Is it pure coincidence or was the date of my birth 27 years ago planned by a higher being to fall right smack dab in the middle of tarpon fishing? It only took 25 years after my birth to succumb to the obsession that is tarpon fishing.
After a rough day at work on my birthday, I decided I needed some pampering out of town. I needed some quiet and some alone time, but most of all, I needed to catch some tarpon in the process. My buddy Capt. Rick De Paiva (www.saltwaterflyfishing.org) invited me to fish with him on the west coast this weekend. I chose to take a mini-vacation and stay in Fort Myers for the next 3 days. The plan was simple… drive over and fish with Rick and David on the first day, drive north to meet with my buddies Capt. Colby Hane and Sam Root on the second day for some filming, and wrap up my vacation with one last day back down south fishing with Rick and David again. I did not shoot a single photo this last weekend but I did make a few casts with my fly rod.
I met with Capt. Rick De Paiva and David McCleaf for a few hours of tarpon fishing in Pine Island. We approached the tarpon highway and was third in line for shots at fish that would string through this particular avenue. The day started with a slight trickle as the fish did not pour through hard yet. The few fish that did swim through and make it to us were already swimming fast as they had been baraged by a number of flies before I could present mine. When boat #1 left, we all shifted positions and we were now boat #2 at the spot. The boat in front of us had caught a fish earlier, only increasing the anxiety within me as more fish would come through already spooked. Finally, I had a break… a fresh fish had swam through, bounced off the boat in front of us and came at our boat hard. I laid the fly in front of the fish and it garbaged my fly immediately, making a series of leaps right in front of boat #1. What could be sweeter then that? After catching this fish, we got back in line and was now being hit by clouds and limited visibility. The fish continued to swim and I fed one more before we decided to end our day due to lack of light. We made a quick stop at one of Rick’s local redfish grounds on our way home and like clockwork, tails were thrashing at the calmed surface of the water. Rick handed me a spinning rod rigged with a DOA “key lime” shad tail and we managed a small redfish as well as a real big red before heading back…leaving the fish tailing. Pine Island Sound proves again it’s great tarpon and redfish fishery.
I awoke this morning and met with a buddy of mine for a quick breakfast before picking up another brand new 12 weight G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 flyrod. There is no doubt about it; the Pro-1 is the best flyrod for tarpon fishing hands down. The only drawback is the inconvenience of a 1 peice rod for those who like to travel, but on the other side of the coin, the 1 peice design is great for tarpon water locals who don’t have to travel to outside locations on an airplane. After picking up my brand new fly rod, I met up with my buddies Sam Root and Capt. Colby Hane in Sarasota for more tarpon fishing. We spent a couple of hours on the water and had a few shots admist lots of boat and jetski traffic. I managed to break in my new flyrod with an 80lb poon on my second cast of the day and Sam managed to catch the whole series from the strip strike to catching the fish on flim. One image that will be burned in my memory forever was watching my fish launch itself 20 feet into the air when it ran up a sloping bar. This was definitely the highest I had ever seen such a big fish leap. Sam should have a short teaser clip of this series of events up soon.
I headed back to Pine Island to meet with Capt. Rick and David to round out my last day on the west coast. Winds were predicted at 5 to 10kts out of the East with lots of sunshine. With lots of hope we hit the water to find 15 to 25kt winds out of the SW greeting us where we were to line up again to throw at more tarpon. We had zero light as the overcast skies and monsoon-like rain hammered us through the day. Battling out the tough conditions, we sat and chatted a little bit with reknowned artist Bill Bishop in his skiff lined up next to us. Shots were tough but I fed 2 fish and caught one more to end my trip out west. We ran through the thicket of storms on our way back but did manage to get home safe, a little damp, and satisfied with the fishing we had under such adverse conditions. The 2 hour drive home allowed me to think back on the great times I had this last weekend.
I’d like to thank all my buddys out west for their hospitality and for providing me with the media to help illustrate and pu this last weekend’s fishing into perspective. Every coast of Florida has a truley spectacular fishery and the west coast from Sarasota to Pine Island has definitely shown it’s great potential for an phenomenal tarpon fishery. The next few days will allow me to rest up a bit, catch up on office work, and continue to replenish the supply of flies I’ve spent out of my tarpon box. There will be more to come so stay tuned… the season has just begun!!!