Me Vs. The ‘Poon

While tying up a tarpon fly earlier today for my up coming Keys trip in April a thought occurred to me: what the hell am I going to do if I actually hook a tarpon?

See, I’m heading down there by myself, I can’t afford a guide and the boat I’m taking with me is a kayak.

Now I know that I shouldn’t be too worried about the prospect with tangling with the silver king because, well, like I said above, I can’t afford a guide, so the possibility of me even seeing a tarpon much less getting one to eat is going to be pretty slim.

I am bringing my big stick with me though. And it’s going to be rigged up and ready to go if I do get a chance to cast to a tarpon. And if I get a chance I’m sure as shit going for it. I’d be crazy not to.

But what if I actually stick a fish? I mean, not just a fish but one of the big migratory ‘poons, and not just jump it but really drive the hook home and have to fight the big bastard for hours as he drags me and my kayak for miles around the backcountry, occasionally slinging his seven-foot armor-plated body up in the air as he tries to escape, finally giving out near a clump of mangroves that look exactly like every other clump of mangroves leaving me lost and sore but ultimately victorious?

You know what? I think I’d be fine with that problem.

Fly of the Day – Fox Fur Tarpon Fly

Fox Fur Tarpon Fly

Hook: Varvas 2600V size 2/0

Tail: Magnum barred rabbit strips

Collar: Arctic fox fur tied “hollow style” and schlappen feather

Eyes: Black mono barbell

I would love to say that I came up with this fly, but I didn’t. I saw this fly on the internet a while back, tied a couple and then promptly forgot where I found it. After a little research I discovered that the fly is a S.S. Flies design. I will let them describe the fox fur tarpon fly:

 The wide body of “hollow tied” fox fur provides a big profile with almost no weight; it settles gently on the water. Every part of the fly pulses, the long fox fibers and the barred bunny tail. When stripped the collar collapses then puffs back out, the rabbit fur tail moves like nothing else. Put this fly in the strike zone of a lazy tarpon, let it twitch and see if the fish can resist.

A New Gimmick – Fly of the Day

As an excuse to get more use out of my new camera and a way to spend more time  in front of my vise I, The Agitated Angler, present: Fly of the Day!!! 

That’s right. Every-Single-Day-of-the-Year that I’m not busier doing something else I will post a picture of a fly I’ve tied and a poorly pieced together recipe for said fly. Very few of these flies will be of my own design and those that are will really just be variations of other patterns, much like my idea for this series (thinking of you Streamers 365).

Unlike the more reputable sites that do this kind of thing, there will be absolutely no cohesiveness to what kind of flies I post. It will be left completely up to what I feel like posting that day. If you perceive a pattern to flies I post try to remember that that is strictly the human mind forcing order onto chaos much like the first people looked up at the stars and saw the constellations.

So, without any further sleep deprived ramblings, here’s the fly of the day: The Roach.

The Roach

The Roach

Hook: Varivas 2600V size 1/0

Tail: Grizzly variant saddle hackle

Collar: Grey squirrel tail

Tarpon

I’ve got a confession. When it comes to tarpon, I’m giant poseur. I tie flies for tarpon, I have books on tarpon and, with the exception of a flats boat, am completely outfitted to fly fish for tarpon. I know all the lingo. I know the places to fish. I know the time of year to fish those places. I know all about palolo worm hatch and the dates, tides, and moon phases in which it should occur. And I’m all talk.

I have jumped, not caught, but jumped, one tarpon in my life. And that was from a bridge. At night. While baitfishing. And it was a baby.

I managed to jump this tarpon on my first and only trip to the Florida Keys. My buddy Merlin and I went down there as a sort of therapy for the previous year that was filled with hospitalized children, divorce and house fires. Basically 2009 sucked real bad for the both of us and getting away from home for some serious fishing/drinking was what we decided would be the best course of action for our mental stability.

We didn’t have the money for a guide so the idea was to buy drinks for locals in every bar we could until we found someone willing to take us out. That didn’t work out due to high winds and us being drunken idiots, so we stuck to bridge fishing. Merlin doesn’t fly fish (and once told me that he wouldn’t start fly fishing until he got bored with actually catching fish), so baitfishing it was. This is how I found myself stuck into a 20 or 30 pound tarpon from a bridge one night.

That, coupled with the sight and sound of much bigger tarpon crashing bait, was the beginning of an obsession. When we left the Keys I was bound and determined to come back the next year and catch one of those fish on a fly rod.

The idea of hooking into a hundred pounds of thrashing silver scales and muscles and then making it my bitch had a lot of appeal to me. In my mind, tarpon became some sort of sea dragon and I was going to slay said dragon… figuratively.

I went into heavy research mode when I got back home. I learned everything I could about the silver king and how to catch them on the fly. I studied maps. I made plans. I bought myself a heavy rod, a good reel and tied dozens of tarpon flies. I was ready.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I never got back to the Keys. My big rod and boxes of tarpon flies are collecting dust. This spring is shot and the next is doubtful. But eventually I’ll get my chance to try and slay a dragon. And if I get beaten down, well at least I was there to be beat.

Selling Flies: A New Approach

My wife got the newest J. Peterman catalog in the mail the other day. If your unfamiliar with the J. Peterman Company or only know it through Seinfeld click this link to get a description of what is basically a heavy flannel shirt or this link for a T- shirt. I don’t know about the rest of you but somehow this company really makes me want want to buy that $90 flannel shirt. Maybe I’m just a sucker for colorful prose.

Reading this catalog got me thinking about my online fly shop. I’ve sold, maybe, seven flies in the last year from this site. I was beginning to think that the lack of sales had something to do with the fact that Etsy, the site I sell through, maybe didn’t have a strong following of hardcore saltwater fly fisherman looking for durable, high quality flies. (Yes this is a blatant plug for my shop and no, I have no shame.) But after witnessing the power of the J. Peterman catalog it’s obvious to me that it’s my sales technique that’s lacking. So I’ve decided to try the J. Peterman approach for selling my flies.

Here’s a sample. Let me know what you think.

The Backcountry

His name was Dan. You could call him Daniel, but you wouldn’t enjoy the repercussions. Only his mother called him Daniel. He was the one to introduce me to the Toad.

We were fishing the backcountry close to No Name Key. Dan knew where the tarpon were “laid up”. Guides like Dan always did.

He spotted the tarpon off the starboard bow. I saw it as soon as Dan pointed in its direction, all six foot of it suspending motionless like some mythical maritime monster frozen in time.

I made my cast. My line unrolled in a tight loop, Toad trailing behind. My aim was perfect. The slightest twitch made the fly come alive. The flaring gills of the silver king showed me the fly wasn’t the only thing to come alive. I knew at that moment that the Toad was a modern classic.

Tied in South Carolina on a Varivas 2600V hook using Enrico Puglisi fibers and a tail of the finest Finnish raccoon fur.

Hook sizes: 2, 1 and 1/0

Color: Olive/Chartreuse

Price: $4.99

Teaching The Art of Fly Fishing ( and how I may ruin my friend forever)

I imagine that I’m the kind of fly fisherman that professionals in the industry dread the most. You know… the broke kind. I guess that’s not a completely fair statement, but I have never been able to afford the things the pros seem to suggest in all the fly fishing media I’m exposed to. I’ve never had a lesson of any kind and I’ve never been able to hire a guide. Growing-up, a fly rod was known as a “yuppie stick” and was used only rarely to cast poppers to bass and bream. Everything I know about fly fishing has been learned through reading, videos, and good old fashioned trial and error. So when an old friend of mine contacted me on facebook and asked if I would teach him to fly fish, I didn’t hesitate, “Hells yeah I’ll teach you.”

My friend is the one with facial hair and glasses.

I realized later what a huge responsibility I’m taking on. For someone who is basically self taught, I do well enough; I get my fly where I want it to be, I know how to mend a line to get a good drift, I catch fish on a pretty regular basis, and people who see me fish don’t walk away shaking their heads anymore. I’m personally happy with how well I do now and I learn more every time I go out.  Problem is, there are probably a lot of bad little casting habits I have that I’m not even aware of and there’re some that I know I have.  Now I’m going on to teach my buddy how to cast the long rod and he’ll learn my bad casting habits. How am I going to tell someone not break his wrist so much on a cast when I cast with my wrist all the time. Hell, my form may be awful, I don’t know, I’ve never been fly fishing with anybody who could critique my cast.

He and his wife want to have kids one day. What if he teaches his kids to cast like me, and his kids go on to teach their kids… I know my children are doomed, but doing that to someone else’s family…

Now the part that really worries me. I didn’t start fly fishing seriously until after the birth of my first child. If I had started fly fishing even a year before I did, my life would have been dramatically different. Before my wife and I got together, I was “unsettled” and more than a little nomadic in nature, aka. I was a dirty hippie. If I had been fly fishing during that time I’d probably be sleeping in a tent right now, on the side of a river trying to catch that last late autumn BWO hatch instead of, well… Maybe it’s best not to think about it.

He told me, before he and his wife start trying in earnest to have children, they have a kind of “bucket list” of things they want to do first. Now I’m in charge of adding fly fishing to the mix. I know this guy well and he has an addictive personality. I have yet to find anything quite as addictive as fly fishing and I’ve tried lots of things. So what if my little fly fishing padawan gets really into it. I could be destroying his entire genetic future by teaching him to fly fish. What if he adds going to the Keys to catch a tarpon to his list or Alaska for salmon. What’s going to happen when he discovers the concept of a slam. Or that first time he unravels the intricacies of a complicated hatch and has a big trout take his fly without any hesitation giving him that brief but wonderful illusion that he’s finally got this fly fishing thing down, just to find out latter that there are other puzzles to solve with each new fishing situation and the only way to find those situations is to just keep fishing and fishing. His bucket list will keep growing and the next thing he’ll know he’s spent his entire life chasing fish all over the world instead of having children. And I’ll be his fly fishing mentor so he’ll send me pictures of all his catches. He’ll be smiling, holding a big permit that he caught on his last trip to Ascension bay and it will come with a letter saying “it’s not big as one as that one I caught last year near Big Pine but it’s still a nice fish” and I’ll be stuck struggling to put my second son through college where he’ll get a degree in 17th century French Literature.

Fuck that! It’s not fair! Not fair of me to do something that might interfere with a friend’s future. Not fair of me to teach an innocent a bad casting stroke. And it wouldn’t be fair to his poor wife.

Of course I do need a fishing partner.