Long Awaited Trip

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
About November of 2019, my brother and I started planning a trip to the Florida Keys. We made arrangements for a guide and housing for Key Largo, gather our stuff, tied flies, and basically were merely waiting for the flight until Covid came along. The trip was canceled, of course as were other trips I had planned. Fast forward a year and we left a week ago on a plane expecting to fish for baby tarpon, bonefish, and perhaps if we were lucky, a Permit.

Little did I suspect that the goals would be altered as soon as we hit the skiff. Permit are nearly non-existent, we fished for bonefish for only about two hours without success, and there were very few baby tarpon . What we ran into was the migration of Giant Tarpon. Taking turns casting, my brother hooked up with what looked to be a tarpon of about 50 lbs. but it slipped away almost immediately. My turn became an epic battle of about an hour and ten minutes and I was able to "face grab" an 80 lb. Giant Tarpon. The guide had removed the hook and while still in the water, I was able to mouth the tarpon for about ten seconds before it gained its strength back, shook its head, ripped away from my grasp, and was back on its migration. All in all we were able to get shots at well over a hundred big fish as they passed by the boat in groups of three to ten fish. I learned I need to be faster on the draw with my cast and to be able to process the guide's instructions quicker.

We, I, had no idea that success would be so quick. The group in before us had seen no tarpon in five days and were plagued with high winds and rain. Our weather, as it turned out, was spectacular even though the wind never let up, for the entire three days we fished. All in all, we had more than ten hook-ups, I was lucky enough to get a leader grab on another tarpon of 50 lbs., and I also hooked and grabbed a baby tarpon of 15 or 20 lbs. My brother had one fish of over 80 (estimated) on for about ten minutes before it sawed of the 50 lb. bite tippet. Our guide told us it was one of the best three days he had seen in many years.

We are already plotting another trip to say the least. No pics yet as the guide will download and send them along so don't ask yet. Just get your bags packed and go searching for some giant tarpon.
 

Matt B

...
WFF Supporter
Killer! Way to go! Giant tarpon fly fishing, Florida/Gulf coast or wherever, has been and still is something I really want to try. We can wait for pics. In the meantime, tell us more about your rod, reel and lines. And flies. Were you fishing bridges? Inlets? Flats?
 

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
Actually, we fished the Atlantic side because of less pressure and migration patterns. We cut through the canals and mangroves. It took about 30 minutes or sometime more to get to the fishing spots. Regardless, it was a blast.
 

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
I use a Sage RPLXi 12 wt., 9 ‘, 5 piece with a Rio tarpon line. I understand there are better lines out now but I didn’t buy one. The one our guide preferred is a tropical punch. I use a Tibor Signature 11/12 reel. Because we were in the middle of a palailo (sp) worm hatch we used that particular fly almost exclusively. It’s a pretty simple fly, tan/pink barred squirrel strip with a tan dubbed body and bright green head. Total about 3 inches long. We fished just off of flats in water about 4 to 6 feet deep depending on which day. The tarpon were coming off the flats which were only about two feet deep. Some of the water was crystal clear hence our ability to see the fish cruising and some was so murky it was impossible to see 6 inches below the surface. I caught the 80 lb. and the small fish in the murky water. The rest of our hookups were in clear water. No bridges. The coast line waters are pretty shallow to about a quarter mile off and the drops off to only 6 or 7 feet deep. Lots of canals with mangroves and no wake zones between open spaces. Our runs were almost always about a half mile off shore and then we moved in and the guide poled the boat. One day he used a power pole to secure our position and we waited for the fish to cruise within casting distance. There was a lot of wind so sometimes we cast cross wind, sometimes with, and once in a while into the wind. That was fairly difficult but our guide did a great job positioning the boat and spotting the fish at long distances. All in all a pretty good trip and I learned a lot about tarpon fishing. I am thinking about doing the trip again next year, health allowing.
 

gt

Active Member
lessons learned in the keys:

the guide is up high, stop trying to spot the fish he is yelling about, present the fly.
learn to cast with either hand so you fly never crosses the boat.
tarpon <100#s your 10wt will be lots more fun and more than adequate.
no two trips will be the same down there, you were fortunate to see that many fish.
permit sometimes are visible, monsters as well, but i never got one to turn to a fly.
biggest problem i had were jet skis screwing up the flats.
if the coral grill is still in business, give them a try.
 

Albula

swollen member
Number 1 lesson: If your guide is yelling and can't find fish without dealing with jet skis you need to start looking for a different guide. Edit: The Coral Grill closed in about 2004.
 
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SilverFly

Active Member
Sounds like the fish gods super-sized your trip as a bonus for the long wait. I'll never forget my one and (so far) only encounter with tarpon. If the sight of 5' long fly-eating monsters, suspended in what looks like swimming pool water doesn't make your heart pound - then it's time to quit fishing and take up shuffle board.
 

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
lessons learned in the keys:

the guide is up high, stop trying to spot the fish he is yelling about, present the fly.
learn to cast with either hand so you fly never crosses the boat.
tarpon <100#s your 10wt will be lots more fun and more than adequate.
no two trips will be the same down there, you were fortunate to see that many fish.
permit sometimes are visible, monsters as well, but i never got one to turn to a fly.
biggest problem i had were jet skis screwing up the flats.
if the coral grill is still in business, give them a try.
I never had any of those issues. I had no trouble spotting most of the fish and even though the wind blew almost constantly while we were there, I learned to cast over shoulder and/or on the back cast many years ago. As for the 10 wt. you may be right but I prefer to over rod almost always, merely because I can most often get the fish in quicker without harm. A successful release is one thing I have always strived for and really, the hook-up is the most exciting part with the exception of a successful release. The rest is a lot of work in between. The leaps are spectacular, of course. Kind of like steelhead fishing. The tug is the drug. We never saw a Permit let alone got a shot at one and I never saw a jet ski in the water, ever. Fact is, we rarely saw another boat within a mile unless we were passing through the canals and mangroves while boating to the fishing spots. My opinion of my guide is that he is top notch and the issues I had were in my own reactions being too damn slow. At 73 years old it took me time to react and sometimes it was just plain too late or I was unable to place the fly in the correct location. Issues aside, it was a fantastic trip and I'd do it again in a heart beat. I just need to practice a bit more before I go. And by the way, I found plenty of great places to eat. I had excellent sea food and sushi every day I was there. I gained a couple of pounds. Now I just have to work them back off.:confused:
 

DimeBrite

5X Celebrity Jeopardy Champion
Congrats on a successful trip Steve! I'll be visiting Florida later in July for some hot weather tarpon fishing. They are a tremendous game fish.
 

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
Congrats on a successful trip Steve! I'll be visiting Florida later in July for some hot weather tarpon fishing. They are a tremendous game fish.
I'm sure you know what to take but I took a 9, 10, and 12 wt. rods For all I used them, I could have left the 9 and 10 home because of the size of fish. And I took a crap load of flies and never used anything but the worm fly. Of course, that depends on where you are heading, I suppose. I learned a lot but know there is a lot more to learn about tarpon fishing. I was relatively unprepared, mentally for the fishing. Next time, I'll be better prepared.
 

DimeBrite

5X Celebrity Jeopardy Champion
Thanks for the suggestions. I will be fishing the FLA gulf side. No worm hatch and the migration will have already moved north, but there will be plenty of resident tarpon, snook, redfish, etc. I've always wanted to fish for tarpon in the July heat after the crowds have died down. I''ll bring along 8wt and 10wt (maybe an 11wt).
 

gt

Active Member
gulf side is where all the world record fish have been caught, be prepared to present when the guide tells you too. probably won't be so lucky to be able to see what the guide can see from up high. probably long casts, either hand as well, that means the entire 105' of salt water line, roll it up, one back cast loading and shoot.

and each and every time you take to the casting platform, you should strip out your entire fly line, stretch it and carefully coil it ready to shoot.
 
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DimeBrite

5X Celebrity Jeopardy Champion
This is my 7th FLA tarpon trip, and in decent weather conditions they are easily spotted. Most of my tarpon shots have been within 70 feet. Longer casts risk having to recast, maybe spooking the fish too. Casting accuracy and timing is key. Having a great guide who knows the area well and can pole silently into position is also critical.
 

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