TARPON TIPS FROM ANDY MILL
By: Andy Mill | November 20, 2020
Initially, the most valuable words of advice that I could possibly give anyone looking to become a successful saltwater fly fisher would be to learn how to cast with acute accuracy and dexterity. Simply said, if you can’t present the fly where it needs to go quickly on either side of the boat, your odds of getting a bite are drastically reduced.
That means it’s imperative to have a great double haul to start with. You can create only so much line speed by pushing the rod, but by hauling with your stripping hand you can double the line speed enabling you to punch a cast deeper into a headwind. It’s obvious that not all fish will show on the side of the boat that you are most comfortable with, so it’s invaluable to have a solid backcast as well. Often, the fish will show too close to the boat for your guide to have time to spin the bow for you. Every shot counts, and if the fishing is slow all of your shots may be to your weak side. Your goal is to learn how to get your bug to the fish on the first cast, regardless of the boat’s position or the wind direction. Go online, learn how to double haul and how to backcast, head to the park and don’t leave until you get it. Trust me, it will pay dividends.
TARPON – SETTING THE HOOK
Hooks won’t penetrate bone unless the hooking technique is perfect. A raised rod tip on a tarpon is a problem that most people will face when trying to hook this particular fish. The excitement of watching a hundred-pound fish open its mouth to eat your feathered hook can be overwhelming. An immediate trout strike is almost a given. Pulling the fly out of the tarpon’s face will remove the fly from the water. Often when a strip strike is early and the fly is still in the water a tarpon will explode out of its skin to eat it again. Do this with a marlin and a bonita belly and see what happens.
If you do happen to get tight with a trout set on a hard-mouthed fish the hook won’t penetrate past the barb. Just the point will be embedded and when the fish jumps the hook will fall out. With smaller tarpon most people will use hooks that are too large; the diameter is too thick to penetrate. Smaller juvenile tarpon have smaller, lighter heads so there’s no resistance when you set the hook. Its head will move toward you when you set the hook. A number 1 or a 1/0 hook, one similar to a hypodermic needle will see greater success. The smaller wired hook is a key ingredient with any smaller fish.
Lastly, getting tight to a fish with your stripping hand prior to pulling back with the rod is paramount to successfully setting the hook deep into bone. With this technique, the rod will be slightly bent when you get tight, and the butt of the rod has the resistance needed to help drive the hook home.
CATCHING LARGE TARPON – HOW TO PULL
The key to catching monster fish is not only understanding how to put a lot of resistance on the fish, but knowing how hard you can pull. Leaning back with a big bend in your rod does nothing more than bend the tip. It looks good, but it’s useless.
Learn how to use the butt of the rod and lift your legs. You’ll only understand how much resistance you’re putting on the fish when you connect your leader to a scale with someone reading off the numbers while you lean back and pull, just like you are fighting a fish. With a big bend in the rod it’s extremely difficult to pull 12 pounds, and if you do, it’s almost impossible to sustain for very long because you’ll be bending your arms to do it. Also, that big bend in the rod is only possible by bending your elbow that’s holding the rod, therefore your bicep is doing all the work. If you straighten the rod with a small bend, put the end of the rod up against your stomach, hang onto the reel handle or pinch the fly line between your fingers and walk back a step or two until the scale reads pounds; you will be blown away.
This is just the beginning of a revelation that will take your fish fighting skills to a whole new level. Angles and knowing when to release the fly line when the fish surges and reel drags is another chapter.
By: ANDY MILL
OLYMPIC DOWNHILL SKIER & PROFESSIONAL TARPON ANGLER
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