hook…
Anyway, the best fishing we found was early, with a number of shots at laid up tarpon that produced (albeit grudgingly) a total of three bites.
The first fish ate the fly on a dead swing immediately after it landed, and proceeded to head straight for the boat. I kept the line tight and waited for her to turn, at which point I tried to put some steady pressure on the fish to set the hook. This worked out terribly, as the 50 lb shock parted in her scissors–the bony edges of the tarpon mouth that can cut through most anything at the rght angle, especially when tension is involved. The second fish was, in my opinion, pretty close to perfect. The fly landed, was summarily eaten, and the fish swam away from us well hooked. While not huge, she was still a pretty large fish (80-100 lbs) and gave what seemed like a slow motion aerial show on every one of her several jumps. After we got the leader in the rod tip (a “caught fish” for the purposes of nothing other than to have a goal that doesn’t involve lip-grabbing at the expense of fishing) we tried the old “pop ’em or stop ’em” technique, which resulted in a straightened hook (see above).
The third fish was smaller and ate the fly, also on a dead drift presentation, on a close cast, but I pulled the fly out of it’s mouth. Such is life.
After that we had a number of shots at tarpon that seemed to be taking pleasure in behaving badly–rather out of character, we all agreed, for early season laid up fish that are usually much more cooperative. It’s worth mentioning that we had a few great shots at permit while we were tarpon fishing, and a few that rushed the fly and turned away. Nice to be reminded that everything is in it’s right place sometimes.
It’s also relevant that I was fishing with the new Hardy Proaxis 1-piece rods in both 11 and 12 weights, and they performed beautifully. Ditto for the prototype Hardy Fortuna reel, which didn’t even whimper when it reeled in the big fish. On Thursday I’ll be out with Captain Aaron Snell and Ben Austin, the Hardy rep, and we will have a full report (performance review, with pictures!) of the new rods and reels in action.


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Nathaniel Linville

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