Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Preparing for the Silver Kings

One thing about getting ready for a trip, being in the fly fishing business I'm sure the sympathy is going to pour out at this point, is they cut into my time on the water locally. With good Blue Wing and Stonefly hatches taking place now, I refrain from partaking. When trout noses are up, it can be distracting to focus on tasks at hand. In particular on those days when it’s spitting a little rain, which lately it does quite frequently. However, with a Tarpon trip ahead there is plenty of incentive to get all my ducks lined up so I can head south without any trepidations.

Not having time to sit at my bench lately and tie a few flies, I’ve begun to assemble my leaders. If I used Fluorocarbon this task would be rather simple, but due to the impact this stuff has on our resources I prefer to use standard monofilament materials. For those not familiar with Fluorocarbon, it last thousands of years. Although as fly fishers we use very little, collectively however our use and impacts are extensive. Also through our purchases we support an industry whose material is used for ocean drift nets….etc. Catch my drift(no pun intended)! We forget sometimes that our purchases have impacts that are far reaching. Enough said for now.

My first tarpon experience was with one of the best, just by happenstance, Capt. Jeffrey Cardenas. I was in the Key’s with my family and he gave me a call one evening to see if I wanted to go catch a Tarpon. That was an easy answer. We met after he finished work and headed out. It was a rare time on the water of no wind and smooth silvery surfaces, which later I was to find was the reason for his venturing out on this spectacular evening. Having made Jeffrey's acquaintance several times over the past years, we had discussed of hooking up. His call surprised me given how busy these guys are during their season.

My son of 12 was at the wheel of Jeffrey’s Maverick as we left the Marina. He was having fun know doubt. The first few places we checked were void of fish, but it was still early and the tranquility of the evening was worth the price of admission regardless. By the time we found our first Tarpon Key West’s evening migration of tourists to famous Mallory Square was in full swing. They gather hear each evening to witness sunsets green flash. Like many things here I think this particular phenomena is alcohol induced.

As we motored up on the flat a Tarpon rose to take a drifting shrimp a little over 100’ in front of our path. To this day its massive silhouette is still etched in my mind. The engine was killed and we silently drifted into position for what we hoped would be a chance hook up. Jeffrey asked if I knew how to poll a skiff. I was embarrassed to answer no, as several more Tarpon rose to dine while we prepared a rod. That telltale sucking noise ominous in the still evening air. By the time we had line out the guides and on the deck there were fish within casting range. Jeffrey offered, being the gracious host he always is, the first shot. Having never done this before, I yielded to observe and learn from one the wise one.

Just to be on the flat and listen to one of these giants feed was worth the ride. To hook and land one, not expected given all I have heard about fly fishing for the Silver King. After casually laying out several beautiful casts, Jeffrey was soon fast to about a 70lb. Tarpon. To watch a video of Billy Pate catch a Tarpon is exciting in its won rite. To witness this act takes the experience to another level.

By the evenings end Jeffrey and I had hooked and landed a number of Tarpon. While he chatted with several other guides who shared this evenings flat with us, I landed my first. Like my first steelhead in BC, I haven’t been the same since. I would later learn that Tarpon feeding on drifting shrimp that commonly occur on such placid nights is called “Splooshing”. After dark sitting in the boat hearing those prehistoric beasts and having a cold one, you could still hear death on the flats all around us.

Little did I know how good that night was. The following years trip back to the Keys however put it in perspective. My fishing partner Ken Louder and I, other than a few eats got blanked. This was more like the Tarpon fishing I had been hearing about over the years. This shut out it was got me going. I figured if I was going to learn this game than I need to do as I had done with trout and steelhead fishing. Read the books, tie the flies, learn the knots, and even learn to pole the boat. It’s paid off.

So as I begin to prepare for this years trip by tying Bimini Loops into my class tippets then attaching the variety of shock tippets I’ll use I reflect back on past trips, their success and failures. I pulled my tying stuff out last night and began filling in the holes. Then there will be the new patterns. Creations from past experience and the patterns I almost always tie on first. Like most trips, the more I put into them the more I seem to get out of each adventure. It seems the same goes with life.

To be continued….

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