Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Small Fly, Big Fish

A few weeks ago, we rendezvoused with some friends at a place serving a rare treat on this island: an all-you-can-eat Sunday Brunch. It was the best feed I'd had in a year, but in between my 4th and 5th dish, I noticed that there were some birds diving 30ft behind me, just offshore in the surf and surfacing around their feet, cleaning up their leftovers, were bonefish.

The 8wt came out of the trunk after I finished my bloody mary and I tied on a small fry pattern, tied on a size 10 hook. Actually, it was similar to a gotchya or crazy charlie, but when stripped fast it resembled a fleeing fish. It was the only remaining fly of a set of these that my brother had tied before our trip last August. The other three had brought to hand a few bones each so I certainly had some confidence in them.

Green guy, center right.

I took up position away from the surf so as not to spook the birds and waited for one to dive near me. When one did, I dropped the fly within 1ft of the bird and barely twitched it. This was almost a guaranteed hookup...

I was not expecting what happened next. A tarpon breached like a feeding whale at the feet of the bird, taking in mouthfuls of stunned fry and, along with them, my tiny fly. I knew the 20lb flouro would never hold but before that failed, the hook on my last remaining money fly would straighten, so I did nothing. The fish felt the resistance of the drag and took off, leaping and cartwheeling. I did not set the hook or lift the rod, I just waited for the fly to fall out.

Hell, most of the time I can't get a hook to stick in a tarpon on purpose so I figured there was almost no chance of this small hook finding purchase within the mechanical mouth of this beast.

Strangely, the hook did not fall out and the line did not come slack. I was connected, somehow, to a 30lb fish on a size 10 fly.

At about this time, some friends from brunch were passing by during their leisurely stroll on the sand. I tried to explain to them the ridiculousness of my situation and the fact that we could expect, at any moment, the flouro to fray and me to have to re-tie.

Still, somehow, the fish stayed on. It leapt as I passed the camera to one of them. He snapped away as I held the fish at bay. Too much pressure and the hook would bend out or the leader would fray.


Lasting a bit longer than expected...


As the fish tired after about 10 minutes I was able, by gently walking backwards and reeling in as I walked forwards, to bring the fish to within feet of the sand.


I could see the reason why the leader had not frayed, at least. The fly was lodged right in the center-line hinge at the very tip of the fish's upper lip. The fly found the only millimeter of space where it was soft enough to penetrate, and the leader was out of the way of the abrasive mouth.

I now had to wait for the perfect wave on which to surf the fish onto the beach before pouncing and going for the lips.


Getting her into position...


I waited...


and waited...


and waited...


Still, I waited for the perfect wave.


Here it comes...

Finally, my chance arrived. I gave one impatient, harder-than-I-should-have pull back on the rod to lead the fish headfirst onto the sand and the leader parted, allowing the fish to silently and slowly glide off out to sea.


Oh, well. Can't say that was unexpected.


As my arm shook from holding the fish steady, I tried to explain why what just happened was so unexpected. I don't think they understood.

5 comments:

Dub The Thorax said...

One of the best posts I've read on a blog in a while. I couldn't read fast enough to find out what happened. Congrats on almost landing him.

Travis said...

awesome post, kept me reading! and awesome blog.. keep it up

Alex Landeen said...

Too cool!

Matt said...

Thanks, fellas.
I was just glad to be connected. I got close enough to landing her that not getting my hands on her wasn't very disappointing. She was beaten.

Ivan said...

sounds like an epic fight. for me, sometimes the ones that get away provide the best stories.

i might be kidding myself.