in the Florida Keys
By Captain Barry Hoffman
entranced by the crystal clear bluish green water and you find
your mind drifting. You notice how the color is reflected in
the small clouds above you. It's been fifteen minutes since
the last string of tarpon has passed the skiff. The skiff rocks
gently as the guide shifts his weight. Suddenly, you're back
at ground zero.
After the last attempt at the fish, you're looking for a rock
to crawl under. Your casting stroke looks as though you're directing
a fusion jazz band. You think of another use for that rock.
Perhaps throwing it at the fish. In an attempt to help relieve
the buck fever ailment, your guide calmly calls out the next
school. "'Here comes another good school. Eleven thirty,
two hundred feet, seventy fish or more." Relax, you've
plenty of time. You try and remain calm, but you feel
as if you're fifteen again and asking the prettiest girl in
school to the prom. You're sweating, and you fear the guide
might see your legs and arms quivering. "Get ready!"
"Aim for the tail of the lead fish." "Go!"
You start your backcast. In your grip, the twelve weight rod
feels heavy and cumbersome.
wish you had taken the guide's advice after last years trip
and put a few minutes practice in each week. You make the presentation
and thank God it's in the strike zone. "Strip, Ssstttrriippp!"
"Here he comes!" "Wait for him to turn!".
You watch as the seventy five pound fish rushes forward and
inhales your fly. As the offering disappears into the cavernous
mouth, you cautiously wait for him to turn back to the school
before the hook is set. Here it is, the moment of truth. Will
you set the hook properly and be prepared for the series of
violent head shakes and successive leaps from the water?
The moment passes and the leader holds. He's already two hundred
feet out. Once again the silvery giant detaches himself from
the water. It happens so slowly, the moment is etched. Just
as you remember your first love, you'll recall that jump for
life. The mind drifts briefly and you're suddenly reminded of
watching Walkers Cay television on Saturday morning. Only
in this segment, you're the star. Forty five minutes have passed,
you feel this fish will never succumb. Your arms are aching,
your shirt is soaked with perspiration. With words of encouragement
and a few hints on fighting a fish from old salty on the stern,
the fish is soon alongside the boat. The fish is leadered and
the fly removed. Back to the dock for that celebratory rum drink.
in late April and ending in early July, these large migratory
fish take residence in the Florida Keys. Megalops Atlanticus
(even the Latin name sounds huge) average thirty pounds for
a small fish, while a large one averages 120 and may exceed
180 pounds. Fly tackle needs are ten to twelve weight rods for
the larger fish although a nine weight will land a 40 pound
or smaller fish. Weight forward floating lines are most commonly
used, however there are times a clear intermediate sinking line
is necessary. Casting ability is everything. The ability to
shoot line with a minimum of false casting, quickly and accurately
at some distance will have a major impact on your success or
lack thereof. At forty feet, the fish sense the boat or perhaps
its that strange convulsing object on the bow.
an eighty foot cast will allow the tarpon to track a fly longer
or give an angler the ability to re-cast to another fish in
the school before detection by the fish. Of course theres
always the ever-present wind. That might make that eighty foot
cast a forty foot one. Pity the fly caster who can barely make
thirty feet. The temperature in the Florida Keys can best be
described as hot and soupy during the summer months. Cool, light
colored cotton clothing, a large brim hat and plenty of sunscreen
are your best defense against the intense sun. There are a wide
range of accommodations available. From five star hotels to
a mom and pop with lots of charm, youll find
one to suit your budget and needs. Restaurants are many. Lots
of locally caught seafood dishes such as Stone Crab, Florida
Lobster, Mahi-Mahi and Yellowtail Snapper are caught daily.
Bentleys of Islamorada, the Islamorada Fish Company and Uncles
are three terrific restaurants to try. Getting here is fairly
simple, Two hours south from Miami International or north from
Key West International airport. One road, friendly natives and
a great place to relax. Its a very casual place. No jacket
or tie required. Book your trip early, the best guides are booked
up to a year in advance. For more information call
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