Fishing with a handicap is how many anglers refer to those that choose feathers over bait. But unlike golf, polo or any other sport, this particular handicap doesn’t level the playing field. Why we choose to make the task ostensibly more difficult is a question you might ask yourself, if for days, your fly is treated with disdain. But when you’ve had just a whiff of a fish on your fly line, then the question is quite redundant.
Regardless of how you elect to rack up your species, we’ve all got a fishing bucket list. And there’s one specimen sure to be found on every anglers growing line up,….. the bucket with a capital B.
It was one of the first game fish to be recognized by IGFA and can grow to a staggering 300 plus pounds. This prehistoric behemoth is considered by many to be the ultimate catch on any tackle.
Found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic and adapted to survive in extremely low oxygenated waters, it’s signature gulping of air on the surface makes them the ideal fish to sight cast for. Finding them surfacing is half the battle and fortunately the Kwanza river is one of those rare venues where these fish harbour.
Insert photo of Tarpon on surface
But they move at speed, giving you a glimpse of their dorsals as they tack with the tide or expose their silver torsos rolling on the current line.
Their hard pallet makes them a liability when they go airborne and this image will haunt you until your next opportunity to convert.
Insert photo of tarpon spitting the fly
We had heard that Tommo was tackling 100lb plus beasts 3 miles off shore, so naturally we set off looking for the big action. Calm seas and spring tides, conditions were ideal.
Insert Photo of Tommo in water with big Tarpon
We were casting at the line…where the estuary water and debris meets the salt current…. but with no silver in sight, all you can do it throw the full repertoire at the problem. The mindset changes from fishing to casting and it becomes all about putting it on the spot! Quick casts, long casts, side casts, back casts, roll casts until eventually you want to put your arm in a cast.
And occasionally the one that screams out for a fish…..if only they were that obliging.
Waiting for the tide to turn, it was back to the Kwanza river mouth to target the juniors that we could sight cast to, where one fish finally followed the script.
Insert pic of my first Tarpon
They are built like armored tanks and pack the explosive power to match. My 30lb baby took me nearly half and hour to land, my nerves contributing considerably.
Relief to match the the elation, but that’s how they get their hooks into you. Few fish prevent you sleeping, especially when you’ve been throwing your arm off on a 12wt rod, all day on the equator, in middle of Summer…….but the Atlantic Tarpon will!!
And it can be over before it begins. The next day I dropped another fish, due to piss poor line control on the deck, knotting in the eyes of the rod and pulling the hook and Brad saw his fly spat unceremoniously back at him.
The fish were definitely moving in numbers through the river mouth but we had to choose our target carefully and due to the turbidity, lead the fish by no more than a foot.
The window is a short one, on the receding tide and only if the slack water reveals their presence.
Insert pic of jumping Tarpon
They are acrobatic, tenacious and merciless on your terminal tackle….you’ll always hook more than you land on any artificial lure. It doesn’t help to curse your luck, but it’s satisfying to lay the blame somewhere.
Insert pic of me fighting fish
The urge to strip faster when you see a fish lunging at your fly is hard to reign in….but you have to let these fish eat and then tighten.That Tarpon open their huge mouth to engulf schools of fish, makes you wonder if they’ll even notice your meager offering, but they don’t grow to such proportions letting any free meal swim on by.
And even the Tarpon, barely out of preschool will have you hopping to their tune.
Insert pic of my 2nd Tarpon
Addictive does not do this fish justice….it will make a junkie out of any fly fisherman!
As such, he is included not as a Guide in terms of the someone who can give you any indispensable tuition or direction, but to provide us with some fishing tales from the events that WildFly hosts and of course from the locations that the the WildFly team happen to be filming.
The real account from a social fisherman's perspective...