Greatest challenge: Prevailing easterly winds have created calm conditions for early-morning tarpon hunting with fly rods on beaches. These giant silver kings are close enough to occasionally venture inside swim markers. Though affected by tidal flow, usually they're not disturbed during the night and can be seen rolling, laid up or daisy chaining.
How to score: Arrive at first light in known tarpon haunts. If shallow enough, a push pole will be the stealthiest way to get in their path; otherwise use an electric motor run at a slow, steady speed. Determine their direction, if moving, and set up close enough to intercept them. Trying to follow or move parallel to their path will send up a red flag.
Preparation is the key: An 11-weight fly rod with a clear sinking intermediate line will need 200 yards of 30-pound test backing on a reel with a smooth drag. A 6-foot leader attached to the fly line will have a 20-pound class tippet before the shock tippet of 60-pound fluorocarbon secures the fly with a loop knot. Darker flies are best for early morning. Toad and keys type flies in 3/0 will work. Get the fly to the tarpon's level in the water column. Make sure the tarpon has the fly securely before you strip set hard several times to penetrate the tough mouth.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.