The following is a play by play account of a recent tarpon outing by J.P. Mischkot:
Well I can tell you it was a complete “cluster—-” from the beginning…..during our long boat ride out to the west side, Ted was able to get his shower that he missed earlier that morning, My stomach hurt with laughter after each dip of the bow provided Ted with a fresh wall of water across his entire body. Upon arrival we got settled onto a flat and poled for some bones until the tide turned and then tarpon fishing would begin. Once Tommy said put away the meager 7wt rod and get out a real rod the mood of the boat cranked up a couple of levels. We were all instructed as to what our job would be and how we were to do them…Ted was assigned line management for the first round, Suzie was given instructions on how to operate the camera and what to film and when, I was on the casting deck trying to wrap my head around the info that Tommy had fed me on what to expect…we cruised around for only 10-15 minutes or so and headed into a cut where out of the depths came 3 dark figures about 40 feet out. I asked Tommy, hey what are those??? THOSE ARE TARPON!!! START THE CAST!!! Tommy positioned the boat perfectly and I was able to execute the cast to the fish that pleased Tommy but were not able to turn the fish. With the fish still very calm Tommy demanded the line to change flies…I got the line and new flyto Tommy and he began to work on the changing of gear while I and Ted kept an eye on the fish. Tommy changed the fly out and checked the leader before deploying it again, and snap! Cursing the situation Tommy scrambled to repair the broken leader and Ted kept his eyes on the fish while I began to gather my line and position myself so that when the work was completed I would be able to go for the tarpon again. Through this ordeal Ted and I had lost focus of the flyline which had traveled under the boat and wrapped around the prop of the boat 10 or 15 times and Suzie began trying to unravel the mess. This whole story occurred in about 5 minutes or so, and Tommy was about to boil over, and after making sure that we understood that we were to manage the line he called everything to a halt and we were instructed to throw over the anchor and regroup. In the end we had a leader broken in two places and a severed fly line about 35 ft into othe line. We all took deep breaths and shook off our disappointing executions and tied up an entirely new leader and repaired the fly line with a nail knot???
Round two and it was Ted’s turn to get a shot. We began poling down the middle of the cut and not more than 10 minutes into it Tommy spotted a single tarpon running up the bank about 100 ft in front of us…We’ll just call this episode the “Marathon” Tommy began his charge at the fish….but the fish wasn’t slowing or changing direction, but Tommy was determined to catch thefish. He poled as fast as he could and worked up a good sweat and shortness of breath while we gave him Gatorade to quench his thirst…after what must have been 1/3 of a mile sprint using the pole to move the boat Ted spotted a dark figure moving toward us about 150 ft out and Tommy quickly put on the brakes and once again positioned the boat perfectly for Ted to get 2 great shots at the tarpon, but again the fish didn’t seem interested in what we were offering. We continued on and Ted got a shot at another group of tarpon and we got the same results…No Takers. We changed fisherman again and I was once again on the deck hoping to get another shot, and it didn’t take long and we cut off two tarpon swimming in the cut, I made the cast….stripped as I was instructed and nothing…. I got one more cast and Tommy said LEAVE IT!!! Let it sink…the fish gradually made their way to the general area of the fly and Tommy told me to start stripping fast and sure enough the fish reacted and all HELL broke loose.The fish shook his head and began charging the boat as I desperately stripped to keep up with it and get the hook set into the jaw bone of the fish. Once I was able to do that the fish turned and began a dance atop the water that I couldn’t believe, while he was dancing I was frantically trying to unravel line from the arbor, feet and pinky finger as he took line as fast as I could give it. I was able to survive the first two dances without fail,and got the fish on the reel and began to feel comfortable in my position as the fish just stripped line from the reel free of any obstructions that I could offer…the fish then surfaced again…I lowered my rod and upon reentry I felt the line give, and my heart dropped. Upon retrieving the line I found comfort in that the line had broken at the top leader knot and not at the fly. I turned around and said “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED’???? That was the most exciting 30 seconds of fishing I’ve ever had in my life and I can’t wait to get another shot next year. I tip my hat to our guide Tommy Kee, he did an amazing job of getting us to the fish and figuring out what needed to happen to hook up. I think next time I’ll just bring him a tarpon leader or two LOL!!