The best part about living in the Caribbean are visitors. We've had quite a few over the past two years. When someone comes down with fly fishing at the front of their minds, it is even better.
A friend who got in to fishing with the fly at about the same time I left home was included in our latest round of Spring Breakers.
As usual, the best laid plans are laid to waste. Tom said that he checked to make sure he packed his reel probably three times but never checked for his passport. This would explain why he arrived a full 24 hours later than expected. The first order of business was a few beers. The second order of business was to tie up some tarpon leaders.
As Tom tied to my instruction, I browsed the box of freshly-minted flies he brought along. He tied up some exquisite saltwater patterns for the trip which put my efforts at the vice to shame. I thought that if we failed to get any looks from fish it wouldn't be due to what we were throwing at them.
We walked to the local hole and spotted the fish milling about in the street light. A quick tutorial on how to present to laid-up tarpon, how to set the hook and how to fight the fish was given but I don't think he heard a word of it. He was looking at the slabs of chrome reflecting in the waves. We entered the water.
After 20 minutes of blown shots and casts, the adrenaline started to wear off and we both calmed down. This was his first time fly fishing in saltwater and there were a dozen or so 40lb fish within range.
We discussed the importance of choosing your best shot instead of flailing the surface in vain, which is something I can barely adhere to when I see a fish that I can reach. Within minutes, a daisy chain of fish moved back into the circle of light after being scared off from earlier presentations.
Tom placed the fly in the sweet spot, just out of the lead fish's field of view, and stripped it into the fish's path. Two agonizingly slow strips later and the fish ate. Tom set the fly into the its steel trap jaws.
Some choice words were let fly as the fish danced across the surface and moved out in to the darkness. Tom fought the fish like a seasoned veteran and I was touching the leader within 10 minutes.
Soon after that, I had her lipped. We posed for a few epic grip-and-grins before releasing her into the darkness.
Local spectators come to see us 'play with our food.'
Tom landed the first tarpon he'd ever hooked. Not many others can make that claim. Prior to every trip I've ever been on I have not been able to resist the thoughts of the possibility of having the most spectacular days of fishing imaginable. Cooperative, enthusiastic, huge fish. It is not until you actually wet a line that the thoughts you've been telling yourself are foolishly unrealistic run up against the reality that you won't catch a fish on your first cast or maybe even your hundredth cast. Fear starts to creep in that all of your hopes will be dashed and you'll go home without having felt even a pull. Getting the first fish out of the way is always a huge relief and it made each time we cast a fly for the next fews days completely pressure free.