How To Catch
The Silver King
By Capt. Tony Petrella
I just want to take a moment to make sure a recent article written by the Associated Press isn’t misleading about what’s been happening in the Gulf of Mexico.
It talks about a study of fish contaminated by the BP blowout two years ago—which was a very nasty thing!
However, I want to make it clear that NONE of those problems effect the area I fish—which the AP refers to as “the oil-free waters of Florida.” So, if catching a tarpon still ranks at the top of your personal “Bucket List” don’t worry about coming to MY Venice.
Tarpon have been showing up around here for nearly two weeks, and more are coming in every day during this annual spawning migration. In fact, this has all the earmarks of a great tarpon season.
I was out yesterday morning, and we had a couple of excellent shots at a couple of VERY large tarpon. Unfortunately, they ignored our offerings—an event which can be extremely frustrating, but certainly is common to every angler!
One thing you can do to significantly lower your frustration level is to PRACTICE CASTING before coming down here. And for goodness sake—practice PROPERLY!
Some of you might already been exposed to this particular trick of mine. If so, bear with me. If not, listen-up. Because this single thing could make the difference in catching tarpon instead of simply watching them swim away.
First, beg, borrow, steal or buy a 12-weight rod, reel and line. This is absolutely critical, because if you are not completely comfortable throwing at least 60 feet of fly line with a 12-weight your chances of catching tarpon are GREATLY reduced. And a 12-weight is far, far different from anything else you’ve ever spent time casting.
Do tarpon pop up closer to the boat than 75 feet (accounting for leader and rod length)? Absolutely! Will you catch them if you can only cast 50 feet of fly line? Probably—but those “shots” will be fewer and more far-between than if you CAN throw a longer line.
And, it’s really a very easy thing to do. Here’s how.
First, buy a black, waterproof marker. Measure back 30 feet from where the leader joins the fly line and paint a 10-inch long mark. Measure back another 15 feet (45 feet from the leader knot) and paint three 3-inch long hash-marks. Measure back another 15 feet (60 feet from the leader knot) and paint another 10-inch long mark.
Now lay an old bedsheet on the ground so the fly line won’t tangle in blades of grass, and convince a buddy (perhaps the one you’ll be bringing along on the tarpon trip) to walk out 75 feet and then move off to the side.
Start your practice session by stripping off 30 feet of fly line so the first black mark is at the tip of your 12-weight rod. Flick it backwards, hesitating less than two seconds, and then flick the line forward.
BANG! That fast, you’ve covered nearly 50 feet of water (remember, there’s 30 feet of measured fly line hanging outside the top guide, plus a ten-foot leader and 9-foot rod.
Next strip another twenty-five feet of “running line” off the reel and let it lay unencumbered and untangled on the bedsheet. Now do the same thing as before, only this time let the running line flow through a circle created by the thumb and forefinger of your line hand when you finish the forward stroke of your first-and-only cast.
TA-DAAAH! Look at where those three “hash marks” are laying on the grass! You just tossed fifty feet of fly line, which means the fly will land approximately 70 feet from where you’re standing. And if you can’t catch something salty at that distance then give it up and learn to play the banjo.
Once that feels comfortable, strip another 20 feet of running line off the reel. Repeat Step Two (which involved shooting about twenty feet of line) but this time don’t let the line fall to the water.
Instead, pinch the line and make another backcast. Come forward a second time and shoot the remaining line.
TA-DAAAH! You just cast seventy feet of fly line, which means the fly will land nearly 90 feet from where you’re standing! All with just TWO—count ‘em TWO—backcasts. And that means nearly every fish that swims down here is within range.
The next step is where your fishing pal comes into play. Now that you can cast 70 feet of line, close your eyes and have your pal start walking perpendicular across your front.
While still walking, have him say “NOW!” At that point, your job is to open your eyes, acquire him visually, make the cast and drop the fly (from which the barb has been removed!) at least two feet ahead of your moving “target.”
You'll be amazed at how far behind your pal the fly lands when you first try this trick. But, with a little bit of practice, in no time at all you'll be ready to come down and challenge the Silver King. Try it. Then give me a call and we'll go tarpon fishing!