By Vagabond Fly
After a tasking 28 hours of traveling from Johannesburg, South Africa to Key Biscayne, Miami,USA we dumped our overweight duffle bags in our rooms and trudged down the 100m driveway of the motel to reach the beach. The sun was riding low over the horizon that afternoon, the waves were merely lapping onto the beach and apart from the odd married couple and kids taking their dogs for a walk we had the whole place to ourselves.
Greasy from the four flights and airport air-conditioning we stood there in silence, stretching out with zombie-like expressions.
The first roll we wrote off to jet-lag-hallucinations but the second and third shook us right into ‘front of the skiff’ poses with one of us searching and the other guide-pointing at the obvious swirls. Now, we are known for taking a ludicrous amount of time to get ready and get to the water but this day, donning flip-flops and board shorts, we had two rods rigged and were stripping off line in less than 5-minutes flat.
Completely unprepared we only had 12lb tippet with us and a small selection of Bonefish flies. The first 80ft of water from the beach’s edge was a consumed by a flotsam of dead turtle grass, but these juvenile Tarpon would cruise down the edge of clear water until they found a deeper section and then slip underneath the debris and smash small baitfish and shrimp leaving a clearing of foam, ripple and spray.
We did shuttle sprints down that strip of beach, casting as we were gasping for breath, sending our crab and shrimp patterns into these temporary clearings. Every now and then we would go tight for a fleeting moment only to be snapped off in a loud bang. Once we even had one fish stay on long enough to get the iconic tail walk and rattling gill plates.
Each and every fish hooked was lost but to this day it remains one of our top 5 most exhilarating and rewarding fishing sessions.
With this memory permanently tattooed into our memories we recently sat in a dark movie theatre, gawking at both 120 Days and Corazón as part of this year Fly Fishing Film Tour and were reminded why tarpon remain such an iconic and perfect fly-rod species – they grow to gigantic proportions, hit like a train, put on an acrobatic fight and compared to many other gamefish species they eat relatively small flies. A-game mandatory. Life Changing guaranteed.
So now that we have digressed almost beyond the point of no return, back to this article. Drew Chicone from Salty Fly Tying has added a sixth book to his lineup BABY TARPON FLIES – Six Effective Patterns for Catching Juvenile Tarpon. In true Chicone fashion the book is filled with practical fly-tying theory, advice and anecdotes all the result of his years spent as a commercial fly-tyer and instructor. There are the mandatory Step-by-Steps for each pattern but weaved into these is a wealth of knowledge that can only improve your own tying. As with each of his other books, don’t be fooled by ‘specie specific’ title as the techniques and tips have countless applications beyond the actual species and the patterns – our own baitfish patterns have improved in leaps-and-bounds because of the process explained in his other book, Feather Brain, in tying his now iconic Cannibal series. For those that are still not convinced, Drew will guide you from grasshopper level to tie the following patterns like a ninja-master:
- Lefty Kreh’s Deceiver
- Flip Pallot’s Prince of Tides
- Chicone’s Coyote Disco Shrimp
- Chicone’s Peppermint Punisher
- Chicone’s M.I.A Anchovy
- Chicone’s Micro Mangrove Cannibal
Out of interest this is how he describes baby Tarpon, “Baby tarpon are nothing more than a miniature version of the majestic goliath’s found daisy chaining off of the beaches and laid up in the back bays however for some reason . . . they are treated like an entirely different species. I can’t think of another fish that is specifically targeted in its juvenile stages.”
Ashamedly we have to admit that all tarpon we have successfully boated probably fall in this range our focus and determination to land that 100lb+ dinner-plate-sized-scales silver goliath has never wavered…but for now we will practice our skill at catching the babies and use Drew’s guidance to fill our own boxes.
Available as a paperback and e-book, head over to Drew’s Salty Fly Tying website by clicking on this link.