Tarpon on fly
Tarpon Tested Gear Review: Echo Prime 11wt Fly Rod, Nautilus NV G10 Fly Reel, Cortland Tropic Plus Fly Line
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.
The only regret I have about tarpon fishing with light tackle and fly is that I did not really get into this sport sooner. It was maybe only a few years ago that I started chasing tarpon on a flyrod, but after that first fish that tracked my fly, crossed his eyes, slurped the fly, and took off into an incredible aerial display as flyline zipped through my fingers; I was absolutely hooked. From that day forward, I lived, dreamed, and talked about tarpon fishing to no end. The many days dedicated to tarpon fishing, be it bageled or successful was well spent as learning about these incredible fish has been quite a journey on it’s own. Perhaps it is the humanlike characteristics or the way a serene bay can erupt with a hooked tarpon that draws so many anglers to chase the silver king.
This season’s journey has brought us through rain storms, cloudy days, sunny days, frustrating days, and a few epic days mixed in. I think all that there is to write has been written in previous write ups I have done, so until the inspiration to write a lenghty piece hits me again, I leave you all with the images from this year that will always stick in my mind.
Optics play an important role in the game of sight fishing. In this game, if you can’t see the fish, you are not catching them, whether you are searching for green or pink backed laid up poons in dark Everglades water or the slight blue off the fin of a pale white redfish in the sandy bottoms of the Islamorada flats. Picking up on these slight signs of life make the difference between getting your shot or blowing it. Having the best lens on the market has always been my top priority. Without bringing in names of other brands, I have tried every amber/copper based polarized lens on the market and I seem to settle for one until I find a better one on the next round.
During the Salty Fly in Tampa this year, I was able to pick up a pair of RCI Optics Monster Hole frames with the Copper based Sunrise Gold Mirror Lens shades. It became evident that they cut through the glare and repelled water very well. The lenses had just the right amount of contrast and did not over-contrast. While bonefishing, the first thing I noticed when comparing side by side with my old preferred lens was that the RCI lenses cut through that white glary stuff much better… I would say at least 30% better. This made all the difference in the world during one of my last bonefish missions where white clouds dusted the horizon. The frames I preferred was the “Monster Hole”, conveniently named after a popular surf spot. They fit my wider asian face very well and temples remained very comfortable around the tops of my ears during and after a day of fishing. Needless to say, I was very impressed and have now made the switch.
The Techy geeky stuff…
“Made in Italy” speaks for the great quality of the frames. The frames are extremely durable and light weight. The lenses are made of a material six times harder then poly lenses and pass the ANSI Z78 rating (I think this is where they shoot the lens at point blank with a low caliber round). Together, these components make for what I feel are the best fishing shades I have ever fished.
For more info visit http://rcioptics.com or give the guys at Shady Characters Sunglass Emporium a shout at 321-953-9875.
Some times I can be a real jerk.. especially when it comes to failed attempts
I often hear the comment “That’s a great photo, you must have a really nice camera”. In retrospect, it annoys the hell out of me to hear those words spoken. This is like telling a chef that his cooking is great, he must have a very sharp knife, telling a novelist that his books are amazing, he must have a nice computer/typewriter or a journalist they have very nice stories, he must have a nice notepad. You get the point. In light of this, here are some photos I have shot recently…
… All photos shot using a camera phone. No fancy DSLR.
I made a decision earlier this year to take time off from guiding starting this Fall. I set forth to rediscover the feeling of being the dude on the bow of the skiff facing a great technical fishery right at my doorstep. Of coarse, this can only be possible with an alternative source of income as I am no trustafarian. This past summer was all all about calm windless days, waving flags, and lots of copper. The days spent on the water this Fall amongst friends was set in the Everglades and upper end of the Florida Keys, primarily focusing on silver-clad gamefish.
The shameless plug this time goes to Maverick Boat Company. My first ride in a new Mirage 18 HPX-V was back in 2009 and from there-on, I knew this was to be my next skiff. I sold my 17 Mirage HPX-V shortly after that demo ride and have been fishing in my 18 HPX-V for the last couple of years. For my style of fishing, the 18 Mirage was just the work horse technical fishing platform I needed. A Mercury 115 Optimax ProXs found it’s way on my transom this past year, replacing the 90 horsepower Yamaha I had originally hung on the skiff. This set-up is perfect, achieving fuel efficient 40mph cruise speeds and top speeds in the low to mid 50s. The extra 6lbs on the transom was negligible taking into account the extra speed gained from the motor swap. Recent fishing trips and tournament days have really pushed the limits of this great skiff… traveling over 100 miles a day, covering lots of water, getting there at just the right tide, and remaining stealthy once arriving at the stalking grounds. Kudos to Maverick as all performance expectations were exceeded. It is almost time for a new skiff soon and I may actually have an itch for something a little bit different. Though the idea a new skiff is tempting, it is difficult to not to fish another season out of my 18 Mirage. I guess time will tell…
Wow is it hot out there…the fishing that is. After Tropical Storm Debbie back in June, the water clarity in the lagoon systems have gotten really dirty and really high, which made sight fishing tough for most anglers. The spots that usually hold fish in the Mosquito Lagoon was a ghost town for weeks, which pushed me to run my trips way down south around Sebastian Inlet just to find the cleaner water.
Recently I went back to the Lagoon to check up on what was going on in there. The water dropped a couple feet, but still dirty. Once I arrived to the first spot, I had noticed more bait activity in the area, like how it should be on a normal day. As I poled the skiff along the shallow grass flat that was less than a foot of water, I witnessed Redfish rooting and tailing all over the place like they haven’t eaten for days. The grass was really thick, the fish were so buried in it that we could literally get close enough to touch the fishes tail with the tip of your rod. Most of the fish caught were within 20 feet from the boat.
The key was to use a weedless and HEAVY fly or artificial lure. For my spin anglers, I would tie on a new weedless weighted hook system for soft plastics called the “Jig Rig” made by Owner hooks with a D.O.A. Curt Tail rigged on it which worked really well to get down to where the fish’s face was and that curl tail has great flowing movement even when sitting still. For flies, heavy lead eyes tied on a flashy crabby pattern worked perfect. Here are some photos of recent trips in the past few weeks and a short video of a tailing Redfish being caught next to the boat.
Tomo Shiraishi from Boston, Mass was down for the ICAST(Worlds largest Sport Fishing Show) at the Orlando Convention Center. That was the time when the Mosquito Lagoon was really slow so we went to the Indian River where Tomo caught some nice Trout and had lots of shots at Redfish but only landing this one, which happened to be his first Redfish ever.
Dennis and Kaz were also here for ICAST from California and Japan. They work for Owner Hook Company and were the ones who introduced me to the “Jig Rig” made by Owner Hooks. At first I thought I’d never use such a rig, but you will see in the video at the end of this report that this rig was the ticket to catching some tough Mosquito Lagoon Redfish. Here is Dennis and Kaz with a couple small Banana River Redfish that we had to work hard for.
Mark and his girlfriend Rey were surfing the web for fishing guides in the Mosquito Lagoon area, came across my site and decided to give me a call. After a quick run down over the phone of their chances to catch some Tarpon, Trout, and Redfish on fly, they hopped in there car and drove down from Georgia to fish with me for the weekend. Day 1 we searched for Tarpon, Trout and Snook in the Indian River by Sebastian Inlet. Mark had multiple shots at small Tarpon ranging from 15-30lbs, getting a couple to eat but only landing 1, which is great on fly.
We then went to fish for Snook and Trout which we he had tons of shots on both species on the clear sandy flats. The fish were being spooky but we got one nice Trout to cooperate which happened to be Marks biggest Sea Trout on fly.
Day 2, we head to Mosquito Lagoon for some tailing Redfish action. The Redfish were all happily tailing for us all morning and were ready to take a fly. Rey even had a chance to take a few shots and fight a few of her own.
Capt. Shawn Neurath from the West Coast of Florida has never fish on the East Coast and always wanted to experience the Mosquito Lagoon. Again, Redfish were happily tailing, and this time we put the Owner “Jig Rigs” to the test rigged with the D.O.A. Curl Tails. As you can see, it worked well. If you plan on fishing the Tampa Bay area, check out Capt. Shawn at: www.missionfishincharters.com.
Here is a clip of Capt. Shawn catching a tailing Redfish about 10 feet from the boat.
Remember to stay hydrated out on the water, it’s been scorching out there!
-Capt. Willy Le
Dark skies and rain storms looming overhead has been the norm this year, making it a very challenging tarpon season. The few days of sun light have brought forth some good fishing, but those days are few. Yet, we stay persistant and make due with what we have; hiding under bridges in between storms, trying to establish our place in the lanes in a way too crowded town, and making use of all the new technology we have available to us today. We’ve spent this year shooting more videos then stills so stay tuned and we should have a teaser up shortly.
There is no telling what tarpon season will bring… high winds, nasty seas, rain, etc. There isn’t much you can do when there is no light but establish yourself on one of the few white spots or attempt to dredge a poon from the depths. When light is decent and winds kick up, seas get real rough and that is where sitting on an anchor is the only way to go. I used to dread having to run from spot to spot with the anchor banging up the inside of my hatches but this year, I found a cool product that protects the inside of my hatches from the anchor jumping around as well as helps conserve space. Similar to the concept of a fly reel with a reel pouch… www.anchorsuit.com
Until next time… we will still brave these storms and try to bring you more tarpon porn.