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Tarpon fishing

Tarpon Tested Gear Review: Echo Prime 11wt Fly Rod, Nautilus NV G10 Fly Reel, Cortland Tropic Plus Fly Line

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Technologies in Tarpon fishing have come a long way as demands in this fishery have changed since the days of the old Great Equalizer.  Tarpon are without a doubt becoming more and more demanding of that perfect presentation.  So there comes the give and take compromise between a fly rod labelled as a casting stick or a fish fighting stick.  Finding that happy medium between the two is what makes a tarpon stick the best one in your hands.  It is true that in most cases it is the indian, not the arrow, but it helps if the bow and arrow are fine tuned to make it easier for the indian to shoot/cast it into the wind, into a side wind, or lay down a presentation soft down wind.

Most tarpon fisherman I know who chase these fish with a fly rod prefer a 1 piece rod.  There are many choices on the Market today offered from companies such as G Loomis (2 models), Echo, Hardy, Clutch, Orvis, and Biscayne Rod.  There isn’t a best 11wt or 12wt rod, but rather one that fits you best.  Choosing the right one for you means going out and casting each one before deciding on which one works for you.  I am not on any pro-staff for either one of the aforementioned companies but I do fish rods in different weights from these companies mentioned.  The opinions of this reviewer are completely unbiased.

Today I review one of the new comers to the 1pc market; the Echo Prime 11wt.  The Prime is the least expensive off all the 1pc fly rods but don’t let the price tag or lack of brand exposure fool you.  This 11wt is truly an awesome tarpon stick.  It is the second best casting 1pc 11wt I have fished thus far.  While not as fast as the Hardy Pro-Axis 1pc or G Loomis NRX Pro-1; the Echo Prime 11wt is fast enough to punch through all but the extremely windy days.  It’s got a softer tip, which actually allows it to load fast for quick casts when fishing in the mud and fish float up unexpectedly.  One remarkable thing about the 11 Prime is how smooth it casts and how tight the loops you can form with it with minimal effort.  Weight and swing weight-wise,  the Echo Prime feels very comparable to the Crosscurrent Pro-1, perhaps a tad bit lighter.  The action on this rod is comparable to the older Sage RPLX-i.  When the steel sinks into meat and a tarpon is attached, that is where this rod out-shines most.  It is virtually indestructible, even at high stick angles.  Another good remark I’d like to mention on this rod is the use of ceramic guides for the stripper guides, but one thing I’d like to see changed are the cheap clunky oversized snake guides.  I feel the Echo Prime lineup of rods could benefit from lighter better quality snake guides.  I’d gladly pay another $60 for this rod with that.

Because the Prime has a slightly slower tip then the faster Hardy 11 Pro-Axis 1pc that I am all very familiar with, I went ahead and paired it up with the lightest 5″ fly reel on the market.  This would be the Nautilus NV G10.  Pairing up with a lighter reel with any rod gives it a faster perceived feel.  I’d wouldn’t even be afraid to go as far as dropping down to a NV11/12 or CCFx2 1012 to give this rod a faster feel.  Yet, I’m a fan of chasing a tarpon down basically on plane so a 5″ reel is what I prefer on all my tarpon rods.  The Nautilus NV Monster G10 sits on a NV Monster frame but has a larger diameter spool, reducing the need for excessive backing.  I was able to fit 100yards of gel spun with 150 yards of 30lb dacron with an 11wt Cortland fly line.  Without line and backing, the G10 weighs in at 9.9oz, making it truly the lightest fly reel in it’s class.  The drag on the G10, as with all the NV lineup is completely sealed from the elements and uses carbon fiber and cork disks to apply the brakes.  Most important to a tarpon reel, the drag is smooth and an absolute zero startup inertia.  I have fished straight 60lb butt section to a fly and pulled on some very big tarpon with drag cranked down on the Nautilus NV Monster and it has proved more then strong enough to handle the extreme pressures.  Obviously, this isn’t common practice in tarpon fishing, but I just wanted to see how the reel would hold up.  Strength, light weight, and good looks; I would go on to say the Nautilus NV Monster and NV G1o are my preferred go to tarpon reels.

My fly line of choice with the Echo 11 Prime and Nautilus NV-G10 setup was the Cortland Saltwater and Cortland Tropic Plus Saltwater and Tropic Plus 9′ Intermediate tip lines.  Unlike most other popular saltwater lines on the market that are oversized in grain weight, these Cortland Tropic Plus lines are true to grain weight and feature a 7-27-7 WF taper.  It is not necessary to fish an extremely long leader with the Cortland lines.  The Cortland Tropic Plus has a soft enough presentation so that longer leaders are not necessary (The purpose of longer leaders is to allow the fly to lay down a softer presentation).  On the calmest of days, I am fishing a 14ft leader maximum but have been able to get away with a 10ft to 11ft leader on windier days.  The Tropic Plus 9′ intermediate tip really allows for great control on your presentations to fickle FL Keys oceanside tarpon when the chop is up and current is strong.

Those with a more aggressive casting stroke who have a heavy push may prefer a rod like the G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 but this Echo/Nautilus/Cortland setup would definitely be preferable for those who enjoy casting a rod with a softer tip, and those who can throw tighter loops without having to push hard.  Enjoy your time on the water and may you all have a great remainder of the Tarpon Season.

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South Carolina Tarpon – Lowcountry Tarpon Tournament

Haven’t posted in a while, but wanted to share a South Carolina Tarpon report and try to raise awareness for a tournament we have coming up. This year’s Lowcountry Tarpon Tournament will be held September 13th & 14th out of Georgetown, South Carolina. The tournament is an annual event that benefits tarpon research conducted by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Virtually all of the tournament proceeds go to BTT for the study of migratory tarpon along our coastline. It’s a 2 day format with a really fun awards ceremony at the end of the second fishing day. Members of BTT will be on-site for presentations and Q&A. If you are interested in learning more about South Carolina’s tarpon fishery, then please consider fishing or just joining us for the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. We will have some great auction items this year including some of Sam’s lifeproof cases, local artwork, fishing gear, and more. More info can be found at www.lowcountrytarpon.com . We are really stoked to have Paul Puckett from Charleston, South Carolina as this year’s tournament artist. Paul is a very talented dude and if you haven’t checked out is stuff then do yourself a favor and click on www.paulpuckettart.com .  Here’s the official print from Paul, which will be featured on this year’s tournament shirts donated by Patagonia.

LTT art

Here’s some tarpon photos from a couple of fish that Douglas Miller, Brit Rodgers, and I caught this past weekend in Georgetown. One of them was Brit’s first tarpon ever…and a South Carolina one at that…a pretty dang exciting moment for all of us. I’d say they are here in pretty good numbers leading up to the tournament. I also included some pics from this past flood tide because I thought they were pretty cool. It almost feels like fall outside and the fishing is really starting to get right. Hope to see y’all at the tournament.

bridge sunrise castnet bunkers tarpon jump close pelican tarpon flop tarpon kiss tarpon jump 2 morning run jay & douglas tarpon moon reflect tailer and grass andrew cast05 crawler          

 

Middle Keys Trip – May 2013

Just returned from our annual spring trip to the keys. As usual, we spent hours in the shallow water trying to convince tarpon to eat our flies. I’ve got an elevated respect for guys like Honson and Collin and the Florida guides and recreational anglers who are feeding these fish on a regular basis…this is not an easy game. We endured countless rejected shots from ocean swimmers, but it is worth the price of admission to watch them stream by the boat in clear water. Not to mention, I feel like we are learning a little more about these awesome fish with every failed attempt…which is really what it is all about. Fortunately, there’s always a tarpon around willing to eat an artificial lure or a live mullet at a bridge…allowing us visitors a chance to put some fish in the air before they make it up to the Carolinas. Looking forward to next time.

fishing under bridge Taylor & Courtney Ocean blakes tarpon jumping down and dirty edit tarpon grass blake leader tarpon submerged chicken_edit01 sunrise at billys Vaca Cut courtney tarpon splash edit02 courtney tarpon head under bridge blake and jordan tarpon C&T Sunset 3

“Summer Summary” Part One

It was an interesting summer to say the least……Tarpon season, in which we fly fisherman look so forward to each year was one of the hardest seasons I can remember. We were plagued with bad weather, bad luck, dirty water and mechanical skiff issues all season long. The only thing we had going for us was the fact that if we did make it out to the beach, we were stabbing poons on every outing!! This said, makes it even more frustrating, for that we have full confidence that we will put metal to their mouthes but just cannot get out to do so… Being weekend warriors, we missed full months at a time due to negative weather conditions. Yet, there were a handfull of beautiful days that allowed us to put a few bugs in the faces of some giant poon!

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And then something happens that totally throws your tarpon season into high gear….A trip to the Everglades National Park (ENP)..Hooking 8 Big Tarpon by 10AM on fly will allow you to quickly forget about the bad days you previously had!!! Long-time, good friend Capt. Jesse Lavender and I were to make a poon day in the glades and that we did. Not the highlight of the day, but a great story…”Jess – there is a big girl laid up, eleven o’clock, 60 ft…” “Ok, got it”… Cast..strip, Lady fish eats fly…tarpon then destroys hooked lady fish on top and off she goes! Fish ended up throwing the hook (Or lady fish, I should say but nonetheless just another aspect to an epic day fly fishing for tarpon in the glades. I hear they are still around in some parts of the glades…Look for a post poon season report in the upcomming weeks….

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Tis the season where snook should also be crashing bait around spill-ways and sandbars up and along the Rivers of SWFL….It has been a really, really slow start in that regard. I have had days where we can land North of double-digits in regards to quantity, but I have yet to see a snook over 35″ be landed…and our summer is running out.. This was an everyday occurance last year…Here are a few photos from the iphone of snook season “so far” from the SWFL Rivers. Stay tuned – this will get good.

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South Carolina Tarpon

Ended up on a nice group of migratory tarpon off Georgetown, South Carolina this morning and wanted to try to get some photos of them rolling. Some of the pictures came out OK, but I still need some practice with tarpon photography. Not to mention my hands were probably shaking out of excitement. I would say the mullet run has officially started here. The bait was coming down the beach pretty thick and the tarpon were feeding aggressively. The fishing should get good over the next several weeks! I’m stoked.

 

Jay Nelson

www.winyahguide.com

Boca Grande 2011 with Justin Cauffman

5.9.2011   It seem just a couple months ago that the Tarpon season was in Boca Grande and the PTTS was in full throttle.  It is now May once again and the first Professional Tarpon Tour is only a couple weeks away. I haven’t fished Boca Grande since last summer but today I hop on board a friend of mine’s boat Capt. Justin Cauffman and his friend Chad.

 

 

We got lots of eats but did not seem to want to say on the line for very long. The total was four hook up with only one fish landed. We fished until about lunch time before packing it in for lunch at the Waterside Grill.

 

 

“The Nursery”

Sunday I went out with a good friend Nick Fischer and his friend Kai from South Carolina. We took Kai’s custom Gheenoe and had a blast to say the least. The Gheenoe is a great little skiff to fish off of. With negative lows in the morning we were in search of tailing redfish, the winds were up and the tails were not as plentiful as we had hoped for but we managed to get the job done. As the tide rose we decided to head to a neat little area that holds juve Tarpon year round. It was really cool to see these species striving as Tarpon are my favorite fish that swims these Gulf waters! The Tarpon ranged from ounces to 20lbs. They were all over the popper flies which made for one heck of a show. I should have picked up the playsport and got some video of the action but had the camera in hand and could not decide which one to use…. After reviewing the photos I should have used the video camera….there is always next time. We have a long holiday weekend ahead so stay tuned.

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A Family Affair

The Trip that won’t be forgotten

All photos by Nick Angerosa and Rainey Oelkers

I had been hanging around with Nick at the Marina a little bit recently, drinking some cold ones. Other than having some brews in a great setting, helping him look over his 1989 restored Aquasport was the reason we were there. Beer was not enough to keep us at the marina, especially while getting eaten up by the bugs. Checking to make sure everything was in top shape for the upcoming new moon tarpon fishing was the agenda.

There was a small water leak going into the hull that had Nick perplexed, so the both of us took a look after a trip one night, then checked it out on the rack another night, and took the boat on the water to finally pinpoint the very small leak that has a perfectionist like Nick consumed. There were a few small leaks coming from the huge livewell and it’s plumbing, and a very small leak from a pin sized hole in the bilge area. All was well after the fixes were made by Nick.

All the rods and reels were prepped and rigged, sabiki’s ready, cast nets untangled, dip nets on the boat, camera charged, the boat was washed down and cleaned, sea trial, you name it, Nick did it. Why all the fuss to have every single aspect of a fishing trip perfect?

A short time ago, Nick’s father came down from New York for a quick trip to visit, and of course, get on some Tampa Bay tarpon. I’m going to go out on a whim here and am thinking he looks at situations like this like me; Pressure is involved, and any mistakes can lead to failure. Stress to put anyone on fish, especially tarpon, can be nerve racking.

While at the marina, I heard tales of fishing trips past. Stories of Nick, his father and friends hammering the fish up North. I’m sure he didn’t want to disappoint while his father was down for only a weekend, and that was the case.

So his family got to town, and with rain looming, the situation looked grim. Sixty to seventy percent chances of rain all weekend and rough conditions on the water; not ideal by any means. Regardless, Nick, his dad, and his girlfriend Rainey were out on the water, and luck was on their side.

Nick's dad fighting his first poon.

A little bit of coaching taking place...this would make a great wall picture.

Finally she lays down...

The silver king poses for a classic picture.

Money...

The rain on Saturday did not hit the targeted area and the pressure was off after the crew went two for three on the silver kings with pictures to boot! I wasn’t there but I’m sure Nick’s dad was ecstatic to reel in his first tarpon, as well as Nick, and of course Rainey got another one to the boat, having not lost one all year. Quality time with family is what it’s all about.

Putting the heat on another...

Nick doing the dirty work.

This is an awesome pic, the payoff from hard work.

The rest of the weekend was a washout as the rain took over. Lady luck or karma must have been on their side that day; good karma will do that for one sometimes. Congratulations to Nick and crew!

Check out the latest fishing stories at INSHOREINSIDER.COM

A Day with Foucher

I finally got a chance to take a good friend out fishing, Captain Todd Foucher. We used to fish together on his boats when he would scout for upcoming charters, or just wanted to be on the water, but it had been a long while. Todd got out of the charter business to pursue a more lucrative venture, which has worked out nicely for him, but knowing he didn’t get to fish all that much, this trip was way overdue. The fishing business is a tough business and although Todd was still running a bunch of trips before he stopped, the love for the job was gone. Last time I had talked to Todd, we talked about getting out on some tarpon, so I gave him a call on a Thursday and we made plans to fish the outgoing tide on Saturday.

Arriving at my place at two (right on time as always, pisses me off, I’m usually five minutes late :)), we threw our gear in the boat and headed to the ramp. Dropping the boat in was quick and easy at that time of day, and we were swiftly on our way to catch bait.

The big threadfins were not on the usual markers, so we concentrated on the smaller whitebait and pinfish on the flats, later on the search for pass crabs would start. After chumming up and successfully netting our bait we rode out to the spot where the fish have been chewing.

Upon arrival, we found what we were looking for. Tarpon feeding and lot’s of them. The silver kings were in town and ready to throw down. After setting the anchor in between some fellow anglers, we were in a great position to catch a fish. Tarpon were all around the boat, and sight casting was the key. On my second cast, I must have had the bait right in front of the fish at just the right time; my braided line flew off the spool, after flipping the bail, it was fish on.

We tossed the anchor buoy (an old lifejacket tied to a rope) and the fight was on. With Todd coaching me, I brought the hundred pound class poon to the boat in short order. His coaching was great, learning more about fighting tarpon, and it’s stuck with me. Once a Captain, always a Captain, he has constantly been a wealth of fishing knowledge for myself, and many others. Todd handled it for a picture, let it go and we staged up again.

Todd wrangling in my silver king

Been a while...

With fish rolling all over, we were sure another would be boatside soon, but after a while of no action we were getting bored. The tarpon got real picky and the action died down. Off we went to look for the crab flush.

Shortly after getting to a good location we saw numerous pass crabs and netted them up quickly. With two dozen in the well we started fishing again, drifting crabs for a couple of hours to no avail. Todd started using small whitebait and pinfish again, catching small grouper and mackerel, but no luck on the targeted species. Contemplating leaving, Todd and I decided we would pitch a few more baits then take off.

Todd throws out small whitebait while I continue to drift crabs. Finally, his rod doubles over and we thought he had a huge grouper on. That was fine with me, I wanted some fillets, but after a slender silver king went airborne, we were happy. Todd had hooked a smaller fish, maybe sixty five pounds, and this was just what he wanted.

Todd doing battle with the king.

You see, Todd has put the hammer down on many tarpon; I haven’t. He explained to me throughout the day he would only “jump and dump” a big fish, but fight a smaller fish, so he got what he wanted. After a short five minute fight, Todd had the fish to the side of the boat and I released it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures, but Nick was next to us in the Aquasport and he got a cool picture of the “Toddfather” fighting the fish. After that hook up, we stayed for a little bit longer with no accomplishment in sight. Calling it a day, we dumped the well, packed up, and headed back to the ramp.

All in all, the fishing was sub par, but the company was good. Todd and I got to spend the day catching up and talking lots of smack. Todd got the fish he wanted, and I boated the fish I wanted. As a plus, fishing with Todd is always a learning experience, and if you can’t take away something from fishing with him, then you’re just not listening. This was a great day, and good to see one of the South Shores top guides on the water again.

Boat picture courtesy of Nick Angerosa, thanks bro!

INSHOREINSIDER.COM