My first-time saltwater fly fishing was off the Mexican Gulf coast targeting tarpon in average schools of 50 or more fish between 100-150 pounds. These fish were leviathans, to say the least.
So here I was 13 years old with my father chasing these monstrous fish with no previous saltwater fly fishing experience thinking “ok, let’s catch one of these things.” To make a long story short, we fished 40 hours over 5 days and jumped about 8 adult tarpon landing approximately zero of them. We got our asses handed to us no if’s, and’s or buts.
Our guide, Jorge, was a master caster. His double haul loops were, fast, tight, and accurate. Watching him fish was captivating. After jumping two large fish, I told Jorge to give it a go. We shortly see another large school of tarpon and he blasts his cast out towards the king of the school. The fish engulfs the fly and Jorge slowly starts to belt out a rather painful scream as the fish begins to dart away. The fish snaps the line as all we see is Jorge’s hand dripping blood.
He then goes, “I wish I didn’t cast that far” in a little bit of disbelief as to what had just happened. Jorge had made such a long cast that by the time the tarpon ate the fly, nearly 80 feet of line was at his feet as he ripped one of the hardest strip sets I’ve ever seen. The fish took off like a banshee leaving a big salty heap of fly line that Jorge was now responsible for controlling with his non-casting hand. Scarily enough, Jorge just had to let go of the fly line during the last 10 feet after having the other 70 tear through his palm. That fish almost didn’t get away but that statement has never been good for anything.
So, what’s the point of all this, is it that tarpon fishing is hard and kicks your ass? No, it is not. In fact, during my last day in Mexico I sat and spoke with Jorge and really wanted to pick his brain about casting as well as thank him for conducting an amazing trip. I said in a swift tone, “how do I learn to cast like you, like that, what can I do?” He simply replies, “do you live near a park?” I say “of course” and he goes “well, time to go practice!”
He was right, casting seemed to be something I felt competent at but never truly just practiced on my own or not on the water. The following years after that trip I made a walk over to my neighborhood park nearly three days a week with three different weights of rods. Putting in the extra time to practice casting whether it’s on the water or not will elevate your ability in all environments and situations. Nothing has helped me cast fly better than the advice I took from Jorge on my last day being in Mexico.
The Fly Crate