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.