Friday, October 16, 2009


Last night I had trouble sleeping. It wasn't the oppressive heat and humidity, or even the mosquitoes. It was the fact that I was going fishing for tarpon this morning that was responsible for my fitful sleep.

With three different stretched and straightened leaders of different formulas connected to three different flies on the new gamakatsu tarpon hooks, I arrived at the honey hole around 5:50am. Within 15 minutes, I had missed one fish and boiled another. At around 6:25am, I made a cast off to the eastern side of the jetty on which I was perched and gasped as a black hole emerged from the water, engulfing my fly.

The tarpon has taken the fly while coming straight at me. As it turned to my left, I strip set ferociously. The tarpon didn't leap straight away, but moved away from me at a good clip. I strip set again, taking no chances. This seemed to piss her off. She leapt and thrashed but didn't dislodge the hook.

By now, 10 seconds in, this was the longest I've had a tarpon on the line. She pulled out line like nothing else, leapt and cleared the water like a rainbow and shook her head like a 4ft long brown trout would.

I tried my best to do the 'tarpon dance,' and bend at the waist, etc, while she leapt. This resulted in me falling on my ass not once, but twice on the slippery rocks as the waves crashed around my knees. Somehow, I stayed connected to the fish.

She liked the eastern side of the jetty, and this presented a problem for me. There was no place to land her over there except for a rocky beach, and my camera\phone was on the shore on the western side of the jetty.

For 25 minutes I tried to stear her across the point but she was having none of it. Finally, I got into the water, waist deep, and waded toward the shore on the eastern side. I got the fish close enough to touch the leader and go for the tail, like an idiot, but she saw me and bolted, running out more line than ever before.

I slowly cranked her back in using the 'down and dirty' method I had research the night before. Angling the rod down and towards the tail end of the fish to keep her head down and constant pressure against her swimming direction. She came within 5 ft of me and this time I grabbed the leader and went for it's mouth, but at my touch she freaked and bolted for the horizon again.

Worrying about sharks, I contemplated breaking her off instead of exhausting her and making her vulnerable. The fact that this fish had probably been swimming for longer than I have existed, and could quite possibly out-live me, upped the respect for it immensely.

Deciding to have at least one more go of turning her, I climbed back onto the jetty and inched my way out to the end. I cranked and reeled her in and finally, after half an hour of being on the line, steered her around the point and into the protected little beach where I hoped to land her.

I scrambled back off of the jetty and into the surf, bringing the fish in close. At about this time, Stacy arrived on her way to work and started taking pictures.

The jetty in the background, spent most of my time being led around on the far side of it.

The TFO rod and Lamson reel performed flawlessly.

I hoped to have the fish ride the waves up onto the sand so that I could pin her momentarily and grab her by the jaws. I put on my gloves and after 3 missed tries, I dropped my 10wt into the water and went for her with both hands. I was finally was able to lip her.


First Tarpon ever. Landed on the fly from shore. Boo Ya!

Searching for the fly, I stuck my entire hand into her mouth. The fly was lodged on the roof of it's mouth about 8 inches deep, and popped out with ease.


She's just a baby compared to the others that frequent these jetties.

I hoisted the fish for a few pictures, then placed her in the water and lead her around the shallows for about 10 minutes. Last night, I read about a mortality study of the tarpon in Boca Grande Pass in Florida. The study found a mortality rate of about 20% due to the fish's inability to escape sharks while on the line or after a long fight. Keeping an eye out, I walked her around to make sure she was fit for release.

After those few minutes, I turned loose of the mouth and gave her a gentle shove. She gently swam off through the surf and disappeared from view. With my shaking arm and slamming heart, I decided to rest a bit on the sandy shore and soak in what had just happened. I went home without throwing another cast.

I don't remember my first trout on the fly. I don't remember my first fish on the fly, period. But I know that I'll never forget spending more than 40 minutes with my 10wt bent to the cork to land my first tarpon.


Chris Michels said...

Very awesome! Congrats man, I'm truly jealous!

Unknown said...

fuckin monster, congrats bro

Adam said...

Yeah...quite envious when I received a phone call this morning as my alarm went off, answering in a partial coma to, "Matt landed a tarpon!"...

Congrats man..

FoulHooked said...

better ice those forearms. awesome.

Troutdawg said...

Sweet, baby Tarpon fishing is one of my favorites!

Tom said...

That's awesome man! Beautiful fish. Congrats!

Matt said...

it was a baby. im guessing 50lbs? no real idea, though.
there are some real slam pigs around, we'll see what happens in the future down here.

Mark said...

pretty impressive landing one of the first tarpon you hooked and from the shore no less...I taught you well haha...

tarpon X

go get um bro

Wade Rivers said...

Yowza! That's a great series of some very cool pix.

Matthew D Dunn said...

That is cool.