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.
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.
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.
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.