There’s nothing like seeing a tarpon and successfully listening to what he’s telling you to do with your fly in order for him to eat it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world and the ensuing chaos is icing on the cake. Often easier said than done, but the good thing is, if you use the following tips as a foundation and pay close attention to what’s happening on every encounter, you’ll get better with every shot.
Pick a fish and make it yours
The mentality that you’re going to work the fly through the middle of the group and hope a fish picks it up is a weak one that doesn’t often work out. Your chances are much better if you pick one fish and focus all your efforts on feeding her. It’s not unheard of in daisy chains or tight groups for a fish to swoop in and grab the fly when it sees that the fish you’re focused on is interested.
Don’t let the fish see the fly land
A tarpon’s prey doesn’t just randomly fall on her face out of nowhere, and she knows that. Lead the fish and have the fly in the water before she arrives.
Make it natural
Pay close attention to the direction and strength of the current. Place your cast so that the current sweeps your fly towards the fish, then tick it away from her. A tarpon’s prey is always moving away from her, never consciously towards or across her. Unnatural angles are probably the number one reason for refusals. If there’s a handicap for this it’s palolo worm flies in Miami and the Florida Keys throughout May. Due to the unpredictable and erratic nature of palolos, the worm fly gives you a better chance at a bad angle than any other pattern.
In clear water, position yourself to feed the fish over a darker bottom. Tarpon will rarely eat over a sand or light bottom. You can use light bottom to see fish, but try to actually feed them over a patch of dark bottom if possible.
The most important factor in feeding a megalops is knowing where your fly is and reading the fish’s language in relation to the fly. If you need an opaque line to know where your fly is that’s fine. But tarpon don’t like seeing fly lines. You have to imagine these fish use body language to communicate with each other the same way they communicate to us. So if you’re throwing at a string, and the fish you picked doesn’t see the fly line, but another one does – possible game over. So if you’re able to fish the fish and the fly with a clear fly line or clear tip line, you’re increasing your chances of getting an eat you might not have gotten with an opaque line.