Trout Setting For Tarpon

Growing up I dreamed of all the tarpon, bonefish, and permit I would one day catch. Since I started fly fishing seven years ago, I really wanted to get good enough for the flats. A few years later, here we are - a mediocre caster at best who has a whole lot of things to figure out. 

Living in the northeast, I do not get to the Florida Keys as much as I would like to but am fortunate enough to have family that lives there (huge cost saver) so I get down there once or twice a year. After several trips, I am happy to say I am at least capable of chasing the big three on a fly rod. Getting to this point has been humbling, frustrating, exciting, and epic – all at the same time.

So, here are some tips, observations, and insights from a Northeastern trout guy who is still trying to figure it out.

1)    I highly recommend hiring a reputable guide. My guide of choice is Captain Steve Hancock – in addition to being extremely fishy, he is a great instructor, coach, and therapist on the water. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I blew. It helps to have someone that can bring you back to earth.

2)    The double haul – learn it, love it, live it. If you don’t haul, the fly won’t turn over. Even better, learn to cast side arm to. Plan on it being windy, a side arm double haul will help. Also, limit your false casts. One of my biggest issues is that extra false cast; it’s a mental thing I need to break. If you can get to two false casts you will be golden.

3)    Accuracy and timing is everything. You only have a few seconds to accurately deliver the fly.

4)    Always be ready and keep your eyes on the water.

5)    Practice line management. Fly line has a way of getting tangled on anything and everything. If you are not used to using a stripping basket, practice, practice, practice. I am still terrible at line management.  

6)    Don’t take it personal. A good guide is going to be constructively yelling and letting you know when you messed up. I messed up a lot. I got yelled at a lot. You have to react fast and the guide is doing everything he can to put you on fish. He or she isn’t going to be successful whispering directions – you won’t be either.

7)    Learn to tell time and try to remember what left and right is. See #7.

8)    Have fun – it is easy to get frustrated when you miss shot after shot.

9)    Treat every opportunity on the water as a chance to learn. Especially with a guide, they are not telling you to do something for the sake of telling you to do something. They are telling you to do something because it will put you in a better position to connect on a fish.

10) Don’t trout set. My first true tarpon trip I managed to get 4 fish to eat. I missed at least one of those fish trout setting. If you primarily chase trout it becomes second nature. Practice the strip set.

If you have never site fished on the flats it is a big change. The above are things to keep in mind and work on. After years of trying, I finally connected on some fish on a recent trip. Landed two tarpon, jumped three more, landed two bones, and had a few shots at permit but couldn’t connect. It was an epic trip and I am hungry for more.