The Tampa Bay Times

Easterly morning winds will have the Gulf flat close to shore and make seeing tarpon a lot easier. Get out at daybreak and stay close to shore with the sun behind you allowing the Silver King’s back to glisten as they roll on the smooth water’s surface. Careful observation will teach you how to pick “happy fish” over those on a mission to get somewhere without eating along the way. A few trips will get you accustomed to their favorite places to appear, giving you a pattern of preferred routes. Pick a relatively shallow, light-colored bottom area where fish can be seen far enough away to not surprise you. It’s not unusual to see large tarpon very close to shore, even inside the swim markers. In order to sight fish, you must see the fish first. A close shot to undisturbed fish is ideal. Have the tarpon come to you. Lead the fish will with an accurate cast. Never chase them with either an outboard or electric motor. You might get close, but their ability to detect you will prevent them from accepting a well-presented fly. Position your boat ahead of the fish and have them come to you. Attempts to cast to fish going away or at more than a right angle are a waste of energy and if one spooks, they all will leave in a panic. Learn to cast quickly and accurately. Get an experienced fly caster to help you with preparation so that you can deliver at the moment of truth. Do an internet search for Saltwater Quick Cast and study and practice a technique that fits within your comfort zone and abilities. Don’t try a 60-foot cast if you never cast further than 40. Respect other fisherman’s space. If you see someone waiting for an approaching school of fish, keep your distance. You would want the same courtesy.

Fly fisherman and instructor Pat Damico charters Fly Guy in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at and (727) 504-8649.

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