Massive Tarpon, check. Beautiful coastline teeming with aquatic and terrestrial life, check. Unpressured fishing, check. Although it may not come to mind as a world class fly fishing destination Tobago has all the components to put it up there with the elite destinations. If you are on the hunt for massive Tarpon, skittish Bonefish, or elusive Permit: you have come to the right place. Unlike other famous destinations for these fish, they experience little pressure due to their not-so-great tasting meat… All the better for us fly anglers.
I spent the majority of my time targeting the elusive Atlantic Tarpon. Prior to this trip to Tobago all my fly fishing was in freshwater and this trip to Tobago was my first experience with the challenges, and incredible rewards of fly fishing the oceans. Walking down Buccoo Beach, (a short 6-7 minute walk from the guest house), I saw massive Tarpon rolling in schools, jumping for baitfish, and tailing constantly. Such massive fish, so close to shore. I was hooked before my line was in the water, something about the high energy, high stakes feeling of being surrounded by feeding, triple-digit weight fish captivated me. If only I could land one of these silver kings on my light 7-weight fly rod I usually use for bass (the bigger bass I target being about 5-6 lbs. while the bigger Tarpon were easily 100+ lbs).
Buccoo Bay has an incredible population of bait fish that stay close to shore and feed the numerous resident seabirds and a plethora of predatory fish. Walking down the beach I kept an eye out for feeding birds which usually meant Tarpon feeding around them. Once I located the feeding giants I was quick to get my line in the water. I was fishing a sink-tip line with a 12 lb. leader (it was my bonefish set up, I severely unprepared), on the end of the leader was a chartreuse and white clouser. I spent about half an hour casting to the feeding fish until I got my first strike. It was like a cinder block was on the end of my line, like the naive freshwater angler I was I swept the rod back and above my head, a well executed trout hookset. As soon as I lifted the rod the line went slack and fly-less. I was in awe that during my first outing I was able to just connect with one of these beast I had dreamed about. Over the course of that first outing I perfectly executed two more trout hooksets and lost two more Tarpon. I was heartbroken, addicted, and inspired. The first thing I did was upgrade my 12 lb. fluorocarbon leader to 30 lb. monofilament. The next day I spent hours watching Tarpon hookset videos and reading articles about how to connect with one of these enormous fish. I quickly learned that my hookset technique could not have been worse and vowed to change from my mountain stream-ways to conquer this new frontier of saltwater.
With a heavier leader, and valuable new knowledge I headed down to the beach for the next day. Although I was surrounded by feeding Tarpon I had no luck with them. After hours of casting towards them, I gave up and began to walk down the beach. I cast a few times as deep as I could as I walked down the beach, one of those hopefully, wishful cast tightened up and I made no mistake with this hookset. I wondered what could be at the end of my line, although it was big I had a feeling it wasn’t a Tarpon: no acrobatic jumps, no screaming runs, but enough bull-like power to get deep into my backing. After fighting the fish for about ten minutes the leader came out of the water and I knew the end was near. A massive Snook came into view, about 30 inches and 15 lbs. the fish was incredible. A prized game fish in Florida, Snook ona fly rod had always been a dream of mine but not one I thought would come true two flights away from Miami.
Coming back from the flats a few days later we ddecided to give the Tarpon a try from the boat. Instead of being limited by casting distance the boat approach made it possible to fish 10 ft. orr 150 ft. from the same beach I was wading a few days before. After about 15 minutes of casting I felt a powerful strike and pulled back on my fly line. It felt as if I was hooked up to a truck, the Tarpon peeled out line at will. Swimming away from the boat at an incredible speed the fish jumped a few times showing off its beutiful build. At about 70-80 lbs. the fish was in control of my 7 weight set up. On the third jump after about a minute and a half the line line went slack. Upon retrival of the line I was satisfied and proud to see that theline had snapped. My hookset was adequaete and I only needed a bit of luck to land one of these giants. Still the idea of catching one from the shore was far fetched.
The closer I got to landing one of these incredible fish the more I wanted to hold one of the silver kings in my arms. I went out to the beach once again a few days after the boat-hookup to see if me or my freind could catch some fish. The Tarpon were feeding all around but didn’t want to take th
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