We made the commitment to try for 100 pound fish. So Ron Hyde and I spent two days hunting big tarpon in the Everglades from his Seminole Flats Skiff.
The web of channels weaving through the vast mangrove islands is God’s Country, beautiful and unrelenting.
Hyde has been catching big tarpon in this area since the 1950s. I have not–The biggest tarpon I have hooked on a fly weighed 60 pounds. These are different animals. Tarpon take 15 years to grow beyond the century mark and by that time, says Hyde, “they’re big intelligent fish that can eat whenever they want, and they’ve seen just about everything.” The big female tarpon can live into their 50s.
I’ve caught big tarpon by other means, but getting one to eat a fly has proven difficult. (Setting a hook in their bony mouths is another story. “Like trying to hook a bathtub,” says Hyde.)
We found them and they were not traveling in unison but spread apart, rolling and free jumping in random unpredictable patterns. We’d watch for their silvery backs to break the surface and for their tails. Then I’d load the 12-weight and place a leading cast to where we thought they were headed.
The game grew maddening as they started popping up here and there as with a sporadic albie bust.
“”Tarpon fishing is different every day,” said Hyde. “Today they’re like this and tomorrow you can do everything wrong and catch one despite yourself.”
Two days, two follows. I’m convinced that tarpon when they grow big become the devil, and I’m still looking to sin.