Jun 15

Keys Tarpon Hunt, Day 4 with Davin

Day four saw Davin and I deciding to camp out in Tav and just wait it out. If you are trying to move around to find a fish that moves around, you stand some chance of missing the fish every time. If you wait, so the thinking went, the fish will have to come to you.

It was a good theory.

The weather was grey, the water was hard to see anything in, the wind was up. In short, not ideal.

This proved to be the closest I would get to my oceanside tarpon. Davin, it turns out, sold his soul (at least a part of his soul at any rate) to gypsies in return for super-human vision. He was calling out fish for me on a day when I couldn’t see a damn thing. He must have seen 100 fish that day, I saw about 8. I was making casts to fish I couldn’t see, but Davin and I were working like a team and we were working well.

Three follows. That was the grand tally for the day.

“Tarpon fishing is a game of incremental victories,” said Davin, and that is certainly true. The fish you see. The fish you cast at. The fish that follow. The fish you get to eat. The fish you jump. The fish you land and release. On a bad day you count it all. On a good day? I’ll let you know when I have one.

At one point we got chased off the water by a wall of watery darkness, managing to run under the protection of Nate’s awning just as the squall hit. We went back out, but the tides had changed the fish stopped moving (or moved further out where not even Davin’s gypsy purchased vision could find them).

Davin got to cast for about 5 minutes and had one shot in that time. He let me stand up there for hours, willing me to connect, but the fishing gods had other plans. Either that or this was the fishing gods’ plan and they are a bunch of jerks.

Davin, taking a shot.

Davin, taking a shot.

Another day, another smack down, but a good day on the water. I felt like at least I was in the game and that was more than I had felt the previous few days. Funny how I could feel mostly content on a day when I didn’t touch a single fish, but I did feel content. I took the small victories and was happy with them.

Jun 15

Florida Keys – 2015 – the first three days

I know tarpon on the fly can be hard. I know there are easier ways to catch tarpon. Float a live crab under one of the bridges and you stand a pretty good shot. That’s not what I wanted to do. That wasn’t what I was there for. It wasn’t what any of us were there for.

We came from near and far to try to get our own piece of the migrating ocean-side tarpon. I came from California, Matt Smythe from New York, Davin and his dad from the Cayman Islands and we had Ty Lloyd Jr. from the Naples area and Eric Estrada, as close to a local as we had in the group, from Miami. Davin was up in Tavernier with his friend Nate, the rest of us were down in Marathon.

Heading out on Day 1, High Hopes, Good Weather

Heading out on Day 1, High Hopes, Good Weather

The day I got in I got my rental car and headed South. Matt and Ty were already out and not having someone to head out with right away, I did the only thing I could think of and went fishing. I waded, looking for something roughly bonefish shaped and instead found three somethings tarpon shaped. A wolf pack of three big tarpon came skirting the inside of grass. Sure, I cast at them, just because, but they wanted nothing. It seemed like a good omen.

It wasn’t.

When I got out with Eric later that day, we didn’t see much. The next day with Eric we didn’t see much more. The next day with Ty, we didn’t see much more. We covered water. We staked out. We moved. We made calls. We peered into the water for hours and hours and hours and had nothing to show for it. No one was catching fish, not up in Tav, not in Islamorada, not in Marathon.

See, I had been saying these fish have been making this migration for tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of years and they were unlikely to stop any time soon… but they seemed to have kind of stopped. They were running off the script. They were making an idiot out of me/us.

Ty, Matt and I, out looking for fish.

Ty, Matt and I, out looking for fish.

The big meat balls weren’t there. Those rampaging swarms of tarpon, all eyeballs and tails and pushing water visible from a quarter mile… they just weren’t there. We saw a few fish, very few, usually too close to do much about, or, in one case, slightly out of reach.

You head all this way and it’s in the window, but there isn’t anything there. Kind of kicks you in the gut. It’s one thing to get shots and miss them, but it is another to just not get the shots. We were counting fish seen, not fish cast at, not fish fed or jumped and certainly not fish released.

We went through this a couple years ago, although we saw more fish and there was about 1,000% more rain. From that experience I knew we had to stay positive and, oddly enough everyone did.

We slugged it out and there wasn’t much to write about because beyond fishing different places and going out in the back a bit to look for laid up fish, we didn’t see much of anything. We looked for bones and reds on a couple of occasions and every bit of nervous water was a lemon shark.

At least there were drinks in the evening and food and friends and good conversations. Stay positive… that’s the trick.

Dec 11

Luckily, the trip was about more than just the fish

I’m in a cafe in Hawaii at the moment… I’m all packed up and killing a bit of time before I have to get on the flight back the Bay Area.

The trip was a good one, as long as we don’t look at it strictly in fishing terms.  I had a few reasons to head here and fishing was only one of them.  In many ways this was a trip to bring the last 8 years of my life full circle and I think I accomplished that.  Another reason to come here was this is where I saw my first bonefish, about 4 years ago.  The experience had a bit of an impact on me and I always wanted to come back to have another shot at those fish.

The first couple of days the weather was considerably less than ideal.  High winds, constant cloud cover and a good smattering of rain really put the damper on things… literally and figuratively.

Hard to see the fish with out the lights on.

The weather broke a bit on Saturday and I had a good amount of time with the lights on.  No bones even seen.

Sunday… Sunday was what I was really here for.  I walked out onto the flat and saw what looked like a bonefish feed mark.  I took a picture.  20 seconds later I saw my first bonefish of the trip and 30 seconds later I spooked my first bonefish of the trip.

Much better conditions

I came back to that spot three more times and the next two I found single fish and at each occasion the fish spooked on the cast.  Fly hit the water and the fish bolted.  These fish are SUPER SPOOKY.  They were in deeper water, maybe 3 feet, and I was lucky to see them at all.

Later, at low, low tide, I was walking really far out on a big rubble flat and I saw tails. I don’t even think they were tailing, I think they were swiming in water that was about 5-6″ deep.  I got two casts in before they bolted, never to be seen again.

Sunday was a day of shots.  I had them.  I can’t argue with that.  I didn’t convert any, but I had shots.  I found the fish, on multiple occasions.  Turns out these fish are a bit tougher than I planned on.

I’ll post some more pics and go into things a bit more in the coming days.