Fly fishing for trout? Salmon? Bah! For a different experience, it is all about tarpon fly fishing in Florida.
There are a lot of different types of fishing experiences. There are also many ways of gauging the success of any fishing trip. To many anglers, the number of fish that you have in your live well, cooler, or stringer is the way you measure a successful trip. To others it is the enjoyment of the external surrounding environment and the immersion into nature that makes the experience successful. To others, it is the sport. It is the challenge of taking a large fish on light tackle. Fly fisherman understand the idea of challenge.
Tarpon fly fishing in Florida is a good example of the idea of sport. Many people have compared this form of fishing to hunting. The tarpon is a saltwater fish that comes to the shallow offshore flats and coastal rivers to feed. Many tarpon grow up to 8 feet long and some can weigh as much as 200 pounds. The top of their mouth, where the hook must be set, is covered by a bony plate that some have described as being a bit like concrete.
The tarpon is usually sought in the coastal waters of the Florida Keys in a small skiff. The fisherman stands in the front of the skiff and the guide positions it to intercept schools of tarpon that are moving in from deeper waters to feed. The fish are swimming fast, bearing down on the skiff in small schools of giant fish. The fisherman must make an expert cast to drop a fly in the path of the oncoming fish and hope one stops to strike it. Then the hook must be set in that bony upper mouth. In most cases, the fish will throw the hook rather quickly.
If the hook is set, the challenge has really just started. The tarpon is a feisty fish. It may be one of the hardest fighting fish pound for pound anywhere. It will make long wild runs and then suddenly pull with stubborn bull dog tenacity. And they will jump. The tarpon is known for their high arching jumps that can set the fisherman’s heart to racing wildly. In fact, it is common to ask the returning fisherman how many fish he “jumped” rather than how many he caught.
It is really not the catching that is important in tarpon fly fishing in Florida or along the coastal waters of the other Southern states in the tarpon’s range. It is the hunt that is the thing that draws the fishermen. The flesh of the tarpon is bony and not good eating and in many places the fish is protected and catch and release is the norm. It is the human being against the denizen of the sea that this is all about, not putting food on the table.