Once or twice a year I get to take a trip down to my favorite place in the world to wet a fly line, Everglades National Park. Growing up in the Midwest and primarily fishing carp, bass, and trout on the fly, whenever I get a chance to go down to southwestern Florida I jump on it. Having a home in Naples allowed me to justify the quick trip down, “to make sure the place was still standing…” I have never fished late summer in the Everglades so the routine was slightly different from my normal spring and winter trips. I figured even if it was really tough fishing, it’s better than being in the office.
I was fishing with a good friend, Andy. He constantly reminded me that summer was worth the trip down. Anxious to see how summer tarpon differed from spring tarpon we headed south for the day. The plan was to start our morning throwing at rolling tarpon and then target snook and reds in the afternoon. This particular morning we were lucky enough to jump 3 nice tarpon, and get one big girl all the way to the boat.
Tarpon will always be my dragon. Although I have yet to catch my first permit or bonefish, chasing tarpon for the last few years has become an addiction. Their habits, acrobatics, and size always keep me coming back for more. I forgot the sheer power these fish continuously put out. After a huge first run and one jaw dropping leap I settled into a forty minute battle with this fish. The 10 wt was really pushing it with this one but we were able to get her boat side and took a quick measurement of 80″. My biggest fish to date.
Andy and I were ecstatic to see this fish up close, snapped a few pictures, and off she swam. Great fish, great fight, and a great experience.
By the time it was 10am my forearms were beat and I was due for a shirt change. Once we got our morning tarpon fix the snook and reds provided some awesome sight fishing opportunities to really finish the day strong.
There is so much life in Everglades National Park and every day is completely different from the next, somehow I always forget that. When I try to compare it to something in the Midwest (to all my trout buddies) I usually end up just saying “you need to be there to understand it all.” Andy and I had a great first day and finished off the evening at the local watering hole. A quick dinner of stone crab and grouper and it was lights out ready to go round 2.
We knew we would be dodging storms all day. So we set out to fish as many rollers as possible and take what we could get until the weather pushed us off the water. The early morning tarpon fishing was excellent. I was at a loss for words having so many opportunities at fish. The last few trips down I never had the weather conditions for the tarpon to cooperate so we focused our casts elsewhere. It was really humbling watching all these fish go through their morning routine as I tried sending a few of them airborne.
A few minutes later…
We ended up with a bunch of great shots, a few forgetful trout sets, one broken 10wt. and some great laughs. As the weather began to build I really wanted to go to the other end of the spectrum with these fish and find some babies up in the back country. With Andy knowing this “mangrove labyrinth” better then I know how to tie my shoes we headed back into the creeks in search of a few micros.
After catching a dozen or so micros we had to bolt back home. Of course on our way out we had an opportunity for a quick red, and we took it! I find it funny how when we were looking for one species we would always come across another, but that’s just another reason why I love this place so much.
All and all it was a trip for the memory books for me. Not being able to explore this fishery as much as others really puts a lot of pressure on lining your dates up, being physically ready to fish, and some great luck with the weather. When it all comes together there is nothing like it, that I have experienced. Everglades National Park and the 10,000 islands is a place I hope to show many special people in my lifetime. When the fishing is slow up here and the steelhead are not running, or the carp are being fussy I look back at the great memories that this place has given me and think to myself “I need to buy a plane ticket.” For all the guys who fish it regularly and share your experiences on SWC you provide me sanity when all I can do is sit at the vise and wait. I think to myself “at least someone is down there getting after them!”
Strip set everything… -Bill