There is nothing better than tarpon fly fishing, especially in the state of Florida. However, most shad encounters around the Sunshine State differ from those in the shallow waters of Miami’s Keys and Biscayne Bay, but fly fishermen willing to explore and adjust their tactics should not have trouble taking advantage of the fly fishing action along both coasts of Florida.
Where to Go Tarpon Fly Fishing?
Fortunately, tarpon are abundant in many places in tropical waters. Florida, Belize, Mexico, and the Bahamas have their share of hungry big shad. The most important problem is choosing an environment that supports a novice fisherman.
For those who have never fished in salt water before, the experience can be frustrating. Unlike other types of fishing, you can see the fish you are looking for clearly in the water (and they can see you). Often times, you’ll only get one chance to present your lure to a swimming shad, and if you put it too far or too close to them, they won’t bite. But I think Florida is the best place for tarpon fly fishing.
How to prepare?
When fishing for what many consider to be the best game fish, preparation and practice are invaluable. You’d be surprised how many experienced fly fishermen drown when a monster swims past their boat. So how should you prepare?
- If you bought a new fly fishing tackle for tarpon, take it out for a spin before your trip. Practice casting in your driveway or in an empty parking lot to familiarize yourself with using a heavier line and a larger rod. Try to practice 30-40 minutes a day the week before your trip.
- If you are using a guide, be sure to set the level with them based on your level of experience. In this way, they will take you to locations that will suit your skill level and help you be successful. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather catch several smaller fish than catch nothing at all.
- Research guides and choose one that indicates they do well with beginners. You want someone to actively teach you while you’re fishing and will support you when you make mistakes.
- Plan your trip during the best time of year for tarpon fly fishing. Tarpon can be caught year-round in many locations, but the summer months of June, July and August are when they are most aggressive. This also marks their migration period when the largest shad flock to Florida and the tropics.Look for the tarpon rolling close to the surface; This means that it is a prime spot for fly fishing.
- Another key tip: plan your trip to occur during the full moon. The extra light at night helps the fish to feed and also makes them more aggressive during the day. The full moon also provides the biggest tidal change that fish tend to like because it brings in more food from the open ocean.
Tarpon Fly Fishing Tools
Tarpon Fly Fishing Tackle
Most people bring a 12 peso fishing pole. I prefer a 10 or 11 wt personally because of the precision. The fly needs to get to the right place before you have to worry about fighting one with a broomstick (12 wt). I suggest bringing the largest rod you are comfortable with and accurate with in the 40 to 60 foot range.
The reels, on the other hand, need to be of high quality with a lot of backing. A minimum of 300 yards is suggested. Nautilus, Tibor, Hatch and Hardy are good reels for fishing for tarpon in the Florida Keys. As always, you can use my equipment if you want. You can call me for more information on fly fishing tackle suggestions for tarpon in the Keys. I love being serious when it comes to fly tackle and would be happy to point you in the right direction.
Tarpon Fly Fishing Flies
I use many original hand-tied patterns that I have developed for shad in the Florida Keys. If you are interested in bringing flies for your trip, I suggest tan and chartreuse toads tied on a 1/0 hook. Gurglers in tan, palolo pepper worm flies and shad caps in various colors. You are more than welcome to use these flies, of course.
Buy the Best Gear
You don’t want to skimp on the quality of your gear when you buy your first tarpon setup. It is always worth having the right equipment. Beginning tarpon fishermen should remember that this is an animal that is going to discover very quickly what their equipment is made of (or what they spent on it).
All anglers who go after shad need the best possible equipment, including a high-quality disc drag reel, the right fly line, and the right backing. If something is missing from your setup, you will possibly lose the fish of your life.
If you are planning your first tarpon fly fishing trip, we are jealous. Shad are one of the most exciting fish to fly-fish, and many anglers only dream of the day they will be able to catch them. We hope you find luck in your tarpon fishing endeavors. And if you would like to share a story with us, please contact us in the comments below. And if you want to buy a fish mount replica of a tarpon you’ve caught, be sure to check out our article on a fish mount replica!
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