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I traveled down to the Florida gulf coast to fly fish for migratory tarpon fishing with my brother. Before leaving town, I checked the Weather Channel and learned that a low pressure cold front would hit central Florida shortly after we arrived. Bad News! Strong winds from the West and/or North make tarpon fishing extremely tough. After arriving at the hotel, my brother fished the beach and caught ladyfish and small pompano while I recovered from my red eye flight.
Cloud Sky Atmosphere Afterglow Sunlight

Our first day on the water with our guide (Captain Skip Zink) had the best weather, but the beaches were too rough to fish due to SW wind. We searched wind sheltered areas on the inside, but only spotted five adult tarpon hugging the bottom. The entire trip I never saw an adult tarpon roll at the surface.
Water Cloud Sky Boat Watercraft

The next day the cold front hit hard with thunderstorms, heavy rain, lightening, and very high winds. Fishing was cancelled, so my brother and I looked for fossil shark teeth on the beach and watched weather reports.
Font Pattern Monochrome photography Wing Monochrome

Our guide could not take us out until late in the evening when the storms died down. We fished the lower Myakka River for juvenile tarpon and snook that night. The dark river water had strong current on the outgoing tide and flashes of blue bioluminescent light popped where baitfish darted. I quickly landed my first snook on a fly near a bridge piling.
Jaw Fisherman Fish Fishing Fin

We were hoping to see lots of tarpon feeding, but initially none were rolling. Then as the current calmed a bit, I saw a tarpon roll about 70 yards away. We used the electric troll motor to silently slide into position and my brother cast over the spot. He hooked the tarpon on his first or second cast and the dark water flashed neon blue, outlining the tarpon's pose as it turned on the fly. It jumped straight up 8 feet and shook on the air above our heads. Fly line slack wrapped around my brother's neck as it splashed down. This was his first tarpon ever, but he did a great job fighting the 20-25 lb tarpon and bringing it to the boat. Unfortunately, it threw the hook as we were grabbing at the leader in the darkness, so I only was able to take some blurry video. Occasionally other tarpon rolled and we tried to feed them flies in the darkness. I had a good tarpon grab and blue flash, but my hook set wasn't good enough to keep it stuck. Later, I had another nice snook of about 6 lbs eat my fly and we boated him after a strong fight.
Smile Street light Vertebrate Fish Fisherman
The tide died down and it was time to leave. Usually the fish would be feeding more aggressively at night, but the weather clearly was putting them down. We tossed flies at baby tarpon and snook hanging near underwater dock lights, but they had no interest in feeding that night.
The third day the clouds cleared out, but strong NW winds kicked up a small craft advisory. We fished wind sheltered areas inside of the beaches for snook and redfish. The water was way too churned up to spot adult tarpon. My brother had some good shots at snook, jack crevalle, and redfish hanging in the shadows near the mangroves, but the snook & reds were not aggressive to the fly.
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We ended the day with the humble tally of one Lady Fish and one Southern Sennet (a small & smelly barracuda species).
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The boat ride back to the dock made us an inch shorter and might have ruptured my spleen. The wind, waves, and boat ride were not much better the final day of the trip. The water was off color with sand and sediment in most areas. We fished deeper into sheltered mangrove areas looking for clean water. The habitat we saw looked perfect and hopes were high, but the fish seemed to be inactive. We fired a lot of casts into promising holes, ambush points, and submerged timber with only a couple half hearted strikes to show for it. I finally found an area with some active redfish and hooked one after a couple others had chased the EP baitfish fly.
Water Sky Smile Vertebrate Fisherman

It was my first Florida redfish, and I was happy to not get skunked on our last day.
We were disappointed to have missed out on the tarpon migration this year, but that is all part of the game. Each year I fly fish Florida I expand my knowledge and improve my technique, becoming a better fly fisherman. Skip Zink and his fellow guides and fly anglers down there are top notch. I hope to be back soon on the bow casting to high and happy tarpon.
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