Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Dock

Tarpon prove a difficult prey for landlocked fly fishermen. At least around these islands, they generally move out of range during the daylight hours. As night settles in the Caribbean, street lamps buzz to life and any lit dock, bridge pylon or marina become an oasis for predators.
One of our favorite nocturnal hot spots was a large dock. It was sandwiched between hundred-meter stretches of scree and boulders, affording a gravy train of glowing tarpon eyes within the limits of our casting ranges. We fished this doc perhaps 10 times during our trip and although we jumped fish each night, the tricky terrain and structure made landing fish extremely difficult. The threat of a 60lb fish threading your new fly line between barnacle-encrusted concrete dock pillars caused us to be a bit more cautious than usual.
To extend our ability to spot incoming fish with our headlamps, Adam balanced atop a concrete pillar he took to calling the “poon perch.” He surprised us all by not slipping off and breaking any bones at the sight of a big fish meandering into range.

Mark landed what turned out to be arguable the largest tarpon of the trip here. An ultra slippery boat launch ramp made landing the fish hazardous, but Adam got it done.

Flies of the Night, no matter where we were, were black over purple Puglisi baitfish or black and purple tarpon bunnies on 2\0 Owner Aki hooks. I tossed a blue over white Puglisi into a circle of light after seeing some splashing and before I saw what hit it, my reel screamed in a higher octave than I’ve never heard it achieve before.
Thinking tarpon, I grabbed the line for a strip set. When I clamped down and kicked back, the line seared through my fingers at a million miles an hour as the fish continued to blitz towards structure. I tried to palm the melting reel but the free-wheeling spool burned a blister into the palm of my hand. The handle bombarded my knuckles as I fumbled for some traction. Finally, I torqued the drag to its max and stopped the fish before it hit the dock.
The fish still hadn’t leapt and its speed was way too fast to be a tarpon. I yelled out across the darkness “I got something weird!” summoning Mark and Adam towards the lit circle of water into which my line disappeared and above which I was perched in a bent stance doing battle with the unseen.
My hand was throbbing. My knuckles were bruised, there was a quarter-sized blister on my palm and a seared line mark in the first crease of my fingers. I forgot it as soon as I realized that I had no idea what I was connected with.
The fish was a real bulldog. I brought him into the light and he was revealed as a rather huge Horse Eyed Jack. I have never hooked one of these before but knew of their reputations as hard fighters.

I awkwardly tailed him by the rocks and brought him up for a picture. The hook was difficult to remove, but with three sets of hands working we got it dislodged, all the while keeping the fish in the water. Sadly, after about 5 minutes of trying to revive him, we realized it was a lost cause and he wasn’t going to make it. Part of the reality of the sport.

We brought the fish home and cleaned it for my landlord, who is always asking for my fish. He was grateful in the morning and fed his entire visiting family. Before cleaning it we weighed the fish on the bathroom scale at 21lbs. At only three pounds short of the IGFA record, he was old for sure.


Ryan said...

Dude, sweet report and grea pics! Sorry you lost that last fish, but hey atleast your landlord enjoyed it. =)

The Average Joe Fisherman

Bigerrfish said...

I would dig a day on the water with you crazy a$$ bunch of guys.
Maybe when I get bigerr...