This is the best time of year to catch big tarpon on fly. Stories of needing 11/2 hours to get a silver-side to the boat are common. Is this necessary or even good for both fish and angler? When a bucket-size mouth inhales your small fly, usually a size 1 or 1/0, and you manage a successful hook set, then what? The fish instantly reacts, usually jumping and heading away. If you raise the rod and let her run against the drag, you can have an empty spool. Tackle should be adequate, 11 weight rod, good large arbor reel, smooth drag with 30-pound test backing. Many good guides will use a 40- to 60-pound shock tippet attached to the fly. Skipping the lighter class tippet, used mostly for record book work, will give you a mechanical advantage. Immediately concentrate on keeping the fish off balance and confused. You must bow when they jump, giving slack to prevent breakoffs. And put as much pressure as possible on the fish. When the fish goes right, with rod tip low, apply pressure to her left side. Getting the line over the fish and off balance is helpful. Keep a moderate bend in the rod to prevent rod breakage. Avoid rest for you and the fish to shorten the fight and release a healthy fish.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.