|I finally fulfilled the top item in my bucket list; I got my first tarpon. It was a 17# youngster and turned out to be my largest fish for the trip. Still, it gave me all of the thrills that I have anticipated since taking up fly fishing. I am now addicted. I can't wait to try for more and larger tarpon. |
My quest was fulfilled off of island Holbox, on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. A fine place to visit. The island consists of beautiful white beach sands with an ocean frontage of varying shades of turquoise. People are friendly and there are lots of good restaurants.
My partner and I fished for eight days in very high wind conditions. When it was too tough to cast on the ocean side, we ventured into the mangroves and inlets. That is a whole lot different than open ocean casting. But it is the most challenging because of the mangroves themselves and the ubiquitous and pesky barracuda.
I tried to make good preparations; especially when it came to my lines and knots. This paid off because I had no equipment failures and all knots held (thank you, Bill Nash). I used furled fluorocarbon leaders with 20# tippet and 40# bite tippets most of the time. BTW, for this type of fishing, I like using the #10 power swivel from SPRO to attach my bite leader. My partner gave me this tip. It seems to keep the leader from twisting up over time. I used the Trilene knot in this case
Casting practice at the local casting ponds was the best preparation of all. Distance casting is important because too often the tarpon would be rolling just at my maximum casting distance; however, target delivery of a fly in 15 mph winds takes a lot of effort regardless of the distance. The guide did try his best at positioning the boat with the wind at our back. My back cast, though, sometimes became my "oh-my" cast, was often described as "not the prettiest". As each day evolved, my forward, side and back casting got better in tough conditions. My partner and guide were both helpful in this matter. I was reminded to breath when the moment of presentation arrives. In the heat of battle, I actually found myself holding my breath which could have exacerbated erratic casting movements.
The best tip I received was on this board a year or so ago. It was the use of the strip-strike. No trout hook setting allowed for tarpon. I went three for three to the boat with the young tarpon on my first day. Setting the hook and that first jump was the biggest thrill.
For this trip, I purchased a Beulah 8 wt Guide Series and Rio Tropical WF9F/I for my primary baby tarpon rod. The California Fly Shop was kind enough to let me try this combo (and others) out first. I also used my TFO 7 wt with an Airflow WF8F Ridge Tropical. Both setups performed well for baby tarpon, jacks, baraccuda, small snook, blue runners and various types of snappers. Favorite flies: seducers in red and white, yellow seducers, white deceivers with a splash of red, and small clousers. I found that between the barracuda and the mangroves, one cannot have too many flies at hand.
I used sunscreen where necessary and Buffs and sun gloves continuously (even on cloudy days) with no sunburns for the entire trip.
In the end, I had one of the best trips of my life. I will do it again. I never did use my heavier rods on this trip. Perhaps another trip for tarpon this year awaits me.