Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tarpon Spotting.

With a tropical storm approaching the next day, Adam and I are getting in a late night tarpon session on the shoreline of the island. It is approaching 3 a.m. and the fishing has slowed to a crawl. Thanks to us, the tarpon are staying out of all the light sources making it very difficult for us to sight fish in the dead of the night. With the fish constantly on the move, blind casting while getting pounded by waves has left us frustrated and fishless. Each of us has jumped several fish, including a large one, probably the largest I have ever hooked. The silver king took me deep into my backing before throwing the hook. We know the fish are out there, now it is just a matter of spotting them. We find the answer with our headlamps. Bright LED lights with a fresh set of AAA batteries shine like a lighthouse beacon into the dark water. Starring back at us like a herd of deer caught in a pair of high beams are about a dozen tarpon. We jog back to the apartment to get my brother.

My brother is passed out, shirtless, and covered in a pool of his own sweet in the living room of his apartment. The bed, air mattress, and couches are taken by guests and he insists on letting them have the comfort while he sleeps on warm hard tile with all the creepy crawlies. Imagine his face when two LED lamps hover over him and wake him up in the middle of the night. Blinded, his pupils shrink like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park as he struggles to understand our excited voices. In his semi-consciousness, I am sure he can only make out a smattering of words: Poon spotter! Hundreds of them!!! Bent hooks! They are everywhere!! Adam and I are like two kids on Christmas morning that just got their first video game system. However, he is too exhausted from playing host to get up. We re-tie our leaders and put on the day's flies. Enrico Puglisi baitfish patterns tied on 1/0 to 3/0 hooks with holographic eyes. Purple is the color. You want a dark silhouette in the dead of the night, something the tarpon can see well. It accounts for the large majority of the several dozen tarpon that are jumped during our sojourn.

The tarpon turned out to be our easiest adversary of the entire trip. Every night we went out for tarpon we jumped one and on most nights landed at least one silver king. They were reliable, we knew where to look, we had the right flies, and the right leader recipes. Now we had our own portable tarpon spotters on our foreheads which opened up several hundred yards of real estate. When no tarpon were clearly visible all you had to do is turn on the head lamp & range find a few fish. When spotted, you had to quickly figure out the direction the tarpon was facing, how fast they were moving, and the distance from the end of your rod to the fish. Turning off the beam, you have to strip out the necessary line and place the cast slightly in front of and passed the fish. You want to strip the fly directly in front, across, and away from the tarpon. In the dead of the night, you have to get as close as possible without spooking the fish. With moving targets, this can be difficult but with a little practice it can become automatic.

That night, Adam and I opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities during our three week stay. A very fun avenue filled with screaming runs, ten foot leaps, bent hooks, shattered leaders, and a whole lot of silver kings.