April 19th, 1999
Tarpon on the Fly

by Tammy DiGristine (aka SA)

The sun isn't even up yet as I drive east to the Lagoon.

The fog clings to the land and all is quiet, even a little cool for springtime in FL. I know it will be a good day today. I meet the sun on the Lagoon and it is nothing more than a white smudge behind the fog and clouds. Even as I park my truck and turn it off, I see that although the fog is lifting, it is going to be overcast. This is good news.

I open the door of my truck and before I even swing a leg out, I hear them. SPLASH, WHAM, BLOOP (hey I never claimed to be able to spell sounds) and my heart starts racing and I jump out and can't grab my rod case and chest pack from behind the seat fast enough.

The whole time I am putting my rod together and getting it strung up, I am forced to listen to the sound of tarpon rolling. I can see them, and it makes it that much harder to get the line through the eyes.

They are everywhere, babies yes, but a 3 footer on a 5 wt is about as fun as it gets. Sometimes one rolls by itself, but mostly in the 50 yd stretch of water, I can see 20 or 30 rolling at once. The mosquitoes are horrible, but I wear no bug spray, not only because I forgot it, but because I am too excited to take the time to put it on anyway.

After tying on a chartreuse and white seaducer that I had tied the night before with a non slip mono loop, I walk the 20 feet to the water's edge. I am from 2-6 ft above the water depending on which part of "the stretch" I am fishing, and there is sawgrass eye-high (Don't ask how I know this) along the bank. This not only makes for tricky casting, it really makes my vocabulary so much more colorful.

I strip some line off the reel, and start my casting. The first haul of the double haul serves two purposes, the first being to increase line speed, the second, to disentangle it from the sawgrass, roots or whatever else it is inevitably snagged on.

There are so many fish, I don't know which one to cast at. So I just cast all the way across the 40 ft canal and start stripping my line in rapidly.

5 or 6 casts later, I miss an awesome strike. My heart is racing. The only sounds I hear are buzzing skeeters (Doesn't take long to figure out why they call it Mosquito Lagoon) and my heart beating in my ears and tarpon smashing the surface.

The fog has cleared and revealed an overcast sky, meaning I will have more than the usual hour and a half to fish for them today. A few more casts and the magic happens.

I feel the strike, let the tension off the line, make my 3 count, which always seems to take an eternity while I let the tarpon get it in its mouth good, then make a sharp, fast, strong strip strike. Immediately the line goes zipping through my hands, and I start to reel in the slack. I don't have it on the reel before my favorite thing in all the land happens.

He screams out of the water, and does that magical tail dance on top of the water. It is a little over 3 feet in length and fat. Its silvery sides reflect what light there is like a mirror as it walks across the water on its tail and shakes its head violently trying to throw the fly. I know this trick and bow to the great tarpon god and point my rod tip at him.

He goes back in and takes the rest of my slack, and finally I have him on my reel. The line screams off the reel and I palm it trying to keep him from going into the mangrove trees lining the canal. Once again he breaks the surface and once again I am overcome with adreneline and awe and bow. One more run, this time in the other direction, and I am forced to reel madly to get in the slack.

He jumps one more time and this time with his thrashing and shaking, he manages to throw the hook, and just like always, it makes a beeline for my face. I know this is coming, too and I duck as he dives back into the water. Then he does something that in all the time I have been fishing for these magnificent fish, I had never seen.

He jumps one more time, and tail dances across the water. I don't know if he was mocking me or if that was his way of shaking hands over the net.

Either way, I was awe stricken. All of this by 7:30 a.m. . . . what else could a girl ask for? ~ Tammy DiGristine (aka SA)

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