Dick's Tarpon Challenge

Large or small Tarpon is a fantastic fly rod challenge, know matter what time of the year it is but when your angling just off of Palm Island, in the Florida Keys, it is a gem on both counts. Little Palm Island, in the Keys, was once used as the exclusive fishing retreat of President Harry Truman. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the island's hospitality has drawn an impressive guest list, including the late President Kennedy, Al Gore and Ivanna Trump. It is known as the south Pacific of south Florida. This island, in the Florida Keys, can be found at Latitude 24°37.11, Longitude 81°24.42, just four nautical miles north of Looe Key Light (marker 24). The Loran coordinates are 13981.6 and 43530.5 at Flashing Red #2, which marks the entrance to Newfound Harbor. This paradise exists, lying discreetly off the fabled Florida Keys coastline. Little Palm Island is not only an escape of choice for presidents, high profile celebrities and savvy travelers alike but a hot spot in catching many a species on a fly.

Monster Tarpon! It looks like a Happy Fish, Right?

The Florida Keys a breeding grounds of bigger and better things to come.

On the last day of 2010, I had probably the best day of my entire last year of fishing today in fishing with a new client, as we were in pursuit of fishes on the fly off Palm Island. Pam Wilson booked the trip and before actually getting it on, in the water, I was teaching Dick the techniques of saltwater fly fishing. Armed with an Orvis fly rod and matching reel, Dick was doing extremely well in putting my hand tied, white Deceiver, out on a lay of the water. Seven Weight line and a twenty pound tippet, on Dicks third lay, he had a fish on! The excitement of seeing him hook it up was no more than if it was watching my first hook up ever as the air was electrifying. The fish stripped out a number of feet and then spit the hook, as from the corner of my eye, I noticed a roll of a silver King and blurted cast it over there; tarpon on the move! Dick, swinging around, like a pro-angler made three false casts an laid the fly just to the nose of this rolling beauty of majestic size. At the swirl of a tail, again 'Fish On!' and the fight ensued. Angling on the leeward side of the island, this fish too was getting out of the 20 knot wind a blowing from the other side while rolling and feeding in the sea-grass of the shallows. As this happy fish stripped line off the reel, it finally decided in giving a show of presentation as it danced on its tail across the water. Dick raised the rod tip, as one would do if flying for trout or reds in keeping a taunt line, when he should have bowed to the fish in hopes of no shake off but shake off it was with a fish on, fish gone. What a spectacular feat and a few moments of greatness, as the adrenalin was still in full flow in knowing it was a good fish. The funny thing was, Dick had reeled the fish in all the way to the beginning of the leader, which was at the tip of the rod and had the leader made it to the last eye, with a touch of his fingers, it would have been an official IGFA landing. Oh! Boy was that a close one. This trip was in full steam ahead! I told Dick, he was hot and to get that fly back out on the water because, who knows to what else may be feeding in this lee of the island. Dick again lay the fly out and Wham, bam, thank you mam, another fish was on. Though it seemed different but it was stripping line, like no tomorrow. With a straight run back to the sea-grass, up it came to dance on its tail, too, like a miniature minaret, splashing back with another run to the bottom. After a struggling fight on this fishes part, Dick raised a small, fingerling Tarpon! It had as much fight and spirit as did the big boy that got away, only much, much smaller; the fly was only slightly smaller. “Hungary appetite,” I exclaimed, as we both laughed in a brotherhood of togetherness. Dick suggested he was having just too much fun and that I ought to get into the action. I joined in for a little while and hooked it up with a tarpon just before heading in. In all my days, this rates up there with one of the best because that is what it is all about; having a good time while catching fish and the catch to release of that baby tarpon made this the best day of the last day of the year 2010.

By practicing CPR, this guy will grow up to maybe 150 pounds or more!

Captain Greg Poland

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