• Fly Fishing for Tarpon

    In the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park
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Fishing for Tarpon in the Florida Keys and Everglades

fly fishing tarpon Capt Geoff W ColmesTarpon are considered by many anglers to be the ultimate fly rod target; it's as if they were gesigned for fly fisherman. Tarpon from juveniles or "babies" of 6 to 15 pounds and mature fish on up to 150 pounds can be found throughout our region. These gamefish are found just about everywhere in our area as they have the ability to tolerate just about any kind of water condition. This includes land locked tarpon in golf course ponds, lakes, drainage ditches and rock pits to the large migratory fish found in tidal rivers, bays and the Atlantic and Gulf waters of the Keys and Everglades. They also range from Virginia to Brazil, along the coast of Africa in the eastern Atlantic, and in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea. Tarpon are able to gulp air, which allow them to travel in and through oxygen depleted areas, namely brackish and estuarine waters.

Small Tarpon

The juvenile tarpon is also considered by many anglers to be a great sport fish. Tarpon under twenty pounds are generally considered babies, but are thought of in many cases as just as much fun to pursue than the larger fish.

Notes on Tarpon Fishing

I always try to release tarpon as soon as possible; I choose not to lift tarpon completely out of the water for photographs. Many guides, marine biologists and fisheries experts agree that the mortality rate of the tarpon is significantly increased by an untimely release - mostly due to predation. There are other viable options that will capture the memory such as a video recording the event or a photo at the side of the boat during the release.

Best Time

Tarpon fishing in October, November, January, February and March can be the best of the year, but weather dependent and is not a "sure thing" like April, May and June during the peak of their migration. Cold fronts in the Fall and early Spring can compromise the great early tarpon fishing with high winds and cool water temperatures so a backup plan like snook fishing is a very good idea until the water warms up and the wind subsides. By late March through July the tarpon are on their migratory tracks and sight fishing opportunities are a given regardless of the weather. You can't count them out literally any month of the year Oct, Nov, and even December can be very good months with the right weather conditions.

Fly Fishing Gear

Level of difficulty on fly - intermediate to expert.

  • 10 weight with floating, clear floating and additional "clear sink tip" line, for tarpon.
  • 11 weight with floating, clear floating and additional clear sink tip, best all around tool for big tarpon.
  • 12 weight is optional but great to have on that windy day, for a little more punch with a floating line, sink tip and especially with an intermediate line to cut through the wind.

Leader Options

  • I use a variation of the standard IGFA big game leader with 20 pound class tippet - incorporating a 'weak link.' Including the butt section, I generally tie these leaders from 9 to as long as 14 feet. If you are not interested in tournament fishing in my opinion you can significantly increase hookups by lengthening your bite tippet from the standard IGFA 12 inches to as long as 36 inches. The advantage here is a longer span between the 'more visible' knots and this method also gives you ability to clip off a damaged fly or a couple inches of scuffed leader and re- tie without having to trash the entire leader.

Leader Materials and Construction

  • I generally use 50# Seaguar fluorocarbon for the 5 to 7 foot butt section, I use the same for the 20# 18" class tippet. I then use Seaguar fluorocarbon for the 36" bite tippet which may vary from 30# to 60# test.

Tarpon Flies

  • My tarpon flies are generally tied in the non-fouling splayed tail, married tail, baitfish and toad style with lots of color and weight variations. If you choose to tie your own, you should tie both light and dark patterns with hook sizes ranging from 1/0 for ultra clear water conditions to 3/0 for dirty water conditions... you should also check with me first to get a good idea of what not to tie!
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