Thread: Tampa Tarpon
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Old 09-17-2011, 01:44 PM
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Default Re: Tampa Tarpon

Originally Posted by axle27 View Post
My boss owns a place in the Tampa Bay area. He does some fishing, but not fly fishing. I'm working that angle....

Anyways, I left the company 4 years ago and just recently came back. Once he's found out that I was a fly fisherman, our discussions usually end up there. Recently, he's invited my wife and I to his place sometime in the spring for the Tarpon migration. This has been a dream of mine to fish for Tarpon, Permit and Bones. It's a long time before spring so I'm not getting my hopes up...things have a way of changing...

When do the Tarpon normally run?

Although there are probably some "resident" tarpon year round that you could fish for, the best opportunity to have lots of shots at fish will be during the peak of the migration mid May- June with some fish still passing through in July.

Can I get away with a 9wt or should a 10wt be the standard?

A 10 weight should be the minimum-- (most folks consider the standard for tarpon fishing to be a 12 weight). Although an 8 or 9 weight might be fine for medium sized tarpon to 40 lbs or so, you're probably more likely to run into 70-100lb or heavier fish passing through and you'll want to apply as much pressure to the fish as you can to tire them out as quickly as possible.

You'll also want a substantial reel -- well machined with a large drag surface that can hold at least 200 yard of 30 lb Dacron or Micron. Before I ever fished for tarpon i had caught and "fought" a lot of fish. One thing I wasn't prepared for after hooking that first tarpon was the physical nature of the fight-- it was an absolute slugfest like being in a bar room brawl. You will really want to put it to the fish, from the moment you set the hook in the fish's bony jaw in a ferocious, explosive stripe strike until it's on its side at the boat.

If you have an 8 or 9 already by all means bring it along rigged for action-- there are many times the tarpon aren't cooperating and it's good to have a backup plan-- you might run into snook, redfish etc

What knots should I practice?

Tarpon leaders generally consist of 3 parts-- a heavy butt section of 50 lb clear Ande or Maxima monofilament, a "class tippet" of 16 or 20 lb Hard Mason Monofilament and a 12" long section of heavy shock tippet 60, 80 or 100lb clear Ande monofilament. (Although tarpon don't have teeth, their rough bony mouth will quickly abrade through thin mono-- and can also abrade through even heavy 100lb mono if the fight goes on too long.). The IGFA has strict rules on leader construction, but asuming you're not fishing for a record, you can lengthen the shock tippet to 18" or so to allow for changing flies.

For use with a floating fly line, I use a 12' stealth leader:

fly line to leader butt (8' of 50 lb clear Ande or Maxima): Albright knot

leader butt to tippet ( 3' of 16 or 20lb Hard Mason) Bimini twist and twisted double line in tippet tied to butt section with improved blood knot.

tippet to shock leader (60 lb clear Ande) doubled length of tippet ( not a Bimini, just a doubled strand of tippet) tied to butt section with an improved blood knot

fly to shock tippet: 3 turn clinch knot, snugged tight with pliers or a Homer Rhode Loop Knot (gives the fly more action but a bit more difficult to tie-- Note also that the Homer Rhodes Loop knot is only reliable on relatively heavy diameter line, 30 lbs test and up.)

This results in a one piece leader with relatively few knots. An alternative for easier changes on the water is to replace the knotted connection bewtween the butt and the tippet with a loop to loop connection. This allows you to have easy changes between several pre-tied tippet and shock leader sections. To rig this type of connection tie a doubled surgeon's loop in the butt section and a bimini twist knot and doubled surgeons loop in tippet and connect with a loop to loop connection.

Albright, Bimini Twist, Blood Knot, Clinch Knot, Surgeon's Loop: Fishing Knots | How to Tie Fishing Knots | Animated Fishing Knots

Homer Rhode Loop Knot : Homer Rhode Loop - Instructions

Loop to loop connection-- it's very important that you make a square knot type of connection instead of a cutting connection: Loop-to-Loop Connection | Killroys Fly Tying

For use with intermediate or sinking fly lines a shorter 4' leader is used (this will prevent the fly from riding up higher in the water column as it would on a longer leader). A tippet plus shock is connected to to a loop in a very short butt section, or loop in the fly line formed with a double nail knot.

Fly line to backing-- Note, if you hook a tarpon you WILL see your backing, so make sure you have a solid connection and that it will easily pass through all the guides without hanging up. I use a loop to loop connection: Create loop in backing with Bimini. Make a Loop in fly line by doubling it and using 3 nail knots tied with 12lb mono over the doubled fly line cinched real tight to secure th loop in the fly line. Trim tag and standing ends of ends of 12lb mono after tightening the nail knots.

Note it is important that all knots be kept relatively small, and you'll want to make sure the knot between both the fly line and the backing and the fly line and the butt section can pass easily through the guides.

Mind, there will be no guide, so I'm gonna be doing this the hard way...on my own. Any advice would be helpful....
Advice is to practice casting-- tarpon fishing often involves a lot of hours standing around and then all heck break loose-- you'll want o practice casting to take advantage of any opportunities that sudden arise. Generally you won't have a lot of opportunities for false casting, or much time to get ready once they show up. You'll have to get off casts quickly. Being able to cast far is an asset of course, but perhaps more importantly than distance is being able to cast accurately-- often, even if you can't cast far to distant fish when they first appear, if you can cast accurately in their line of approach and land it several fish lengths ahead of them, you can just let the fly sit there until they swim close to it and then start a stripping.

To practice casting under semi realistic conditions, place a couple fish targets on the lawn from 30 to 50 feet out-- imagine different scenarios for example that they are swimming at a 45 degree angle to you with current coming from your right. Tarpon although big fish, can spook very easily -- one of the things that can blow up a fish or school is to have a fly come towards them-- you do not want to cast beyond a fish so that your strips have your fly, even though it might just be the size of shrimp, seem to be attacking a fish.

It's better to land short than on the far side of a fish- So for example if you spread out your right hand and imagine the fingers represent a school of tarpon, your best shot would be casting on the near side and slightly ahead of the fish represented by your thumb -- since casting to any other "fish" would have the fly "attacking" another fish.

To practice you might strip off 50 feet or so of fly line, hold the fly in your left hand by the bend (clip off the point if you're over grass), with 10 feet of fly line out of the tip, the rest of the fly line at your feet to shoot. Your first back cast should pull the fly out of your hand, your next forward cast should shoot some line and have things moving, your next back cast should be the last one and either shoot or drop (without shooting) your fly line on your forward cast to lay 2-3 fish lengths ahead of the target you've picked out.

Rearrange targets, scenarios and distances, and practice casting in wind coming from different directions.

There's a lot to digest, and an experienced guide of course makes it a heck of a lot easier-- since you'll be doing this on your own to help get you prepared the best advice I could give you would be to track down a copy of this: Tarpon on Fly (0066066004598): Donald Larmouth, Rob Fordyce, Flip Pallot: Books Tarpon on Fly (0066066004598): Donald Larmouth, Rob Fordyce, Flip Pallot: Books Tarpon on Fly (0066066004598): Donald Larmouth, Rob Fordyce, Flip Pallot: Books Tarpon on Fly (0066066004598): Donald Larmouth, Rob Fordyce, Flip Pallot: Books

This is an excellent book, with detailed instructions on gear, sharpening hooks, rigging and excellent diagrams on how to present a fly to fish in different circumstances ( when fish are daisy chaining, approaching in schools at different angles from the boat, and to laid up fish), and how to exert maximum pressure with a rod to fight a tarpon by keeping the tip low to the water and applying pressure or pulling in the opposite direction the fish is traveling (a technique called "down and dirty"). The book is well worth the $18. I fished in the Keys with Captain Rob Fordyce for tarpon for a number of years and he is outstanding, the book will give you a ton of useful info he's put to use in many 1,000's of hours on the water chasing after these fish.

I hope this helps a bit, and that others on the board also weigh in--- good luck this sounds like it's going to be a great adventure.
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