Photos: Working Through the Tarpon Learning Curve

Written by: Steve Hemkens


When tarpon take to the air, there are plenty of chances for them to come unbuttoned.
Photo by David Mangum, Shallow Water Expeditions

For the first two days of our five-day trip in Florida with Capt. David Mangum of Shallow Water Expeditions, my buddy Don Rogers worked his way through the learning curve of sight-fishing for tarpon: seeing the fish, mastering the lead, getting the strip, and then combating the Achilles heel of every trout fisherman when they’re on the flats—the strip set instead of the “trout set.”


Don Rogers receives fighting instructions from Capt. David Mangum.
Photo by Steve Hemkens

This week, he came close to touching his first fish after jumping and fighting several, but they always chewed through the leader or jumped off before the magic moment. Yesterday, on day three, it all finally came together. I have never seen anyone so happy or grateful to grab on to one of these amazing creatures. He definitely earned it.

Steve Hemkens is vice president of Orvis Rod & Tackle.


Third day was the charm for Don Rogers, and he touches his first tarpon.
Photo by David Mangum, Shallow Water Expeditions

Another one in the air!
Photo by David Mangum, Shallow Water Expeditions

Don is all smiles as his captain celebrates success.
Photo by Steve Hemkens

This is a great view from the bow.
Photo by David Mangum, Shallow Water Expeditions

Big tarpon requie some serious gear.
Photo by  Steve Hemkens

David and Don scan the flats for cruising tarpon.
Photo by  Steve Hemkens

Sometimes, you have to invoke the supernatural to find success.
Photo by  Steve Hemkens

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