Fighting Tarpon, Bones and the Wind (and Losing to all of Them) in Key Largo

Author Sarah Hoog on a Much Better Day

The wind keeps blowing and I keep spazzing out, this is just the way it goes. During the Bonefish Bonnie’s flats tournament on the 20th the wind blew a non-cooperative 20 knots and really caused trouble for most of the anglers. I fished with my husband guiding me and I managed to hook and release a small redfish on fly and had a second one on that I lost two feet from the leader, bye bye 50 points! I casted to a few other schools of reds and some snook, but had no takers.

Later in the afternoon we made our way to the flats in Biscayne Bay to try for some bones before lines out at 4pm. With 4 minutes to go I hook up to what we are sure is a bonefish on fly, he ate a nice little crab fly and took off. This was the first time all day I was able to see the fish and cast right to it, so I was feeling pretty good about it, maybe even a little cocky. A few minutes into the fight we get close to the fish and it turns side to us and I say, “Why is there a jack where my bonefish should be?” Oh, well! Needless to say, it was a good fight but no points! The winners of the Tournament caught 5 snook on live shrimp and top lady angler caught two bonefish on shrimp. I’m pretty sure I was the only dummy fly fishing in that wind, but what can I say, I’m addicted!

Yesterday the wind was supposed to be 5-8 knots and variable, great for Tarpon fishing, especially for me cause if there’s any wind I can’t concentrate on my casting. We were on the oceanside flats just North of the Club and we’re in the shallow part of a bank looking for bonefish. The wind at this point is blowing 10 knots, but it’s ok, I can handle it! I’m ready for a bone, and my husband, also my guide, tells me to “put down the bonefish rod and pick up your tarpon rod.” I do this, very quietly, and begin stripping line off of my Tarpon rod, a 12 wt. Helios. Then I see the two nice sized Tarpon heading toward us and start I stripping very quickly only to have the line get wrapped around the butt of the rod and I give myself a nice big line burn on my pinky. Only I can get a burn without even being hooked up to a fish! So, I’m frazzled, but I cast to the fish and they look at my fly and swim away. Tarpon – 2, Sarah – 0. Next school comes through, 5 BIG fish and what do I do? Of course, I line them, and off they go. Tarpon – 7, Sarah – still a big FAT 0!

We head into bayside flats for some bones after that, I don’t think Chris (husband) could take another miss anyway. We see a bonefish immediately, a BIG bonefish. I cast to him, he looks a my fly and turns away. I pick up and cast again…and he spooks. The fact that I did not strip the line in and just did a Velcro cast may have been the cause of his rapid escape from our area:-) This is just NOT my day!

After lunch we try again, ending up with a school of about 40 bonefish coming straight at the boat. I pull back to start my cast and on the forward cast the wind catches my fly and half hitches it, not once, not twice, but three times around the rod. Chris is yelling (he says he was talking excitedly, but anyone who has fished with a husband knows they are really yelling) at me to get the knots out and I look down. The fish are 15 feet from the bow of the boat, looking at me, hunger in their eyes. Oh, yeah, I would have hooked one out of that school if… they hadn’t spooked when I reached up to untie the knot. They take off, actually pushing a nice big head-wake in their flight. At this point I’m a little discouraged, and, maybe a little mad at myself. I’m not the greatest caster, only been at this 2 years and only hard core for the last year, but I just DO NOT make these kind of mistakes, in a row! I cast to a few more fish, but in spooking the big school I have ruined the flats for the next hour, the fish are all just swimming around top speed trying to avoid the idiot humans.

I hear a rumble behind us and, thank heavens, there is a big thunderstorm building right over the ramp. Guess what? Time to go, saved from more embarrassment by the storm.

Next time I’ll tell you about a much more successful trip, Tarpon on fly in Everglades National Park, but for now I must rest my wounded ego, and ice my burned pinky…

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